January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

An Open Letter to Women Crying for Empowerment

An Open Letter to Women Crying for Empowerment

Ms. Ingrid Albuquerque Solomon

My Beloved Sisters in Christ, First of all, this letter is written in love.

Secondly, it is written not as a viewpoint but from the fruit of experience.

Thirdly, it is written to inform that I do not believe in ‘women’s empowerment’. It is merely a commercial concept and by subscribing to it, we belittle our faith and our gender.

In humility, I would like to substantiate what I say I believe in and I pray the Lord would give me the right words to convey it without conflict or controversy.

Thirty-one years ago, when I was a Christian in name, I was asked by my publisher to start a women’s magazine. As a dutiful, a+ employee, I spent months researching the environment to see what would be the best hook for the magazine. I was located in Mumbai then, the commercial capital of the nation from where one is able to get a clever eye over what is happening in the rest of the country. 

Strange things had been occurring on the world stage and also center-stage in India. Phoolan Devi surrendered, and a few months later Kapil Dev won the third Cricket World cup at Lords. Popular singer Karen Carpenter who gave the world a song it is singing till today (Top of the World) died of complications from anorexia nervosa at age 32. While Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma was launched into space aboard the Soyuz T-11, Indira Gandhi – (are we thinking empowerment when we take her name?) had ordered Operation Blue Star; after which her government stormed the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the Sikh’s holiest shrine, and she got assassinated by her two Sikh security guards.

It was a very unsettling for everyone but most of all for women in the nation who had begun to get restless due to searching for a new destiny in India now that the national role model had been roughly obliterated from the frame.

That gave me the hook I was looking for, for the new magazine. The existing English language women’s magazines of that time were, if I may put it in one word, ‘jokes’; one (Femina) carried knitting patterns from cover to cover and the other (Eve’s Weekly) had recipes inking most of its pages.

With a definite concept of bringing women out of their shell, kitchen and knitting parlors, my publisher was thrilled out of his skin, when I founded Savvy, a magazine for the woman “charting a brave new course” (that was the tag line of the first phase of campaigning), the one with “a mind of her own” (second phase of campaigning). As expected, the magazine was a huge success. Its impact on the other magazines: Eve’s Weekly closed shop and Femina after dip-dip-dipping in circulation and sales, underwent a radical change and many years later out-brazened Savvy.

What was Savvy’s selling point? The empowerment of women! It became the buzzword of the season. I don’t think too many of us even knew the real meaning of the word empowerment, but no one was worried since sales were rocketing. The magazine gave a platform to women achievers – who’d broken out of traditional shackles of ‘homing and hearthing’ and were interested only in scaling new heights of fame, fortune and making it to the Savvy cover. The icing on the cake of each issue was the cover story, titled as the “I Believe” (10 years later, Femina pinched this and used it as their invitation line for their bold advertising campaign on national television) in which the cover woman put forth her creed of conviction in a no-holds barred autobiographical first person story which stirred and inspired (not empowered; no!) women in small towns and cities to break out of the box (read that as boring roles of wifedom and motherhood) and become individuals to be reckoned with.

To give you just a few headlines through which the cover women provoked rebellion against domesticity in the unprepared, unawakened hearts of the average woman:

“If the Government of India would only promise financial support to women feeling oppressed in their homes, 94% of the women in India would leave their husbands and walk out.” – Protima Bedi, actor’s wife and dancer.

“What’s the meaning of ‘widow’? I don’t see myself as a widow. I am simply a woman who had a husband who is no more. I will not allow myself to be caged into such descriptions.” – Maneka Gandhi, politician and original Savvy woman.

“When I tried to be a perfect wife and cry at his feet, my husband treated me like a slipper. But when I rose up and showed my strength, the people of Dholpur threw him out and made me the Maharani of his kingdom.” – Vasundhara Raje Scindia, politician.

“How I taught my sons to accept my lovers,” Indira Roy, formerly with the UN, mother of actor Rahul Roy.

Does any of this sound like ‘empowerment’? If you’d asked me at the time I would vehemently affirmed it did – we were successfully breaking women out of the bondage of tradition; we were ‘empowering’ them to:

Break loose from unhappy marriages;

To stop sacrificing their bright careers at the altar of domesticity

We certainly did not advocate they neglect their children but we convinced them they could have their cake and eat it too

To open their own bank accounts

To stop being sexual slaves to their husbands etc.

Because all the Savvy cover women were persons of substance and repute – from Kiran Bedi to Jaya Bachchan to Jayalalitha and Reena Ramachandra, their first person declarations were highly convicting and the result was a troubling scenario of many separations and even more divorces – angry wives, bitter husbands and broken children. The wave would have swung higher because somewhere along the way I even got an award in Delhi from a central government cabinet minister for changing the destiny of women, for having set them on the path to empowerment.

At some point The Holy One up there evidently decided enough was enough and the ‘empowerment illusionary trip’ was brought to an abrupt end. In the seventh year of editing Savvy, a friend brought me to a knowledge of the saving grace available in Christ Jesus and the Saviour of mankind stepped out of the convenient cabinet in which I had restrained him all the preceding years, and took over as the Lord of my entire life which included my attitudes, career and faulty thinking.

The change in me incensed the management and all hell broke loose. I began to get marginalized and the kind of indignities that were imposed in me are unimaginable – so much for the reality of the powerless status of the editor of a magazine proclaiming empowerment of women! 

