The older I get, the clearer it becomes to me how petrified the world is of strong females. I used to think when I received negative feedback from the world, it was because I was a terrible and difficult person. I’m not saying I’m not. But ultimately, I know I’m pretty great. And once I reached a place of genuine self-love and self-acceptance, I realized the negative backlash was not about me. No. It’s about the fact that I’m me AND I have a vagina. The world doesn’t like that. If you’re gonna be strong, you better be a man. And if you’re gonna have a vagina, you better be “nice” or whatever. But if you have both, strength and a vagina, ugh. This is quite an unpopular duo, apparently.
I am inspired to write this article after reading The Hot Goddess’s article, “The Power of Knowing You Don’t Know Squat.” It’s a great article, and in it, she refers to her strong and opinionated personality, and men’s reactions to it. This got me thinking about things, since I have quite a strong personality as well, and have been finding ways to manage it when pitted up against the world, for my entire life.
Just reflect on this for a bit. I’m not saying that a woman with a terrible personality who treats people with cruelty and has not yet learned the art of growing up, should be excused. I’m just asking you to think about a man who has a strong personality, and contemplate how the world “takes” him on a daily basis. Then think about a woman with a strong personality, and examine as well how she is received by the world. It’s different. Trust me, for strong females, it’s way different.
HISTORY HAS NOT BEEN KIND
I’m currently reading Cunt by Inga Muscio and it’s been so eye-opening. I admit, I’m really late to the game with feminism and the exploration of female power, so please forgive me. But, better late than never, right?
Also, this is in no way a comprehensive exploration of how history has not been kind to strong females (or any females, for that matter). I am just about to cite one example below, but there are plethoras. There was also a time (way BC) when females were in fact revered, respected, and treated as goddesses. How amazing!? I need to explore this more, but for now, just know, it wasn’t always this way.
Anyway, in Inga’s book, she quotes Aristotle and his “teachings” about the female species. Just a reminder that Aristotle is like a big deal. Like college courses, and even entire university departments revolve around his teachings. The simple utterance of his name and we all know who he is. That’s power. Yikes…
“Just as it sometimes happens that deformed offspring are produced by deformed parents, and sometimes not, so the offspring produced by a female are sometimes female, sometimes not, but male. The reason is that the female is as it were a deformed male; and the menstrual charge is semen, though…it lacks one constituent, and only one, the principle of Soul…. Thus the physical part, the body, comes from the female, and the Soul from the male, since the Soul is the essence of a particular body.
…Females are weaker and colder in their nature, and we should look upon the female state as being as it were a deformity, though one which occurs in the ordinary course of nature.”-Aristotle, as quoted in Brown 1986, 188
Sorry, I just have trouble articulating the ridiculousness of the above words. Just remember, this is the kind of shit that is embedded in our society. It is so deeply embedded that we as a culture often take it for granted. Females emerge into a world that still harbors ghosts of these beliefs. And sadly, very often, these beliefs aren’t even concealed as ghosts. Instead, they manifest as real, live, fleshy human beings who aggressively possess and express these lame ideals. And without realizing, before we even reach first grade, we begin to fundamentally believe our worth is somehow less than. We just feel it, even if we can’t point to why.
Okay, enough of the history lesson. Moving on.
I don’t care what anyone says or thinks, I adore the Kardashian sisters. Every last one of them. And I believe they indirectly (without meaning to) provoke so much hostility because they represent a triple threat force of feminine beauty + vulnerability + power.
The Kardashian sisters really and truly, unapologetically own their femininity. They are not confused or conflicted about their femaleness. And I realize that gender is a super sensitive, complex, and problematic issue in our culture. But that doesn’t make them wrong. And that doesn’t make others wrong either. Authentic is authentic, and it takes whatever form it takes. “Feminine” just happens to be their brand. They are who they are and they don’t try to be anyone else. That’s fucking badass.
The Kardashian sisters are also beautiful, duh. I know so many people who “don’t think the Kardashian sisters are very attractive,” but c’mon. If you were in a room full of “average looking” people and you saw one of the Kardashian sisters, with or without makeup, you would note their attractiveness. They may not be your “type,” but they came from the super, duper, deep end of the gene pool. Perhaps people are turned off by their tendencies to play up their beauty. They certainly don’t hide it. They downright flaunt it, actually. But good for them! So, unless your “type” is the opposite of beautiful, just admit it. They are all physically gorgeous.
