I have to be a little vague, here, as I am in the middle of some things. I learned, yesterday, that there isn’t any legal protection for “strong women.” What that means is either someone discriminates against all women, or there’s really no legal standing. I understand that. There aren’t laws against being an asshole, either, at least in a general sense.
Reflecting, then, on last week’s post, I would suggest that this is what makes being a strong woman even more challenging. Being a strong woman is being a pioneer of sorts–it’s a novel thing, it’s a rare thing, and thus being one will not only attract attention, but also backlash. I’m not the first strong woman, and there have been strong women as long as there have been women (so: Always), but they have never had it easy. Maybe it’s just that one’s refusal to couch their opinion in qualifying language means they go unheard or dismissed for being “shrill” or lacking a “sense of humor.” Maybe it’s just that the girls who don’t modify their voice and drop their eyes don’t get the smile from the instructor. Or, maybe it’s that one is threatened online for suggesting that men are the only people responsible for rape. Or told they can’t wear white for their wedding because they aren’t a virgin, or no longer invited out for drinks because they objected to a rape joke. It goes on and on.
It’s a hard road a woman chooses when she chooses to be strong. She will be forced to deal with a lot of hostility, passive aggressive and aggressive-aggressive behavior. She will constantly be fighting; tiny verbal disagreements about the concept of TOTAL bodily autonomy or pointing out what it means when someone says “screams like a little girl” or saying that it isn’t necessary for a co-worker to define her by her reproductive status. A million billion little battles. Then there are the bigger battles, and sometimes there are violent ones.
Women whose survival strategies include accepting the status quo and/or developing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome with their oppressors will see the strong woman as much as an enemy as many men do. At best they might be your friend but say, “Well, I know you are right, but only YOU could stand up that way.” Even when the strong woman is sobbing in her car because not even her sisters are standing up with her, and she must carry the entire load on her aching back. It would be so much easier with help.
Ultimately, though, strong women really can’t stop being strong. It would be like trying to un-know something, like that the sky is blue. There’s no getting away from one’s nature. There’s no closing your eyes once they are open. To every strong woman out there, I salute you. Cry in your car. Scream when you are overwhelmed. Know that you are making a difference, know that you are not entirely alone. Because, there’s at least one other one, and maybe your actions are the spark that starts to awaken another one from her slumber. You are doing the right thing. Also, though, you cannot do it all. You must keep self-care at the forefront. The battle is not just your responsibility. Do your part, but don’t sacrifice yourself for something no one will help you with. Do what you need to do to live with yourself, but there’s no reason to die trying. Your sisters need you, and you deserve to rest and recover before heading back out into the fray.