Did I say ‘powerless’?

In the months following my salvation, I learnt for the first time what ‘empowerment’ really was, and I found it was not ascribed to any gender but to the soul in the potter’s hand. “Fear not, for I am with you,” He said, “be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”

This promise from Isaiah 41:10-13 held strong even after I moved to my next post, to found ‘Bangalore Times’ for ‘The Times of India,’ where again I encountered the whole façade of the media’s ‘empowerment’ of women in giving them high posts is only for as long as the woman works out the schemes and plans of the men for whom the higher posts are reserved.

That is reality of the perspective of ‘empowerment of women’ in the secular marketplace. It’s hogwash. Female politicians, social workers and activists only use ‘empowerment’ as a trump card in their own agendas, especially when they refer to rape, violence against women, oppression, child marriage and the rest of the horror stories in the concealed chronicles of Indian history. The truth is they don’t really care. And the bigger truth is that the victims do not need empowerment in the worldly sense as is being offered to them, they need rescuing, they need the gospel, they need the healing love of Christ.

Beloved sisters, do we women in the Church of Christ realize that in the midst of our own struggles of power to teach, to preach, to be accepted as equals, to be recognized as “mighty women of God” within the community? I have come across several godly women who have started organizations to uplift women; in most cases I get secretly appalled at the hunger for their service to be recognized and applauded by the community. They print visiting cards with their names and credentials and cram in as much as is possible in 6 point form to inform of their activities; because they see themselves as empowering (which is different from serving) downtrodden women.

What did the Church do to empower women in the nation after the Delhi Gang Rape took place a few years ago? I remember being part of the Think Tank, and even moderated the seminar entitled ‘God and the Gang Rape’ organized by South Asian Institute of Applied Christian Studies (SAIACS, Bangalore) at the YMCA in Delhi shortly after the incident. There were several speakers and all reiterated the same thing – that there could never be a better time to bring terrified women and violated women into the secure and loving church fold to Jesus, the only one who can understand and make all things new to them. 

That, if there had been any follow-up (there was none) to the suggestions tabled after the extended morning of passionate proclamations, would have been empowerment where it was certainly needed – coming from the right source. The comfort from the word of Scripture (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen and eternal.”

How many churches have addressed the subject of the gang rape and given pulpit recommendation to the young girls in the congregation about how to protect themselves from being violated? Does the solution lie in joining morchas and clamoring for a safer city and the right to wear the kind of attire one wants to wear? 

Or making them understand that the times are evil and we have to live with wisdom. Those who are prudent in the current inflamed situation will see danger and take refuge, but the simple (and in this case, the rebellious too) keep going and suffer for it. The way of a fool seems right to him or her, but in the end it leads to death.The quiet words of the wise and godly in the current situation are more to be heeded that the shouts of the incensed. Why war about the right to wear whatever clothing we want to when it is a fact that indecent exposure provokes men, especially illiterate men from the rural areas who know no better; Indian films with the shockingly pornographic ‘item numbers’ have done their own bit in provoking uncivilized men further.  If we see ourselves and project ourselves as meat, then meat we will become. We demand protection and security from the state. The current crisis would call for one policeman per woman – is that realistically possible? We need to know this – that unless God guards the city, the watchman\ police\ bodyguard keeps awake in vain. It is God alone who makes a city and its people secure.

Making parents and daughters in the church understand that – and then encouraging them to convey that wisdom to their non-Christian friends who will be drawn to the wisdom of the Bible and to Christ – to me, that is empowerment, it is intangible.

I am glad that from the minute I committed my life to Christ, designations and power positions are of total insignificance. In the church, as I serve in ministry, I see myself as a sheer servant, doing what I do because I feel called by the Master to the variety of tasks He has called me to do. My fulfillment comes in using the gifts and skills for His glory. I am not looking for prestige, praise or empowerment.

Empowered people are big shots aren’t they – like politicians, judges, chief ministers and heads of industry. 

The only empowerment I cling to today is not from any human being but only from the Holy Spirit. His empowering came upon me when I put my faith in Christ. At that time, I had no idea that there was a Scriptural description to what had happened to me. I discovered it subsequently in John 3. His Spirit has been with me in many ways enabling me to serve Him in awesome, specific and tangible ways.

I want for nothing else.

May the Lord be with us as we minister to the younger women in our churches, so that we give them the right values that will combat the wrong notions of empowerment given to them by the world and society.

Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon

When she was 8, she wrote a letter to an editor commenting on his magazine. He responded by inviting regular contributions for her. She has not stopped writing since.

After graduating in English Literature Honours with a position in the Rajasthan University, she did her post-graduation in Mass Media through Bombay University and internship at the INDIAN EXPRESS daily, after which she got into national mainstream journalism. 

She has been editor of several publications including STARDUST, SOCIETY, and ISLAND and been founder editor of SAVVY, FAMILY LIFE and then BANGALORE TIMES for THE TIMES OF INDIA. Currently, she is employed with HAGGAI INSTITUTE, an international christian leadership institute headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with its Global Communication Department, and teaches Writing Skills to world-class leaders in the organization’s training institute at Maui, Hawaii. 

She set up her own publishing company BEREAN BAY MEDIA HOUSE PVT LTD in 2004 through which she has authored several best-selling books and biographies. She lives in Bangalore, in close proximity to her 3 adult children, two of whom are married.  

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