Please Note: This post is written by someone who has grown up Canadian with middle to upper class family and friends. Even my current therapy practice involves middle to upper class clients, so my perspective is limited. I will also point out that I’m a serious mama’s boy, my sister is my best friend, both my grandmothers worked full time jobs starting in the 1930s, which means I’ve never seen women as anything but equal to men. More importantly, I’m a father of two beautiful girls I want to help provide the best life possible for, which is one with joy and love. They won’t be “empowered,” but they will be encouraged to be good, kind, and to share love.
Before you hate me for addressing female empowerment, please let me ask a couple questions about married men and women to see if we can get on the same page (I’m saying married men and women because we can be very different when we’re single).
- Which gender is typically known for being the organizer of the household and carries a lot of the weight for responsibilities like remembering birthdays and appointments, and which one is more casual about everything and often buys gifts at the last minute if at all?
- Which gender is typically known for wanting to redecorate and gets excited for a new outfit or haircut, and which gender is generally fine the way things are and wearing the same suit to every fancy event because it’s easy?
- Which gender is typically known for pushing for a better life (e.g. plans family time, books holidays, and looks up ideas on Pinterest), and which gender doesn’t get why the other is working so hard and often says things like “Relax,” or “It’s not that big a deal,” and is then resented for their lack of understanding or support?
I’m guessing I don’t need to point out married women are the first in each of these questions, but to be safe now you know. Yes, these are stereotypes, but there’s often truth to them. I will acknowledge that stereotypes aren’t rules and there are always exceptions, but they are guides for understanding how people work and help us know how to socialize better (and how to make fun of each other). As a therapist who listens to a lot of people, I know certain stereotypes are real. For instance, women are the driven, passionate gender who struggle with too much guilt as they want to make everyone happy. And while women are trying to make things perfect, men are looking to have fun and avoid “unnecessary” work. This lines up with the top two problems women experience based on what they share with me in my therapy office:
#1 Problem: The woman is too hard on herself and is either burnt out or burning out as she tries to make everyone happy while being really mean to herself. She essentially cares too much about everything.
#2 Problem: The woman will complain that her husband doesn’t do enough to help or show he understands. In many ways she feels alone in her struggle to keep the family going as it seems that the husband is too relaxed and doesn’t care enough.
To take this further, I did a wedding for a woman who told me she was all set to go down the path of being a doctor when she heard that doctors have to put their job first and family second, so she switched to become a nurse as her family was the most important thing to her. Isn’t that the greatest choice someone can make for finding happiness and living a good life? She chose love and connection with her family over status or money. Female empowerment encourages women to pursue power positions, but it’s actually putting pressure on women to live lives that are unhealthy.
In regards to female empowerment, back in the 90s, the Spice Girls promoted girl power; it was fun and they kept things light – hee-yah (air kick). Now, female empowerment is flooding our culture; I even heard there was a charity raising money for it. The scary thing is it doesn’t seem like people realize how dangerous a path this is, and hopefully the following list will help explain why I see it this way.
- Increased Stress: Women are already hard on themselves and struggle with feeling overwhelmed by everything they’re trying to do. Female empowerment is actually going to lead to more women having breakdowns as the underlying message is “You need to do more and achieve higher.” But who is this really meant to impress or what is this supposed to prove? Happiness is not achieved by doing more or achieving a certain status.
- It’s a Fools Life: Women traditionally complain men ignore their families while pursuing selfish ambitions like working too much to make more money. Is that not on some level what female empowerment is encouraging women to do? But the point of life isn’t achievement; it’s love.
Side Note: Why are more men CEOs and other top positions? Because they’re typically the ones more competitive and selfish enough to be willing to sacrifice family and friendships in order to work long hours and move up the ranks. Women and guys like me know life is more than status and money… or we possibly have too much integrity to play the game to get into those positions. We may be tempted to be jealous of people in power positions because they may have the money and toys, but they won’t have the same love and meaning in their lives that others can find in our simpler lives.
- More Women Being Single: Female empowerment is going to lead to a generation of women who can’t find men good enough to date because the guys are all pot smoking, video game addicts who satisfy their sexual needs with porn – a problem women are already finding. This problem is already so bad in Japan the government is paying people to get married and have kids. Unfortunately, this isn’t really helping because a lot of “men” are too afraid of the go-getter women and continue hiding at home with their moms.
- Increased Chauvinism: If a parent gives special treatment to one child, the other(s) will likely resent them. This was the premise of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is based on an important Jewish story. You can only give special treatment to one gender for so long before there’s backlash. The question is what will be the backlash and how bad will it be?
- It’s Insulting to Women: Saying women need to be empowered is like saying “You’re the weaker gender,” or “If you work hard enough, you can be as good as a man” – ouch.
- It’s Insulting to My Mom: Female empowerment is actually telling older women like my mom they’ve lived their lives wrong. To me, having a career that’s second to being a mom and having a legacy of love is a greater achievement than any money or discovery someone can make. My mom is the greatest person in my eyes, so isn’t that enough or did she need empowering to do something “better” and impress more people? To me, empowering seems to be connected to a loss of recognizing what’s important in life.
- Confused Boundaries: Some women think that being empowered means having hookups, but that’s not empowerment; that’s being cheap. Sleeping with a random guy isn’t an accomplishment; it’s selling yourself short of the respect you deserve. All these women doing one-night-stands are actually making it worse for women as it adds to the problem of women being over-sexualized and disrespected (porn has definitely added to this). Empowerment is helping guys see that women are more than objects, which includes saying no to guy’s advances. And for the record, guys wanting hookups are just as gross to me. It’s not intimacy; it’s masturbating with another person.
- Damaged Marriages: People treat their partners the way they treat themselves. This means if women are hard on themselves, they’re likely going to be hard on their husbands. If women are even harder themselves because of the pressures of empowerment, this problem is going to increase and lead to more divorce.
- Damaged Daughters: Women tend to be harder on their daughters as they are more of an extension of themselves than boys, which means they’ll be even harder on their daughters in the future further damaging girls who want to feel good enough to be loved.
- Diminished Accolades: When there’s a push for female empowerment, it’s not uncommon for someone to look at a woman receiving an award or promotion and dismissing it as, “They had to pick a woman,” rather than recognize that she earned it.
If women are too hard on themselves while men can be lazy or distracted, shouldn’t the goal be to encourage women and men to have healthy expectations of themselves and each other? Women need to be taught to be nicer to themselves while men need to be taught to have a standard like the way the women in my life have taught me.
The truth is women and men are different, but we are equal. We can either appreciate these differences and use them to make a balanced and wonderful life or we can let them drive us apart and cause unnecessary conflict. Unfortunately, if we focus on one gender and ignore the other, it’s like pumping up the tire of one bike’s wheel while ignoring the other. The one wheel will be too flat to be any good while the other will eventually explode.
This week may you better appreciate what you do and how valuable you are no matter what message culture seems to be telling you.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)