You are already empowered so stop seeking permission to use your power.
March is Women’s History Month and we have all seen the social media posts and ad campaigns reminding us to remember, acknowledge, and appreciate women and their achievements, even if only for one month. March is a month of women empowerment, which is helping to motivate and encourage countless women to keep going, do more, be more, and acknowledge their self-worth. It is beautiful to see women in the fight against what was once viewed as “crazy” and inappropriate for us to accomplish, but in the spirit of women empowerment, I want to talk about how we can do away with the idea of empowerment as a form of permission to achieve.
According to Merriam-Webster, empowerment is “the granting of power, right, authority to perform various acts or duties”, which sounds a lot like the granting of permission. I remember when I first started Feminessay. It was a few months after reaching out to almost every Black woman I know, asking them if they would be willing to support a platform like this by submitting their writing for publication. I received such positive feedback that I knew that this would be a successful venture. That was all the empowerment that I needed to get to work, and with the support of close friends and family, Feminessay came into fruition.
The empowerment that I received was in the form of reassurance that I had the support that I needed, faces and names behind a variety of our stories that would soon be shared with the world, and advocates and allies who would be willing to help share and promote Feminessay with groups beyond my reach. I interpreted that empowerment as permission. Because people were willing to support, I saw that as the “okay” to move forward, make the necessary sacrifices, and start building.
Today, I ask myself: “Where would Feminessay be without that initial empowerment?” What would have happened if that initial (and ongoing) support was not there when I needed it? Would I have felt like I could still make Feminessay happen? While I would like to think that I would have continued to work on Feminessay and further develop the platform at its earlier stages regardless of the feedback, the truth is that I felt like I needed permission to feel safe enough to move forward, and there is no telling what would have happened if it was not available.
Last week, I attended a women’s empowerment conference that reminded me of something that I have been thinking about for a while, but even more so over the past couple of months. As I listened to panels of successful women and took mental notes during keynotes, I heard each person share their expertise in ways that were not empowering, in the sense of being permissible. They shared their research, professional journeys, and lessons that they learned over time. I expected the overall message of “you can do it” to hover over every speech, presentation, and workshop, but I was pleasantly surprised that this event presented opportunities to connect and collaborate with likeminded women who already recognized their power, were doing the work, and wanted to support other women who were on similar paths. I felt that I did not take much from the conference in terms of empowerment because I did not need the reminder that I could do what I wanted, I already know that. And I say the same to you: You are already empowered so stop seeking permission to use your power.
When it comes to Feminessay, you are empowered. I don’t empower women to write by giving them permission to do so. You already have the power and agency to write and you don’t need my permission to use it. I help women recognize their power to write. I encourage women who doubt their talents and gifts in sharing their stories in different forms. I support women by making sure that Feminessay is a safe and accessible space for all who are interested in sharing, reading, and understanding stories that often go unheard.
Feminessay is here to support your choice in sharing your power through your stories. I invite you to share your stories loudly, boldly, courageously, and freely on this platform because you can and because you have the power to influence, encourage, and motivate others to do the same. Together, we can remind women to stop waiting for permission to exercise their power and start sharing their stories with the world.
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Global Editor-in-Chief + Founder