Curating Empowerment

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M_SarahPeople have tried to tell us that women aren’t as visual as men. To which, I respond: “Um, have you heard of Pinterest? Because YES WE ARE.”

I love my Pinterest—no shame in my pinning game. I often treat Pinterest like a magazine—a bit of time to browse, to be inspired, to chill out on a Friday night at the end of a long week. I pin everything from clever life hacks to activities with the tinies to clothes I like to photos so beautiful they make me feel a bit achy.

But more than two years ago, I noticed a trend on Pinterest that disturbed me a bit. Some people called them Fitness Boards or Thinspiration (code from pro-anorexic groups) but it seemed like there were a lot of people posting pictures or sayings designed to shame themselves into a better body. Pictures and pins about fitness and healthy living can be very empowering, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s captioned “I’m so fat, I’ll never look like this,” it has crossed the line of what is helpful, motivating, or challenging. Women were pinning frightfully Photoshopped models as a standard of femininity and lamenting how they couldn’t measure up.

So, being rather subversive (or passive-aggressive, depending on whom you ask), I decided to start a little Pinterest board of my own called Wise Women. Saving the world, one pin at a time, eh? I began to pin images of women who are beautiful, even though our culture may not agree. Maybe she had grey hair or was a bit more curvy or shorter or taller, maybe she wasn’t Caucasian with blonde hair, maybe she was older than twenty.

I wanted to celebrate a broader view of womanhood: Lines are lovely, aging is not something to fear, life is more than your dress size.

But as the years have gone by and I’ve steadily been curating images or stories or sayings for that board, I began to realise this board was about so much more than simple beauty to me.

I have been steadily pinning stories of women who changed something in the world, quotes from bold leaders, images of women working and writing, photos of women who are ferocious and feminine, news stories about women of valour, even fictional characters or lines from songs or graphic art.

I am curating a vision of empowerment.

I’m curating images of empowerment to work, to lead, to have courage, to be authentic, to be bold, fearless, strong. I’m curating a holistic view of womanhood to remind me of the truth.

I’m curating a view of womanhood that reinforces personhood, strength, faith, beauty, diversity, growth, change, leadership, and wisdom.

Lupita Nyong’o’s words are there: “I hope that my presence on your screen and my face in your magazines may lead you, young girls, on a beautiful journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.”

Maya Angelou’s words are there: “I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.”

Amy Poehler’s words are there: “I like bossy girls, I always have. I like people filled with life.”

Madeleine L’Engle, Maya Angelou, Caitlin Moran, our own Angela Doell, Calamity Jane, Lizzie Bennet from Pride & Prejudice, Aung San Suu Ky, Judy Garland, Shauna Niequist, Wonder Woman, Fawzia Koofi, and so many more women, are all gathered there because in some way their words or work or art has captured something about womanhood for me.

Maybe this is my version of a vision board, a collection of images or words representing the kind of women I’d like to be someday, the women with whom I want to surround myself. As I move through my life, I find myself remembering images or words from that board, it feels a bit like an online version of that “great cloud of witnesses” the writer of Hebrews mentions. And I press on.

I don’t think we save the world through Pinterest. I’m not that optimistic. But I can’t deny that when we fill our minds and our hearts with the truth of Scripture, with life-giving friendships, with sisterhood, with worship, with honourable work, it begins to shift the internal story we carry about ourselves and our discipleship and our gender. And maybe we can begin to shift that story for one another. So I figure, why wouldn’t we also curate a few images, too?

Remember that line from our manifesto here at SheLoves? “Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.” This is just another small way for me to call out the song in another woman’s heart—and to sing it back to my own heart, too.

CHALLENGE

This month, as part of our EMPOWERED theme here at SheLoves, consider this post your challenge. Take a bit of time this month and create an EMPOWERED board for yourself. You could use Pinterest like me or you could create a lovely physical space in your home if you’re a craft sort of soul. Find images and quotes and stories about women who empower you, fill your imagination and your inner monologue with a better view of womanhood.  Don’t overthink it, don’t overanalyze it, just enjoy it and let it evolve over time. Check out Claire Díaz-Ortiz’s essay on creating her dream board as a guide, perhaps. Simply find images or quotes or stories that make you feel empowered and hold a bit of space in your computer or home for the wisdom there.

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Image credit: Moyan Brenn

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Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is the author of Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and Jesus Feminist. She is an award-winning blogger and writer who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and their four tinies. You can find her online at SarahBessey.com or on Twitter at @sarahbessey.
Sarah Bessey

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