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Tell me what's wrong with the expression 'strong woman'

(14 Posts)
Windthebloodybobbinup Thu 22-Dec-16 16:16:05

So I've been called this a lot in my workplace. I'm in a fairly senior leadership position and frankly it gets on my tits but I can't really figure out why. Is it kind of patronising i.e. You wouldn't compliment a male colleague by calling him a 'strong man' but there is also something else. I'm just a normal woman, we all have our challenges- which women are therefore 'weak' ? And I suppose it also creates a narrative that it's somehow personal chacteristics that prevent most women from breaking through the glass ceiling. Anything else?

ChocChocPorridge Thu 22-Dec-16 16:22:35

I think that it probably is that it's suggesting that you're not like those other women, those inferior ones. It's not even a defined compliment - it's not 'strong leader' or 'strong problem solving skills' it's just 'strong' - feels a bit like a head pat.

It's like 'Strong female characters' in a program - no, that's not quite what I want, I just want more female characters - flawed, normal, background, not just token heroines.

Mmmmshop Thu 22-Dec-16 16:23:18

Does it perhaps qualify the 'strength' as well? I'm wondering why bother noting your sex? Why not a strong person? Presumably because you're strong...for a woman.

AmberEars Thu 22-Dec-16 16:32:09

I think maybe it's because strength is a typically male characteristic - it's indisputable that most men are stronger than most women. So it implies that the reason you've been successful is that you're more masculine than other women?

Having said that, I don't really agree that it implies that other women are weak. If someone described you as 'friendly' you wouldn't take that to mean they think everyone else is the opposite, i.e. unfriendly, would you? Just that it's an especially noticeable characteristic of yours.

Mmmmshop Thu 22-Dec-16 17:25:19

I think if 'a friendly woman' was a common phrase when's friendly man' wasn't, then I might think it implied that women are generally not that friendly.

Mmmmshop Thu 22-Dec-16 17:25:50

*when 'a friendly man' wasn't

Miffer Thu 22-Dec-16 18:47:31

It's like 'Strong female characters' in a program - no, that's not quite what I want, I just want more female characters - flawed, normal, background, not just token heroines.

Funny I may have been misinterpreting that phrase. I always thought strong character meant the writing was strong. I am still not sure if I am wrong, ie weak character/strong character... in terms of writing don't they mean realistic?

VestalVirgin Thu 22-Dec-16 20:54:19

Miffer, I do think they do mean realistic, or, like, three-dimensional female character - one who is not just there to make a male character look good. But it's been misunderstood often enough that there's some confusion on what it actually means. Some authors just put in a gun-wielding, ass-kicking female character who's flat as cardboard and call her a "strong female character" - or they don't call her anything, but readers assume this is what strong female character means and oppose "strong female characters" on principle because of this.

I think it is the implication that other women aren't strong (and not just in a physical sense, obviously!) is what makes this annoying, but could also be the mere fact that they feel a need to point it out without further specification.

Windthebloodybobbinup Fri 23-Dec-16 08:34:52

There's also this underlying giggly BDSM aspect to it like' ooo I love a strong woman' wink wink

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 23-Dec-16 09:15:07

I can't think of a situation where it would be natural to say it.

One might say things like " end of year results show a strong performance from team x"

Or a "strong performance by person ×"

Or " team x's brilliant performance was undoubtedly due in part to y's strong leadership"

Or "x's strength and determination saw us safely through a tricky year"

So yes I agree - it is wrong- you could be complimented on being a strong leader, or the strength of your leadership/ organisational etc abilities.

Chelazla Fri 23-Dec-16 09:19:25

I think it's a bit patronising! My hubby uses it to take the piss when I'm ranting I've done something he was supposed to eg. Ripping out the old bathroom so he'd have to fit new one!! "ooo aren't we a strong, independent woman"! I really don't care though, ism😂💪🏻😂

Chelazla Fri 23-Dec-16 09:19:40

* I am!

DeviTheGaelet Fri 23-Dec-16 10:24:17

I've been called that, I see it as a bit of a back handed compliment. I agree with chocchoc that it's not specific enough, it also makes me feel a bit abnormal. But then I see "woman" as a biological thing, I'm a person first and foremost so any compliment specifically related to the kind of woman I am makes me hmm

Lessthanaballpark Fri 23-Dec-16 10:37:10

OP the phrase drives me bonkers but I've never been able to articulate why.

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