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What is it? Where does it come from? Who has it, who doesn’t and why? What does it mean to us? Ultimately power comes down to choice, it’s not inherently good or evil but the difference between ‘power over’ and ‘power to’ is vast and important. If power is defined as having the capacity to make others do what you would have them do, we need to consider how it is used for or against people and society. Rethinking power is vital to the uniting of citizens to bypass monopolies of control as well as to the harnessing of our personal power and autonomy.  Being a pro-social, problem solving member of society gives civic society power. The gaps created by those of us who aren’t versed in the political vocabularies and coercive dealings of Power (with a capital P!) are filled by the elite and often corrupt factions who do, giving their power even further dominance.

Just as power isn’t inherently good or bad it isn’t really gendered either. However, culturally we have assigned a maleness to the concept of ‘power-over’, state authority, military, hierarchies and chains of command, economic and technological resources all imply a dominance and oppression that is steeped in Patriarchy. Alternatively so called soft power, the ‘power-to’ comes from a more maternal female place. A more natural power often seen as rooting from motherhood or care-giving and communities, a multi-layered multi-tasking alchemy that empowers us from within. A power amplified by the growing of your circle and a literal strength of bonds and numbers.

Self-empowerment often underpins contemporary 4th wave Feminism and whilst it of course has myriad positive qualities it is also often criticised as being too self-reflective, a diversion from coming together to create greater change culturally or societally. And yet empowerment as a concept has been branded, re-packaged and sold right back to us. Whilst advertisers cannot sell us sex anymore they are selling us their supposed disgust with sexism instead. As if confidence and self-belief were the thing really missing from the conversations around things like body positivity or female mental health. Advertisers and media flog a stance that it is up to women to change their perspectives and behaviours to “fix” a problem created by them instead of changing themselves. Feel bad about “flaunting your curves”? Well just buy some Spanx and love yourself more. There’s nothing empowering about being told you should love the insecurities they are constantly pointing out to you in the first place.

If the ultimate goal of Feminism is to render itself redundant we must really recontextualise what we think both power and equality mean.  Many argue that a refusal to centre women in the politics of equality is rooted in a misogyny that still considers women being the centre of anything as taboo. How can we end the oppression of women, girls and minorities in the world if we cannot focus on the restructuring of the systems that work against them specifically? Those who have power don’t daydream of empowerment. Conversely empowerment and such like “market-place Feminism” can also be seen as a great way to bring the movement out of it’s echo chamber and into the hearts and minds of those who didn’t think that Feminism was for them all along. The democratisation of equality can only be a good thing.

Feminism, both historically and in a contemporary setting, has settled nicely into a position of resistance and protest but if it’s to really effect change it needs to work to dismantle the systems it fights from within, reconsidering it’s relationship with power on both a theoretical and personal level.  What is the wage gap between that companies’ employees? How ethical is that govenment’s policy? Are you offering your workers equal parenting rights? How is unpaid work valued less than paid in society and who does most of the unpaid work?

When power is considered a resource with which to do good and champion for positive change, on both macro and micro levels, it can be transformative. When we consider the small powers and privileges we all carry and how we use them on a daily basis to inform our actions and thinking we can take the dominant and oppressive baggage away from those concepts and stop the subsequent benefits to some being at the disadvantage to others. How you wield your power and who’s power you help uphold, through support or compliance, is vital to an effective progress the benefits us all.

The Unending Imbalance 

MP Stella Creasy’s take on Power, Feminism & Politics.

Women with Power

Women in politics and how they use their power.

Fashion Feminism?

Does mainstreaming equality dilute it’s message?

Feminism’s Equality Problem

Centring women in the Feminist fight.

? ? Who we’re loving

Jess Phillips : Labour MP for Birmingham and Yardley since 2015. After studying Economic and Social history Phillips worked at Women’s Aid supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking. She has worked for the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Women and Equalities Committee amongst others. She continues to be an advocate for women, non-binary people and refugees, particularly   in relation those detained in Yarls Wood and giving voice to the issues that disproportionately affect them. She is also one of the women who founded the #notthecost campaign to combat the violence faced by politically active women, the Reclaim The Internet campaign to challenge online abuse. Her book “Everywoman: One Woman’s Truth About Speaking The Truth” is a funny, smart and really relatable book about not only being a woman in politics but navigating your principles and beliefs in an ever conflicting environment.

? ? Every day’s a school day.

KYRIARCHY:  A social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression and submission. Coined to describe the theory of interconnected, interacting and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might be oppressed in some relationships and privileged on others. Kyriarchy encompasses sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, economic injustice, colonialism, militarism, ethnocentrism and other forms of dominating hierarchies in which the subordination of one person or group to another is internalised and institutionalized.

? ? What We’re Reading.

Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer’s “Attack of the 50ft Woman: How gender equality can save the world”. Peggy McIntosh’s dissection of White Privilege “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack”. Mary Beard’s “Women and Power: A Manifesto”, a history of the relationship between women, their power and how it’s documented in culture. “A Woman’s Work” Harriet Harman’s political memoir. The amazing Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement on the importance of not looking away and speaking up in the face of a oppressive state-sanctioned violence in “When They Call You A Terrorist: A black lives matter memoir”. Laura Bates’ take on the dangerous effect of Germaine Greer’s recent words on rape.

? ? What we’re watching.

Ted talk by civics educator Eric Liu on “Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power”.  Psychologist Susan David on the Power of Emotional Courage. Margaret Atwood’s dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale – still as worryingly relevant today as ever, starring Elisabeth Moss and Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley.






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