I don’t know about you, but I cringe every time a woman is labeled “strong.” It happens all the time. It doesn’t matter what the woman has or has not done. It’s a feminist tic.
People who believe in magical thinking imagine that if they keep calling women strong, women will become stronger.
It’s a pathetic tic. It belies a mindless belief that saying can make it so. Those who do it need to be called out. Not by me, of course., but by the eminently qualified Julie Burchill.
After all, Burchill is a strong woman, a committed feminist, a strong supporter of Israel, a no-nonsense take-no-prisoners kind of “broad.”
I say that as a warning. Gird your loins before plunging into her rhetorical flourishes. If you thought that you had mastered the art of political incorrectness, that just means that you haven’t read enough Burchill.
As she explains it, Burchill’s tipping point came when Kelly Osbourne-- the singularly unaccomplished daughter of Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne-- checked herself into “food rehab.”
Burchill shared her feelings:
When I heard that the television pundit and all-round nepot Kelly Osbourne had gone into ‘food rehab’ upon gaining weight, I fair choked on my cronut. Crumbs! Is there any pleasure, weakness or habit that isn’t pathologised these days, even stuffing oneself out of sheer molten gluttony? I read on; incredibly, people were praising ‘strong’ Kelly and ‘brave’ Kelly. I made a memo to myself to mention to the svelte checkout girl at my local Tesco how brave and strong I was next time she raised an eyebrow at the amount of sweets and crisps I was giving a good home to.
What she means to say is that when you overuse a phrase like “strong woman” it ceases to carry any meaning.
Purveyors of the “strong woman” meme are messing with the language. Obviously, they need to be called out.
In a thoroughly politically incorrect fashion, Burchill goes on the offensive against those who are fail to respect the language:
Those who make themselves vomit after eating, those who starve themselves, those who slash at themselves. (Why not give blood and help others while harming yourself? Then at least something good’s coming out of it.) There was a TV commercial for deodorant awhile back which proclaimed boldly ‘EVERY woman is strong!’ What, even gold-diggers wearing heels so high they have to be assisted from bar-stool to bathroom while keeping a weather eye out for Premier League football players? A whole bunch of media broads got cross when L’Wren Scott was described as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, protesting that she was, rather, a Strong Woman. But why? When I was growing up, the only Strong Women you ever heard of were long-gone circus freaks, or those Eastern Bloc shot-putters who were sniggeringly prevailed upon to take thrillingly named ‘sex tests’ by the harrumphing old Olympic committee.
If every woman is strong, the words don’t mean anything. Burchill says it well:
I like tough broads, so you’d think I’d be down with this linguistic development, but I must say I shudder with distaste on nine times out of ten hearings. Just like men, women are not all brave and strong, any more than we can all run fast or write well. A dry drunk, a slasher, a puker or a gorger is particularly not strong or brave. If Kelly Osbourne is strong and brave for going to food rehab, then what words do we use about, say, women facing death in order to cast their vote in Afghanistan? If all women are ‘strong’ just because they sweat a bit in the gym — as in the deodorant ad — then what do we call the women in my friend Leila Segal’s photography exhibition ‘Voice of Freedom’, which opens in London next week and examines the impact of modern-day slavery on those who leave their African homes to set out for the safety of Israel and are tortured and trafficked on the way?
Brave and strong are important words; to overuse them, in the attempt to make women feel better about themselves, is a betrayal. Especially considering that every nation has a vast and mostly silent army of brave and strong women; the victims of the laughably cosily named ‘domestic violence’.
A woman who stands up to domestic violence, a woman who fights back against a stalker, a woman who fights for her country... such a woman has the right to be praised for her strength.
It’s about time someone denounced the ridiculous notion that by calling women strong we are going to magically make them strong.
Anyone who needs convincing can try this out at home. Imagine a man who loves a woman. Will she be happier to hear that he loves her outfit because she looks strong or because she looks beautiful?
I accept that there are some women who would be grievously offended to be called beautiful and who revel in being called strong. I recommend, and I believe that Burchill might second me, that a man who finds himself face-to-face with such a woman should seek the closest exit.