WOW | Life Inspiration
It’s March. After February’s celebration of romantic love, comes a month in which women get a day all to themselves, to be remembered. Well, at least “officially” so. There is something commendable about having a day that draws attention to women’s value and their continued campaign for equal rights and respect. There is also something inherently dismal about the event: that we live in a world in which women still struggle to have the right to health, education, equal pay, respect, dignity, safety and to individual freedom. It is a cause and case that represents so much of what is misaligned and out of order in our present day.
Watch the news, read the newspaper, or tune yourself to any media, and the situations of violence, war, injustice and misuse/abuse of power are staggering in their prevalence. Overwhelmingly so!
The imbalance of power and the fundamental misperception that one group is more worthy/valuable/respectable than another, serves no one– neither the “victim”, nor the “perpetrator”. In the dis-empowerment of women, it is not just women who suffer the consequences. Men do too. Because, let’s face it: overall, in this paradigm, women have become victimized and men have become vilified. This is the status quo. And we teach our children this from a very young age: Girls should be afraid of boys, after a certain age. Girls become prey. And boys, well…boys are not to be trusted once adolescence kicks in. Their hormones override them and they cannot control their energy nor their power.
Empowerment is an internal state. It is a state of awareness in which “I” not only understand but “I” know, honour and own my value as a human being.
So goes the story, or some variation of it.
Instead of empowering girls and boys in their personal power we teach them to be afraid and mistrustful or each other, and of themselves. We do this with all power struggles–whether between gender, between countries or any other separation and distorted valuation index we create. Indeed, the issue of empowerment versus disempowerment is one well beyond men and women. It is the paradigm of the victim, perpetrator and rescuer. In order for there to be a victim there has to be an oppressor. Ultimately, out of this duo emerges the saviour, the one who rescues the oppressed.
These three roles are so interlinked and the boundaries between them so permeable, that we tend to flip flop between them. Yes, you read that correctly: we all, as human beings, will know and fall into these roles at some point in time, whether in big or small ways. Victim, oppressor and rescuer. Spend enough time with any abuser/offender, and sooner or later you will hear a story of someone who has been victimized themselves in some way. The same for a rescuer. They have either been a victim or oppressor beforehand. Just look at any film, and you will see this clearly play out over and over again. And we thrive on it. In fact, we spend significant amounts of money, energy and time to see this triangle of roles flip and flop.
In general, we will have a penchant for one role over another other. We will so clearly identify with it that we deny that we could play another role. We take pride in our position. So much so that we often fail to see that we are, indeed, playing it and perpetuating it. We do the latter by using these roles to champion our causes. We point fingers, we blame, we grieve and we fight against what we do not want. And certainly, this is necessary. It is crucial that, as conscious beings, we are held accountable for our deeds. It is essential to identify what is not working, to grieve the injustices, to get angry, and to call for change. The danger, however, is that we get locked into this mode and we spend our energy either blaming the other, defending ourselves or rescuing the world without rescuing ourselves first. And this leads us away from empowerment.
So, what does empowerment look like? Empowerment is an internal state. It is a state of awareness in which “I” not only understand but “I” know, honour and own my value as a human being. This I do, regardless of gender, regardless of ethnic belonging, regardless of religious belief. It is a state of such centered-ness that nothing anyone says, nor anything they can do, can take away my knowing of this worth. Empowerment is knowing myself and accepting myself–the good, the bad and the ugly of it–so completely that nothing can sway me too far off course. Empowerment is alignment.
Although the outer appearances can be indicators of empowerment–the ability to dress and express one’s self as one wishes– they, in and of themselves, do not bestow empowerment. Nor do circumstances of suppression or oppression always mean that one is disempowered. When I write this I think of people such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, who, in confinement found freedom and independence. When I write this I think of the women in war ravaged South Sudan, with whom a friend of mine works. This friend tells me that although these women are often repeatedly raped and mistreated, they walk with fierce dignity and self respect.
So, my friends, here is my wish for you, and for us all who are here: May you find and accept your true power–the one that lives within you as spirit, as the breath that breathes you, as your life force and purpose. Fear not in claiming your power, for true power cannot oppress another, ever. On the contrary, true power brings the space and opportunity for others to claim their own. There is enough room for each and every one of us to thrive.
As Rumi so wisely advised, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”