Why do wealthy White women need empowerment? Several events converged over the past few days, prompting this question. I learned about a fellow professional who is promoting something that looks like group therapy marketed as female empowerment. She also supports the current President who famously bragged about assaulting women. Recently, he denied that it was his voice on the tape recording. Every day brings another disclosure about men harassing or assaulting women in the workplace.
PF: This past year, empowerment became a buzz word and a marketing tool. To empower is to “promote the self-actualization of or influence of.” Do wealthy White women need empowering?
Chelsea Fagan over at The Financial Diet noted that “poor women aren’t going to be #empowered in the way the word is usually used.” Kelly Diels defines her “Female Empowerment Lifestyle Brand” as “a marketing strategy that leverages social status and white privilege to create authority over other women.” According to the New York Times, “the new empowerment doesn’t increase potential so much as it assures you that your potential is just fine.” The 2017 version of female empowerment is aimed at increasing profit. Ivanka Trump has become the face of ‘Fempowerment CEOs.’ They use their privilege to sell overpriced products to other privileged White women. Sejal Singh noted that you won’t see the faces of low-wage workers, who are mostly women, on Ivanka Trump’s #WomenWhoWork campaign.
Do you need to spend $50 on a hoodie emblazoned with someone else’s logo to be an empowered feminist? Instead, be a feminism by donating that money to a charity that supports women’s political, economic, or social well-being.
Buzz Words = Buzz Kill
SS: I actually hate that word lately. I noticed someone in a networking circle I frequent overusing it. After the fourth or fifth occurrence, I realized that the way it was being used as a strategy to get another person to do something without directly telling them to do it. “You should feel empowered to do this…” I immediately imagined it being taught at an overpriced leadership seminar. Now I try to avoid it.
I am starting to wonder about how effective slogans used to brand movements are. Obviously, they are successful in that they are easy to attach to and spread easily among the masses, but somewhere along the way, the message gets muddied. Maybe that is inevitable. It seems female empowerment maybe falling victim to the same issues as feminism. Maybe the majority of the population interprets it as something else altogether. It is unfortunate, but I guess spreading the message that you want equality for all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic state is too wordy and just not as sexy.
While like you I am feeling a bit jaded, I tried to take comfort in that regardless of how it gets misused or misconstrued, igniting conversation could further the original intention more than simply educating people on the actual definition.
PF: Feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Merriam-Webster recently identified feminism as the 2017 Word of the Year based on the number of searches for the word. In 2017, I learned about White feminism. I never really thought about feminism as a White experience and perhaps that’s my White privilege showing. White feminism is “a brand of feminism that minimizes, forgets, or willfully ignores the experiences of women of colour.” Now that I understand, I intend to stay woke. Yes, I’m a middle-aged White woman using this phrase. I’ll continue to explore how empowerment and feminism impact how we earn, spend, and save money.