Reclaiming power: marching for (self) justice
Disempowerment can happen from bold, singular, revolting acts. When the victims speak up, we rally around these cries with the certainty of absolutes. Right vs wrong. Black vs white. Woman vs man.
Disempowerment can also happen silently, insidiously, through the stacking and layering of behaviour over time. This disempowerment is harder to pinpoint as a discrete moment or story in time, but the sum of the parts is deadly. Object or subject. Equal or fair. Valued or worthy.
We understand the world through narrative and see the world through a prism of values. We believe those values are true. When the story is allegory, when the moments become metaphors for an entire experience, rather than a target in time, how do we understand where the betrayal of value has occurred? How can we understand where power is lost? And how, therefore, can it found?
For many women, their objectification in the workplace hasn't occurred by a singular vile act of physical assault. It has happened over years, in the delayering of their self. The performance feedback they are intimidating, or emotional, or cry too much, or anger too easily. The meetings of men where they are spoken over, or excluded from the nickname nomenclature, or absent from invitation. The teams where they sound different, look different, are different; and there is no mirror up, down or to the side that makes it logical to believe they belong. The office moments where they are admired too long as they reach for a cup, or bend at the copier, or where the gaze lingers too long at forbidden shapes.
In these years the woman has a choice. She may claim her femininity, even exploit it. The partner she chooses may be the biggest asset to her career. She may indulge the gaze, accept the leer, and forge forward. She may also abdicate her radiance, consciously stepping outside it. She'll stop styling her hair, forego her makeup; asexual to a tee, and so forge forward, or at least aside.
She may believe she can be both; radiant in who she is and accepted by the mass. Here she will falter most. Her rejections make her admirers feel belittled, and so they exclude or revile her. Her acceptances make her peers question her merit, and so they exclude or revile her. Worse still, the fact of her constant objectification may make her question her own worth as subject; and this is where she herself begins to revile what it means to be her - a woman in her fullest expression.
Her greatest fear is not that she is not powerful, then. Her greatest fear is that she is powerful beyond measure. Living into that power, loving that power, owning that power: that is the challenge. When that happens, the paradigms of her world - the ones that tell her to be ladylike, feminine, or fierce, tough - they all fall away and she simply is. And when she is, she may realise, she is actually alone. This is where empowerment begins and ends; because all that is necessary is within.
What does it take to go within the self that you have learnt and fought to distance from, to even hate at times? How do you love her, own her, and live only for her? The answer is in the same path that led to the reviling. The answer is in the revolution of self to self. Sit with you for all you are. Look yourself in the eyes. See yourself for your folly, and your fire. And then re-stack again. Relayer in small moments. Gaze with lust and adoration. Step into femininity, and sexuality. Step out from the paradigm, and become a cartographer of your own rules. Let those become the values that are real.
Begin with the intention that everything you have is within. Let the outcome take care of itself.