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Are you a strong woman?

Photo courtesy of Bonnie van Kessel

Are you a strong woman?

If I were to ask you unexpectedly, how would you answer?

For some women, the answer is automatic: “Of course, I am strong.” For others, the answer is “no” or “I am not sure.” The truth is that how you answer the question is not what determines whether you are strong or weak. Many women who have been labeled as weak (which is common in our culture) – are incredibly strong.

So why have women been considered “weak”?

For many years, women have been viewed as “weak,” and men have been viewed as strong. Historically, men have been portrayed as strong because they are physically strong. And for the most part, they are brave, smart, and non-emotional – especially in difficult situations. Over time, these highly valued traits have become the hallmark of being strong in our culture.

Unfortunately, this shortsighted (and androcentric) description of strength has been extended to women, but it is considerably problematic.

Let’s start with the physically strong. Since men are generally stronger than women, women have an unfair disadvantage. Nonetheless, women have been relegated to a position of weakness and men as strong. But how accurate is this old cultural conclusion? Does physical strength make you strong? Well, I suppose it does in ONE area of life, but a strong body will only take you so far, and – truthfully – some women are stronger than a lot of men. But even if men are generally stronger than women, that doesn’t lay a foundation for strong men and weak women. Besides, strong in body and weak in heart can be the makings of an inconsiderate bully. Surely, a strong body cannot be indicative of strength!