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Strong Woman

This label is burden.

I see a look in my eyes, a look I’ve seen on the faces of divorcees, of women who have been beaten up who’ve moved on, in the fleeting expressions of successful women, old women. Because women only achieve success with age. And success necessarily means surviving very bad men. It is the face of a woman that the world likes to call a ‘Strong Woman’. It is a tired look. A jaded look. A bored look. A dismissive look. These are so subtle, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m just being cynical. But I know how this face feels from the inside because I wear it. I know exactly how the frown lines fall, beneath the matte-perfect makeup. I know what grimaces are smoothed away behind liquid lipstick, what acid feelings are tone policed and polished up behind the articulate, confident speech of this Strong Woman.

I heard it in the voice of a yesteryear actress, now married to a business tycoon who it is rumoured, routinely humiliates her publicly. I notice it in the eyes of journalist once partnered with a serial cheater. I see it in faces of at least two celebrities who’ve been publicly beaten up by their partners while their colleagues watched, who’ve sustained injuries and then gone on to marry other people and re-establish that perfect fairytale everyone wants to see – the Strong Woman.

Strength? This is the fetish of a different sort of man from the one that caused the wounds in the first place. Or maybe it’s exactly the same kind of man – the kind who sees a glass edifice to be shattered, who thinks broken women are beautiful, who writes poetry about this pain and expects to receive admiration, love and sex in return.

It is also the desperate need of a certain kind of woman. My age makes me an automatic, if reluctant role model. The trouble is, because I’m also a woman, they think it’s not just my job to inspire but also rescue and protect. Male role models aren’t asked to do more than be distant beacons. I never signed up to be anybody’s knight in shining armour.

All I ever wanted, was to be a person. The Strong Woman in the mirror rolls her eyes. 

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STRONG WOMAN This label is burden. I see a look in my eyes, a look I've seen on the faces of divorcees, of women who have been beaten up who've moved on, in the fleeting expressions of successful women, old women. Because women only achieve success with age. And success necessarily means surviving very bad men. It is the face of a woman that the world likes to call a 'Strong Woman'. It is a tired look. A jaded look. A bored look. A dismissive look. These are so subtle, you'd be forgiven for thinking I'm just being cynical. But I know how this face feels from the inside because I wear it. I know exactly how the frown lines fall, beneath the matte-perfect makeup. I know what grimaces are smoothed away behind liquid lipstick, what acid feelings are tone policed and polished up behind the articulate, confident speech of this Strong Woman. I heard it in the voice of a yesteryear actress, now married to a business tycoon who it is rumoured, routinely humiliates her publicly. I notice it in the eyes of journalist once partnered with a serial cheater. I see it in faces of at least two celebrities who've been publicly beaten up by their partners while their colleagues watched, who've sustained injuries and then gone on to marry other people and re-establish that perfect fairytale everyone wants to see – the Strong Woman. Strength? This is the fetish of a different sort of man from the one that caused the wounds in the first place. Or maybe it's exactly the same kind of man – the kind who sees a glass edifice to be shattered, who thinks broken women are beautiful, who writes poetry about this pain and expects to receive admiration, love and sex in return. It is also the desperate need of a certain kind of woman. My age makes me an automatic, if reluctant role model. The trouble is, because I'm also a woman, they think it's not just my job to inspire but also rescue and protect. Male role models aren't asked to do more than be distant beacons. I never signed up to be anybody's knight in shining armour. All I ever wanted, was to be a person. The Strong Woman in the mirror rolls her eyes. 🎶: THANK YOU – Alanis Morissette #theideasmithy

A post shared by Ramya | IdeaSmith 🎤🌱📚💄🏊🏽‍♀️ (@ideasmithy) on

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Warrior Woman

I think a lot of women are programmed to play Florence Nightingale. That’s why the idea of the tormented, disturbed man fascinates so many of us. It’s a cringe-worthy but true fact that the protagonist of the bestselling ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ is nothing more than a self-obsessed, abusive, damaged man. But curiously, he’s the modern object of every woman’s fantasies, toppling the pale vampire and six-pack-ab’d werewolf. Houston, we have a problem. Half the species has been programmed to be self-destructive. The half that’s responsible for creating the remainder of the species, by the way. RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

Seriously though, I’m deciding now that when a man tells me that he’s ‘broken’, I’m going to take it at face value and say goodbye. No more playing healing touch, no more shoulder to cry on. Go heal yourself, damaged goods. That’s what I do when I’m hurt.

Why has it taken me so long to realize something? So caught up in the quest for perfection we are but it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to be imperfect. What’s more, his imperfections are celebrated and paraded around to draw in every available female in close proximity to heal and nurture.

On the other hand, who heals us when we’re broken, disappointed, battered, hurt? We face judgement, censure, harassment, unrealistic expectations, unsurmountable physical & emotional burdens. It’s also ingrained in us to compete with and tear down each other rather than support. So life is quite literally, every woman for herself.

And if I can pick myself and move on every single time on my own, let the man bloody do it too. To hell with the sweet nurturing female, tie that trapping stereotype to a stake and run her through with all the things that men claim damage them. I’m shaking off the shackles of womanhood. Goodbye and good riddance. And welcome Warrior Woman.

Xena, holding her chakram

Xena, holding her chakram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you liked this, you might also want to read:

Xena Was A Princess Too

Conversation with a colleague:

Him:

I think women (at work) come in two types. There are women like you – independent, strong-natured type…you know they aren’t going to burst into tears because you tell them you don’t like their work. Then there’s this other type you have to be careful around because you never know how they’ll react.

Just as an aside, I stayed in late at work last week and was travelling back after midnight when mum called to check where I was. The same person, with me, looked a trifle surprised and then remarked,

It’s just that, with girls like you, one gets the sense that you can take care of yourself and don’t need protection. Whereas with X, Y, Z…they’re like little kids, you know?

I suppose that in a world of princessess, some of us are Xena. But everybody has feelings and no one is completely invincible, you know?

Xena, holding her chakram

Xena, holding her chakram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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