Monday, June 23, 2008

Strong Women

This post has been brewing for a while. Do I, or don't I, have trouble with 'strong women'? I put it in '' because I think part of the issue here is what the hell do people mean by 'strong women'? It is right up there with hippy, high maintenance and even bitch to some degree (see below) as far as things that people think they know what it means but that definition is WIDELY different for each person. This may ruffle some feathers but only because I think it is a very sensitive subject. I truely struggle with this so feedback is a good thing.

Do I have problems with strong women? Well, that all depends on what you mean by a strong woman. I don't believe I do. In fact, as I think about the women I am friends with I would consider each and every one of them a strong woman. They stand up for themselves and voice their opinions as strongly if not stronger than a lot of the guys I know. I've had probably more spirited and enlightening conversations with them as a whole than with the fellas.

So why, then, do I get this 'problem with strong women' criticism thrown at me from time to time by different people? I don't get it. So I brought this up in a conversation with some friends last week to get some feedback.

Here is the deal from my perspective. It all comes down to the 'bitch' term. The HRC candidacy really highlights this. How can a woman be strong and not be considered a bitch? Or, more importantly, why is it that when a woman is forceful or very vocal (particularly in the workplace) she is labeled a bitch while if a guy does it he is just motivated or whatever? Good questions, for sure. I can only speak for myself here but when I call a woman a 'bitch' or, more likely, the 'devil incarnate' it isn't because she is strong so much as she is being rude as hell. When guys do the same thing I can them assholes or other such lovely things. What really gets me is when I get slammed for perceived offenses or the attitude that I owe them something, that drives me nuts in anyone, not just women. So I think, for me, with men and women, there is a line between being forceful, vocal and spirited and being a total rude shit and when that gets crossed I call people on it (even if it isn't to their face - I hate direct confrontation ;) ). So if that translates into a problem with 'strong women' then fine. But I think that it really translates more into a problem with rude assholes than any inherent issues with people that stand up for themselves.

Am I full of shit here?


Clyde said...

Don't think that I don't know that you are talking about me when you speak of less spirited, less enlightened, weaker guys...and I am not paranoid, so stop saying that!

Dave said...

> Am I full of shit here?

Actually, I think you're pretty much right on the mark. There certainly are people out there who have a problem with women in a position of authority -- what I think people most often mean when they say "strong women" -- but I think a lot of people (especially in our generation) don't have any fundamental hangups. But, as you say, rude is rude, regardless of gender. It's just that there seems to be two different terms for rude people. One for males and one for females.

That being said, it may be a generational thing, not entirely unlike racism. In the past, "bitch" was probably an epithet for any woman of authority, and so there's a whole history that comes with that word which someone unintentionally implies by using it.

Personally, I only use it to describe men. :P

Shana said...

I don't think you have a problem with strong women. In fact, I think you gravitate toward them. So I am curious why people would say that to you.

You like a challenge, and even moreso you like a woman that can meet that challenge head on.

Unfortunately I think anyone with a strong personality is perceived as 'bitchy' or 'ass-holish' more often than others simply because their irritation/opinions are amplified by their personality. If you're more outspoken, you're negative views are heard just as much as your positive ones, but it's your negative views that can label you.

CMS said...

Wondering what brought this on?? :-)

Anyway, I think your post can lead in many different directions such as your asking for definition of strong. I'm still seeking that one out, although I think I have found a few examples.

I love to look at quotes to see what and how others define strength. If someone making their opinion known in a loud obnoxious manner is strong... well, I strongly disagree. If an unwilling spirit to hear and acknowledge different opinion is "strong", again I beg to differ.

But if someone stands their ground to opposition while still being considerate and thoughtful to other facets of any situation, is able to express themselves politely yet not "wishywashy" and they are called a bitch, that is merely ignorance flashing from the opposing faction. Arrogance to a point is tolerable ( mostly) but over self assurance and total arrogance and self absorption is enough to qualify any women as a bitch.

I think guys just assume the "asshole" label more gracefully than the woman does "bitch", but I think they are allocated rather evenly between the sexes. Men in power are assholes as often as females are bitches, especially when one of the opposite sex is scorned but the other in the workplace.

But if displeasure in what another thinks is shared by the labeling someone a bitch, eh, maybe that's not the most efficient, or concrete, argument.

Eh, some women just hold onto the Feminist right a little too strongly, defeating their own cause. Not too unlike the overly conservative Christian.

I like the idiom, "I am prejudice.... just against stupid people." Maybe you just have a problem with jerks. Or, just stay away from those steroid using women. :-)

Ryan said...

Thanks peeps.

> I think guys just assume
> the "asshole" label more
> gracefully than the woman
> does "bitch"

I think this is true. I have noticed a visceral reaction to the 'bitch' term lately. I think part of it may be that it gets thrown around a lot by people that are insecure. Gender roles are still being challenged and it is definately still a 'good ol boys' club out there so I can see where that would happen.

Anyway, thanks for the check on my perspective everyone. Very helpful.

Meredith Self said...

Don't have the sense you have any issues with strong women at all.

Seems like you approach people as people.

Your points about bitch and asshole are great ones. Had lots of conversations with other strong women I know on the topic.

There is some expectation for women to be more gentle and being strong can sometimes be misinterpreted in ways that aren't for 'motivated' men. Sometimes, there is clear asshole/bitch. Sometimes, there is gender expectation.

Just like men who are more gentle can be labeled a p*ssy when a woman would be sweet.

anyway. Feedback from a completely impartial observer ;p