I have been thinking about how to broach this topic for a long time–thinking about what does it actually look and sound like to be an empowered woman. It seems like the older I get, the less empowered I feel, because I have more obligations that I have felt limit my choices.
I re-read Virginia Woolf’s speech “A Room of One’s Own” in which Woolf talks about how, in order to be a woman writer, she has to kill the Angel in the House–the guilty conscience that tells you, as a woman, what is proper for you to do. The Angel in the House is the nagging voice that prevents you from pursuing your passions.
As modern women, I feel we not only face the Angel but also a glittering enemy called Ambition. We are now encouraged to go to college and have careers and be the breadwinners and have a family and, and, and. We have been encouraged to be self-sufficient.
In my case, I suddenly realized that I can do it all, but that I don’t want to, and certainly not all at once. I have been struggling with this though–how could I pass up promotions and making more money when I have a mortgage to pay and my husband does not earn as much as me? How do I have a career when my heart is aching for my daughter?
This is where I feel feminism has failed me–none of my strong mentors were good examples of self-care and balance and my definition of strong womanhood has been tragically narrow. I am finding that new empowerment means knowing and understanding your needs as a woman, and not allowing anyone or anything to prevent you from meeting them. I have felt more empowered the more I cry in front of my girlfriends and colleagues and use words like “need,” and telling my boss that I don’t care if I go back to an entry-level position if I can have an 80% time job. The less strong I have been, by my prior definition, the more freedom I feel and the more clarity I gain.
If you know what your needs are as a woman, as a human, and you fearlessly work to articulate them and nurture them, then I believe you are empowered.
Wish me luck!