A male friend told me recently that he does jiu-jitsu. I responded, “Wow, that must be empowering.” It felt weird the moment I said it.
It felt weird to say it to a guy. I would not have felt an ounce of hesitation if I had said it to a woman.
I was angry that I felt that way. Angry because I understand why I felt that way. I value gender equality and feminism, and my language hesistancy was due to gender inequality.
So why does it feel weird to use “empower” with a man? Because men already have power and feel powerful. They feel confident, physically strong, and capable (at least significantly more than women).
Men are reinforced with power since they are little boys, with sayings like, “look how strong you are.” Meanwhile, little girls are taught to be nice and please others.
If you want more examples of gender inequality, you need look no further than positive affirmations for women. You can google it or pick up a book. As you read them, imagine a man saying them.
“I appreciate myself”
“I am enough”
“I will reward and praise myself for my accomplishments.”
It’s hard to imagine. Many men already believe these things. These quotes reveal how women often feel in our culture: that they’re not enough, they need to do more, and possess little self worth.
The difficulty of imaging men saying these affirmations also reveals another gender difference: that men do not have equal access to emotional support and vocabulary. Men do not have as many opportunities as women to learn how to express themselves emotionally and seek support (you can read more about this in the article “The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture”).
I’m not writing this essay to advocate changing the affirmations we use. That’d be treating the symptoms instead of the root cause: gender inequality.
Thank you for reading. I help women untangle all of the contributing factors to why they feel like they're not enough and yet too much. If you're interested in therapy, you can learn more here.