Feminist Friday: What Constitutes Strength

This strong woman must be vague, but what I want to talk about is the notion of strength in patriarchal system.

A sampling of popular entertainment in the media makes it clear that battles are to be fought, not avoided. Self-sacrifice; be it mental, physical, etc, is rewarded and encouraged. As a young nation, we still idolize the mythology of the Wild West, wherein you don’t ever give up. Strong men shoot weaker men, strong women manage through the worst of privations. You bite the bullet, the leather strap, haul yourself up by your bootstraps, keep going, never surrender.

Yet, I am finding, there is strength in surrendering. Die fighting, or walk away from a battle one can’t win? Figuratively or literally, sometimes self-preservation depends on detaching. Often, the process of detaching is far scarier and emotionally risky-seeming than continuing to fight. Conflict generates energy, and sometimes that energy is good and launches you forward. Other times, that energy is toxic and damaging even as the overlying message is to continue to drink from that cup.

Detaching is an act of wisdom, self-knowledge, control and strength, but we have trouble seeing it that way because we have had stuffed down our throats the toxic masculinity model, coupled with religious doctrine, that suggests martyrdom to be the true expression of power. Recognizing that you are right, even if that has gone unacknowledged, frees you to step out of the role of martyr and into the role of taking care of yourself. Something that, in a patriarchy, is a form of bravery in and of itself.

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