‘Women empowerment’, a term used but not applied?

Posted by Divya Bagaria
January 2, 2018

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Recently I have been trying to understand the real world and how exactly women are being empowered.I crossed paths with different kinds of people, but it is only now that I am realizing how chauvinistic and non-empowering (that’s a real word right?) this world truly is.
Let me share a story of a girl, we’ll call her Lyla. Lyla worked at a small company, her boss’s a woman and there were thirty employees out of which only a very few were women. Lyla had a normal upbringing, meeting various people as she explored the world, but never before had she experienced being asked as to why she drank alcohol like a boy (maybe even a slut), or the implication that because she’s a girl, marriage would be the next big thing for her. She would sit in an office filled with men, she, in fact, quite a few times started eventually enjoying snide comments she received, making her realize how illogical people could be. She once received an ‘I observed that you wear the same jeans every day, so do you have others or is it actually the same every day?’, a very creative way of expressing checking out the girl’s bottom every day if you ask me (when she told me about this I couldn’t help but burst into laughter).Initially, others were under the presumption that she was an air head and wasn’t smart enough, it did bother her a bit, but after a while, it became laughable to observe the reactions of her fellow colleagues as they asked her questions intending to confuse that ‘dumb little girl’. I suppose the question does arise as to why she had to gain their approval and respect only because she’s a woman, but oh well, this is not what this is about.
I’m not here to banter. Listening to what she experienced in those three months made me realize something extremely shocking. Here’s what I personally realized; women don’t really give a fuck about women’s empowerment. Wait though! Before you jump at me with knives, hear me out. Let me rephrase my statement, uhm, women don’t care about empowering each other, they only care about empowering themselves, especially in a work setting (at least from what I’ve observed).
With only three other women in Lyla’s office, she thought it would be ideal as well as fun to become friends and bond with them. They were young, they were independent, doesn’t that sound just perfect? Apparently not.
Lyla had been under the microscope since the day she joined in, her colleagues constantly made comments about her clothes, mannerisms and the way she talked. At first, she was extremely nice to everyone and was a little too friendly I suppose. Soon, she started became more confident about being herself and started revealing her strengths, and that’s when everything started to change.
Her female colleagues, the second they realized she wasn’t a helpless little puppy who would wag her tail around started boycotting her. They started keeping her at a distance, leaving her behind purposely during group gatherings, strategically bitching about her in front of their boss with icing on the cake is when they started making her do their work and taking the credit for it. This doesn’t sound too bad when I am writing it down and I guess Lyla did need to ‘toughen up’ but it also makes me feel extremely disappointed that in today’s day and age, if women themselves are still trying to take each other down, then how are we supposed to talk about women empowerment being real?
Becoming aware of stories like Lyla’s, the situations have made me question if I have ever done that before? Maybe, at times we aren’t even aware that we are trying to compete in an unhealthy manner and feel like in this rat’s race we must only and only try to keep our own heads above the water. We forget the women we are supposed to help or empower ourselves.
It isn’t just one girl’s story, I’ve come across many such scenarios and have had friends and strangers talk about it. Thinking about why women compete with each other in such an unhealthy manner, the biggest trigger for it, in my opinion, would be insecurity. I have observed that people tend to lash out more when they’re feeling insecure about losing an actual or even an unconfirmed position. I’m not here to blame anyone or anything but I just feel like women and maybe men as well (although I can’t be sure) are constantly under the pressure to be the best and perfect.
Don’t get me wrong, I can be extremely competitive at times but at least after learning about Lyla’s story so closely, I have been trying to become more aware of being competitive in a healthy manner. We can’t change the people around us, but we ourselves can change. I want to make sure that the next time if in my own office, a female newcomer joins in, I will remind myself to be more secure and helpful. She might be better than me, but somebody will always be better right? I want that to become a factor that in fact, drives me to improve. If only we can combine the skills of ourselves and the person we are competing with, the outcome can be amazing. Anything we would be working on would be of higher quality and get done faster. This piece is just something that I needed to share with you all, some of you might agree, some might disagree, but all I’m hoping for is more peace. Cheers to the women who are secure about themselves and are confident enough to admit that it’s alright for someone else to be better than them at some things.
This world is already a place filled with chauvinists who might not actually want us there, in such a setting if women don’t empower each other then who will?

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