The term “strong woman”, like a lot of other couplets that come from the internet, is well-intentioned. It’s something people throw out to epitomize the type of woman every female should aspire to be. It’s a coupling of words that women (or the people benevolent enough to describe them) put together to say, “This is who I am, and I’m proud of it. And you can do it too!”
It has good intentions, it does. And I see those good intentions and recognize them but still, I cannot help but be severely annoyed whenever I see these two words being thrown into the air like girl-power confetti.
Because like a lot of other things, the term “strong woman” also has an undertone that is really, really patronizing when you break it down.
Because truthfully, to imply that there’s some sort of aspirational strong woman out there is also to imply that to not be her, is to be weak. To say, “This is how to be a strong woman,” insinuates that if you don’t worry about that perceived how to, you’re failing to meet some sort of mark. You’re not capable. You’re losing in some way. You’re not a strong woman.
And that’s bullshit.
It’s another way we categorize woman and assign them labels based on something as simple as existence. It’s another way to set standards for women that are sometimes completely unrealistic and/or unachievable. It’s another way to put ideas out into the atmosphere that suggest (even unintentionally or offhandedly) that there is a “right way” to be a woman, and that the ultimate goal it to be this whatever version that is obviously a strong one.
It’s another item to add to the metaphorical checklist for what kind of woman to strive to be. Right underneath,
“Girl Boss but not Bossy”
“Assertive but not Intimidating”
“Unfuckwithable but still Super Nice”
“Powerhouse but still Relatable”
“Sex Positive but not a Slut”
“Self-Assured but not Cocky”
“Go-Getting but still makes time for Self-Care”
“Feminist but not Annoying”
And the list goes on and on and on and on…
The thing about the term “strong woman” is that truly, if you think about it, it doesn’t really have anything concrete to define it or back it up. Sure, there’s a certain impression that comes from hearing it and there’s an overall tonality that someone is shooting for when they use it. But it’s an empty term.
It’s a term that you could abandon in favor of simply acknowledging that by existing and persevering as a woman in and of itself, is strong. That choosing to wake up and fight for the things you believe in, go after what you want no matter what, work towards your goals and not give a crap about things like being a girl, live your life exactly as you see fit no matter how someone describes it, is strong. That women deserve more than the idea of being categorized based on something as empty as a blanket analogy of “strong.”
And if you can’t agree there, think about it like this.
When does the term “strong man” ever come up in conversation?
Answer is for pretty ridiculous fitness competitions, and not a whole lot else.
SO. If you wouldn’t use a term to describe admirable qualities found in a man, why the hell would you want to use it to describe a woman you admire?
I guess, I happen think we simply can do better than just “strong woman.” We have approximately 45,000 adjectives in the English language, and this is the one we’re obsessed with? What about brave, tenacious, insightful, clever, sharp, bold, extraordinary, brilliant, or anything else? What if instead of being so fixated on something as arbitrary as “strong”, we did a little better?
But who knows. Maybe thinking this way means I’m just not a strong enough woman to not be bothered by it.