What is a ‘Strong Woman’?

It goes: Watches news – has a ponder – RAGE – more pondering – Star Wars! – meaningful final thoughts

Full disclosure. If you’re looking for me to answer this question, I won’t be. I hope the reason will become clear as you read on.

This week I’ve seen a lot of content referring to ‘strong women’, ‘women are strong’, ‘women are as strong as a man’, ‘a woman’s strength is…’ it’s forced a lot of pondering about the term ‘strong woman’ and what that even means.

A lot of this content seems to want to marginalise, degrade and blame men in order to prove a point or get one over on guys. Calling men ‘boys’ for not liking strong women is an attack, not a solution. Let’s address the issue. Strong woman are not understood and this doesn’t make men, boys. Something has become misaligned in our society and now we misunderstand, mistrust and exploit the idea of female strength.

Rey from Star WarsI bring you the ‘Rey Mindset’

In order to demonstrate how our society has SO subtly allowed ‘everyday sexism’ and misunderstanding of strong women into our corporate subconscious, I’m going to draw from the genius that is Star Wars. Obviously.

There are so many theories about Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The new female lead character that discovers she is a mega Force-sensitive badass. She has unexpected (coz she’s a GIRL right?) levels of power over male characters who have known their Force potential for years and have undergone years of Jedi/Sith training. She just comes along and BOOM. ‘Forces’ drop-kicks everyone right in the brain!

Defined by men

No way. Surely she must be related to Ben Kenobi? Be Luke Skywalkers daughter? Niece? Distant cousin twice removed because of that time that someone did something back in the glory days of the Sith? (Seriously, they have gone through ALL possible theories to tie her power to a Star Wars dude).

The world seems bent on defining this female characters power and success by one of the male characters! How could she JUST be strong and significant independently of a man?

If these theories prove correct in some way I’m really going to start asking myself some serious questions.

So, about this ‘strong women’ pondering Rachel?

You’ve taken a little journey through my thought process here. There is a lot more to mull. But I want to focus on these 3:

1. Strong women are not defined by men.

They’re not actually defined by anything or anyone except their own actions, bravery, beliefs and abilities, all of which come from inside you. The only person you need to measure yourself against is yourself. Find your ‘strong’.

2. Being a strong woman means something very different from one person to the next.

To me, the abilities to: forgive despite what had been done to you, take a stand against injustice, fight for those who can’t fight for themselves and love those the world would have you hate, are some of the attributes I think of when I think of a strong woman. What attributes do you think of?

3. Read what this Huffington Post says about ‘what to expect when dating a ‘strong woman’

All but number 6 of these points are touting condescending stereotypes of the bossy woman and the helpless man. I consider myself strong AND a woman but I don’t have the time or inclination to consistently motivate a partner, I’m one of the flakiest women on the planet, MOST of my conversations are mindless and I have issues with deciding what Boho Gelato flavor to have let alone pushing my partner to make decisions.

THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POINT: A ‘Strong Woman’ is not a perfect woman. There is no perfect.
(Cough, cough, I wonder what  the 12 points would have been if written by a woman?)

Bonus Picture Round

Take a look at this picture. It comes up a lot when you Google ‘Strong Women Inspiration’.

Strong Women Intimidate Boys but excite men

Inspirational, right? Does it make you feel like a fighty, feisty strong woman? Haha. Silly boys. They don’t get it. We scare them! And we excite men, that’s what our strength is for.

Because society, media, people in positions of power and influence, perpetuate this picture of what a strong woman is or should be. She’s angry but sexy, argumentative and aloof. They play the true strong women down or they need to make them seem sexy and exciting. This feeds the minds of actual boys and actual girls and the cycle continues.

Strength comes differently to us and it comes in many forms. Your strength is individual and no less than anyone else’s.

I’m thankful for movements such as #HeForShe, #LikeAGirl and work people like Emma Watson, Lena Dunham, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai and so many others have started in order to change the world for women AND men. We need each other.

What is a strong woman? Your answer will be different from mine and that’s awesome.


Share your thoughts or discuss in the comments!

Or even better, chat to me. Get in touch via @RealRachelFinch or @BTNDigitalWomen and come along to our next meetup. We LOVE a good passionate discussion and welcome new points of view.

I’m the founder of Brighton Digital Women and love being able to develop my knowledge by collaborating with other digital Brightonians. I’m a rare born and bred Brightonian and will NEVER leave!

I love to be an active part of Brightons wonderful culture, in particular The Great Escape, Brighton Digital Festival and enjoying a flat white in The Laines whilst listening to the melodic stylings of the birdy whistle man.


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