Strong Women

[Content Note: Body policing; fat hatred; disablism; misogyny.]

This is a terrific read care of Anne Thériault: "Strong isn't the new skinny."

Anne rightly points out that the use of "strong" as the new aspirational body objective for women is really just a new word to mean the same privileged, fat-hating, disablist shit, and that its use as the new aspirational character objective for female characters is really just the newest way to avoid charges of misogyny while engaging in the same old misogyny.

"Strong" is a problematic trope for women in so many ways—and different ways, depending on the complex identities of the women against whom it's deployed. The Strong Black Woman trope, for example, differs in key ways from the Person with Disabilities Who Overcomes trope, which differs in key ways from Inspirational Fatty trope, etc.

But what every iteration of the "Strong Woman" narrative shares in common is that it is used to "applaud" us (in demeaning, reductive, dehumanizing ways, as all the above links detail) by exploitive people who appropriate evidence of female strength to empower themselves via vicarious triumph, and to "compliment" us by people who want to deflect evidence of harm done to us by citing our allegedly impervious survival capabilities.

Female strength is only something deemed valuable when it can be used by other people at strong women's expense.

Never is that more clear than when a woman actually exhibits strength in her own defense. When she draws boundaries. When she physically harms a man who is trying to harm her. When she engages in self-care. When she categorically refuses to put up with splaining or harassment or catcalling or whatever other horseshit variation of misogyny to which some dude is trying to subject her. When she will not swallow shit, but will ruin the whole goddamn afternoon.

A woman who shows strength to the benefit of no one but herself is not regarded as a strong woman. She is a bitch. She is a cunt. She is uncivil. Her tone is inappropriate. She deserves to be harmed. She deserves to be killed.

She is too sensitive. She is fragile. She can't handle the world. She is weak.

That's how it goes. That's how the Strong Woman becomes the weak bitch, when a woman is strong for herself and for the pleasure of nobody else.

I will say once again: Drawing a line is an act of strength, not weakness.

I used to get upset when I would draw a line, or in some other way show strength on my own behalf, and be called oversensitive, reactionary, hysterical, weak. But that was before I understood how these were (unintentional) acknowledgments of my strength.

Now I just take the compliment and be on my way.

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