(I discovered the article above this morning, and it woke up my brain. Below is my reflection on the topic.)
Problem: there is a clear global imbalance of power between males and females.
Solution: gender equity – eliminating imbalances in the allocation of resources and benefits available to males and females.
The majority of feminists I know react immediately to a post like this with, “Society needs to stop oppressing women! Give us more opportunities to gain positions of power!”
I’m not downplaying the importance of educating men to empower rather than belittle women; nor am I dismissing the fact that we live in a traditionally misogynistic society. However, popular feminist rhetoric focuses excessively on “help me”, “give me”, “let me”, “release me.” We are framing gender equity as an external force. There are people calling for affirmative-action-esque legislation that mandate female employment quotas. Articles discussing gender inequality in the “C-suite” tend to emphasize that business leaders need to do something. This Huffington Post article states that women are four times more likely than men to feel disadvantaged because of their gender. Yes, lack of male awareness and sensitivity is one part of the equation, but we shouldn’t ignore the female self-victimization part either.
Instead, we should highlight the importance of females empowering females, and push ourselves to redefine what it means to be a successful woman.
I’m a woman who’d like to land a comfortable six-figure leadership position one day. Never in my entire life have I been told, “We’re not going to look at your resumé because we don’t need a woman in the office.” I’m not embarrassed to ask a man to help me lift something heavy. I don’t feel offended when I’m appreciated for my physicality (but if that’s all I’m appreciated for, that’s a different story.)
I’ve been catcalled. I’ve been told by men to know my place. I’ve been told that to succeed, a woman must keep her ambition hidden and strive to be as likable as possible. None of those men have stopped me from achieving success, and I have thought about none of them when networking with potential employers or holding a leadership position. A common denominator among the successful women I’ve met is that they don’t allow anyone to tell them who they are, or how to think. Actually, the same applies to the men as well. It’s a self development thing, not a gender thing. The more we waste our mental and emotional energy on fighting external negativity, the more we limit our internal self development.
Modern feminist dialogue praises specific traits of women in power: they’re Type-A, thick-skinned, outspoken, and independent – effectively pigeonholing ambitious women. We’re telling ladies that if they’re not exhibiting certain personality traits, they’re not advancing “girl power.” You know who have negatively impacted my journey? Not the belittling men uneducated in female empowerment, but rather the well-meaning women who, in their attempts to empower me with advice on how to be powerful, limited my potential. I struggled, miserably, in my early professional career by acting tougher than I actually am, hoping to fit into a mold of success. When you search the internet for “female role models”, you find pages upon pages of descriptions like “independent”, “strong”, “fearless”, “powerful”, “no-nonsense”, etc. The search for male role models, on the other hand, reveals keywords like “loyal”, “determined”, “classy”, “charming”, “compassionate”, “brilliant”, “humble.” Moreover, there is only a small handful of “listicles” that attempt to define an ideal adult male; the common denominator of the men featured in these articles isn’t any personality trait, but their level of achievement and the work ethic that got them there.
Analyze that as you will. To me, it shows a clear difference in the values we are instilling in the next generation of boys and girls. We’re distracting ourselves with finger-pointing, wasting time releasing report after report that tell us the same damn thing, and attempting to establish top-down infrastructure (which, if affirmative-action has taught us anything, only redistributes the inequality and creates further social disharmony). We need to emphasize the importance of self development to nurture a powerful female population, not just strong women.
Are only strong women who eagerly challenge men for power worthy of claiming the title of “feminist”?
Your intuitive answer is “no.” But look around; what message have we been spreading?