The singer Carly Simon once said that “a really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars”. And we have read and heard a lot about why we, women, should be strong and about all those admirable ladies that have managed to leave a mark wherever they went. But what people won’t talk much is the other side of being strong, about the war and the scars, as mentioned by Simon.
I was raised by a single mother, who was also the only child of another single mother. I learned to take care of myself, to be independent, and not to think that a man should be the centre of my life. I managed to graduate in Business Administration, got an MBA, then a Masters, and a Doctorate. I worked for some of the biggest players in the business world and built a decent career to myself. But I know the price that I had to pay for it, and that I still do.
Sexism is alive
Despite the fact that things have improved a lot since the 1960s, stereotypes about gender roles are very much alive for anybody to see them. Even in high-developed societies, it is still possible to find individuals, men and women, defending that women shouldn’t be allowed to do certain things, or that they just aren’t able to take some kind of jobs, for instance.
So, yes, even if you are a strong woman, you still have to deal with sarcasm, jokes, and annoying behaviour on a daily basis. People will still look down on you if you aren’t married and if you don’t have children, even if you have no desire for these things. And the sad part of it is that it doesn’t sound like it will come to an end anytime soon.
We still are objects
Women are still seen as nothing more than an object for men to play with. It is acceptable when a man becomes careless about his appearance, but a woman can never do the same. We still need to be skinny, nicely dressed, and with a perfect make-up and hairstyle all the time.
And, in this matter, it is a lose-lose situation. If you stay on top of the trends and walk into the office at our best every day, the corridors will be filled with gossip about how you are trying to use your body to get a promotion. If you don’t, they will say that you need to get a man as soon as possible.
We fear of becoming a man
Talking about the fear of becoming a man, it is only natural that we also don’t know where to draw a line here. As we haven’t been culturally prepared for equality, any of us might end up copying that even men would be ashamed of, usually in an uncounciously attempt to imitate the role models that we had in the past.
So it is understandable that some women will behave aggressively when trying to be assertive, for example. Or that we will not be as kind and supportive as we wish, and that we will hide our feelings. The search for balance on this matter is yet to be completed, and there is a lot of work to do regarding it.
We got a lot on our plate
Let’s be honest here: the way that society has managed equality so far has just made our lives much more complicated. We can work, live by ourselves, pay our bills, and decide if we want to get pregnant or not. Great. But most of the housework and the duties of raising children still fall on our shoulders. Plus, we still have to look pretty, be sexy, and it means plenty of time and money spent on clothes and beauty salons, or doing it by ourselves.
Men still can’t deal with strong women
Because it is such a new thing, a large number of men has no idea of how to deal with strong women. Many of them had mothers who were housewives or worked only part-time. Or even when they worked, they would enslaved themselves in the kitchen while they were watching TV with their fathers.
They were raised as if they were supposed to be providers and don’t know how to please a woman who doesn’t need their money. As a consequence, when they meet a strong woman, they tend to run away, puzzled or in fear. And this isn’t only their fault. We also give to them mixed messages about what we are want, expecting them to pay for a dinner out while asking them to let us be in charge.
Being a strong woman has many challenges. Equality still has a long way to go, and both men and women need to put their roles into perspective, so they set boundaries in a better way. And it won’t be accomplished by becoming a man, or faking weakness.
However, it is much better to be strong than play victim. And if you are strong, you know you can overcome any challenges that might come to you. So keep standing up for yourself and don’t let anybody intimidate you. The world will adapt itself if we don’t give up on our rights.