I’ve been thinking about strong women.
We use that phrase so much: a strong woman. In a sea of topics and thoughts about being a woman, it is one of the things that sticks out to me and it bugs me. I say it a lot. I describe my closest friends as strong women. I even think of myself as a strong woman. But I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s redundant. I’ve never met a woman who isn’t strong.
Strength is synonymous with being a woman. Don’t misunderstand me, strength is also synonymous with being human, but men are rarely described in that way. We don’t feel the need to describe men in that way, it’s a given. So, why do we so easily describe a woman who survives something, or a woman who can hold their own, or even a woman who inspires us, as ‘strong’? Is it because we’re surprised at the strength?
When I talk to a woman who is suffering, I see their strength and often try to use it to comfort them. I find myself reassuring them that they are so strong, hoping they can see that strength and pull from it. We doubt ourselves so much. Why? It can’t help that we’ve not been taught how strong we are from the get-go.
What about mums, mothers of mothers, and the matriarchy that is clearly there in so many families and communities? Generations of women with such strength and such an unending capacity to hold the feelings, worries, and mistakes of their children and still love fiercely and unconditionally. These people are the people we go to when we need strength because their strength is so immense it’s infectious. In so many situations, it’s the mother, or the matriarchal figure, or the wise female friend, who you go to for advice and for security. We’ve all seen this in one way or another and yet we are still surprised at a woman’s strength. Seriously?
When I am feeling emotional, or a little pathetic, I try to pull from my own inner strength. But that’s the thing, these emotions, and the ability to feel them, are just another form of strength. You can be fragile and strong. We know that. Or, we say that we know that at least. We all preach it nowadays, but do we practise what we preach? It’s like we can’t quite accept that you can be both. At the end of the day though, it seems like the fragile aspects of our human condition are still seen as weaknesses. Nah. It’s just another form of strength!
I watch women I know and don’t know, doing their thing and I feel pride. It breaks my heart that we are brainwashed to compare ourselves to each other so much. One girl is smarter than the other… one girl is prettier than the other... be jealous… it’s normal. Oooff. Don’t start me. Thankfully, we don’t normally say one girl is stronger than the other. The thing that gets to me though is that by labelling some women as ‘strong’ we are inadvertently saying that some women are not. It’s the same thing. Okay, some people may appear stronger than others, but we don’t really know that. To me, the inner strength of all human beings seems to be pretty tip top. It’s the same as beauty. The strength and beauty of people is immeasurable and awesome.
So, Universe, whatcha gonna do about it?! You can start by reminding all women, and all beings for that matter, that the inner strength and outer strength they have is amazing. And maybe remind us at the same time that we all share this quality. We all have it and we should all recognise it and value it.
Yours fiercely, fragilely and strongly,
(portraits of women I've been lucky enough to briefly know or meet, charlottestrawbridge.co.uk)