Saturday, March 24, 2018

Defining a strong woman

Women's History Month is always a special time of observation for me. Not just as a Black woman or an author who writes about women, one of the group's HIStory has long marginalized. One of my favorite pastimes is to read about or research the lives of strong females. From Malala Yousafzai back to my favorite medieval queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. This year, I've especially admired the #MeToo movement and the demand for accountability by male abusers that’s been so vital. Being introspective, I've always thought, what makes a strong woman?

Strength is a beneficial attribute, granting the possessor an elevated level of ability, capacity, capability, and competence. Unfortunately, I think a woman's strength has come, for some, to mean that she has taken on male attributes. Meaning she can "kick ass" as the saying goes. Or, that suddenly, she can open her mouth, being unafraid to break "norms" and "traditional rules" and speak out, in what others may confuse with speaking out of turn. When did women EVER truly need anyone's permission to use our voices, decide for ourselves and be who we are at heart? Throughout history, society has called us the weaker sex. Weak? Please. Anyone who refers to someone as weak by calling them a 'pussy' automatically gets the stare of death from me. VAGINAS HAVE PUSHED OUT BABIES FROM THE DAWN OF TIME! If that ability is not one of the most elemental definitions of strength, I don't know what is....

For me, strength is endurance. The hallmark of every strong woman. Even the females who have yet to discover that wellspring within themselves. The ability to withstand the tide, stand our ground, and not let physical pain, humiliation, hurt, and disappointment sweep away all that makes us who we are as women.

Endurance has given me the inspiration to tell the stories of historical women who have or find the power within themselves to make changes in the male-dominated world of the past and define their own sources of happiness and security. For every woman that I've written about, if being at the side of a man has given her access to power or a certain level in society, my female character also determined her fate. Left a memorable legacy. 

But throughout history, strong women have always faced backlashes, too, whenever we've asserted the natural power within us. When society deemed us too strong. At heart, we were just rejecting the labels assigned to us. You know them. Witch! Harpy! Harridan (my personal favorite)! Vixen! Trollop! Wench! Bitch! Slut! Feminist! Behind these labels has always been male and society’s fear of a woman's capacity for self-determination.

Strong women know we best influence our lives and futures, and for those of us who are religious, God guides us. We must never let others, be they cherished fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, or strangers in society at large take that ability from us. I won't. Why? A strong woman loved and raised me and my sister. I grew up in a family of strong women. They taught me to fight when necessary, but most of all, to survive and endure. From them, I've learned valuable lessons that have taken me through some of the darkest moments of my life. So far. By their wisdom and preparation, I know I will endure much more. Thus, I can admire strong women. I can write about strong women. I can speak with other women and encourage them to find the strength within themselves, the willpower.

Today and every day, not just at Women's History Month, I salute every strong woman out there. Our mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers, and ancestors have brought us to this time, this moment of history. We owe it to our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, friends, and descendants to support and teach the next generation of strong women who will inherit this world. May they have an ever more hopeful and brighter vision of the future.                 

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