These women, in addition to embodying femininity and beauty (they are two different things by the way), are also tremendously powerful. They are strong females! No wonder they get so much shit. These woman are POWERFUL. They have businesses and empires. Regardless of the vibe they give off, they have influence. Major fucking influence. If anyone says their last name, everyone knows who they are. Does the world know who you are when someone mentions your last name? I don’t think so.
The world is petrified (STILL) of powerful women. No matter what form of power we choose to inhabit, we’re always wrong and always shamed. If we try to wear the pants suit and blend in with board room bros, people label us as women with penises, or wannabes. When we lean into our femininity and own our beauty, we’re superficial, conceited, and unintelligent. If we remotely and/or momentarily ever act like a man, we’re apparently disgusting human beings and/or sexually repugnant. We can’t ever win, really. The system sets us up to fail, and the shaming just keeps perpetuating that failure.
In 2004, Martha Stewart was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and two counts of making false statements to a federal investigator. It’s important to note that she pleaded innocent. Okay, I have no idea whether she did what she was accused of doing or not. And I don’t really care. You know why? Because men do this kind of slime ball shit DAILY, and they are rarely, if ever, charged. Especially if they are white.
I have always loved Martha Stewart. I think she appeals to my artful perfectionism and my need for perfect order in my home. She is also an incredibly creative talent, and as an artist, I always felt aligned with her aesthetic. However, she frightened me a little. I would hear horror stories about how difficult she was to work with and how cruel she could be to her staff. Okay, that’s not cool, I agree. But again, men do it all the time.
I recall when I first heard about this trial, I instantly thought to myself: witch hunt. To me, this just felt like a classic tale of hunting a powerful woman down, putting her in her place, and crucifying her and her livelihood. The world is petrified of strong females. End of story.
The world is in fact so petrified of women, they will go to great lengths to take away a woman’s power. Some cultures perform clitorectomies to take a way a woman’s power. Rape is an incredible example of men getting off on robbing a woman of her power, her dignity, and her very existence. These are just two examples, and it actually makes me sick to keep thinking about it, so I’ll return to Martha now. She makes me happy.
Fortunately for Martha, like most women, she is resilient. Since her time in the slammer, she has since bounced back and continues to thrive. Hopefully she’s nicer to her staff. But still, was all that really necessary?!
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
I think it’s safe to say that overall, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not considered a well-liked politician. I know what people say, and I don’t disagree. She’s just as slimy as all of the other politicians, she’s dishonest, blah blah blah. You know what? I also don’t care. You know why? Because if you are working in Washington D.C., you learn to play the game the way the old white men do, or no one will even consider your existence.
You know why I think people really don’t like her? I think they don’t like her because she is more intelligent than most men in Washington D.C. (and the world for that matter), and she’s utterly threatening to their egos, their collective power, and their manhood. Typical men do not like strong females. It takes a very evolved and self-actualized man to be able to accept, support, and honor a powerful woman. It’s unfortunate, but true.
I also think she rubs people, both men and women, the wrong way because she doesn’t fit into the classic standard of beauty determined by the world. I know this goes against my earlier point about beauty + power, but it’s just another way we can’t win. We can’t be too beautiful, and we can’t be too plain, either. And really, these are just excuses to explain away the fact that our vaginas anger and petrify everyone.
WOMEN IN POLITICS
In politics, it seems that if we have the gaul to enter into this world of white men, we at least have to be easy on the eyes. If we’re gonna open our big mouths, we better look superb doing it (their thoughts, not mine). I think Hillary is lovely looking, actually. But she doesn’t play up her looks or her femininity. She has short hair and wears suits and talks tough. The “prettier” women in Washington (Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, etc.) still lose as well. If women in politics are TOO pretty, then they’re not smart enough and won’t be taken seriously. Or they’re treated as objects and more recognized for their looks than their brains and actions. And if they are more like Hillary, they are considered just plain repugnant, annoying, and intolerable. They are dismissed, humiliated, and/or exiled.
GOOD MEN SUPPORT STRONG WOMEN
I am all for female togetherness and strength in numbers. But we can’t move forward in our power without the help of men. Good men who are not threatened by us.
I was lucky enough to be raised by a man who, for the most part, wanted my twin sister and I to be strong females. There were times when I actually didn’t like the encouragement, and instead just wanted to be taken care of. And we all need to be cared for and loved, even if we are strong. But my father never recoiled when my sister and I displayed our strength, or our femininity. He just accepted it and enjoyed. Okay, sometimes he excused himself, passively disappearing into another room, if our female shrieks of joy or anger were just too much for him. But he’s human after all.
