// on “strong women” and embracing femininity //

stronger than you think

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the words “strong woman”?

Katniss? Agent Carter? Black Widow?

In other words, the independent-epic-sarcastic-beautiful-warrior type?

agent carter i know my value

black widow quotes

See, one thing I’ve noticed lately is that our media has been pushing this notion of a strong woman on us. She must be a fighter, she must be witty and sarcastic, she must be slightly dark and hardened– no pinks and sunshine and flowers for these girls– and above all else she must prove her equality (if not superiority) to all the men.

Which, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing those kinds of characters at all; I love my epic Marvel heroines. I love the warriors, for they’ve got that physical strength and skill that I don’t and I admire them for it.

What I do have a problem with is the notion that the above types of women  are the only ones considered “strong” by society right now. Since when is femininity considered a weakness? Why are the girls that embrace their girly-ness cast aside as “old-fashioned” and “boring”?

It’s a subtle occurrence, but it’s definitely there. I’ve noticed that as I come to admire the Agent Carters and Black Widows of the hero world, or the Elsas and Meridas of Disney Princess fame, or the Jo Marches and the Lizzy Bennets in their outspoken determination… I’ve started to see other characters as less interesting, less “strong”.

Which is absolutely not okay.

Strength is not limited to physical ability. It is not limited to extroversion. It is not limited to defiance of authority and gender norms. There are so many forms of strength that the media barely touches on.

Most people wouldn’t stop to consider Ella (Cinderella 2015) as “strong”; she’s very girly and sweet and “all she does is go to a ball and meet a prince” and “why didn’t she just run away from the stepmother and stepsisters years ago?!“. But her heart? That’s one of the strongest hearts I’ve ever seen. She is kind even when others are mean– especially then. She is innocent and pure (something our world has utterly rejected and which should be valued WAY more, but that’s a topic for another post). She forgives her stepmother even when the woman makes no moves to apologize, and then she moves on towards better things. She has a servant’s heart and stays in her family’s home when she no doubt could have left years ago (and wouldn’t have been faulted for doing so). She’s filled with light and hope, holding on to her dreams, her love, even when her world falls apart. She is selfless and joyful– and someone whom I deeply admire. In this broken, jaded world, kindness and purity is such a strength because it’s the exact opposite of what human nature cries out for. It’s the unexpected strength. Ella is the type of person who, if she really existed, would be a Christ-lover and light-shiner. And it’s absolutely beautiful.

cinderella - kindness has power

cinderella - do not let the world make you hard

Who is to say that we can’t be feminine and strong simultaneously? Just look at Lady Sybil Crawley (Downton Abbey)– she wore pants *gasps*, snuck out to suffragette rallies *gasps*, treated servants as friends *gasps*, married the chauffeur *gasps*, and went to work as a nurse during the First World War *faints from all the sarcastic gasping*. And yes, she’s admired for her bravery and independence and progressive views– but honestly none of that would even matter if it weren’t for her kind heart and generous spirit. Without her caring for other people, she wouldn’t even be called into nursing or able to treat everyone as an equal regardless of status. Plus, have you SEEN Sybil? She’s gorgeous and has the best fashion sense. And drinks tea. And she becomes a wife and mother too. And I have no doubt that she can and will defend herself if needed, but I’ve never actually seen her physically fight anyone. Her preferred method of fighting is following her caring heart no matter what the rest of the world says. And that’s where her real strength lies.

sybil feeling useless

sybil quotesss

To give a real-life example: Kara Tippetts, by the world’s standards, wouldn’t be considered “strong” either. How could she, when her body literally destroyed itself?
I DARE you to say she was weak in front of her husband and kids and many friends. (Warning: don’t even try it.)
Sure, she chose a traditional path of being a stay-at-home mom. She didn’t overthrow any governments. She wasn’t a bra-burning feminist. She wrote beautiful things and walked with the Lord and shared as much grace and joy and love as she could. Oh yeah, and she also lived intentionally and loved well and trusted God throughout her battle with cancer.
That’s the thing– no, she wasn’t physically strong, quite the opposite actually, but this woman was spiritually stronger than I am. She wrote about God’s goodness even as she knew she was dying in her thirties and her young family was grieving for her.
Kara Tippetts had the strength to admit she was weak. She had the strength to admit she couldn’t do it on her own. She had the strength to trust in the Lord with all her heart. And this, perhaps, is arguably the greatest strength of all– for a believer at least.

kara tippetts

suffering is not the absence of goodness

There are so many other strong women I could point out, but that would take forever so I shan’t. 😛 Instead I’ll move on to the next point: Strength is not a personality type. Remember the quote from the Incredibles, “If everyone’s super, no one will be”? If everyone’s that stereotypical “strong woman”, no one will be. If everyone tries to be “different”, then in that differentness we all end up the same anyway. Which is boring. 😛

We need ALL types of women in this world, in fiction and reality, and each of them have their own unique strengths. It’s like the body of Christ– “many parts, but one body”. We are all one body of women; God designed us to be more caring, more emotional. He designed the men to be more protective and chivalrous, the ones who provide for their households. Are we equal to men? Yes, of course! But we are not the same as men. There is a difference: we are girls. It is not our purpose to do everything a man does. And when we label one type of woman as “strong” and discourage our inherent femininity and caring nature, we are actually going against God’s design for us.

That being said, though we all share certain characteristics that make up womanhood, there is not one type of God-designed woman (clearly). Each of us are needed to play our unique parts and balance each other out. The Black Widows of the world are needed– and so are the Ellas. We need the champions of social justice and the ones who serve others. We need the extroverts and the introverts and the ambiverts. We need the athletes and the bookworms and those who are both or neither. We need the girly-girls and the tomboys and those who are somewhere in between.

All that to say– there are far too many women out there, in literature and in reality, who have been overlooked as “weak” when they’re actually every bit as strong as the others.

Because you know what?

Every girl is a heroine in her own story. Let’s never forget that.

Be authentically you, and you’ll find that you’re a strong woman in your own right.

{love always, Em}

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4 Replies to “// on “strong women” and embracing femininity //”

  1. Preach it, sister!

    This post was EXCELLENT, and interestingly the topic is one that has been weighing pretty heavily on my mind lately too. This is a message many people need to hear. Thank you!!

    Like

  2. Oh, Em, how you always manage to word the breathings of your heart so eloquently! Many thanks to you for pointing out the importance of spiritual strength – I feel as if that is glossed over far too much these days, and it grieves my soul just as it does yours.
    Praying for you, that your heart and goodwill grows stronger each and every day, dearest!

    ~ Anna Gracie

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, Gracie dear! I’m so glad you agree with me on this. (But then again, Pindreds do tend to share a brain on the important things. ;)) Miss you, praying for you, and hoping you have the most joyful of Christmasses!
      –love, Emmie

      Like

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