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Sorry, but female empowerment has nothing to do with your relationship or lack thereof

I have a running joke with a friend of mine. Whenever I mention the term “female empowerment,” she says, “What does that mean?” She always says that she’s not a big fan of people using terms and words that she considers empty and useless. As a writer, I feel her on that and I’ve attempted (unsuccessfully) on more than a few occasions to explicitly define the term for her.

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Female empowerment means many things to me. It’s about being fearless and embracing who you are and what you want in life. It’s sincerely wishing other women in your life well and supporting their dreams and aspirations. I think it’s not using your relationship status as self-validation or as a means of judging and shaming other women. It’s also about being self-aware, knowing yourself and your limitations, and not playing the victim. Female empowerment is about recognizing love as a gift and as something you need to give and not just receive, but simultaneously not ever diminishing yourself to make others seem bigger. And most importantly, it’s about being honest with yourself (and everyone else) about who you truly are as a person.

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I think more women should get comfortable with the term, to not be afraid to use it and to truly embrace what it means to them. Too often many women, like my friend, believe that the term scares men off. They’re afraid that embracing this term means that as a woman, you either do not like, want or respect a man. They believe that single women like me only use the term as a way to comfort ourselves between relationships until finding Mr. Right. They think that embracing the term is sending a signal to men that you are OK with being single and that you don’t want a committed relationship and kids. I also think that many married women don’t embrace the term because they don’t want to give the perception that they are somehow disrespecting their husbands. But it’s important to me that everyone understands that female empowerment is not about men — it’s about helping other women and respecting yourself.

At the risk of sounding like a second-rate Sheryl Sandberg, to me, the term “female empowerment” means being fearless and confident as a woman no matter what life situation you happen to be in at the moment. So to my friend and women out there like her, I hope that this explicitly breaks down what that term “female empowerment” means to me.

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