To the Women “Empowerment” Coaches, whom this may concern:
Do you see yourself?
For fear of being labeled as anything other than an ally, I have kept these words tucked deep in the crevices of my heart. In a world that’s so unkind to women I’ve never wanted to add fuel to the fire of misogyny, but your environments of toxicity should never go unchecked. I don’t have much to lose and much like Little Finger, my loyalties lie with myself.
I’m at an event surrounded by women with 3b hair textures, wet and wavy lace fronts and the latest makeup trends. I’m a dark shadow in a corner of the room. I straddle the delicate line of being visible enough to be disdained yet invisible enough to be ignored. Both instances call for the right timing. The right group of self-proclaimed gurus to realize that I am indeed witty and funny enough to strike up a conversation, but not overwhelmingly pretty or physically fit enough to outshine on an Instagram feed. I’m good enough to seek advice from, but I am not good enough to sit on the panel you needed the advice for.
A few years ago, in the rush of my many youthful blunders, I made a status that read “Stop hyping basic people up”. It wasn’t the most eloquent thing I’ve said to date, but it probably was one of the most poignant. It’s the one status I will never dare to delete when Facebook reminds me that I was an idiotic 20 year old at some point. Somewhere in that blur of poorly fitted words I seemed to understand even then, that when we fail to call out mediocrity when we see it, we make room for women like you to build empires on grossly overpriced empty Vision Board events and god-awful attitudes.
I’m not the woman gliding through a crowd of her peers, smiling widely and feigning humility as she bows her head towards an admirer, thanking them profusely for purchasing her self-published book filled with advice she garnered from an amalgam of Lisa Nichols, Oprah, and Serita Jakes. I’m not a tomboy but I’m definitely the kind of woman to bring a rum filled hip flask to your scarily overpriced conference. I often take a shot every time I hear “For every test you’ve been through, there will be a testimony.” Do it with me next time – I promise you won’t regret it. My invisibility gives me the merit in which I may observe you in your natural most bewildering habitat, and I see you for who you are. But, do you see yourself?
I was lied to when people told me that the mean girls from highschool don’t make it far. These mean girls take up corporate jobs at the Port Authority, The Ship Yard and Cable Bahamas. They’re looked down on by the mean girls who started their own fast fashion businesses selling dry rot kanekalon and warehouse jewelry. The warehouse jewelry girls are then looked down on by the freelance religious conference mean girl leaders and the only thing that binds this trifecta is the prospect of finding one’s Boaz at a Weekend Brunch.
Popular mean girls sitting around a picnic table in highschool belittling the girls around them was a rite of passage for many of these women that now model their expensive “Women with Purpose” Lunch events after this very high-school experience.
They often miss their crowd of admirers and so they create “mentorship” opportunities to maintain the hierarchy of a system that was developed in high school and only matured into an ecosystem of women preying on those seeking ambition, yet unsure as to how they can fuel it.
Women’s Empowerment has become aesthetically fickle, because we’ve allowed the same girls who dictated the rules of adolescence to create the current narrative. The same girls that were never called out are now women. They are the women that never actually learnt what it was like to have their power taken from them by people that look like them. It’s the lack of substance they bring that create the Women’s Empowerment Facebook groups that are only flooded with questions on Detox Tea. They’re the reason why business events dedicated to “Bettering Yourself in The Digital Era” also include workshops on Making Your Husband Happy. This fickle wave is probably one of the reasons why we hear more about our cosmetic appearances and less about rights for women and utilizing those rights to foster environments better suited to our development. They completely took the words Women’s Empowerment and redefined them both, tailoring them to a definition that they themselves saw fit. You redefined the term and then told the world you were passionate about it.
Women’s Empowerment is more than what you’ve made it to be though. It’s showing up for a referendum that determines whether or not you get the same rights as your male counterparts. It’s not perpetuating rape culture when your fellow women tell you stories of sexual assault that you believe “blur the lines”. Women’s Empowerment is about seeing the potential and hiring outside of your sorority sisterhood; it’s about seeing another woman’s work and giving her credit for it rather than plagiarising. It’s about understanding that just because you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t make you an expert.
I’ll say it again because I think it needs to be said, In a world as cruel and unkind as it is to women, I never want to be the one to set anything ablaze. But should you find offence in anything you’ve read, you may want to search introspectively.
Do you see yourself?