Author: Khadija Begum
I was at a local film fest earlier this week that was screening movies by amateur film makers on gender based violence. During one of the audience discussions, a girl who must not have been older than 13 and an actor in the movie, in a very well-meaning manner asked a question: How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?
A lot of answers flew around the room but the question bothered me for some reason and I couldn’t put my finger on it for a long time. Then I realised it was the very phrasing of the question “How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?”
It gives us an insight to the problem of power imbalance. That female empowerment is a problem that men must “deal with.” Instead of teaching men to “deal with the new generation of empowered women” we should be teaching them to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”
Perhaps the best way one can begin to understand an empowered woman is by defining her. Is she someone who wears a red lipstick? Is she ambitious and career minded? Can she be called empowered if she wears a hijab? Does she have to be well-versed with theories of feminism? Can she really be defined by her choice of lifestyle and clothing? It isn’t that hard to say.
We must begin to change the question from “deal with the new generation of empowered women” to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”
While an empowered woman is definitely not a single construct, at the heart of it all lies one idea – an empowered woman is the one who is able to devote herself to that which she finds meaning in; who can exercise her rights and her choices.
If this idea can be grasped by everyone, the Indian society which has been opening up slowly for a while now, through the efforts and initiatives of many, will reform at a quicker pace. Our business is and always will be to ensure that this awakening is uniform in all cultures and classes of society.
How to ensure? By addressing the issue on all levels that it exists, i.e., societal, professional, household and the individual. There must be gender sensitization sessions in schools, colleges, offices etc. That media and literature is needed which challenges the mainstream notions and stereotypes. The gender roles in office spaces and homes have to be redefined or rather undefined so that they loosen any paradigm of unwarranted limitations. As an individual, one can understand an empowered women by being conscious and critical.
However to truly check the problem of power imbalance, we need to take the next step of awakening, which is, evolving. We evolve when we leave behind our distrust in change; when women empowerment is not a topic of discussions, dialogues or debates but a way of life; when the idea of empowered woman becomes a norm. All of which could take a little more time. Until then, one can strive to be more empowered each day because the best way to make someone understand an empowered woman is to project one.
Khadija Begum writes at ‘Unduly Unruly’ and is a contributing writer at the Conversation Room. You can follow her blog here: