Anjuli Castano/Contributing Writer
Powerful women have existed since the dawn of mankind. Yet to some, the image of a femme leader is still an anomoly; a distant figure miraged by the thick steam of pervasive misogyny.
Confidence in women is represented in many ways, never forgetting the powerful and illusive femme sexualtity. Some base merit off of productivity and tokenism, such as the “Girl Boss.” Self-possession, when accredited to monetary stability and profitability, is non-sustainable. Individualism is not sustainable. These expressions of self-assurance and self-reliance place women in different categories of marketability as men.
They tell women to always be hyper-aware of appearance because respect comes in an outfit, or that coexisting in male dominated spaces is a privilege rewarded with visibility. We are given the right to feel success and therefore allowed when to feel confident and about what. The practice of self-confidence, when learned through an anti-capitalist lens, is heavily represented in a contradictory fashion to what is normalized in our western culture.
At the beginning of the pandemic craze when quarantine was first attempted, I—like so many others—felt the security of my own little capitalist bubble pop, and with it went the two-year plan I pretended to have. In March, I stopped being scheduled at my restaurant job. May began and I was not enrolled in any summer classes. Internships were a thing of elitist imagination, and looking for a new job that pertained to my major seemed simply impossible.
My last semester was coming up and I had not a single thing of value on my resumé. To say the least, I felt like I had failed because I was not prevailing during the pandemic. Efforts to “bounce back” started with free online classes such as screenplay writing and an attempt at macro-economics, neither of which I finished. I turned to art, and in that, began a cycle of creating and destroying, ending with no product.
No product, no worth.
In June, there was something other than the virus on a rampant rise: the call to action against systemic racism—a topic in and out of popularity for decades. In this surge of intolerance toward state sanctioned violence, I have seen the smallest of voices come into leadership roles. I have seen the youth take control of their environments and help their communities through food drives, collective healing circles, school supply drives and more.
One soon-to-be eighth grader is exhibiting the transformative nature of revolutionary politics. Just thirteen years old, Egyptia Green is the face of Egyptia’s Movement (@egyptiasmovement on Instagram). She is organizing and leading peaceful protests in her community, frontlining with a loud speaker.
Her messages are clear and confident, and when I asked her what gave her the confidence to be a voice in the movement, she simply replied that she does not like what she is seeing and experiencing as a young black woman and she wants it to change. In response to women who felt hesitant to have voices, she asserted that “now is not the time to be afraid,” and that any woman “could be the defining factor in the movement.” Being an example of tolerance can inspire a whole wave of people.
For all women, political education and participation is the largest agency for autonomy. Our liberation has never existed as a result of capitalist ventures—which only reinvent ways to commodify our bodies—but from the protest against them, and in turn, against the patriarchy. These truths still hold, and the liberation comes in many different forms.
Empowerment in an anti-capitalist scenario can be manifested in ownership of improvements to your community. Embracing community roles rather than falling into the zero-sum game of individuals expecting to climb ranks and back-stab their peers, creates the foundation to self-reliance. Roles such as educator, disruptor and healer fulfill purposes outside of ourselves and give people the ability to feel in community and find solidarity. This is especially true for women, because we have never been fully equal in a “for profit” society.
Niki Franco (@venusroots on Instagram), is a community organizer for Power U, a South Florida non-profit that leads discussions on education justice and youth advocacy. She is a champion in the call for community outreach programs and mutual aid funds. In her words, “Miami can be one of the most dangerous places to call yourself an anti-capitalist.” Dismantling harmful business practices that lead to gentrification and underfunded communities through redistribution of wealth sounds alarming to the diasporas in Miami who have fled heinous tyrannies which once called for the same actions.
Showing oppressive institutions that with community organization we can be self sustainable in, directly threatens the foundations of capitalism. I asked her how she faces negative feedback from her activism and she replied, “I ground myself in the fact that the world is changing.” Knowing that there are others in your same struggle with your same grievances gives weight to your words and confidence in your voice.
Franco also expressed how “it is ahistorical for oppressed people to find confidence or purpose within capitalism,” and how “finding yourself in history” is one of the many liberating and transformative processes that political education granted her. She pushes for “empowerment through healing rather than productivity where the end goal is to build community.” The idea of just needing to become something, or buy something will never allow us to fit the mold.
Community empowerment, is your empowerment. A confident community breeds confident individuals. The modern formula for a confident woman is to live outside the binary. Facing the system that does not want us to tap into our agency or capacity to love ourselves and others. Existing with fluidity in an expression which only defines you and not your marketability. Holding ourselves accountable for the roles we play in enabling an oppressive system.
We can unlearn the ideals of capitalism and put forth our definitions of worth without shame. We can do this because we have a community and historical context that tells us we thrive on unity. You never lose when all are liberated.
Featured image by Richard Ashurst on Flickr.
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