Female Empowerment Culture
Calls for women to support and empower other women seem to have increased significantly in recent years. And I am all here for this message and these systemic changes!
I loved all the Women’s History Month posts I saw in March! I appreciate seeing people raise up the voices of influential women on social media. Seeing more women in leadership positions within organizations and governments brings inspiration that I need. And I am grateful for movements–like the #metoo movement–which bring important women’s issues to the forefront for discussion and change.
But sometimes I wonder if a lot of this women-supporting-women is happening in public places, while more slowly trickling down into our day-to-day lives.
Recently I had a LIFE-GIVING socially-distanced date with a friend. We talked honestly about our families, parenting, work, and recent experiences on the struggle bus. Then we talked openly about our friendship and how grateful we have been for each other this year. I think it struck us both how relieved we were to feel free of judgment with one another. There wasn’t any weird competition, belittling each other, or playing it cool about our friendship.
We could just be ourselves.
And we lamented that this is a unique feeling, not standard in many female relationships.
Judged Women Judge Women
My son went back to school this month for the first time in a year. I spent 363 consecutive days with him. So taking him on his first day was like the first day of daycare all over again. Only this time I was masked and not allowed inside. Letting go was tough that morning. When I finally got back to the car, the drop off line was backed up out of the lot. I quickly hopped in, embarrassed and guilty that I held up other families.
I’m not sure I would have been as concerned if it weren’t for a couple of social media posts I recently witnessed. I watched and read as women criticized other moms who take too long in the drop off line–making fun of them for not wanting to kick kids out of the car and speed off.
Now I was that mom they were ridiculing, unable to get her kid out quick enough.
Since then, I’ve been in the line that gets held up, and I know it’s frustrating, especially when I’m running late. I have empathy for the overwhelm those rushed mommas were feeling when they made those posts.
I’m also trying to remind myself that I have no idea what that family in front of me in the line may be going through that day. There are unending reasons a kid or a parent may need a few more minutes to get things together or hug a little longer.
I’m trying to remember the majority of us are all doing the best we can with what we have on any given day.
That includes you.
And it includes me.
The times I cut other women down I feel certain come from a place of not feeling especially great about myself. Sometimes the judgments we exhibit originate from internalized negative bias about women that our society perpetuates.
Empowered Women Empower Women
Empowering women often needs to start as an internal process. If I am working on lovingly supporting myself, the effects are likely to bleed over into my support of other women. If that feels like a large challenge for you right now, you’re not alone. And change is possible.
Here are a few simple practices to foster female empowerment for both others and ourselves.
Lead with grace:
Practice checking your first assumption about a decision another woman is making.
Instead, consider making the assumption that they (or you) are doing the best that they (or you) can, given circumstances and resources.
Let go of judgments:
If negative labels of other women tend to circulate in your mind (lazy, slutty, snobby, b*tchy, etc.), consider discarding those as biased labels. This includes judgmental language you use with yourself!
Lean on empathy:
If you see a woman struggling, reach down inside and consider if you’ve had a similar moment. Have you also felt like you were losing it? Instead of a look of disgust, maybe offer a knowing smile or a word that says, “I’ve been there.” Additionally, empathy can be an inward practice. Common humanity is practicing the awareness that to be human is to struggle, and we aren’t alone.
Maybe you’re like me and can feel embarrassed to really tell your friends how wonderful you think they are, for fear of coming across as too eager. Can I just say, how ridiculous is this??? People need to hear how awesome they are more than ever, certainly not less! Whether you practice this with yourself or someone else, take time to be intentional in sharing the qualities you see that make you grateful. (Sidenote: while a well-placed compliment on a hairstyle or purse can make us feel good, focus on inner qualities. Let your compliments reflect what you value the most.)
Lift up with appreciation:
If you see another woman killing it, tell her! If you witness a great female accomplishment, share that with others. It’s time for us to put petty competition aside and lift each other up. Likewise, it’s okay to own your accomplishments, strengths, and victories, no matter how seemingly small. That doesn’t make you egotistical. You are making room for other women to celebrate themselves as well.
How have you experienced empowerment and support from the women in your lives? I would love for you to share your stories in the comments!