I come from a long line of VERY strong women. Also, I grew up in a unique time which colored my outlook in what it is like to be a woman. I was born in the middle of the somewhat misogynistic 60’s (ever watch Mad Men?), spent my formative years in the “women’s lib” 70’s, experienced the “me generation” in the 80’s, got married and had children in the 90’s when not only were women AWESOME, but men were asinine (think of the TV shows, Married With Children, The Simpsons, Home Improvement). By the time the new millennium came around I began to wonder, why is it that just because one gender becomes more valued over time that the other has to become less so?
I have often been described by some as a “strong” woman and sometimes I have perceived that as a compliment, a backhanded compliment or an outright criticism. When I experienced a miscarriage before my first son was born, a friend of mine said she knew I could withstand the pain of loss because, “You’re a strong woman” she assured. This past summer, my former high school teacher, a few high school friends and I got together for dinner. My former teacher said he remembered in high school I was funny, sarcastic with a mature strength “kind of like…..a guy”. Once when my husband and I were watching a TV program about the differences between men and women in marriage, my husband turned to me and said, “Geez, you’re more like the man in the relationship” (he has said that he meant that as a compliment, but I took it as a criticism).
I had occasionally resented when people would describe me as strong, because, as I’ve mentioned, I would perceive them as sometimes questioning my femininity, as if I couldn’t be strong without being masculine. It’s the same pet peeve I have when men in some type of authoritative role will call male underlings, “ladies” or “girls” as a put down to insinuate weakness, I presume.
After much contemplation and prayer what I have learned is this: I am strong, but not like a man. I am strong like a woman.
We are all strong in our own unique, creative, gifted way. It is not necessary for all of us to be strong in exactly the same manner. It IS however, necessary for us to appreciate and celebrate each other’s strengths; loving and embracing the differences in each of us.
Thanks to all of you who have identified my strengths because when I’m feeling like jelly inside, I remember and encourage myself with your words.
-Tessa L. Charles
"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." Prov. 31:25 NLT