“maybe it's a quarter life crisis, maybe it's maybelline”
DOB - 7th June 2017
Guidelines on Women's Empowerment*
- Katie Elizabeth Swalm
The idea of “women’s empowerment” is broad, too broad to be fully covered in a single blog post. Yet, someone’s gotta talk about it, and while I am not the final authority on empowering women, perhaps my own knowledge can add positively to the conversation.
I’m aware that, since women are a huge group who encompass half of the human population, it’s nearly impossible to speak about broad actions that will help each and every woman, in each demographic of race, sexuality, and nationality. (The group woman can’t even be fully defined by biology—just ask a trans woman!) However, there are several actions that everyone can take, as well as larger scale movements that are put into place by international communities seeking to improve the lives of their female citizens that citizens can participate in.
- Listen to the women in your life. Are they responding negatively to something you’ve said? Are you listening to their opinions on cultural products like art and film? Their stories on how they’ve been treated by others? Try asking how you can support them! People have different perspectives and experiences based on outward perceptions of and socialization from their gender, and structural inequities determine different outcomes for equally talented people. And women internalize misogyny too, which means that women can be just as sexist towards other women as men. We need to support each other and examine our own narratives, such as that other women are attention-seeking, competing for a man’s attention, or by talking badly about someone’s appearance.
- Education. You can’t change something if you don’t know about it. This is why listening is so important: it’s a step in knowing about someone else’s situation. The concerns for Indian women trying to end the inhumane practice of acid throwing are different than the concerns of American women trying to break the glass ceiling, than for Nigerian women working to get more access to education for girls. However, though these are very different solutions, there has been a socio-historical cultural pattern of women being in a lower class than men. You have to understand that if you want to understand womanism. At the same time, there’s also been a history of white women taking over the conversation. There’s been a new movement towards intersectionality (developed by Kimberly Crenshaw) or the idea that various identities intersect to create different problems for people in those demographics. For example, black women have been neglected by both the feminist movement and the antiracist movement, so understanding how to best empower them requires taking a new, third way, or reexamining old policies. So—Google it! Read feminist literature! Ask a friend! Take a class! Write a poem! There’s many way to become more educated on a subject. And it’s a fairly new field, so it’s exciting to be a part of the conversation!
- Legal action. In America, there’s been a new level of political action and protest taken. It’s important to pursue whatever change is important, especially in a democracy where people have a say on their elected leaders and policy. Women’s healthcare—the specific care of uteruses and ovaries, including access to contraceptives and family planning—is easily accessed in many developed nations, but in America, it’s being threatened to that it will be publicly defunded. Other countries will find that it’s helpful to have quotas in political leadership, though having a woman in leadership does not by any means guarantee that the overall state of women will be improved. Scandinavian countries have had an extraordinary amount of success in this area. They have made maternal and paternal leave mandatory, for the betterment of family units everywhere, and are supportive of gay unions (and many countries around the world continue to enact those policies!) Let’s just say, fascism is not good for women.
So go forth and become empowered, or empower someone else! The future depends on you.