What Makes a Strong Woman?

In this day and age, the cultural Zeitgeist is all about “women’s empowerment” and raising “strong women”. We think we know what these ideas should mean and have a mental picture of what they look like, but what really does a strong woman look like? Many cite qualities like independence, autonomy, assertiveness, leadership, etc… Many see her in some sort of high position of power, or with fancy degrees in some high-status career like doctor, lawyer, politician, some STEM field. It’s common to think of her being able to do “anything a man can do” with slogans like “girl power” and “girls rule the world”…

However the question is raised, is that what really makes a woman “strong”? How exactly does one define “strong”? Is it in her assertiveness almost to the point of aggressiveness? Her job title or her credentials? Her assertions that she doesn’t need a man for anything? Her ability to throw off traditional gender norms and clamor for all things masculine? The irony that many qualities she strives for in herself she would now label “toxic” in a man? The fact that she has liberal “woke” politics and ideologies unlike the “gender traitors” who are conservative women? They say a strong woman can think for herself, yet labeled those who stood by Kavanaugh or Trump as “gender traitors”. Is that what strong women are expected to do? Feel threatened enough by others whose opinions you don’t like that you have to shut them up?

Thing is, while many qualities above in moderation such as independence, assertiveness or leadership are okay, I argue our current concept of what makes a woman “strong” really betrays a type of weakness and vulnerability as well as implicitly sexist. The most problematic aspect of how we think of a strong woman is rooted in the implicit idea that she must be like a man, and throw off her traditional gender roles as a woman because male=empowerment and female=oppression. To truly be “equal” in this frame of mind is to be able to be and do anything a man does, but no mention of anything uniquely “woman” in her fight for equality. Whatever a man can do is better than what women traditionally have done. She must want a career, because her “dreams” must go beyond “mere” house keeping and child raising. She needs to earn her own way, or else she’s too “dependent” on a man thus virtually enslaved! Being a wife and mother apparently is not enough to foster her “personal development”. She must literally wear the pants, because dressing as a woman is the “uniform of oppression”. She is “empowered” when she can silence any man who dares speak his mind on issues pertaining to her, cry victim anytime she wants, be pushy and rude and call it “assertiveness”, shun a more feminine identity and reduce it to a “stereotype” and declare that the world is stacked against her. Now, many women who consider themselves as strong don’t feel they support this idea of it, however their attitudes implicitly support many of these ideas.

When you tell a girl “But what else do you want to do? You’re still young…” When she says she wants to raise a family when she grows up.

When you say “You can’t comment on this issue because you’re not a woman!”

When you tell your daughters “Never depend on a man for anything.”

When you say to fight “stereotypes” of women such as being married, home making, and wearing dresses.

You are perpetuating a distorted view of what it means to be strong. To me honestly, such ideas about strength betray weakness and vulnerability. The idea that being a traditional woman is a sign of oppression and that to have any worth in society, or to be considered independent is to take on traditional masculine characteristics belittles womanhood as a whole. Also reinforcing the sexist and misogynist idea that women are second class or lesser members of society, and must imitate men to bear a semblance to anything worthy of being called empowered, equal and strong.

What does it really say about society when the clamor for prominence and power in the public eye are valued far greater than the upbringing of our future generations? Just because a role is not as visible, doesn’t mean the job is any less needed. Motherhood, while more behind the scenes, IS a job in itself. A 24/7 job for life. Standing by your man does not mean you don’t have your own identity. Pants don’t equal freedom from some oppressed role and skirts and dresses don’t mean you’re second class. Wife and mother are just as important titles as CEO or PhD. Power and prestige are not all there is in life. Equal does not always mean identical; men and women can have separate gender roles and be equal in dignity and worth to each other. Putting men’s roles on a pedestal for women to be able to climb to inherently devalues traditional women’s roles even if cried for in the name of equality. Guarding one’s sexuality is not a form of coercion by the patriarchy when women have so much more to lose if she slips up. A woman’s purity is to be honored, not mocked and derided as “old fashioned”. A strong woman and a traditional woman exist side by side and are in no way mutually exclusive! 

So what does it mean to be a strong woman? A strong woman is many things in my opinion:

The confidence in her identity as a traditional women as valuable and meaningful in of itself without the need to be like a man to be worth something.

The ability to value her husband and children over any job title or credential she might earn.

Seeing her privilege, not her victimhood.

A self identity that is strong enough to not feel threatened by taking her husband’s name upon marriage, being “given away” at the altar, being called “Mrs.” or the idea of marriage.

Feeling as empowered and capable in a dress or skirt with long hair as in pants and short hair.

The strength to know she can depend on others like a father, brother, husband etc… for her care and safety and still be independent and strong in her own right.

Taking pride in the fact that she has the choice to give life, not in the choice to take it.

Who can handle words like “mankind” and “man” in the general sense without feeling excluded and microaggressed.

The fortitude to hold the family together in times of trouble, but also let a man take the lead and be the rock when she is given the chance.

