Why I Don’t Like the Word “Empowered”

You see the words “empower” and “women” juxtaposed frequently these days. And some people even say my writing is about “empowering women.” I suppose it is, in a way, and I am not comfortable with that label. I am not someone who goes around empowering women.

Now I know why that label bothers me. It’s a matter of nuance.

The first clue came during my classes Friday, when we did some exercises in which the students had to come up with words in the following categories:

  • most beautiful word
  • softest word
  • ugliest word
  • meanest word
  • funniest word
  • word that makes me mad
  • word that makes me happy

Most of the answers were not that surprising, but there were definitely some unexpected choices.

How about “cinnamon” as a beautiful word?

How about “moist” or “fork and knife” and ugly words?

So walking around downtown Charleston on Saturday morning, I saw a flyer for an “Empower Women” workshop. And I wondered why I find that phrase so unappealing.

Then I got it. It’s a nuance I perceive, not sure if others feel the same way about that word.

To me, the expression of empowering someone insinuates that it is an outside force that somehow is bestowed on a person, presumably a woman, and then presto — She’s empowered! You go, girl!

Hmmmmmm….I’m not so sure about that.

I am convinced that people who act powerless, who are not leveraging their own resources, are doing so because they’re waiting on a rescue package. I believe that no one can empower or motivate another person, we can only encourage each other.

It’s like the saying, When you’re ready to learn something, the teacher will appear.

I’m not into empowerment but I love to encourage. What about you?


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