I woke up the other day ready to begin the new year, and when I began my routine Pinterest check this morning I stumbled upon this quote in my feed:
“The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.”
As a woman, I have always been fascinated by the threat that independent women pose to a society built on female subordination. I like to think that I am a strong, fierce woman who is capable of holding her own intellectually, physically, and mentally, and as such I have developed a unique perspective on the world and the way that it treats women who do not subscribe to typical gender stereotypes. I have always been an introvert, huddled in whatever space I can find with my books and animals.
As I have grown older, I have embraced my personality: sassy, full of gumption, curious, determined, stubborn, rational, sarcastic, witty, and reserved (let’s leave out the really negative facets for now). I do not like to be fucked with, and I am willing to ask for what I want, and to take it when necessary. These qualities all sounds positive, right? On the contrary, I am often told that I am “crazy” or “too passionate” about my goals in life, and what makes my deviations from gender roles even more pronounced is my lack of a boyfriend, or even the desire to obtain one.
Perhaps my fiery personality would be more acceptable if I softened my image with a wholesome boyfriend to keep me in check, but I do not, and that just infuriates people. When I tell people that I do not date, I often get asked if I am a lesbian, bisexual, or mentally unstable, because obviously those are all logical offshoots of a desire to remain focused on my education rather than my personal life.
My point is, people are always going to be there telling you why you should be demure, prototypically feminine, and sacrificing your dreams for others. I am telling you to give those people the middle finger, smile, and continue on your merry way. In my twenty-one years of life, I have had many people try to change me, tell me things are impossible, encourage me to lower my standards and goals, shape my personality to fit the needs of a society inherently threatened by my empowerment, and try to explain to me what a true “lady” is.
It is okay, brilliant even, to be an independent, strong woman in a world that wants you to be weak. Strap on your big girl boots, fill your mind with ambition and intellectually stimulating thoughts, and tell the world to watch you kick some ass and be an amazing person while doing it. There is no correct way to be a woman, and it is admirable to be resilient and strong. Do not let the world break your spirit or shape your soul. Create a soul that you can live your whole life nurturing and expanding, rather than one sullied by outside forces. The world can be an extraordinary place, and one day it will accept you for the lovely person you are, but first it will try to tell you how to look, feel, behave, and react. Do you want to know why the world will one day love you? Because you will force it to. So, without further ado, here are my five reasons to be a strong woman in a weak world.
1. Being strong does not mean you have to sacrifice your sensitivity.
I am always astounded by how many people think that because I am strong, I am made of stone, untouched somehow by emotion and feeling. There is a time to let yourself feel, and there is a time to get shit done, and they are usually not at the same moment. I think that there is something impressive about remaining composed long enough to deal with a situation or get through it before falling apart. You can be strong and sensitive. It is possible. I sometimes seem like an unfeeling zombie to other people when awful things are happening, but it is because I compartmentalize my emotions in order to remain productive. Granted, that does not always work out, I fall apart sometimes too, but I make every effort to remain as strong as possible in the face of adversity and conflict. You can be sensitive, thoughtful, and caring and still not let yourself be taken advantage of or ruled by emotion. You do not need to be like women in movies who fall down on the sofa in a fit of tears at any sign of trouble. That is not the only type of woman in the world. Do what you need to do, and then allow your defenses to drop after you have weathered the storm. If you let yourself succumb to sensitivity at the wrong moments, you will end up with a slew of regrets. Sometimes your strength will be misunderstood as coarseness or insensitivity, but you will know that it is exactly the opposite. You will be sensitive to the strength the situation calls for, and go from there. Be strong and sensitive. It is possible.
