Leading up to this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, social media was buzzing with excitement. With featured Latinx powerhouses, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (as well as guest appearances by Bad Bunny and J Balvin), fans were excited to see strong Latinx representation and girl power on such a high-profile national platform.
As Shakira and J.Lo stepped off the stage, however, the focus quickly shifted. As I scrolled through social media, I saw hordes of people (including women – and women I looked up to) claiming the performance was “slutty,” “skanky,” and “not family friendly.”
In an interview with Variety, Jennifer Lopez laughed at the comments, calling it “silliness.” She said, “Both of us are really respectful performers who are moms, who have kids, who are very conscious of what we do.”
Ultimately, women tore Shakira and J.Lo down just because they couldn’t see themselves performing and dressing in a similar way.
So, what do you do if one woman’s source of empowerment does not empower you?
Say “Goodbye” to Pressure, Shame, and Competition
Women today have so much more freedom to express their power in the way they want. When a woman chooses how she feels empowered, however, she is often made to feel like someone who made different choices in every way. Instead of learning to respect each other’s choices, they’re made to feel like they’re in direct competition with each other.
Like most competition, you’re pressured into picking a side – and end up with all the biases that come with it. There seems to be no in between. You either with the “sluts” or the “prudes.” You’re “career-focused” or “family-oriented.” You’re “too covered-up” or “too revealing.” You’re a “crazy bitch” or a “push-over.”
Worst of all — women are shamed no matter which side they choose.
Lovability co-owner and inventor of the Waterslyde, Maureen Pollack, knows firsthand how the choices a woman makes can bring about a negative reaction. Maureen says, “As a feminist, I’m ever so grateful for the women before me who paved the way for me to have the ability to CHOOSE what I do.”
Maureen continues, “Unfortunately, when I chose to be a SAHM, I received backlash from both men and women. I found myself joking with people when they asked what I did for a living. I would respond with ‘I’m the CEO of the Pollack Household.’” Despite the hard work that goes into being a SAHM, Maureen and many other women were (and still are) shamed for using their opportunity to choose what makes them feel empowered (but more on Maureen’s story later.)
The Power of Choice
Recognize that one of the major benefits of feminism today is that you get to empower yourself in your own way. Ignore any of the shame or pressure people throw your way — you’re the only one who knows how to make the right choices for your life.
Do you practice self-love? Amazing!
Want to have multiple partners? Awesome!
Is your closet filled with crop tops and skin tight leggings? Cool!
Are you feeling more comfortable in a turtleneck? Great!
Are you dreaming of being a mom someday? Fantastic!
Would you rather be a dog, cat, or plant mom? Rad!
The point is, you have hundreds of choices you can make to create the most empowered and powerful you. There’s not just one way to be an empowered feminist.
Be unapologetic about what makes you feel on-top-of-the-world amazing about yourself.
Live Your Values, but Let Others Live By Theirs
In your journey to find what makes you feel empowered, you may come across people who feel empowered in other ways.
Before you make any assumptions, think back on your journey and the choices you made. While you chose one path, someone else may have selected another. Remember that some choices were right for you and others you steered clear of.
The opposite may be true for another woman. We all come with different personalities, racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, styles, sexualities, positive experiences, traumas, socioeconomic statuses, geographic regions, and more that influence the way we see ourselves and the ways we boost our power.
These differences explain why there are so many valid ways to be empowered.
If you don’t agree with someone, that’s fine, but cheer her on. She’ll be more likely to support and encourage you, too, if you accept her first (what goes around comes around, right?). If you really can’t do that, just look away and move on.
No woman — no person — should be shamed for what makes them feel empowered (as long as it’s consensual and doesn’t harm anyone else, of course.)
Find Your Balance
The beauty of the expanded choices women have is that you don’t have to pick one competing side or the other. You have so many options and you’re able to change how you feel empowered to fit your mood from day to day.
Maureen has been able to find this balanced empowerment in her life. In addition to being “CEO of the Pollack Household,” Maureen also works from home as a co-owner of Lovability. She lovingly calls herself a “mompreneur.”
Maureen says she appreciates full-time working moms; and that she fully respects their choice, as every choice comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. “I admit that I can’t do everything 100%,” she says about her experience as a mompreneur (but who really can?), “but I like being given that choice in what I want to do with my day.”
Welcome this flexibility into your life. Trying out someone else’s form of empowerment — even just for a day — may introduce you to a new way to own your power.
If you’re not comfortable with your sexual expression, take a pole exercise class. Try out a wild makeup look or wear temporary hair color for a night out. If you wear makeup regularly, do the opposite and go makeup free for work. Add statement earrings to your outfit if you typically go for minimalistic looks. If you’re still in school, audit a class that seems like the total opposite of your major. Stay-at-home moms, take on a side-hustle just for you. If you’re a career woman, ask your boss if you can occasionally work from home.
You may find that creating balance in your empowerment may even lead to balance in other areas of your life! So why not give it a try?!
The possibilities for what women can find empowering are endless and there’s no need to live in an either/or world. Embrace the and. But if you find that an outfit, activity, or style really doesn’t help you own your power, it’s okay to pass on it — as long as you accept that it may empower someone else.
About The Author
Bailey Shea (@baileykshea on Instagram) is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, having received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is a strong feminist who hopes to use her future career in publishing and marketing to magnify unheard voices. Outside the writing world, Bailey is an aspiring powerlifter, the human embodiment of a sunflower, and a Taco Bell connoisseur. You can find more of her work at baileykshea.com.