I am a British 1980’s Generation X teenager and, as such, I grew up surrounded by powerful women. From having my country run by two women (H.M. the Queen and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady) to Joan Collins in her shoulder pads as Alexis Colby in Dynasty. To the example of my mother, whose rock-solid reliability and constant care for me inspires me to this day as the gold standard of motherhood in my eyes. I have always admired strong women and their ability to achieve in a world that, even in the 21st century is still way too male-dominated.
An empowered woman takes responsibility for her life, makes her own rules, honors herself, lives by her inner compass. She values her passions, chooses empowering relationships, takes a stand, develops a relationship with fear (that is, she is courageous), empowers other women and owns her pleasure.
I like this definition. Certainly, there is something very attractive about a woman who lives up to her own actions, decides what she wants. One who is comfortable in her body, trusts her feminine intuition, does what she loves. A woman who has high standards for her relationships, speaks her mind, is brave, sticks up for the sisterhood and has a healthy attitude towards sex.
The question for men is whether this fair creature represents a threat to us or should be welcomed. I argue for the latter. Indeed, I would further argue that any woman appearing to possess these qualities but who then uses them against men is not as empowered as she thinks she is.
I have always been somewhat suspicious of the rabidly anti-male feminist. While the struggle for equality is real and the issues that still face women remain formidable, I have always sensed in my heart that the feminist who is seriously anti-men is not entirely happy with being female. Perhaps she feels weak, so attempts to look strong by trying to beat men at their own game, encouraging women to behave more like men to get ahead in life and career. It also pains me that there are feminists who became feminists because a man in their lives did something bad to them. While Andrea Dworkin was the most famous example of this kind of feminist, I am encouraged by the fact that more mainstream figures in women’s liberation, such as Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Shere Hite, had no such dreadful experiences.
I feel that a truly empowered woman does not look at men as “the competition” but rather invites men to be unthreatened by her femininity and sexuality. For them to be a co-author of female equality together with her, confident that such a man is both her equal and a person worthy of respect.
Can such a man be found? A large number of rather SNAGs (“Sensitive New-Age Guys”) and the number of women reading “50 Shades” suggests that he is rare. In a way, this is a rather sad state of affairs.
When I was a teenage boy in the 1980’s, I always believed in women’s empowerment. Of course, men and women were created equal. I could hardly believe that the 1960’s generation could ever believe otherwise. Weren’t they the generation who thought blacks should be segregated, who thought gays should be locked up? Also, the ones who thought bombing Cambodia was a good way to stop the Vietnam War? How stupid. Of course, the new generation of hip young things in the 1980’s would never stoop to such ridiculous conclusions. We had Michael Jackson as the King of Pop, Madonna was a role model, British pop singers like Boy George and Culture Club paved the way for gay culture, Freddie Mercury from Queen was bisexual. What was wrong with the older generation?
Since then things haven’t quite worked out. I thought it was wrong to ask a woman for sex straight out. No way would I ever make such a stupid mistake as to harass a woman at work. I thought men who did that were ignorant guys who cared nothing for feminism and had an attitude against women. However, some of the guys who grew up with these enlightened beliefs (not me, thank goodness) turned from the light when they realized that behaving in this way resulted in no sex and no
girlfriend. Afraid to ask women for what they really wanted, they hoped that she would “get the hint.” When she didn’t (because he gave no hint—because he thought it was wrong to do that), he turned from being a “nice guy” into being not-so-nice. Then he complained that women had all the power and that they weren’t nurturing enough. The 50% divorce rate didn’t help either. Guys of my generation grew up in female-dominated families where the father was often absent or unavailable, so I, for one, have had significant issues acting like a man because I had no role model.
Now there is a greater understanding of female sexuality and psychology than there was before. A new generation of guys is growing up realizing that there is a duality to femininity. The successful CEO in the boardroom also likes being submissive in the bedroom. She can believe in women’s liberation and read “50 Shades” at the same time. She can choose to be an ethical slut or choose to wait for the right man because she believes she is worth it. She grew up in high school surrounded by women who chose to have relationships with their friends, regardless of whether those friends are male or female, and she doesn’t feel the need to label this behavior as a definite sexuality. What’s a little cunnilingus between friends? Does it have to mean she’s bisexual? Can’t she just hang out and be chill about whatever happens?
Today’s teenage boys think this is normal. As a high school teacher, I’ve seen it. I don’t want to see any more young girls growing up ashamed because their bodies don’t live up to some ideal. I want her to listen to her womb and trust what it says, to be comfortable with her femininity and proud to be a woman. She can live her passions, fulfill her dream, achieve her life goals. I feel encouraged that teenage boys are already accepting this as the way it should be. As for me, I love this type of woman. She challenges me to be the best I can be.
She is courageous, and that inspires me. Also, dare I say it—this woman is sexy. I want her—and it’s safe to want her; because a woman confident in her sexuality knows she is attractive to a man who is confident in his.
In this way, then, a fully-empowered woman can empower men to rise above the stereotypes of the past to become the fully-confident man he has always wanted to be and to share that confident life with her; and if all men embraced this, this world would be better off for it.
Photo: Military Health / flickr