By: Rehana Paul
Strong women have become a brand. It’s emblazoned on t-shirts, pens, keychains, and wine glasses. Millenial women put it in their hashtags on Instagram.
But what makes a woman strong? A blend of misogyny and the lack of a proper sex education uphold the stereotype of women being physically weak.
Strong is equated with courageous. And many women believe that acting like a man makes them strong. They think being brash, rude, and pickling their livers in alcohol makes them strong (yes, yes, #notallmen, I know). They think conforming to a cultural ideal of masculinity makes them strong. This includes performative misogyny.
These are the strong women who shame their sons for wearing pink. These are the strong women who forbid their daughters from playing with Barbies. These are the strong women who think women cannot abuse their partners. These are the strong women who blame domestic violence and sexual assault on the women.
There’s a name on the internet for these strong women. They are called “pick me’s”. They get their name from going to almost ridiculous lengths to separate themselves from other women, putting these other women down in the process, to attract a boyfriend and feel good about themselves. They shame other women for wearing revealing clothing and heavy makeup, for having traditionally feminine interests, for choosing to be stay-at-home mothers. They insist that because they are better, because they have masculine traits; essentially they are more deserving of male attention. They are the female version of menacing men who think that women will not date them because all women are shallow, not because they themselves are rude and threatening.
It starts with distancing themselves from other women, believing that because they do not participate in traditionally feminine behaviors that they are better. That they are stronger. They think that this protects them from domestic violence and sexual assault. They have no inkling that it is through no credit of theirs that they have not been in a dangerous situation. These strong women honestly believe that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault put themselves in these situations. That if they had worn a longer skirt they wouldn’t have been raped. That if they had slapped their boss the first time he grabbed them, the situation would not have escalated. That if they told someone that their husband was hitting them, they would have been safe.
They do not see that it doesn’t matter what a girl was wearing. They do not see that the woman would have been fired for daring to say her boss assaulted her. They do not see that the woman being abused could not turn to her family. They blame the woman. It’s easier.
They tell their teenage daughters not to wear crop tops because old men will stare at them. They do not tell their husbands to stop staring at teenage girls. They tell their daughters to never put their drinks down at parties. They do not tell their sons to never drug girls. These strong women teach their girls shame, instead of teaching their sons consent. These strong women build the next generation of predatory men and frightened women.
They compare themselves to the victims. They boast about what they would have done in that situation, that they would have slapped groping hands away, that they would have thrown their husbands out of the house. Never being assaulted is a point of pride for them. You would almost expect to see a certificate with that writ large next to their college degree.
When a woman does come forward, however, saying that she is being abused, they do not believe her. They do not support her. They tell her to shut up and deal with it, that it is embarrassing to talk about it. That it is between her and her husband boyfriend boss abuser. They search tirelessly for a way to blame her. And their daughters see this, and know they can never tell their mothers that they are being abused.
A strong woman does not shame or put down other women. A strong woman has the courage to stand against societal and patriarchal ideas of abuse being a taboo, a scandal, the woman’s fault.
For women, being strong is a personality trait. I could say that all women are strong; and in their own way, I do believe every woman is strong. But I also believe that there are many weak women, who think acting like weak men makes them strong.