Discover more from Tender Buttons by Rebecca Mqamelo
Feel empowered, they said.
On uplifting women, PFPs and my feminist education coming out at last.
I saw a tweet the other day that elicited such a strong reaction in me that I felt compelled to whack together this brief commentary. Sometimes 140-character rants just don’t satisfy the itch.
Here is said tweet:
Some of the answers are really inspiring – like this one, for instance:
… or this one:
Here are dozens of women singing praise to an industry that has seemingly released them from the shackles of corporate life; has scrubbed away the muck of misogynist market dynamics; has validated them as wise contributors in a new technological order; has clothed them (sometimes literally), and generally changed the trajectory of their lives for the better. Something to celebrate, no?
Yes. And herein lies the irony.
Who’s empowering who?
Whenever I hear the narrative that “women have been empowered by X”, I question why we don’t similarly say “X has been empowered by women.”
The one suggests a unidirectional flow of value, a paternalistic “hand me down”, while the other acknowledges symbiosis and subsequently the creation of more than the sum of parts (see my notes on gifting.)
I think society has a strange way of wrapping stories around causality.
Consider, for instance, the unquestioned fact that women are empowered through education. “Educate a women, educate a nation” goes the mantra.
Yet you will also find no shortage of evidence that points to the educated woman as the “magic multiplier”. (Translated to degenspeak, that means she is a yield farmer of generational value).
Why then, do we frame empowerment as a zero-sum act dolled out by some benevolent entity? That “X” has empowered women suggests that women were not powerful before X.
In the context of web3, women have borne the brunt of emotional labor, community building, and vision channeling well before the market imbued financial value to pretty pictures of bossy girls. (Seriously, am I the only one who finds these “women-centered” NFT projects a little, well, sus? That we must assert our value through replicable static images of the feminine archetype seems deeply ironic to me – Marx must be turning in his grave.)
Web3 has not empowered women so much as women have empowered web3.
Culture, community and belonging are the original moats. Here I will turn to my friend Erikan Obotetukudo who says it best:
I’m going to exercise the selfish luxury of leaving it there (part of the experiment of this Substack is eschewing the need to please some hypothetical audience). Ping me when the obese, wide-nosed, hairy legged PFP project hits the market.
Until then, let us be empowered – and empower – through the simple fact of our own brilliance.