I have been a self-proclaimed feminist since my college days. In fact, in undergrad, I majored in Political Science and minored in Women’s Studies with the dream of getting into a Women’s Studies Ph.D. program. My plan was to plant myself on a campus somewhere and spend the rest of my life empowering young women. Of course, as a result of some twists and turns, I followed another path and built my career advocating for the voiceless. Nevertheless, the fact that I am a woman and a mother of girls keeps issues that affect girls and women at the forefront of my mind.
As I was walking the other day, I realized that my idea of feminism has grown so much over the years. Had I gone on to become that Women’s Studies professor that I dreamed of being in my twenties, I probably would have been focused on empowerment through equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities, and the right to choose. My forty-something Women’s Studies professor self would center my empowerment talks around taking away the power that men have over us psychologically.
Evolution and life experiences have led me to believe the equality we are seeking as women will never be until we rid ourselves of the mental grasp men have on us. This does not mean that we cannot have loving relationships with men. So, don’t run off saying Tonza is a “man-hater” just yet. I believe that taking away the power that men have over us psychologically would simply cause a shift in our mindset and the mindset of men. Thus leading to more wholesome, nurturing, and balanced relationships.
When I sit around and talk to my teenage daughter and her friends, they talk to me about the pressure of having to always be on “fleek” (I’m not really sure if young people are still saying that but oh well…) in order to attract men. The sad thing is while many of these girls work hard at being on “fleek”, they find themselves disappointed when they finally get the attention they were seeking. They realize then that they are not interested in the guy they were on “fleek” for. There is often a delay between her acceptance and announcement of disinterest because many of these young girls waste time questioning whether or not something is wrong with them after realizing “he is just not that interesting”. Imagine the possibilities if the attention of these young girls was shifted to their self-growth and self-worth instead of “fleekness” for men’s attention.
To take away a man’s power psychologically means to simply shift our focus as girls and women on what makes us feel happy and whole without giving any consideration to the male desires. Many women eventually come to this point. Unfortunately, it is only after we are older, and, we realize that life is too short to waste on situations that are causing more stress than happiness. Imagine the possibilities for a little girl that gets the tools she needs early on to embrace this notion. She would no longer be bombarded with the emotional baggage that comes with trying to live up to a man’s standards. Therefore, her energy could be spent in areas that create peace and happiness for her.
What if we began teaching little girls that the true key to happiness and peace is found when they truly love themselves and the life that they have been gifted with. Shifting the focus to self-love would significantly minimize the amount of time women struggle with low self-esteem. Again, such teachings would allow women to focus on creating their own peace and happiness. This would ultimately lead to a more balanced and peaceful society.
While we have taken great strides to teach young girls that they can accomplish anything they want to in the workplace and in the world, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to giving young girls the tools they need to be empowered psychologically so that men no longer have the power to decide for women what their “happy” should look like.