By Ber-Henda Williams
“Feminine Empowerment,” as a movement, is permeating our cultural landscape. It is absolutely amazing to witness women wielding and embracing their power. From holding a record number of political offices to women film makers and actresses who are defying age and racial barriers, the feminine voice is being heard and felt.
Yet there is a shadowy undercurrent in the sphere of women’s empowerment. In many hubs and events, the face projected forward is predominately cis-gendered white women. Despite the repeated call outs and backlash, the face remains the same and, conversely in places of color, the events and programs can also remain monolithic. The forward progression is being done within factions and silos. The term “empowerment” means: “The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” However, that achievement is layered and complex.
This is not something that can simply be ingested through feminine gatherings and reciting affirmations. The Sister Wound is the biggest detractor towards our advancement. Empowerment is internal. Core values will vary from woman to woman and group to group. What is the Sister Wound? Emotional manipulation, often subtle, gossip, and boundary violations. No matter who the organization is, diversity and inclusion must be explicit in their values, and varied perspectives must be welcomed. What are some the biggest culprits of casting a shadow over the feminine empowerment ecosystem?
Comparison: One of the ways we stay divided is when we compare ourselves to each other. I have sadly witnessed women discuss another woman’s appearance like a horrible Red Carpet commentary. Or I’ve heard women mention they “mute” other women on social media if their posts are too positive about their personal wins. Why? The topical response would be jealousy, but I feel that it is far deeper than that. It triggers inferiority and lack. The truth: we never know what another woman’s valley looks like; we only get the tour of the mountain top.
Solution: Collaborate with a woman you see doing similar work. Chances are you two could do more together than separately.
Talons of White Male Patriarchy: As we know marriage has historically been a business arrangement to secure wealth and security. Coming from proper linage has been the key to securing a woman’s future, and while this notion is a bit antiquated, the practice has created a riff in the sisterhood. We tend to cluster with those whom we think will aid us in our mobility vs. who can share our vulnerability.
Truth: The feminine has been stifled and commodified. The feminine strength is one based in her being not just her accomplishments. We can acquire status and titles but still lack identity. When we produce an event or hold space, we must set norms of inclusion and have courageous conversations when we don’t see it.
Solution: Mentor young girls and seek the counsel of elder women. Healing and elevation for women happen in community, and by including both ends of the spectrum we heal and grow.
If it is not one thing, it’s YOUR Mother: We learn a lot from our mothers, and if you grew up in house that did not encourage positive female interactions, it can be hard to let your defense down. Messages like, “Women cannot be trusted” or “Don’t have too many girlfriends” can seed your thoughts.
Mean Girl Syndrome: The Cliques
Gossip and ill treatment reek of the Sister Wound. It is not fair nor is supportive to gossip or speak ill of another woman, but especially in spaces that are to deemed safe. If we need to speak about a woman, lets pause and ask the question: how does this help grow or support? Does this conversation inform? As women, we are sensitive, empathetic and emotional creatures. These are powerful traits when used from an empowered space. When we say things that take digs, jabs, and criticize each other, it is a poor reflection of empowerment.
Truth: We have nothing to prove, and we don’t have tear another woman down to feel better about ourselves.
Solution: Compassion and humility. Seek to understand. What do you need to believe about yourself so that you feel better about yourself?
There are so many awesome communities and events for women to come together, yet we must stay vigilant about being more inclusive and speak so loudly that the next generation can hear us. We must take a pause and ask ourselves, “What is the legacy we want to leave behind for the next generation of change makers?” This way, we heal the collective Sister Wound and heal the collective.
Ber-Henda Williams is a Creative+Business Coach for Empathic Women. She is the founder of The Power of Girlhood, a Girl’s Leadership Institute for girls 13-18. When she not with her clients or girls, you can find her performing poetry or on the dance floor. To learn more about her log on to www.ber-hendawilliams.com.