I Hate the Word Empowerment

August 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm 1 comment

As a feminist, I hate, hate, hate the word empowerment. It’s a buzz word now and has been for at least a decade. Ironically, it’s only used once in the entire book, Half the Sky. Maybe it’s because, like me, Sheryl WuDunn is sick of the word.

Empowerment is defined as (from dictionary.com) to give power or authority to; to enable or permit. See how the word is not actually “empowering” at all? It’s condescending. The word is usually used in conjunction with conversations about civil rights, racism, and women’s rights issues. The implication being that “the man” (for want of a better term, forgive me) is giving us our basic right to equality as a gift or magnanimous gesture, rather than our taking and owning what is rightfully ours.

I think I hate the word empowerment for the same reason that some blacks felt the movie The Blind Side was ultimately racist and patronizing. I liked The Blind Side, by the way. I thought it was an excellent movie about a true love story between a poor young man and the family who loved him. If you take out the race factor, it would still be a good movie. But would the movie still have been made?

African Americans do have the right to be a little touchy about how often white families adopt black babies. It brings up a lot of issues, like why don’t you see movies about black couples adopting white babies? If black children are raised by white parents do they lose their culture? And why aren’t there enough black families to adopt and raise all the black babies?

Well, here I’m going to stop and say something politically incorrect. Ultimately, I’m not really interested in exploring the answers to those questions in any depth. Any time a human being helps a fellow human being to realize his potential, that’s a good thing. I don’t care if you’re black, blue, green, or purple. Love is good. Give it freely. Take it where you can get it. One day, hopefully, in a distant future that I probably won’t live to see, we will stop questioning the motivations of Mr. Drummond’s adoption of Willis and Arnold and move on to the world Rev. King described.


Entry filed under: Human Rights, Social Commentary, Women's Rights. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Singha Song  |  June 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Quite amusing. I think most people who use the word empowerment are clueless. It sounds like an excuse for laziness and is almost as ignorant as claiming ‘activist’ is a profession.


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