The Truth About Empowerment
In an industry that’s disproportionately male dominated, I pride myself on being a woman in fitness. I feel this sort of comradery with other women in the industry who embody messages of strength, body autonomy, feminism, and empowerment.
In fact, I just love being a woman. We handle shit. We get things done.
Lately, I feel this move toward women showing up more unapologetically. You see the memes with the quote “the future is female.” I personally think 2017 has been a great year for women. We’ve been showing up in major, impactful, and meaningful ways. Not surprising however, because women are always on the front lines of change. We always lead the way.
The word empowerment has been floating around the fitness space in recent months, particularly among women. While I think this is great, and I genuinely have a desire for all women to show up empowered in their lives, I think it warrants a little discussion.
What does empowerment really mean? What does it mean to be an ‘empowered’ woman?
By definition, empowerment is ‘the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.’
It’s easy to talk about empowerment in terms of adopting an abundance mindset, ditching the comparison trap, body autonomy, or food freedom. And please hear me out, I think that woman can feel empowered through any of these things or a myriad of other ways.
I’m not here to police anyone on how to feel empowered. I’m simply saying that I think we have to take it a few steps beyond those things.
I think true empowerment involves showing up for one another and taking up space for other women.
In the words of my brilliant friend, Erin Brown, “Empowerment can’t look like rooms full of white women talking about calories. Instagrammable entitlement.” (From Sovereign, available at iamerinbrown.com).
It’s easy to say we want to be an empowered woman. The harder part is actually showing up to be an empowered woman. We’ve all heard the phrase, “empowered women empower women” but how are we actually doing that in our day to day lives. It has to be more than a cool, cute catch phrase.
Empowerment is about showing up for other women— not just white women but all individuals who identify as women. It’s about showing up for the difficult conversations. It’s about elevating the voices of the marginalized.
It’s about caring more about the basic human rights of people than losing followers. It’s about making the conscious decision not to use your privilege to capitalize financially on issues of racism when you aren’t a member of the oppressed.
It’s about supporting issues and causes that affect other women even when you’re not directly affected by them. It’s about taking the time to educate yourself on issues with which you are unfamiliar so you have the ability show up and take up space for other women.
It’s about laying aside your privilege and looking at things from a different perspective. It’s about owning the fact that you have privilege. For the record, we all experience privilege on some level, some of us just more than others.
It’s about not choosing silence when other women are hurting.
We are stronger together—if we’re actually together. If we’re actually showing up for one another in word and in deed.
Because there’s more to fitness and empowerment than talking about calories, getting leaner, cute workout gear, bikini bodies, and even strength gains.
To empower women, we must be present for all women—not just women who look like us. It’s understanding that the experience of a cisgender white woman is much difference than the experience of a trans woman, a queer woman, a disabled woman, or a woman of color.
It’s refraining from using statements such as, “I don’t see color” because you realize that those types of statements rip people of color of our identities. I want you to see me for who I am. I’m proud of being black. I don’t want you to pretend not notice the color of my skin.
It’s choosing to be respectful of people’s identities and using correct pronouns during our interactions with transgender or gender non-binary individuals.
Being an empowered woman is about standing up to your friends, family, or coworkers when they make racist or homophobic jokes. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary.
It’s about showing up for the difficult, messy, and sometimes, unpopular conversations.
I don’t personally believe we can talk about fitness or empowerment without discussing race, politics, access, inclusivity, representation, and even more, who gets a seat at the table. Who gets to be fit, who gets to be represented in fitness, and who gets a seat the proverbial fitness table- who gets the opportunities.
True empowerment is about showing up for other women in a way that in genuine, true, and authentic, even if we have vastly different experiences in the world.
”I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
– Audre Lorde
I realize that I tend to dish out a lot of what might be considered tough love, but it’s not because I hate puppies or rainbows or unicorns, it’s because I believe that we can all be and do better. I actually believe that women are stronger together, if and when, we put the interests of all women at the forefront.
I’m challenging you (and myself) to stretch ourselves and our definition of what it means to be an ‘empowered woman.’ I’m challenging you get uncomfortable and have the difficult conversations, even if you get it wrong sometimes. Because everyone gets it wrong sometimes, myself included. It’s through continuing to show up even when we mess up, that we learn, grow, and do better.
It’s time to dig deeper. It’s time to engage. It’s time to empower each other.
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