A friend talked about the uglier strippers scrambling for ones on the ground in the sexiest way they could. He’d never seen anything so demeaning. There they were, ignored by the fattest, seediest old men. And yet, the ladies still competed for attention.
“There was nothing empowering about it”, he said.
“But what if they know they’re beautiful and sexy without having to seduce someone? What if they’re just doing what they like to do?” For a moment, I thought that it could just be possible for stripper-empowerment. But stripper success is based on whether or not people think you’re worth a one dollar bill. If you’re not attractive and you don’t manage to get people going, you’re not a good stripper. Being regarded as hot is part of the job description. You cannot be an objectively good stripper, happy with your day’s work when you have failed to abide by the golden rule: 1) Be attractive. 2) Don’t be unattractive.
This helps me to understand the meaning of empowerment; the less we depend on others for validation, the more empowered we are. Talent that goes unrecognized is still talent. It is empowering to know that you are doing a good thing when no one is watching. It is empowering when you are not framed by the perspectives of others. When you don’t have to prove anything to anyone- how happy you are, how successful, how sexy you are. It is this independence and self-assurance that is so admirable and inspiring.
When we place too much value in superficial things, we let people compartmentalise us. People can think you’re pretty… So what? Is that all there is to you? Surely not! However, when we care too much about how we appear, we become what people see: an appearance. We become people who operate based on others’ projections and we are less authentically individual. Disconnected. And that is always going to be less than what we have the potential to be.
Your dinner looks great on Snapchat, did it taste just as good? That sunset must have been gorgeous, did you look up from the your screen to experience it? You look so popular with those girls, are you trying to show me how much you don’t care about me? Would you be just as satisfied knowing that I didn’t see that post- that I never check your Facebook page? Who are you trying to convince?
When we demonstrate that we are real people with unique qualities, we are empowered. When we know who we are and how we feel, it doesn’t matter if people speculate. Even if we are not appreciated, we are objectively awesome. When we feel insecure, the worst thing to do is look for empty validation. You are not meant to be everybody’s cup of tea. You are a particular.
On a side note, musicians who exploit sex or dress provocatively under the guise of self-empowerment are not doing themselves any favours. If your goal is to liberate women yet are subject to the male gaze, you are not achieving what you have set out to achieve. You are contributing to the system instead of breaking free from it. Also, if you do the easy thing (ha ha) and pull the sex card, you are casting a shadow over your own talents. Nothing says insecure like pulling the most generic, easily-digestible stunts. People may like a highly strategized display of yourself but they may not like you. Okay, maybe that’s better than being disliked. But there is 100% probability that that will sometimes be the case.