It’s no secret that being a woman ain’t easy. We walk around, faces beat, dressed to the nines in our high-waisted denim and “The Future is Female” apparel, yet no doubt have boy baggage, suppressed sexist ideologies, and crippling, societal-expectation-induced insecurities buried behind the glittery highlight on our cheek bones. Not to mention, we’re also probably hiding grimaces from period cramps because it’s “un-ladylike” to talk about such things in public. But at the same time we’ve been conditioned to use this natural occurrence as an excuse when intense emotions and our monthly cycle happen to line up. And sure, while there’s some scientific causation between mood swings and menstrual cycles, there’s something lurking deeper behind this phenomenon.
It’s this idea that if you are intensely emotive, then you are weak. You are annoying. You are a mess. You need to “get yourself together.” It’s why we wipe our tears away so quickly if we find ourselves crying in the coffee shop and why we think twice before tweeting something slightly depressing on Twitter. And as a result of developing this retaliation towards necessary sadness, we have deemed ourselves “strong.”
I haven’t texted the problematic boy in a while. Therefore, I am strong.
I held back my tears when the professor challenged my beliefs in class. Therefore, I am strong.
I went out and did something for me today. Therefore, I am strong.
We spend our time doing things that make us feel strong, posting photos on Instagram that make us look strong, and trying our very best to convince the sadness within ourselves that we are strong. However, contrary to what society would have us women folk believe about ourselves, I’d like to propose that this is not real strength.
Because the truth is,
TO BE A WOMAN IN AND OF ITSELF IS A MATTER OF STRENGTH.
Despite the frilly, damsel-in-distress, “you throw like a girl” narrative we been brought up in, it is merely a fact that if you are a woman, you are inherently strong. We wage wars with our bodies on a monthly basis and continually survive them. We hold men in our bosoms and bring them to life. And when those men grow and learn to attack our bodies in word and deed, we develop an armor against those attacks.
WE DON’T NEED TO CONVINCE OURSELVES THAT WE ARE STRONG BECAUSE WE WERE BORN THAT WAY.
So, this new idea of “strong” that we’ve cultivated over the centuries is unrealistic and overrated. It asks that women be superhuman, in a sense. That we combat every cancelled dinner date, every hurtful word, and every bad hair day with an iron fist, fleeky eyebrows, and a lipstick-ed grin. This definition of strength breeds the idea that there are strong women and there are weak women. Thus, creating an unnecessary riff between us. So that those of us who manage to “keep it together” feel and look like less of a mess than those of us who appear to be falling apart. And instead of banding together to fight the oppressive ideology that suggests that women must earn their strength, we divide and fight with each other, which only furthers our oppression.
And since I’m being real with y’all, I just have to admit that I too have ascribed to this false version of strength. I’ve neglected my sadness with coffee for one, bold lipstick, and selfish ambition. When my friends have asked genuine “How are you doing’s?” I’ve given them glittery falsities in return. I’ve bought into the lie that by ignoring my distress I could cure what only prayer and time could heal. But I’m tired y’all. I truly am. I’m tired of picking myself up by bootstraps that are already broken. And I’m tired of denying this God-given strength that is so evidently a part of me.
And so, I am writing this letter to myself and to all you strong women, as a reminder. A reminder that we must not neglect the care of self in the name of “strength.” That tears and heads hung low are not an indication of weakness. Our emotiveness does not rob us of the might embedded in us when we were but dust. Because nothing can do that.
So, cry in the coffee shop. Binge watch Netflix. Write sad poems. Rant on Twitter. And then look in the mirror and call yourself strong.
Because honey, as far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly what you are.
To be a woman is to Fight
a poem by Chloe Laughlin
Sometimes in the way you fold your napkins
Sometimes in the way you hold tight to tears
Sometimes in the “I don’t know’s” and “I’m sorry’s”
To be a woman is to fight for a place in the world
While pretending there’s no fight at all.
Special thanks to Shelby Baumgartner for editing my scattered thoughts (-: