This is a controversial issue, and while I try to stay away from anything political or particularly controversial, the fact is that when you have views and options on how to live life, it can overflow into the realms of controversy.
I want to talk about empowering other women in the fight against equality, even the ones you don’t like or you don’t feel help this cause. You know, the one girl in the office no one really likes, she is rude or abrasive, or she wears items of clothing you don’t think is appropriate, or she just doesn’t measure up to what you consider good enough to be a modern feminist.
As women, we often make superficial judgements of other women too quickly and then actively pursue this judgement in the way we treat them. Ladies, this is NOT real feminism.
There is so much happening right now with women being empowered, to speak up, to stand up, and to support other women. I feel that these are important and much needed conversations that we should have as a society. Everyone needs to be on-board and reading from the same hymn sheet if we are to take this from being just a conversation, and make it into actual IMPACT.
I fully believe that in order for us, as women, to reach our full potential we need the support of other women and our male counterparts. This means not bringing men down, not tearing one another down, and not using competition as the only way to react to those whose values don’t match our own, even when we don’t agree with what that person is saying or what they stand for. This probably contradicts everything we instinctively feel when someone voices an unpopular opinion or carries themselves in such a way that it conflicts with not just our moral standards, but the socially consensus ideal of what is right and wrong. Free Speech is Free Speech, whether we like it or not.
· When someone makes a derogatory remark, it’s easy to just demonise this person as ‘bad’ or ‘unfair’.
· When women don’t stand up for other women, it’s easy to label them as a bitch.
· When people express bigoted or amoral views, it’s easy to just get angry, offended, and to want to just tell them how wrong and awful they are.
We want to be nasty, to teach them a lesson and make them see sense. Or we worry that people will believe them and not us, and we think we need to resort to tactics that instill in an attempt to force people to side with us. But none of these things will make anyone listen to you over their own self reasoning.
When you add personal emotions into an argument you lose perspective, and people loose respect.
Even when it pains us to do it, we mustn’t bring others down in an attempt to re-direct or guide them, because this is the easy way out. Everything we do must be for empowering them, especially when it comes to other women.
We won’t ever succeed in making real impact, in gender equality and equal rights if we are constantly trying to take one another down.
Empowerment is the key to the making of a person. It is this tool that leads to influence and can help guide and enlighten. It can turn bullies in to mentors, lost causes in to hope, and can provide real change in people where you think there is none.
No one really likes being told that what they think or believe is wrong, no matter how open minded they are.
There is no better example of this then the complete reform of Michael Kent from Colorado, USA. Michael was a white supremacist for over 20 years and was active in not just the discrimination against black Americans but, also partook in violent crimes of this nature. This man was the epitome of hate towards a group of people based solely on the amount of a chemical called melanin in their skin. If there is ever a cause that incites such irrelevant anger, it is hate against other human beings for such an insignificant reason. But Michael Kent’s mind was changed.
It was not by punishing him, or by sending him to prison for his crimes, or by enacting the same kind of violence and hate on him that he did to others. It was the patience, love, kindness and EMPOWERMENT he received from his parole officer. An African American woman named Tiffany Whittier. She said her job was not to judge Mr Kent but to “make a difference” in his life. To help him better himself and to show him how it is so much easier on the soul to love that it is to hate.
She didn’t dismiss him, she didn’t demean him, she just quietly and unassumingly showed him the way with small and subtle gestures that eventually had REAL IMPACT. She told him to replace his Nazi memorabilia with smiley faces, to remove the negative images he saw every day and replace it with positive and meaningful phrases and pictures. Eventually his mood and outlook changed. Seeing those positive things every day made and impact on how he felt, and eventually on how he saw the world, how he saw Tiffany, and how he saw every other person of colour.
‘’Positive reinforcement changes behaviour for the better, while criticism stabilises negative behaviours and blocks change.’’ – Virginia H Pearce
So, while I believe it’s important to voice our opinions and continue to have the platforms that enable us to do so, we need to find a better way than the constant bickering we have now. A woman’s natural gifts of nurturing, sensitivity, compassion, and empathy are our strengths and bring elements to the table than embrace the uniqueness that make us who we are, just as it does for men.
We can provide opinions without being rude, we can stand up for ourselves without shouting over everyone else, and we can guide and empower other women without dominating or criticising them.
So, my IMPACT for you to all take away from this blog is take that girl in your office, or whoever you are struggling to reconcile your opinions with, and make an effort with her. Take the time to get to know her more than her first impression allowed. You never know why someone is the way they are and their behaviour could be completely unrelated to who they really are deep down. They may say stupid things out of nervousness or social anxiety, but unless you take the time to give them time, you will never know. And the only way you will find that it is by EMPOWERING her to be heard, to have a voice and to feel she is able to express herself without judgement or vindication. Maybe this empowerment will be the key she needs to be able to open her mind to the world.