I am a kind, loving, nurturing, and empathetic woman who often gets labeled as “soft.” When I hear people call me this, it makes a piece of me cringe. Not because I don’t think that I embody a multitude of qualities that a “soft” person carries. I am understanding. I am patient. Compassion lives in my blood. I believe in kindness above all. When I see others hurting, I hurt. What bothers me about being labeled “soft” is that it undermines my strength, my courage, my independence, my fire, my bite. I know I am not alone in this. I often hear women being put into a box labeled with this word. It has proposed some questions in me, left me pondering what it is to be a soft woman.
Are we, as women, soft when we have the flesh of our abuser’s skin under our fingernails as we fight our way back to safety? Are we soft when we arrive at the abortion clinic alone, walking with our heads high and the fire inside of us burning while protestors scream “murderer” in our faces? Are we soft when we leave unfaithful relationships and start our lives over in a new city? Are we soft when we believe in the goodness of others’ so much that we give them second chances? Are we soft when we lay vertical in a paper gown for 10 hours, pushing life’s very existence out of our own bodies? Are we soft when we walk away, even when it is the hardest thing we have ever done? Are we soft when we feel confident and beautiful enough in our skin to express our femininity? Are we soft when after it all, we choose to love and love and love, to open our brave hearts again and again and again?
I am soft because I am strong. I am strong because I am soft. Embodying one of these qualities does not equate to a lack of the other. To be soft is not to be a pushover. To be soft is not to be passive. To be soft is not to walk through life with a lack of assertiveness. To be soft is not to have no boundaries. To be soft is to have enough bravery and resilience to stand tall, two feet on the earth, and tell the world, “No, I won’t become hard. No matter how many times I break, I won’t let you take my softness away.”
When someone calls me soft, I giggle and ask the moon, “Don’t they know that my softness is my strength? Don’t they know I have walked on glass, been left bruised, and bled my way to my softness?”
So yes, I am a woman who is soft. And I will come out of the box you have put me in, roaring.