Recent events have thrust strong women into the spotlight. Due to these event, I have recently had multiple conversations about the strength of women. One was with a man and one was with a woman, and in both conversations I found myself defending the fortitude of women. Both people had very valid points, and it really left me questioning: “How strong are women?”
Over dinner last night, my BF was talking about his athletes. He coaches male and female track. One of his male athletes was about to jump after one of his female athletes PR’d (beat her Personal Record). He laughed as he explained how he warned his male athlete that he was dangerously close to being topped. He stressed how important it was that his male athlete did his best. The male athlete agreed and they both understood this could not happen.
“Why did you do that?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he responded.
“Why did you feel the need to stress to your male athlete he was about to lose to a girl? Who cares if the girl PR’d and may beat him?”
“Well, come on, Kelly. I didn’t mean it that way. Male jumpers should be jumping higher and better than female jumpers. Males are taller and have more upper body strength due to the greater number of muscle fibers. It’s not sexist. It’s science.”
“I am sure this is true, but you help shape the way your female and male athletes form their view of the world, and your actions support the idea that men should feel shame when they are beat by a girl.” After I put it this way, he seemed to understand, but his reasoning left me shaking.
Men are physically stronger than women. The physiology cannot be disputed, but does this mean that men are tougher than women?
“This is why women travel in packs,” my close female friend was saying the other day. “Women need each other, but there is a natural rivalry as we are forced to compete for the things we want. It’s primal,” she said.
“I understand we have certain primal instincts in place designed to help us feel safe, but isn’t it our job to acknowledge this and then make choices on how we behave?”
“Look,” she said, “even in nature the females are the weaker of the two genders, and the female relies on others to be safe. I’m not going to feel bad about knowing I am weaker when it is nature. It’s primal.”
And again I am met with science saying my gender is the weaker of the two, but I do not feel women are weak.
I see women giving birth and raising children. I see women carrying the responsibilities of a household, and women who shoulder tremendous grief and turn it into amazing opportunities. I am not saying men do not do these things, but is brute physical strength the main measure of strength?
I am willing to admit I am not built for strength, but I am not ready to give up on my gender. I think this society as well as others around the world have rained a belief system on women for far too long, and this has affected the way we approach physical strength. If society’s messages about the strength of women change, perhaps the way women view themselves will change as well. If these limiting narratives change, who knows what women will become.
Love and Light.