Hi Elle, Oh man, this is a tough one. Your quote above, I agree with generally. That a woman should consider how the behavior or dress makes her feel as a decent determining if it’s empowerment or not. Such as if it’s helping her sink more deeply into the knowledge of herself, her sexuality, etc, then it is likely to be a positive thing.
Yet, to go one layer deeper here, I think a lot of women cannot differentiate this in their own minds and hearts. I think a lot of women do not have this degree of insight. Further, some think they do, when they do not quite have it. I used to be one of those women.
I think there are a lot of women who will claim, “I’m doing this for me,” I’m empowered,” or “it makes me feel good,” when in reality, (and they might not be fully consciously aware of it), they are doing it for any of the following reasons: seeking outer validation, to try and attract the male gaze, to earn “likes” on social media, to earn approval from peers or men, because it’s what our culture expects women to do, because it’s how women are taught they prove their “worth” in our culture (by their looks and body), or because they feel “confident” about what they are doing based on the result of the response they receive for it.
Tons of women (I would even argue, many of them), and by no fault of their own but instead, as a result of our toxic culture’s conditioning of young women, likely dress and behave in highly sexualized ways for the reasons I just wrote above. As in, they may think and claim it’s empowered and they are doing it “for them,” when they actually aren’t and are not fully even aware of this.
It is a rare woman who is truly at home with herself, her sexuality, and her confidence. A rare woman who is able to really delve deep and parse out these complex nuances. A rare woman who can truly separate her own sexuality from her sexuality as being offered up for society or male approval.
I am not there yet myself, though I’ve come a long way over the years. I hope to be eventually, though.
Thus, I am willing to bet that the majority of women are still doing things like this for reasons, subconsciously or consciously, that is not out of true empowerment for them but for some other society, cultural reasoning, or conditioning.
Because how aware is each of us truly, of the full extent of influence that our culture has on us? I would bet that most of us are far more influenced by the wider culture, crowd think, etc, then we believe ourselves to be.
That is just my own theory, though, based on a lot of reading and a lot of observation of young women nowadays. And, of course, I could be wrong.