Strong as a Woman
Feminism objected to the stereotypical portrayal of men as strong heroes and women as weak damsels-in-distress. Portraying men as stronger than women was sexist. Demeaning. Insulting. So, Hollywood rewrote the script.
Today, if you tune in to an action movie, you will routinely see women engaged in hand-to-hand combat with men. The women are sassy, savvy, and as strong as men in every way. A five-foot-four, 135-pound female protagonist can bend like a pretzel and use her ninja moves to easily vanquish several skilled male assassins at a time. (Even though they tower over her and outweigh her by at least fifty pounds, all while she’s dressed in 4-inch spike heels and impossibly tight clothing.)
Yes, it’s just a movie. And movies often push the bounds of plausibility. Nevertheless, these make-believe images promote powerful ideas about how the world should work and what male and female ought to be. According to the new paradigm, strength knows no sex difference. A woman can and should be strong in the same way a man is strong.
Over the past few decades, billions and billions of dollars have been invested into promoting this feminist view of female equality and empowerment. From the time a girl is born, she hears messages about how incredibly amazing and capable and strong she is simply by virtue of her sex. You only need to peruse a girl’s clothing section to see endless silkscreened girl power slogans like:
- Girls Rule
- Girls Run the World
- I am pretty — pretty smart. Pretty tough. Pretty awesome. Pretty fierce.
- Strong. Brave. Bold.
- Girl Power
- I’m not strong for a girl — I’m just strong.
- Strong Girls Rule
These aren’t playful, benign messages. They promote a specific ideology.
Like an IV drip into the vein of an unconscious patient, contemporary culture has pumped ideas about what it means to be a strong woman into our subconscious minds. By the time a girl reaches womanhood, she knows that it’s vitally important for her to be strong, and she also has some deeply rooted opinions about what that means (though she generally has little awareness of where she even got those opinions).