2. Strength is sexy.
People are going to try to tell you that men are attracted to women who are sensitive, subdued, and willing to be dominated (I’m just going to say men here because I personally am attracted to men). I am not kidding people actually believe shit like that. I have heard friends say, “Oh yeah, he likes me because I am feminine and girly.” To which I respond, “What does that even mean?” Do not believe the lies that society will tell you about what is attractive to the opposite sex. Weakness is not attractive. Be intelligent, kind, strong, passionate, and modest and I guarantee you that while you may not attract everyone, you will attract better people, people who place value in the same things that you do. I am told that I am intimidating frequently. I am brutally honest, sarcastic, and fortunate enough to have accomplished some difficult things in my short life. I may not have many people that I truly love, but I have the right people. The right people will not be intimidated by your strength, or unnerved by how little value you place in the opinions of others. Even if they are, they will overcome them. Screw everyone else. Do not dull your shine to fit in. The person you will have the most complex, important relationship with in your life is yourself, and as trite as that sounds, it is true. At the end of the day, you need to be proud of yourself and truly invested in being satisfied with who you are. Do not let other humans or forces in this world make you unsatisfied with yourself. Be brilliant, and the right people will love and admire you for your unique spirit.
3. A strong woman is a threat, and that is a good thing.
A strong woman is a truly terrifying thing to behold because she is capable of anything, and that is fucking awesome. Embrace how truly threatening you can be to a society hinged on shoving women into prescribed roles. Be strong for so many reasons, but especially this one. Society can only change when immersed in extreme pressure, and you can be a huge factor in that pressure for positive change. I want to one day see a world where women who are strong and intelligent are not encouraged to lessen themselves to suit the needs of others. Don’t you? Some people would argue that the world had already seen this shift, and I think it has seen the beginning, but women are still subordinated and marginalized in the world. Women are still not paid the same wages as men, treated with the same intellectual respect, or supposed to exhibit characteristics typically considered masculine (ex: strength). Put pressure on the patriarchal systems of interactions in place and make a new space for women who refuse to mold themselves to fit the world. Threaten the aspects of life that make it so damn difficult to be a strong woman in this world. Do it with confidence and rejoice in just how much power you possess.
4. Strong women force society to reconsider its values.
I am resolute in my belief that society needs to undergo intensive changes in regards to women. Women still are treated as secondary and somehow less than men. I am one of those women. I am continually underestimated, intellectually insulted, and pressured to adopt a more acceptable “feminine” identity. Femininity is fluid, adaptable, and defined by each woman. Do not believe the lie that there is one type of behavior that is correct for a woman. Women and men are equal, and until our society recognizes that and employs it in every day interactions, there is an enormous amount of work for women and men to do to change them. I think that this is perhaps the most important reason I have for being a strong woman, because the older I get the more concerned I become for the future of women. There have certainly been huge advances for women, but I think that some of them have been counterproductive. I hear women say that they feel empowered by taking control of their sexuality and employing it as a tool to get what they want, and while I am completely behind women who rejoice in their sexuality and shirk traditional conceptions of female sexual expression, I think it is a slippery slope to utilize sexuality as a means for acquiring things. Maybe I am old-fashioned or not forward thinking enough, but I want to see women accept their own sexuality and feel empowered by it, but use intelligence as a means of procuring what they want rather than sexual prowess. I fear this shift in over-sexualization because it implicates women who do not use their sexuality as a tool as well as those who do. Embrace yourself as a sexual being, but don’t do the disservice of using it as a means to an end. You are smart enough to be accepted for your intelligence. Change the world with your mind, not your body.
5. Strong women can conquer the world.
I long for the day when there is a female president kicking ass in office, women in high-ranking military positions, and women dominating all the jobs and ranks previously deemed unsuitable. The truth is that people are always going to try to fuck over someone to prove their own dominance, and for many years the people getting screwed have been women. Sure, we got the vote and we found our way out of the house, but the next change that needs to happen is the shift in perception necessary to produce lasting societal rebuilding. There are always going to people who accept the limitations in place and try to fit in, I would advice you to not be those people. Once you allow your mind to consider things that are considered impossible, the world unfolds. Do the impossible. Find a way to destroy the limitations binding you. There is always a way.