Say Empowerment Again

Last week I got into a text debate with a male friend about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie. (That may be the silliest sentence I’ve ever written.) It started when I shared an article that a friend of mine posted on Facebook that criticized, or attacked, depending on your POV, Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski for posting a topless selfie of them giving the finger in the name of female empowerment. As you probably know, Kim made headlines for posting a nude selfie, and made even more headlines when certain celebrities like Bette Midler and Chloe Grace Moretz voiced their disapproval of the photo. Kim tweeted snappy replies to the two women, and a few short weeks later, this selfie with Emily was posted.

This isn’t about all of that drama. My male friend took issue with the blogger’s approach to critiquing Kim and Emily and essentially chalked it up to an over-zealous feminist trying to define empowerment for all womankind. He believes that it undermines the idea of female empowerment for one woman to disapprove of another woman’s definition of empowerment. (Say empowerment again, empowerment.) I found myself getting extremely heated during this text exchange, as is typical with me and any debate, but this one hit very close to home.

Putting aside the argument of what empowerment is, was, or should be, I was incensed by the notion that one woman cannot disagree with another woman’s choices without being accused of undermining the female empowerment movement. One part of my brain thought “What a sexist notion! Of course he would think that all women should just be polite and nice and agreeable. I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROOOOAAAAAAAR!” My other brain says “He makes a good point! I don’t subscribe to every belief that is associated with feminism, and I’d hate another woman trying to police my actions.” And the third part of my brain was like “Dammit, my body will never look good enough to take a nude selfie for anyone.”

This is what it’s like in my brain every day. The interchanging voices and opinions swirl in my mind like a tornado, wrecking any logical thinking and leaving me exhausted. I’m also going to take a giant leap and say that I reckon this is what it’s like in the brain of other young feminists like myself. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolfe describes this phenomenon; with the surge of women’s rights also came a surge in female images of beauty designed to keep women slaves to fashion, beauty, diets, you name it. What is left is several generations of women caught between the woman they used to be, the woman they want to be, and the woman they think others want them to be. Confused? So are we.

I remain firmly in this state of confusion right now. I’ve exercised twice in the last month. My all-natural weight loss supplements remain sealed on my dresser because even though I made a promise to myself and to you readers that I would not give in to a quick fix, I cannot bring myself to flush the pills in case I change my mind. Which could literally happen at any moment.

I’ve been told by several men in my life that this is a “victim mentality”. That I should not attribute my issues to things like the media, society, or other influences because it encourages me to “play the victim.” To you, my brains have a few choice words. 1) “It must be easy to play that card when you’ve never been a woman. Grow some ovaries and worry about yourself.” OR 2) “I see what you mean, it can’t be entirely someone else’s fault!” OR 3) “On Monday… I’ll start working out on Monday.”

Our regularly featured guest blogger Azriél is a New York based performer with a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts. She is a proud feminist, and a not so proudBachelorenthusiast.

**Photo by Leslie Hassler

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