Happy belated International Women’s Day everyone! I know it’s quite a bit late but better late than never.
An important topic in the whole gender debate that our societies leading right now is strength. It is becoming increasingly mainstream to say that yes, women can be strong, too. There have been tons of excellent and empowering ways in which the strength of women has been celebrated over the years. But there is one that I always wonder about, and I am curious what you think about it.
Think of pop culture icons such as Wonder Woman, Black Widow, or Lara Croft. They are certainly cast as “strong female characters”. However, their strength is (mainly) expressed by their ability to physically fight as good as, or better than, men.
Is this a problem? Perhaps not in any real sense. But I do wonder what kind of message it really sends. A cynic could say that answering the question of “what does a strong woman look like?” with “A woman who can out-punch men” essentially means that to be strong and empowered, a woman needs to out-man men.
Doesn’t that somewhat undermine the entire message? Isn’t that just another way in which women ultimately submit to an image of strength that was pre-determined by men? And is that not ultimately an antithesis to real empowerment?
Now, this is only one side of the argument. But what do you think about this alternative view:
Saying that physical strength is inherently a manly thing is already an assumption. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that physical strength is just a type of strength among many, for both men and women. At the same time, it does make sense that physical strength is mainly associated with men, simply because men are more biologically predisposed for it.
However, doesn’t this mean that exhibiting physical strength for men is not really a sign of true strength at all? Men do get it essentially “for free” as part of their evolutionary package, without really having to work for it. For an average woman, however, it requires a lot of effort to attain more physical strength than an average man. Consequently, wouldn’t this be a much greater testament of her strength, making characters such as Wonder Woman, Black Widow, or Lara Croft excellent representations of the empowerment of women?
I’m honestly not sure. But what do you think? Would you tend towards one side of this argument over another?
14 thoughts on “Strong women”
As a survivor of domestic violence that almost killed me, the cold harsh reality is that men are stronger, and men can rape. The domestic violence stats and the numbers of women killed by men every year say everything that needs to be said.
Yes, that is true. Perhaps that is another reason why this focus on physical strength, or strength that can forcefully push one’s will upon others, is unhealthy – to put it mildly. I am glad that you found the strength to survive what you were subjected to. And I hope you will continue to find the strength to make your voice heard.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is a really interesting point. I think these female characters are a better example of “strong” women than them just waiting for a guy to save them. But I do think there’s plenty of room for improvement 🙃
Yeah, that’s probably a good way to sum it up
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am happy not to be physically strong. That is my husband’s area. I dont need to steal the limelight from him… but not sure if men have the endurance.. my husband will faint at the sight of a needle..
Should just embrace the differences. Woman is not a Man and vice versa… we can all try but we are just Not..
That is the ideal isn’t it? Complementing each other via everyone’s unique strengths.
What a great topic!
My knee-jerk thoughts, in no particular order: Strength isn’t just physical, it’s also mental, with the latter being far more consequential. I hate that women think they have to have “balls” in order to succeed in certain professions; nothing could be farther from the truth, and it only lowers them to a low bar of success. Societies should venerate emotional intelligence as a core strength (in everyone, regardless of sexual orientation) over brute, physical strength. Each individual has unique strengths – physical, emotional, spiritual, creative – that should be valued equally. It’s silly – and harmful – for any society to base the value of an individual primarily on physical strength/the ability to cause physical harm.
Don’t get me started on how religions have delegated women to a subservient and submissive role throughout history.
I like to imagine how different (better) the world would be now if women’s abilities and strengths had been highly valued over time, rather than diminished, ignored and dismissed.
Definitely. I glossed over most types of strength out there in favor of just that one. And I agree that it would only serve our societies if we were able to recognize all the different types of strength as the assets they are. At the same time, I suspect that our ability to move away from a primary focus on physical strength is also a consequence of our modern societies with more advanced technology and perhaps a greater capacity for empathy. Because all these things undermine the age-old paradigm of physical strength = power.
First, the strong women pop culture showcase are goddesses possessing not just good looks but also, super hot bodies. I mean they also had to sexualize women in order to perfect an image of strength. – that’s pop culture
Physical strength is men’s genetic make up, as to women being motherly… even as teens, we’re motherly to friends, we don’t even need to be mothers to be so… both are good thing… being that one complements the other…
I don’t think that means women are weaker than men, but I think it’s also fine to recognize that there is a real vulnerability that comes with having less muscle mass, hehe. It’s a reality—there is true vulnerability that comes from that. That’s why God made some provisions for it.
One practical example is how men and women would open a Cheeze Whiz bottle. Men would pop it open using their hands in a second while women, being unable to do so (because it’s so difficult!) would resort to some life hack… (fire!)
Both would end up enjoying their very own spreads… one would use strength and one would use ingenuity 😂 — that’s some real strength..
Hehe yes, well put. And just to make that clear: There are lots of different types of strength out there, and I very narrowly focussed on physical strength here – just because that question of how “strong woman” so often seems to mean “woman able to win a brawl against men”. But I guess the evolutionary argument would be that “real” strength depends on the ability to adapt, which can manifest itself in different ways. Like your example with the Cheeze Whiz bottle.
For most of my life, I would say that I have treated men and women equally. In my early working days, I suppose most ‘managers’ were male but over the years women have come to play increasingly ‘equal’ roles. In later roles, working in a hospital, my managers were women and I was very comfortable with that. Perhaps it had something to do with being very close to my mother when I was very young, I have always cooked and done my share of housework. We have shared everything! 🙏
It definitely makes a difference in how far we experience roles as detached from gender, rather than depending on it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Women in the Philippines have been taking over the macho machinurin for decades so I don’t think this is that much of an issue in the Philippines
Hahaha! You would know.