Will Women Be Weaker When They Don’t Have To Be So Strong?

Women (and Men!) can rise to the challenge of more equal social structures if we all work together.

Christyl Rivers, Phd.
Apr 8 · 7 min read
Men for human rights, photo by Samantha Sophia

Horrors and whores

Most people are rightfully horrified when they hear shocking news of another mass shooting, or racist, and/or sexist based murder. We have a tendency to call out the most extreme outrage. But not nearly so often do we call out routine systemic abuse. That is how it has always been.

When it leads in bleeds, they say.

Nevertheless, diverse voices are finding more amplification in the “network” age. This is changing things for the better.

A transformation of awakening — quite different from the Great Qanon Awakening — is in evidence. However, instead of hacks or MAGA cons coming to our rescue, it is regular people. Everywhere, regular folks are standing up to decry systemic racism, reform justice, demand voting representation and call out sexism. When women like Sarah Everard or Asian spa workers, are murdered, or when we note people in uniform are often behind abuse — even murder — in the case of George Floyd, there is an outcry against the very people we hire to protect us.

This is getting noticed. It’s being talked about. It’s even leaching out into our movies and popular culture. And it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

How we teach boys to be men, and girls to be women

For most of my life history, girls were taught to be sweet, polite, chaste gatekeepers.

This is being turned upside down. At last.

Please see Promising Young Woman, if you have not, yet. There’s no Kill Bill type vengeance, only a much more credible storyline which openly displays systemic rape culture habits that every women is quite, (overly) familiar with, and that are called out.

Yet, at times, when I think of every single woman I have ever met, and the simple determination, gumption, and resilience each has developed to cope, I see a kind of strength that very few, if any, men recognize. Men’s strength is often brawny and assertive. Women’s strength — at least part of it — comes from staying quiet and calm, even as internal earthquakes are so routine, we learn to ignore, or barely remark upon them.

From being told to smile in the street, to full-on non-consensual sex, I have never met a woman who has not been victimized by the patriarchy. ( Aside, despite most priests, presidents, and CEO’s being overwhelmingly male, even now, I wish we had a better name for domination hierarchy which we openly refer to as “patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and rape culture.”)

For all people, of all colors who live under it, no matter what you call it, there is a foundation of fortitude and firm backbone on the part of the oppressed.

Consider why there is even a trope of a “Karen”. It’s because there are so few women who act obnoxious and privileged. We are taught not to be self-absorbed but to be giving. We are taught to be compliant, not bossy. People (all genders) walking around with a sense of self-importance and entitlement are anathema to everything progressive people seek to see unfold in the world.

Yet we much more often single out the female privileged as villains.

Conversations and conservatives

My experience of some conservative women and men is very different. If they suspect they are in any way being ridiculed for religion, or homophobia, or even subtle racism or sexism, they are proud, even defiantly defensive.

Men like this, especially, assume they should be admired for their prosperity and power. Often, they mistake bullying for strength.

I cannot even imagine someone like Donnie Junior being able to realize his wait staff is of greater value than he is. This remains the case, even as most people know the truth of who is essential (who does actual work) and who is not. The curse of 2020 was a blessing in terms of realizing who matters in scrubs, firefighter gear, clerks, delivery people, and med techs. That is, a pandemic caused by domination culture exposed those whose lives truly matter.

A few conservative women, more often crow about their “chosen ones” status as proof of blessings. When they get some power or influence, they tote guns to mimic masculine “power”, or display how “I can raise all my children, cook, clean, and still hold an influential job,” They seem to imply that if they can do all that (with just a hidden high salary and a small army of nannies and maids), then “Why don’t y’all do so, whining snowflakes??”

Even here, however, we can see a woman’s superior sense of strength, and “can do” attitude.

But what if we erased the realization of that strength and determination from women by leveling the playing field? I have wondered. Whether that strength is based on falsehoods, or no, it does give women one of their only advantages over the more insecure, weaker, and non-woke man in power.

That strength is the one part I think we should keep alive in all people, but with greater enlightenment about its source.

Left, or right, I see a sense of strength, belonging, resilience and competency again and again, especially on the part of women. Will that go away when we are finally all equal?

Heal the steel

Historically women have to be more careful about sobriety, company, time of night, keys clamped in knuckles, and even mundane details about dress and shoe wear. We internalize these things, and just do them. Your grandmother’s mother’s mother’s, mothers did too, right along with hoeing the field, sewing/washing the clothes, butchering the stock, and losing babies in childbirth and or infanthood.

It was never enough to push six or more human beings through a strained and tortured uterus. You also had to allow men their “weaknesses” of the flesh, drink, and “rule of thumb”. This is how, in fact, women came to get the vote after nearly 100 years of demanding it; they endured domestic violence, pregnancy — and death so routinely — that they decided to raise their voices and never, ever, ever stop raising them until some man finally voted to support them and turn the tide with the nineteenth amendment.

That man was Tennessee Representative Harry Burn whose note from his mother reminded him “to be a good boy.” And so, with her strength and sage wisdom, he voted “Aye,” thus allowing women limited voice and representation in their own lives. Her steel helped us heal.

This, of course, meant many women had to endure ridicule and shame, using their endurance to cope and make it eventually fade into something like Suffragette City. Yes, even edgy David Bowie referred to strip clubs and brothels as somehow more derogatory to women, than to johns.

Staying strong: our strength can be re-channeled

Women, you see, are tempered like steel in fire. The result is to be incredibly strong.

The work of getting the men to “just not harass or rape”, is much more work, but now we are taking that on as well. The work of getting men to let us speak, or lead, be paid, or have representation, is more work, too. Fortunately, we have Mother Nature, the wisest of the wise, on our side in the struggle to stop exploitative domination.

Women collect their strength in numbers and begin #Metoo, or BLM, or Fridays for Future, or any number of incredible hopeful movements toward equality.

Our strength can be turned from tolerance and coping, to ending intolerance — and hoping. We can hope.

Those who read my junk know I am seriously into re-purposing. In this case take something of value, the strength, and discard the useless parts, our endless endurance of misogyny and racism.

We can, and will, help good boys to become good men. At the very best, they are realizing women deserve autonomy, bodily integrity, and respect. At worst, they still resist the idea that a woman is even as strong as they are; it itches and irritates at a blistering sense of masculine supremacy.

Men, for example, are getting stronger in terms of being less handsy and more hands-on. More and more often, if they don’t get it, they get called out. Don’t take my word for it: just ask Joe Biden or Andrew Cuomo. This week, I guess it’s Matt Gaetz?

These enormous tasks — in addition to teaching people to be nice no matter their hue, are the work we must now do and take pride and strength in the doing of it.

Take away portions

If you were raised in a world with heaps of oppression, you already know how strong you had to be with the constant “putting you in your place,” “Smile!” mentality, or, “just relax baby…” non-consent encounters.

Write out all those slights in poems, or journals. Cook them with a healing candle, or just let them go off with the smoke of your smoldering rage. Convene with other “witches” and cackle your butts off. It heals.

Take the strength you have known to survive and put it in your heart and soul. Then put it into action, and help someone else find their strength — and thereby their worth — too.

We need all women. We need all men.

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