Being a rock in her own unique way, as a moral compass of virtue, elegance, and grace for all to see in her family and in the world.

Dressing modestly as a sign of her inner worth and dignity, and having no need to flaunt her body for all to see for her to be “liberated”.

Who is strong enough to think for herself and not feel threatened by another’s opinion nor the need to force other women to think as she does.

Recognizing her ability to achieve her goals not in spite of being a woman in an “oppressive” society, but because of her determination, work ethic, and perseverance as a person. 

The strength it takes to be uniquely feminine, in her own right.

To me those are some things that make a strong woman 🙂

Strong woman

(I made this graphic myself!)

17 thoughts on “What Makes a Strong Woman?

  1. Great article LOR. I had meant to get to it sooner. I’ve posted a few similar things in my blog in the past. The one that comes to mind is how they took away Supergirl’s skirt in the TV show and gave her pants because it was empowering.

    Sadly Melissa misses the point. We’re both saying that a woman shouldn’t have to dress and act like a man to be considered empowered. She can be strong and still be a woman, be it in traditional or more modern roles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we in society have gone far beyond ‘traditional roles’. It seems that women who choose those roles in life are considered less empowered. How many SAHMs are there in the US now? They’re very much a minority and not always respected by women who don’t want that lifestyle. I was a child in the late 60s and a teen in the 70s and I remember the mantra to ‘have it all’. Becoming a housewife was considered so weak and old fashioned that it was hardly even considered. Staying home with children was a choice people only made as a ‘have to’ decision, not an ideal one. Article after article came out about how you could have a career, have your children in daycare, and focus on quality time, not quantity. Women who chose to stay home were a rarity. That was no doubt a backlash against when women didn’t have the choices they do now, but similar attitudes remain. It would seem that many liberal minded women only respect women who have the same mindset. Sarah Palin was a nontraditional woman, a fairly able governor by most accounts, but was vilified and smeared by women and men alike, simply because she had conservative values.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good article and drawing. I believe too, that the whole “career-woman” mentality has been the slippery slope to many broken homes, marriages, and emotionally neglected children. We need to pray.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I would add one more strength – the strength to value herself, her future husband and her future children enough to save herself for marriage and remain faithful to her husband.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your post reminds me of some of older novels I’ve read over the years, including one that might be considered an early feminist novel, “Daughters of Today”. My copy was republished in 1921. None of these books would ever be published today (if only because of the meandering prose and run-on sentences that was common of the period)

    These are books about women, by women, and how these strong, independent female characters are portrayed is wildly different from today. For starters, their sex (the grammatical term, “gender”, was not yet in common use) was something they embraced as part of their strength. The goal was to be equal to men – equal in value – not the same as men. The differences between men and women were just that; differences. When a character stood up to a man, she did so as a woman *and* his equal. When a female character was portrayed as weak, her feminine characteristics may be included in describing her behaviour or attitude, but they were not the cause of her weakness. Likewise with the male characters.

    I was fortunate to grow up in an environment that was more like the generation or two preceding me. I say fortunate, because “feminism”, as it was for others in my generation, was not part of my world. There was no way anyone could tell me that my mother or grandmother were somehow “weak” because of their traditional female roles. They were some of the strongest people I have ever known. Survivors who went through hell and back, and kept on going. From what I’ve seen, today’s “feminists”, they couldn’t handle even a fraction of when these strong women did just in normal life, never mind surviving the atrocities of war. For sure, they came out damaged by what they survived – anyone would have – but they were not broken by it. They kept on going, because that’s what people did, regardless of gender.

    Frankly, I think the “feminist” attitudes are an insult to women of previous generations. They don’t uplift women. They degrade them. Their attempts to force us to be more like men – or their ideas of manhood – is really an attempt to wipe out womanhood. We women are being negated and “cancelled” by these “feminists” more than the “patriarchy” ever did!

    Liked by 3 people

      • Brainwashed into what exactly? Would it be more to your favor or liking to go the opposite way and have little girls be told their place is only in the kitchen, at home, serving their husband at beck and call, with a new baby every other year? Some women may like this and that is okay. I personally would run from that and thankfully I have a husband whose ego isn’t that inflated that he needs to have the “because I have the penis, I have the final say so you must submit” mentality. Strong women are women who choose what their paths are and respect and empower other women to do the same. Hint: choose is the key word. Strong women are women who decide what they want to give their energy to and aren’t brainwashed, shamed, or coerced into a life theu truly don’t want. It’s perfectly fine to want a husband and children. It’s also perfectly fine NOT to. No it’s not masculine and no it’s not just feminine. “Traditional roles” are also not for everyone. Pants and skirts aren’t for everyone. Like that quote says, a woman’s UNIQUE identity is simply the one she creates for herself. Nothing makes it masculine. She and all her characteristics are unique to her because she chose them and she is a woman. To say a woman is like a man because she is (insert power, leader, independent, autonomous etc) is actually what is sexist because you’re saying only men should have these traits. Well thank goodness this isn’t a rule.

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