The strong woman phenomenon got old because of its stereotyping and lack of relevance to the general women population . I mean, they were the more aggressive and slightly eccentric successors of the damsels in distress but did make their mark nevertheless. They struggled for love and opportunity. They worked for equality and non-discrimination. They asked for a seat at the table. Slowly they blended into the career woman who puts food on the table.
The career woman isn’t always a strong woman, whatever the perception might be. She faces domestic violence, gender disparity, wage disparity and inequality as much as any other woman. Career woman is a constantly changing shell of a woman. She is a boss at work and sometimes is at the bottom of the totem pole. She has another job waiting for her when she gets back home. Her life is a constant hustle.
But here’s the problem. The association of a woman’s strength by her success at tasks that were considered primarily masculine in the olden days has led to a lot of stifling of women who continue to be powerful contributors spiritually. This stereotypical idea of a strong woman has become another form of internalized patriarchal beliefs and practices. The assumption that strong women are unanimously women with a career and the proverbial balls lends to a lot of bias again.
So let’s talk about some of the explicit biases that the term “strong woman” has.
1. A strong woman is eloquent and well-read. This is the ultimate bias that needs to go. Strength of character has got nothing to do with being superfluous or even educated formally. Many women are quiet powerhouses. This comparison doesn’t negate the strength of the more vocal woman. It’s just to illustrate the bias.
2. Strong women don’t tolerate abuse. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only many strong women live abusive relationships they also survive them. They also bring out their kids and other dependents safely through the storm. Just because a woman has had traumatic experiences doesn’t mean she allowed them to happen due to some inherent weakness or that she was more susceptible because of some inherent weakness.
3. Strong women don’t apologize. This is a bias because it doesn’t set the necessary societal backdrop of tolerance and fessing up. It doesn’t allow for human faults and mistakes. A feature of a strong woman is actually her ability to be introspective and apologize readily if she identifies her mistake.
But these are explicit biases, right? And they are usually easier to address than implicit bias. Some common implicitly believed theories are,
1. Strong women bring shame and discord to their lives by being themselves too much. Whatever this means, it’s usually not true. There is research on kids emulating their dominant parent more. If the dominant parent is the mother perchance then kids emulate her. No woman is responsible for any shame that her family feels over her being herself. It’s a family’s job to make sure that they uplift their women and provide them with the confidence that they need to be their own authentic self. Sometimes being ourselves can mean practicing choice, autonomy and independence. Ask anyone! These are good things. Divorces don’t happen because a woman was too much herself. Divorces happen because usually a weak woman finds the strength to challenge patriarchy.
2. Strong women look, talk and analyze situations a certain way. Again not true all the time, universally! Strong women can have a biased opinion and a conditioned response too. They can be rote in their decision making also. This thought perpetuates the thought that some form of abuse or injustice comes to weak women only.
3. Strong women are liked by men as good sex partners but probably do not make good wives. Strong women are definitely usually more vocal about their sexual needs. They refuse to accept rehearsed sex moves that do nothing for them. They give and take equally usually. But a woman’s strength isn’t calculated by her closeness with her sexuality. May be women who aren’t afraid to say most things are also more vocal about sex and bedroom rituals also. But it’s not a universal thing. However, just because a woman plays largely a pleasing role in a sexual relationship doesn’t discount her strength. Strength has many colors and facets and some people truly find their calling and mission in being pleasurable to their partners. To them, their own pleasure isn’t always top priority.