Why are we even having this conversation still?
The article (linked below) from a couple of years ago, hit my Facebook feed this morning. And I usually ignore the pap these guys publish. But reading it, I oscillated from righteous indignation to vehement nodding. It’s pushed a button or two.
Read Good Men Project article: The pros and cons of loving a ‘strong woman’…
If you have been reading my blog, you will know that someone who I was starting to care about, walked away leaving the parting suggestion in his wake, that I am “too headstrong.” And I was bewildered and saddened and confused by the seemingly barbed accusation. Still am. I don’t know what he meant. I know it was important enough to guarantee the demise of a short-lived entanglement. And I cried. I cried because he called me headstrong. That doesn’t seem very strong to me. I cried because I think I know what English men mean when they say this kind of thing about a woman. And it is never a compliment.
I was sad because I spent well into my 30s wanting to be the exact opposite of this horrible thing he had leveled at me. What I would have given to be soft and compliant and little and vulnerable, non-threatening… to appear like I needed protection, to be that perfect blend of needy and nurturing. I have never been able to strike this balance. I am not needy. I am independent and come out fighting more often than I should. I know this. I wont ask for help, rarely give ground – not because I am right, but if I admit a chink in the armour, I can be hurt. I have scars far too deep to let that happen again. The battle cry stays just at my throat. Not because I want to, but because this is what I have learned from life.
And as I type this I am weeping big ol’ silly slow tears. Because here I sit more vulnerable and scared and in need, than any one I know. Not many people have ever seen me cry. That is not something I do in public.
My Mother is a wonderful mix of resilience and resourcefulness. She is also beautiful, and petite, and feminine. She was sophisticated and elegant. In my child’s eye, I remember watching her; coquettish, complimentary, she would tilt her head back laughing prettily. Men were enamoured with her. I’m not sure she ever knew that. She only had eyes for my Father. Still. Still. Almost 50 years later. And I was so jealous of her. Her dark skin and big eyes and tininess. Men wanted to help her and rescue her, and fell in love with her. And I was a wobbly giraffe-like giant – I towered over her so quickly that it feels like it was always me giving her hugs not the other way around. Like we’d flipped roles. I was tall and ugly and clumsy, gorky and questioning and clever. And a lot of the time I was scratchy, like a wounded cat, terrified and backed into a corner. Least, that’s how it felt in my teens. Like I had to fight for myself, because no one had my back. Even as a little kid, no one seemed to believe the best in my intentions or support my dreams. I was a good girl without a voice, and no one seemed to know that.
I wont paint the detail into the picture here. It’s not the time. Lets just say I was bullied at school for being different. Even at 5 and 6 years old, sometimes physically. Taunted and ostracised. Add to that, the feeling that I never had the full or unconditional support of my parents. I always seemed to be the one in the wrong, the one being told off… even when I had done my very best. And I repeat, I was a good girl. My very best was usually for someone else, not for my own benefit. Anyway, they seem small things, these two contributors. But in a sensitive and innately empathic little girl, this was an anxiety-causing combination. I had to be my own hero, as the adults in my life had life happening. So I toughened up. I was financially supporting myself at 17, had been kicked out of home, had little contact with my parents. This is unusual where I come from. Rare in the community I grew up in. I was pretty young. So I got tougher. But on the inside, to my inner circle of trusted friends, still a softie who wore her heart on her sleeve.
So then add in that I am a Kiwi chick. A product of a country where equality is a bedrock of our culture. The pioneer spirit. Gender equality. We are expected to be independent thinkers, practical and pragmatic of attitude, partners in the true sense – not possessive or possessions. I like my space, I have an opinion, I have found my voice. I am sure of myself and am fully formed. Finally embracing the strong, confident, woman I have become, and being proud of the wise, thoughtful, sensitive little girl I was.
So yes, I am headstrong. Strong. In all the negative ways the article lists. In the unwanted, unbidden, ways the Lover implied. I am not what most English men have been looking for. I will not bend to their whim, or pretend a submission. I challenge status quo and have a fire in my belly. I speak up for an injustice – be it my own or others’ – in the bedroom or boardroom. But I am also the wonderful things that having a true partner offers; trust and loyalty and laughter and great sex. A confident woman will still have days when she feels frumpy and inelegant and not good enough. And she will speak too loud or too quickly when she is tired or scared. But she will be honest and open and want the best for her man.
But isn’t that the problem? All of this means there is a need for a man to step up and match the energy and faith a strong woman offers. And how scary is that?