Empower — to promote the self-actualization or influence of (Miriam-Webster)
If you’re living in the 21st century you must have heard about women’s empowerment. If you are a woman, you’ve probably been invited to an event or read an article on this topic. Those invitations or articles were probably full of superlatives like “personal development,” “elevation” and “work-life balance.” Empowerment is supposedly about women believing in themselves and building their confidence to advance their personal and professional goals.
What is women’s empowerment actually about?
Let’s start with the fact that ‘to empower’ is a transitive verb, meaning someone needs to empower you, it’s not really something you can do yourself.
Next, the hidden word in empowerment is of course, power. People who need empowering are those who feel powerless. When someone feels powerless, it is safe to assume that others in the situation have more power than them, or even power over them.
Regarding women, this is accurate.
Women are underrepresented in almost every political and financial institution, get paid less and are exposed to violence, harassment and discrimination — at work, on the street and at home.
Women have less power, let’s agree on that, and while empowerment may help women feel better, it’s deflecting from an important conversation. Rather than discuss why women lack power and what we can do to balance the power systems in our society, we get this fluff called women’s empowerment.