Being a girl is hard. Well, maybe I should rephrase. Being identified, being seen as a girl in this society, is difficult. Having to deal with those who see you lesser as a man is difficult. Identifying as a female when others don’t believe you are one is difficult. But being a female, in whatever capacity that is, is not difficult. Female empowerment is not difficult.
The issue is not being female. The issue is how we in this society treat females in comparison to men, and in comparison to each other. There have been so many times when I’ve seen girls put down other girls in order to get the guy. Or I've seen one call another girl fat so that she herself can feel skinny. I recognized it early. I knew it the second I got my first period. I recognized it when I hit puberty and the boys at school stopped playing basketball with me because I was getting boobs. Throughout my life I've been constantly reminded that I am a girl. More than that, I've been taught that as a girl, I am lesser.
The good news is that we can learn how to bring ourselves up. And when we as females can feel empowered, we can empower others and bring down hate. So are you sick of seeing girls getting dress-coded? Are you tired of girls hating on each other on Instagram? Does girls calling other girls whores, sluts, bitches make you mad? Me too. Female empowerment starts with you.
Change your mindset.
Music has the ability to completely change your mindset. I have playlists for when I need to get pumped up. I have playlists for when I'm upset. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is scientifically proven that music is able to effect emotions. Music also can send powerful messages through pop media to society. Time and time again I have resonated with certain songs due to powerful lyrics.
So while this can be a great thing if you’re going through a breakup and want to listen to sad music and wallow, it can also be a frustrating thing. I’ve had to explain to a guy friend many times why I want to change the station because I don’t feel like listening to a song about guys getting some while girls get called sluts. Because when little girls hear songs like Blurred Lines, they are brainwashed by a society. They're being told that if they have sex they are a slut. At the same time, they're told if they deny sex they are a prude, and consent isn’t a real thing. Crazy that music has that power, right?
Worry not, because just as easily as those lessons can be taught they can also be reversed. Pop music has recently become a safe environment for young girls to learn how to be grateful to be women. Music is now teaching girls that not only is it okay for them to feel sexy, they have other functions as women. Check out some of these female empowerment songs below. I guarantee you will be grateful to be a female!
Give yourself a break.
Change begins with you. Before you can start empowering the entire female population, you have to be confident in yourself. That takes time. I am a proud feminist and love empowering girls my age and younger. However, some days I wake up and don’t like what I see in the mirror. There are days when I can tell myself I’m beautiful and go out and kick some ass. However, other days that are harder. The journey to self-love is hard and difficult. There are days where I can’t help but compare myself to other girls, mutter “bitch” under my breath, or put on makeup not because I want to but because I think I need to.
But I don’t beat myself up or blame myself on those bad days. Empowerment is not about following a list or being perfect. You can listen to Beyoncé for a month straight, educate yourself on gender and sexuality issues, tell yourself that you are beautiful no matter what you wear or put on your body. There are still going to be times where you cry because a guy doesn’t like you, or feel gross because you have period cramps and feel bloated. And that’s okay!
Female empowerment starts with knowing that we as girls are human first and foremost. Females are not superheroes. It’s important to understand this and to accept the days when you just don’t love what you see in the mirror. Take the pressure off of yourself. Do small things that make you feel beautiful in your own way. If I wake up and have a big ol’ pimple, I’m not going to keep staring at myself in the mirror. I’ll work out so I feel strong, sing in the shower so I feel happy, or I’ll paint so I can remind myself of my other abilities. Start with yourself, learn how to make yourself happy, so you can do the same for other girls.
Be a teacher.
Certain things take time. For example, it took me a year to understand the importance in learning about issues that may not have anything to directly do with me. I wouldn't understand how my language could be harmful, or my lack of action detrimental. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Learn the issues so that you can pass lessons forward.
Boys listen to music, tv shows, and play video games that teach them consent isn’t necessary. Moreover, they take these lessons to heart. It’s true. There have been so many times I’ve bought makeup or a new bra because I think I need to change myself to get a guy to like me. But that’s not the way it should be. Whoever you are and whatever your gender, you have a voice that matters.
It starts with little steps. Changing the channel when a sexist commercial comes on, utting out the word “bitch” from your vocabulary, or teaching your younger loved ones about consent. As a camp counselor, I enforce days where neither me, my co-counselor, nor my campers are allowed to wear makeup or look in the mirror. I did this because it’s important for girls to learn how to be confident on their own, and use makeup to only enhance their already present natural beauty. It may seem like a small step. However, it’s one step towards empowering young girls to love themselves, and that’s incredible.
Bring women together.
So once we go through those these first steps of female empowerment, it’s important to pass it forward. We learn from experience, and from each other. When I was in elementary school, I sucked at fractions. For the life of me I could not convert them to decimals, add them together, subtract them, anything. So I told my mom that I give up, and that I wanted to just marry a rich man so I wouldn't have to work. Even though I was young and was joking and didn't understand how potential harmful that state of mind was, my mom recognized it and shut it down. Anytime my sister and I would cop out when things would get difficult, she would empower us to get on our feet and learn how to rely on ourselves before any man.
Safe environments for those who identify with girls are incredibly important. So often we are exposed to television shows and magazines that show girls ripping each other apart when we need to be teaching girls to build each other up.
When I was in middle school and high school, I felt immense pressure to hook up with guys in fear that I would be called a prude, or inexperienced, if I wasn’t doing what the other girls were doing. It wasn’t until I got an actually good, supportive group of girls that I understood how important support can be. When we provide girls with safe spaces to express themselves, bring them up so they can bring others up. That is what female empowerment is–teaching girls to love who they are despite any stigmas or stereotypes telling them different.
Being a girl is not difficult. Breaking down the barriers in a society that dictates that women are less than men can be tricky though. That’s why we broke female empowerment up into steps. Take the time to surround yourself with positive energy. Find ways to make yourself feel good about you as a woman, so that you can do the same for others.