Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The difference between being empowered and being coddled...

I have been a bit busy so I haven't had a chance to discuss topics of interest that I've come across of things I've been thinking on, but I'm going to make the effort with this, because it touches on previous posts, as well as something I've observed around the BWE blogsphere.

BWE or Black Women Empowerment means different things to different people. That much is very clear. The basic gist, from what I can comprehend, is that there is a movement to help black women take control of their individual destinys, to reject the toxic dialogue with elements of the so-called black community that would see her harmed, and to choose a path that is optimal for her own survival and happiness.

The above seems to be the "meat and potatoes"of the message. (Interesting note, when I first saw BWE on a black woman's blog, I thought it stood for "Black Woman Exodus".) However, there are other connotations as well:

- A "safe-space" from the world, which seems to have it out for black women
- A place you can be "honest" about your feelings regarding black men, white women, and anyone else you feel is a problem for today's black women.
- A call to action
- A blog space for venting
- A place to learn
- A place to try and convince others to expand their dating and marriage prospects.

There are a number of ways, from the positive to the negative, to describe BWE.

However, one of the most worrying for me is the element of expectation that the BWE is a place for being "encouraged". And when I say that I don't mean uplifted....I mean coddled.

There is a striking similarity between this expectation of BWE bloggers and participants in this context and the expectation one finds in the black church. That is, the idea of going to church to be told all this wonderful stuff, and how everything is gonna be alright, and how the LAWD will fix all your problems and send you the perfect man, while you sit there and do nothing.

With BWE, it becomes: "We will tell you all the wonderful things, and ever so gently point out failings, and never ever tell you things you don't want to hear about yourself, or about potentially harmful behaviors, attitudes, and habits".

This is coddling. This is telling you half the story, and omitting things because they don't make you feel comfortable. This is expecting people to not be blunt because it upsets your sensibilities.

Most times, I do try and be polite. Sometimes, however, I feel that there is just no other way to address a problem or a situation than to call it as I see it, with no sugar-coating whatsoever.

As the image above suggests, YOU, are ultimately responsible for your own empowerment. Though you look to the wisdom and experience of others for guidance, these woman cannot uplift you; you must uplift yourself. You must make the decision to do what's right by yourself, and to go forward. THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS TO BE EMPOWERED.

I cannot fathom the expectation that BWE exists to coddle you, to tell you things you want to hear, and exclude things you need to hear, just because it upsets your delicate sensibilities.

I hope enough people, especially black women, watch the video at the top of the previous post, and pay very close attention. These women, who had no consideration for their digital actions, paid the price, and I sincerely doubt this is a singular incident involving a woman missing out on a good man because their dirty laundry came out during the worst possible time. It's completely unfair, to be sure, being judged for one's "past". But that's the way the world works.

It's not fair that the standards of beauty for women are so skewed, especially in terms of health and fitness, but I sincerely doubt this will change, and crying out the exception, will certainly not affect the rule.

NWNW is not about shaming women who've had babies out of wedlock; it's about stopping other women from going down that path. I love you the most, but if this doesn't apply to you, shut your trap. At least, if you are fixing it to L I E to young girls about their prospects should they as black girls have OOW children. Exception =/= The rule. You and yours may have turned out great(?), but pretending your life is the automatic reflection of everyone else reeks of narcissism and a disconnect from reality. The statistics in the African American community are already grim, and treating it as anything else is practically a sin. It's disgusting how people are attempting to co-opt something that is about preventing unnecessary pregnancies, and potentially ruined lives, in addition to millions of tax dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

Issues of this sort are divisive, and some take it as a necessity for unity and cooperation to not address them. Hogwash. I say being empowered means hearing everything that can help you make informed decisions concerning your life. Just because you don't WANT to talk about something, doesn't mean others are obligated to be silent. Just because something is blunt to the point of pain doesn't mean it wasn't said in love. Tough love isn't called that for no reason.

The basic truth is, to be empowered, you must take responsibility for your life and your choices. I keep saying this over and over for a reason: Because it's a truth that some people need to realize.


YOU are the person who is at the end of the day accountable. Do not go rushing into the arms of BWE bloggers and participants expected to be coddled and to be allowed to use them as a sounding board as you vent your grievances with the big bad world, whilst doing nothing to change your situation. While expecting them to not talk, or speak in gentle soft voices, about foolishness and nonsense. That's not being empowered; that's being pacified.

This isn't a Sunday sermon a lot of women would be ready to hear, but I hope the point reached the right people sitting amongst the pews.

Having said that, I'll think of something a bit more "cheery" for the next post.


socialitedreams said...

awesome post! truly awesome. Khadija of sojournerspassport.com was always making this point about expecting things to be sugarcoated and spoonfed or else they don't want it, when it really is for THEM and lifesaving. why should people have to fight you to give you an important message that helps YOU? baffling

Toni said...



It's something I've noticed in posts and it's always baffling to me that people wish to be part of an empowerment movement but look to others to do it for them mentally, emotionally, etc.

That's just not how it works. Nor is expecting every topic to be comforting and comfortable.