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?