That’s me on the left, just bursting. My twin in the middle and my dad on the right, ca. 1982.
I’m also lucky enough to have a partner who isn’t too terrified of me. Okay, sometimes I scare him. But sometimes, I can be scary. Still, he is a man who is comfortable enough within himself to remain present and open in the face of my power. Don’t get me wrong, we have our conflicts, and sometimes I’m out of line. Sometimes he’s out of line. But he’s not fundamentally ever trying to rob me of my power. And I’m sorry, but that is like a real thing in relationships. It sucks, but it’s true. If anything, he often encourages my power and celebrates my confidence. Even if it’s when I’m calling him on his shit. He kind of digs when I do that, actually.
My partner is also a millennial, and I do think this group is a fairly evolved, politically correct bunch. They bring a lot to the world, in addition to their tech-savvy nature and their devoted, albeit perplexing, love and appreciation for Drake.
Note: Upon sharing this paragraphy with my partner, he wanted to make clear to me and to all that not only does he dislike Drake, but he also emphatically feels that:
“Millennials try to have an appreciation for nuance and idiosncracies of all individuals, and should not be treated as a monoloth, nor should any group. But that’s just me.”-My partner
Aaaaaanyway, I know these kinds of men are hard to find, but try to locate at least one of these men in the world, and lure him into your life. Use whatever means necessary. Strong females NEED them. And they 100% need us!
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN
This is an ongoing journey for most women, I believe. Some women were born to be allies of other women. But many of us respond to societal messages and often see other females as threats, before we even reach the first grade.
I struggle with this myself, although I think in general I tend to adore and support powerful women. Some women trigger me, as I talk about in my article, CONFESSIONS OF AN ENVIOUS GODDESS. But on the whole, I’m always appalled when women do terrible things to tear each other down.
In grade school and high school, girls whom I called “friends” and who I thought were loyal, would suddenly say something terribly mean, or flirt with a boy they knew I liked. Those kinds of things would NEVER occur to me to do to another female. For years and years of my life, I truly believed that girls just sucked and couldn’t be trusted.
Read more about my grade school struggles in my article, BULLYING.
Then I finally met an incredible friend, who I’m still friends with today (yay!), who restored my hope. She is through and through the most girl-power, supportive woman and friend I have ever met, and her default is NEVER to compete with women (except on the tennis court!). I remember when we were first getting to know each other and I would say something semi-vulnerable, expecting a terrible and/or competitive response, such as I had received in the past. And all of my vulnerabilities were met with acceptance and encouragement. For the first year of our friendship, I would repeatedly ask her if she was for real. She just seemed too good to be true.
Supportive, girl-power, non-jealous, strong females exist in the world. But they are hard to find as well. You might not come across many in the 20’s age range, but 30s and older, you will most likely find some gems. And once you reach your 40s, goddesses seem to appear at every turn. It’s amazing. Keep an eye out for one or more of these precious beings and snag one (or more!) for yourself. Make sure you be good to her as well. She needs your support too!
Honestly, it’s impossible to be brave, stick your neck out there, and show your power if you are not supported. It might take some time to feel courageous enough to exert your strength and show it to the world. You might even be in a place right now where you don’t feel powerful, and don’t even identify as a strong female. Guess what? All females are strong, and so are you. Maybe you don’t have a strong body or a loud voice, but that makes no difference.
I always knew I was strong, but I never realized how ashamed I was of my strength until well into my 30s. I write about my journey to embracing my power in my article, HOW BLOGGING CHANGED MY LIFE.
Look for ways in which you feel powerful, and if this is new for you, consider sharing that power with someone you trust. Or, if even that feels too risky, find ways to play with power in your own mind. Allow yourself an empowering thought and see how it feels. No one has to know!
Whenever I question my power, I think of the Goddess Kali. Kali unapologetically frightens most beings. But that’s okay. The world needs female warriors, and she destroys evil in order to protect the innocent. If you are feeling uncertain of your power, explore the legends of Kali and see if you begin to feel differently. Her very existence has transformative powers and may open something within you that has been dormant and frozen.
Samhara Kali by Raja Ravi Varma
GOOD LUCK ON YOUR POWER JOURNEY AND DON’T FORGET TO STAY SOFT AS WELL!
Do you feel powerful in your womanhood? Are you aligned with strong females or feel like you don’t belong? Do you have a man in your life who supports your strength?
If you like this article, you might like other articles in the GODDESS section of this blog.
Featured photo by ActionVance on Unsplash