The Problem with Being a “Strong Woman”

I would like to be seen as having the same audacity, respect, and character as a man. I am certain that people may occasionally see me as a strong woman, but let’s face it. Are woman ever really looked at as being strong? As a “strong woman” one might think of acquiring physical strength to make up for not being respected as much as a man. These days, more women are turning to weightlifting or something of a more physical nature in order to prove their worth as a woman (although some might insist that it is purely for their own enjoyment or benefit, and once in a while I believe it is the case). While physical worth is becoming more common amongst women, therefore encouraging the label “strong woman,” it is still rare that a woman would ever be seen as having severe intellect, or strength of character, or being gutsy. Those are terms simply never applied to women.

Here are just a few differences in compliments:

Men: Gutsy
Women: Brave
Men: Bold
Women: Forward
Men: Intelligent
Women: Smart

The differences between these words are not as subtle as they seem. The terms applied to men when it comes to character qualities are actually compliments. The words used on women are knocked down, begrudging admissions. Look at the word “brave” for example. It means having to face something scary or frightening and merely handling it well. A man would never call another man brave. They use that term on a young boy on occasion perhaps, but never on another full-grown male. “Smart” is a belittling compliment compared to “intelligent.” It’s like a thing you might say to a little kid who got a good report card. “Forward” implies stepping out of boundaries, where “bold” means rightfully asserting your position in a situation.

Pay attention the next time you hear compliments being passed around. Listen to which ones are used on women, and which ones are used on men. Which words would you rather have used on yourself?

I have said many times to my older relatives growing up: “I am not a girl.” What I meant by it was that I am not a brave, forward, smart individual. I am gutsy, bold, and intelligent. I am not a strong woman. I am just strong.

 

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