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Strong Women

825 words

Portuguese translation here

This essay is from Michael Polignano’s book Taking Our Own Side, available in a limited, signed and personalized hardcover edition here.

“You’re just afraid of strong women!” I can’t count the number of times I have heard this accusation hurled at men who break up with their girlfriends after tiring of their feminist posturing and antics.

I confess: I am afraid of “strong women.” There are good reasons to dislike and even to fear them.

Let’s examine today’s definition of “strong women.” “Strong women” are not those who can lift heavy objects, carry baskets on their heads, and so forth. “Strong women” are not those who can bear with dignity the sorrows of life and death. “Strong women” are not those who, in addition to the burdens of motherhood, heroically shoulder the responsibilities of dead, dysfunctional, divorced, or otherwise absent fathers.

No, what is meant by “strong women” today is: women who can do anything and everything a man can do, just as well or even better, and so do not need men. As the saying goes, a “strong woman” needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. (Surely this is one of the dumbest and ugliest analogies ever to attain the lofty status of cliché.)

But it is nice to be needed: needed emotionally, not just for physical tasks like taking out the trash, squashing spiders, and manhandling recalcitrant jar lids. What man in his right mind would prefer a woman who doesn’t need him to a woman who does? The only man who prefers a woman who doesn’t need him doesn’t really need her either. She may be useful to him for a while, for sex or shallow companionship. But why would he risk a deep emotional commitment—why would he risk needing her—when she constantly insists that she really does not need him?

Men are naturally promiscuous, and they will put up with “strong women” as long as the sex is good. But men are also naturally romantic. I am convinced that men have deeper feelings for their partners than women have for theirs. (Women reserve their deepest feelings for their children.) Men are therefore more emotionally vulnerable than women, and they will naturally be wary of emotionally committing to “strong women,” who are far more likely to put them through emotional hell just to prove how “strong” they are. This is why “strong women” are often screwed, but infrequently wed.

It is just plain false that women can do everything a man can do, even better. Yes, there are exceptionally strong women and exceptionally weak men. But on the average, the sexes differ in countless ways. Thus it is true to say that the average man can outdo the average woman in countless pursuits, just as the average woman can outperform the average man in countless others. Furthermore, in any given couple, there are always some things the man can do better than the woman, and others the woman can do better than the man.

I have never met a man who was obsessed with ferreting out all the things that his girlfriend thought she could do better so he could prove her wrong. I know one thing: I would certainly not call him a strong man. Furthermore, I imagine that his girlfriend would quickly tire of his attempts to best her in cooking and needlework. After a time, I think she would find him downright contemptible. And when she finally walks out on him, I imagine he’ll stand there in the kitchen doorway, aproned and oven-mitted, the perfect soufflé held high in triumph, and scream, “You’re just afraid of strong men!”

“Strong women” are actually the most insecure, petty, and competitive women around. And these are weaknesses, not strengths.

No man wants a woman who constantly competes with him and looks for his weaknesses. Men make life competitive and insecure enough for their fellow men. So men naturally want their relationships with women to be havens from constant one-upmanship. But “strong women” won’t allow that.

Another problem with “strong women” is that they tend to imitate mistaken conceptions of masculine behavior. They can imitate masculine competitiveness, but not the forms of masculine camaraderie, civility, and brotherhood that give competition some humanity. How could they, when all of these softer, communitarian virtues are associated with the femininity that “strong women” are so concerned to overcome?

“Strong women” make themselves annoying, because they inject competition where it is unwelcome. They make themselves ridiculous, because they inevitably fail in some of their attempts to outdo their men. They make themselves contemptible, because they emotionally blackmail their men into letting them win a few rounds, hoping, perhaps, that they will get this damned competitiveness out of their system.

What is a “strong woman”? A creature who has abandoned the best features of her own sex for the worst features of the other. Now that is something to fear.

January 20, 2004

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  1. Posted October 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I agree with this sentiment. The current situation of women in the West is a part of the larger corruption of traditional notions of hierarchy and gender roles. I have seen this demonstrated in India. I once witnessed a young American woman who was consulting with a famous Hindu guru. She asked him, “What should I do with my life?” The guru, who was accustomed to dealing with Americans, smiled and replied, “I can tell you what I think, but you won’t like it.” She insisted. “Very well. I think you should become a wife and a mother. That is the appropriate place for a woman.” The woman was so stunned that she couldn’t even speak. So, she wasn’t meant to become an Olympic athlete, a military cadet, a CEO or President of the United States?

    India is gradually becoming just as polluted with modernist notions of gender as all other places, although even today the majority of Indian women still live at least semi-traditional lives. Not long ago I had a conversation with the mother-in-law of a friend of mine in India who was explaining how a traditional Indian woman never eats before her husband, and that one of the advantages of cell phones is that now she can call her husband even when he is travelling to find out if he has eaten yet or not. I told her how many of the American women I knew would think this was terrible. She was unable to understand this – not because she was being stubborn or sticking to some abstract dogma, but simply because as a logical viewpoint it was incoherent to her. For her, life was about serving her husband and her children. “I am happy to serve,” she told me. And, indeed, in the time I spent with her, I did not once see her husband beat her into submission, did not see her complain, and did not see her scream and shout and start arguments in frustration. She was fulfilling the role that she had been taught by her mother, and it is the same role that her daughter is following, and she knows inherently that this is the proper way of things, and is therefore perfectly content.

    Now, I know that an American feminist reading this would say, “But that’s awful! She’s just been brainwashed into being a slave!” In the modern West, that might very well be true. I will admit that some of the problem does lie with modern men as well. As the Hindus say, one is not born with rights, one ACQUIRES rights by performing duties. In a traditional husband-wife relationship, this must go both ways. It is not that the wife only serves her husband unquestioningly and that the man has no obligations in return. The man must be a stable and adequate provider, must be respectful and not mistreat his wife, must assume responsibility and take a leadership role in all important family decisions, and must otherwise fulfill the role of a man – meaning not the shrinking, effete, dominated men who are called “new men” by academics and journalists (and which Camille Paglia skewered so wonderfully in some of her essays). Most men in the West today do not follow this standard, so it is the responsibility of both genders that things have gotten to the point that they are now.

    I realize it is a tall order, and is unlikely to come about in the West on a mass scale in my lifetime, but the only way to restore a harmonious relationship between the sexes is to return to the traditional notions of family and gender roles. As Michael correctly pointed out, women can demonstrate plenty of strength in order to be good wives and mothers without needing to compete in the same areas as men.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      When I was in India, a young Brahmin man told me a joke:

      Q: What is the best life for a man?
      A: To have an Indian wife, American currency, a German car, and Chinese food.

      Q: What is the worst life for a man?
      A: To have an American wife, Indian currency, German food, and a Chinese car.

      I disagreed about the food.

  2. Posted October 22, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree with (and can relate to) John Morgan. An article detailing traditional gender roles can be found here:


  3. YEs
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Nice article. I agree and it was very well said.

    “Strong” “women” do not understand manliness and only copy the worst behaviors while not noticing the nice manly attributes you mentioned.

    And competing with other males is tough enough, fuck having to compete with women too.

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