The Shame of Empowered Women...and Lemons
Chances are if you're reading this blog, you consider yourself to be empowered to some degree. By that I mean, you are a woman who has begun to question authority and think critically about what it means to identify/exist as female in today's society. I myself learned early on that the world was tough, especially for women, and this meant women had to be especially tough. I am honored to have grown up in a house of resilient women: three sisters and my mom. I was sculpted by watching my women fight their way through life. I gained my power from them.
The dangerous part of this narrative is that I also gained an internalized responsibility for society's bullshit. No matter what the world threw at me, no matter my age, it was particularly important that I, a female, push through. I was to take life's lemons and make lemonade. I was to do it graciously, with a smile, and to have compassion on the idiots who threw the lemons at my head. Also, the lemonade better taste good and if I didn't look sexy while making it, I had failed at being a woman.
As a woman existing in today's world, I KNOW that I get copious amounts of lemon's thrown at my head every day: the cat call on the street at fucking 8am, the boss staring at my boobs instead of my eyes, the innumerable times I’ve had my ass grabbed by strangers at bars.
These lemons I can handle. By the age of 26 I’ve learned how to shut this shit down: when I see a lemon coming at my head, I casually grab the baseball bat (or hot sauce) out of my bag, and hit that lemon right back out at the idiot who threw it! No, thank you. You may keep your stupid lemon. Touch me again and die.
It's the internalized lemons that get me. The bullshit I put myself through, because of what I believe I should be. I am an empowered woman! I shouldn't have an eating disorder...so I pretend like there’s no problem and I'm just not hungry sometimes. I’m an empowered woman! I shouldn't have been afraid to offer up ideas in that office meeting...so I berate myself in my head afterwards for being a coward. I am an empowered woman! I shouldn't get upset when that guy I hooked up with doesn't call me back, so I tell my friends I was just in it for the sex too and then lay awake at night picking myself apart, wondering which part of me wasn't desirable enough.
I think to myself: I am an empowered woman. I shouldn't be this weak.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I believe empowered women hold particularly large amounts of shame when we aren't able to cope with all of life's lemons. I for one rationalize my shame by the level of education I have on feminist issues and the communities of which I’m part. I have the tools to “be strong enough,” so why aren’t I? Where is my power?
Well, I am empowered. And you, my wonderful female identifying friends, you are empowered too. However, this does not mean our hearts have somehow been made bulletproof or our shoulders have magically grown wide enough to carry all the world's lemons. If anything, my dear empowered ones, our burden has been made heavier by our awareness of all that we must carry: both what the world pushes on us and all that we are trying to deconstruct from within. It’s. A. Lot.
If you’re still reading this, I hope you pause to take a look at how you talk to yourself, feel around for any pain you have internalized as your own fault and that you speak into it:
"Geez. I am really goddamn strong, but I carry a lot every day and this is too much right now.”
I hope you don't let shame keep you from experiencing the full spectrum of hurt that your heart feels and the sheer weight of what it carries. It was never your fault. It still isn't. It is part of life's journey to fall apart. I dare say it is even healthy. Empowered women are no exception to this.
I hope that we empowered women allow ourselves to breakdown. I hope we let ourselves fall. The best part about us is that we ARE powerful. We will always get back up, and a large part of that will probably be thanks to the support of a dear friend. The magnitude of our recovery lies in the truth that we will always elevate at least one more person as we rise off the ground. An empowered woman’s strength is collective. And ferocious. And intersectional. And beautiful. And I believe it will change the world.
Vaniah is an Operations Manager by day and feeds her artsy, Pacific Northwest soul in the evenings. You can catch her any night of the week singing in a couple local bands (shout outs to Not Your Groupies & Reed Appleseed), Latin dancing, or enjoying the outdoors with her pup, Cal Pal. You can follow her on the ‘gram @vholtzz.