The Strength of a Woman



What makes a woman strong?   Physical strength?  The ability to do a man’s job?  Charm, beauty and the ability to use it to her advantage?  A loud political voice?

I know what makes me feel strong.  Working shoulder to shoulder on a hot kitchen line with a crew of men who traditionally hold the role I am standing in, and not just keeping up, but slinging jokes and insults as fast as I sling pans, and no one wondering if I belong there.  Working on the farm in a leadership role and being mentally and physically strong and capable, and confident that what I accomplish will have value.  Stomping with confident swagger in my cowboy boots in to a male dominated situation and knowing damn well that I will be treated with respect because of my expertise.

Stephanie working at Market

What makes me feel weak?  My swelling pregnant belly, and the flood of emotions that come with it.  Struggling with anything within the public eye, assuming everyone who sees me assumes I am failing because I am a woman.  Asking for help with something I should be able to do, or used to be able to accomplish.  Being awkward with my femininity instead of using it to my advantage.

Little Chef kissing the baby CF

Why on earth would a strong confident woman like myself be ashamed of the most womanly parts of her?  I can’t exactly blame gender roles in society, or my upbringing.  As a child I was never told I was unable to do something because I was a girl, no one told me I had to be a housewife, I was not shipped off to finishing school.  So how did this happen?  I think it has to do with vulnerability.  The things that  make me feel vulnerable are not same issues men have to face.  Not because they are better than I am, but because we are all different.  Why do I wish that weak tepid women would pull up their socks and act tough and cry at home and not in public?  Because I am afraid they will expose my own vulnerability.  Because no matter how many bad ass amazing women I was surrounded by growing up, I will always have my own self-doubts, and find ways to hide them.

But is vulnerability a bad thing?  Doesn’t it serve a purpose?  I believe it does.  You cannot have high without low, you cannot have strength without weakness, and you cannot have confidence without vulnerability.  It is those moments that make us feel small and weak that we can sit up and remind ourselves that we are strong confident women.  Yes my pregnancy emotions are a source of shame and embarrassment for me.  And I get annoyed when people act as though I am broken or fragile because of my pregnancy.  The line that puts me right over the edge is when someone asks if I should be doing something “In my delicate condition”.  What I want to do in that moment is stand up and stick my life growing belly out and give them a piece of my mind.  I am not fragile nor delicate.  I am not only making a human being but I will push it out of my vagina without any drugs or help and there is not one fragile thing about that.  Last year I grew {from scratch I may add} a penis and set of testicles for my son.  What did you do today?  So no, I am not in a delicate state.  But why does this annoy me?  Were they insulting me?  Most likely not.  I am sure that well-meaning granny saw my glow and thought back wistfully to her own days as a young fertile woman and missed that special time.  Maybe to her the strength she felt was in the moments she cared more for herself and kept herself from strenuous tasks and knew she was doing everything she could for the life she was creating.  Maybe to her the moments she felt vulnerable were when she was forced to do something she wished she didn’t have to do “In her delicate condition” and wished she was able to stand up and say no.

That’s the thing about vulnerability, it is different for everyone.  So how can we empower and build up our fellow women if we do not know what makes them feel weak?  I will freely admit sometimes I see those ads with whitewashed backgrounds with “real” women speaking about how they wished they would feel more beautiful, but society has ruined them, and some nice soap has really turned it around for them and I cringe.  That kind of shit makes me nuts.  Soap will not make you feel less vulnerable, unless your deepest shame is your body odour.  But I get the message they are trying to send.  Women need women.  We need other bad ass women to stand up and say, “I am strong, and I am also weak.”

We need women who we respect to stand up and show that what they do has value, and not because someone said it does, but because they feel it does.  We need those same women to stand up and show us they too have felt ashamed and hurt, but they still find value in themselves.  We need them to say they have failed, and they have succeeded.  Because no one person or product can erase your vulnerability.  And it shouldn’t.  Because your power, your strength, it also comes from your weakness and vulnerability.


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