A use for the word Empowerment

It’s common knowledge by now that the word “Empowered” when it pertains to women is a synonym for “Not having any power”. That is the reason why only women need to be empowered. David Cameron, Barrack Obama, President Zarkozy… none of these important people need to be empowered… for they are in possession of a much stronger currency… actual power.

Politicians such as Nick Clegg wax lyrical about empowering women.  His favourite is empowering women in third world to birth their babies “safely”, by delivering them into the hands of western male medical fraternity as opposed to actually doing something that would help the women, such as lifting them out of poverty so they’re not malnourished in pregnancy, training enough midwives, or telling women they don’t have to fuck men if they don’t want to and putting laws in place to protect their right not to fuck. That would give them a modicum of power.

But giving women access to real power is not the imperative here. Empowerment is.

Which  is all about keeping women as powerless as possible while giving patriarchs opportunities to become knights in shining armour.

Pole dancing? Porn? Prostitution? All empowering for women. Women should just shut up about real power, they’ve got all the empowerment they’ll ever need, and a lot more than men will ever have. Men don’t have access to any empowerment at all, in fact, because they have to settle for solid, tangible power instead, poor souls.

But it struck me two days ago that there has actually been an empowering element to radical feminism that I actually hadn’t noticed before. Not powerful but empowering… and yet still useful.

Growing up I came across so many tragedies, large and small: cruelty against animals, death and rape… and I was taught (wrongly) that this was just the way of the world. Orphans? Can’t be helped. Women forced to go through childbirth only to give the baby away for adoption? No other choice. Animals used for experimentation? What a shame.. and so forth.

Except now, finally, I realize that it can all be helped. That the root of all evil is patriarchy: the rule of the father. It is not an accident. The suffering has not come about by some mystic hiccup led by unknown forces. It is the deliberate destruction of women, vulnerable men, children, animals and the natural world by powerful men.

THe enemy has come into focus. I am not fighting smokes and mirrors any longer. I can see clearly for the first time, (as a woman who wants the world’s suffering to end) precisely who and what I am up against.

Suffering will end when patriarchy ends. It is that simple.

And so while this knowledge has not given me any power to speak of, it has been strangely empowering. Pole-dancing empowerment is worse than useless to us; but having the ability to name your enemy…. yes, there is something rather empowering about that.

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13 thoughts on “A use for the word Empowerment

  1. Yes when we receive ‘the lightbulb moment’ that is real empowerment for women – none of that pseudo male pandering nonsense such as porn is fun for women; prostitution is just sex work; lah lah lah!

    Recognising the lies male supremacy/patriarchy constantly tells women is not pleasant and often it is very hard to accept all these male-centric lies are that – just lies and nothing else.

    That is why radical feminism and radical feminists are under constant attack because we refuse to accept men’s lies and instead go to the root of the problem and that ‘upsets the menz!’ As innumerable radical feminists have said time and again if we can’t name the problem we can’t even begin to challenge/demand an end to the ‘problem.’ What is the problem that has no name? Why it is male domination over women.

    Recognising reality – not the rose-tinted propaganda lies male supremacy promotes – does resolve for many women all those confused feelings and thoughts because many women, myself included have struggled for years to see reality – not the male-centric reality – but women’s real reality and recognise we are not ‘mad;’ we are not ‘bad’ rather we are struggling to see the world simultaneously through the male-centric view at the same time as experiencing what is really happening. No wonder I and so many women are so confused because the world is not what white men claim it is. Male supremacy/patriarchy has to maintain the lie ‘things/events happen not due to ‘man’ (sic) but because of outside forces which are invisible.

    I say ‘man’ because patriarchy claims ‘man’ is the default human and his experiences are ‘human experiences.’ But it is powerful men who are the ones maintaining the male-centric status quo and it is men such as puppet Clegg who believes a male-centric answer is the solution to women giving birth in ‘safety!’

    Powerful private corporations such as the hugely profitable pharmaecutical industry, will profit immensely from offering their ‘services’ to women in developing countries. But instead of white powerful ignorant male politicians such as puppet Clegg making ludicrous claims because they are the supposed experts, they need to ask the women directly what do they want and need. Men always assume they know better than women and Cleggy is just one example of white men’s arrogant presumption that they know ‘what women want.’

    I’m not demanding much am I? Oh but I am – I am telling men not to patronise women and instead listen and learn from women because it is women who are the experts – not men.

    • Brilliant comment, Hecuba!

      Especially this:
      ” and recognise we are not ‘mad;’ we are not ‘bad’ rather we are struggling to see the world simultaneously through the male-centric view at the same time as experiencing what is really happening. No wonder I and so many women are so confused because the world is not what white men claim it is. ”

      and this:

      “instead of white powerful ignorant male politicians such as puppet Clegg making ludicrous claims because they are the supposed experts, they need to ask the women directly what do they want and need”

      🙂

  2. This is a very good post about becoming a radical feminist and how it enables you to understand the real workings of society. Have you thought of also posting it at “The Hub” it might be helpful to newbies.
    I love the “mystical hiccup”. 🙂

  3. Oh thank you for liking the post.. sometimes it’s the posts you least expect … I thought I was offloading a rambling stream of consciousness but… maybe that’s the self-censorship hard-wired into me by the big P

  4. Pingback: Links: June 14, 2011 « Against All Evidence

  5. Fantastic post. I never even thought of it like that before. Especially as jilla pointed out, empowerment is about being given power, not about true power. It’s like being a dog on an extendable leash.

    • Hi Elkballet… Exactly. Empowered is in the passive voice. A transitive verb. So *who* is the subject? Who is the doer? Who is the one empowering women?

      A: Men and the Patriarchy

      NO thanks, I’ll stick to real power. 🙂

  6. Empowerment is one of the half dozen words that make me wince into dull fury upon reading/hearing the syllables, as it is never used in a way favorable to women—as you have well spelled out.

    There is another, darker side of this dreadful word that especially annoys me: the oppressed party/parties are expected to “empower” themselves even if the game is stacked against them. And we know damned well that it is. Do we blame those who lose betting against the house in Las Vegas for failing to “empower” themselves? Hell no, we think that it is pretty stupid to bet against the house.

    But yet, in everyday life, this “empower” crap not only lingers on, its expectations are so pervasive that it is only said out loud occasionally actively remind the oppressed into further self-shaming. This new age-y approach to everything completely exonerates the perpetrators/oppressors.

    And I will not stand for that.

    • Yes, it implies that there’s something wrong with the oppressed: that if they would just grow a spine and get themselves empowered then there would be no problem.
      No mention at all about how evil men are as oppressors and how many women they have to kill each day in order to keep their position as top dogs.

      I also hate all these self-help books about “winners and losers” because again it implies that white men are winners simply because they are better than everybody else, rather than addressing the truth,which is that they were lucky enough to have been born into privileged caste in a political system known as patriarchy.

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