Do Women Really Need to be Empowered?

This week I had an interesting conversation with a husband-wife team who own a business together.  Since I work only with female business owners, I wasn’t sure why Mr. Biz owner sat in on my conversation with Ms Biz owner, but I didn’t ask any questions.

I could tell that my “women only” service made him uncomfortable because he went over the top professing that his wife made her own decisions, that he’d never told her she couldn’t do something. When a man has to work that hard to convince me he’s not a chauvinist, I get a little skeptical.

I listened politely but soon became weary of his campaign to convince me that he’s a progressive kind of guy. Then he dropped the “E” word.

“My wife is an empowered woman,” he said.

I couldn’t resist. “Well you sound like a pretty empowered man to me,” I replied cheerfully.

That’s when he got red in the face and sputtered, “I don’t have to be empowered. I’m a man!”

I doubt they’ll invite me to dinner.

So why is it that women need to be empowered, but men get offended at the thought of being empowered?

Ah, they already power! To be empowered implies that we don’t have power and someone has to give it to us, as evidenced by this man’s reaction to my compliment about how empowered he is.

Perhaps women in developing countries, where it is common for women to be marginalized, need to be empowered — through legal changes, education, culture shifts, access to opportunities — but do women in the U.S. really need someone to empower us?

So ladies, how do you feel about your own power?  Do you feel comfortable embracing your own power or do you believe someone needs to empower you?

I’d love to read your comments.  And of course, if you are intrigued by what you read, feel free to share, but only if you think it adds to a good conversation.


3 thoughts on “Do Women Really Need to be Empowered?

  1. Uwera

    I liked the article until where you wrote “Perhaps women in developing countries, where it is common for women to be marginalized, need to be empowered ” that’s bad because women biggest problems which deals with the mindset are the same everywhere , others are general problems that anyone face due to the conditions of life not women problems particulary. what you wrote is like saying that women need to control what they eat but in developing countries they do not have to because there is a lot of hunger.

    1. Darcie Harris Post author

      That’s such an interesting way of looking at it, I hadn’t thought if it that way. Perhaps I should have been more specific about what I meant by saying “marginalized.” In many countries, the laws are quite unfair to women. They cannot control money or cannot own property. In other countries, the law allows men to restrict what women wear, prohibit them from driving or even going outside. There are other examples too horrible to write. So when I think about “empowering” women — meaning that someone has to give them power — I am thinking in many ways about the law. In countries where the law is not equal for women, I do believe there needs to be change that “empowers” women to make them equal under that law.

      I’m so glad that you took the time to write. Tell me (if you are comfortable doing so), do you live in a “developing country?” I’d love to learn more about the lives of women where you live.

      Take care, Darcie

  2. Claire

    I agree with Uwera and with Darcie, Empowerment has become watered down in a sense. It has become prescriptive and deterministic, with ways as to what an empowered woman looks like, some women may be free but they can only feel that freedom when they are in their fa ily structures, not modern nuclear but extended families. Freedom may denote something else that is unrelated to mainstream development notions of freedom and agency. I do agree that women are certainly discriminated against by certain cultures. But maybe it is time to delve further into those women who have continuously upheld customs and traditions of their cultures and WHY? This work!! Do they really feel constrained…. If so will these initiatives aimed at changing women and awareness campaigns what is the target, are they long term or short/ sustainable..


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