By Krystal Lambert
Since the dawn of time, women have been regarded as the “weaker” sex, inferior to men in both physical strength and emotional stamina. I’ll note here that this stereotype mostly applies to cis-gendered men and women, and it’s all the more reason why gender is such an arbitrary and often harmful social construct.
It may not seem like this stereotype is still a thing in the Year of our Lordess 2020, but sexist and oppressive ideals are often insidiously hiding in the language we use and the stories we create. Phrases like “Don’t be a pussy” or “You’re being a little bitch” are still used today as a way to insult men for not being “masculine” enough, as if there is something inherently weak about being feminine.
The “Damsel in Distress” trope has been used for centuries in fairy tales, in Hollywood movies, in virtually every medium of storytelling. If you examine this cliche with a more critical eye, you may come up with the same questions I did. Why, and from whom, does this damsel need protection? If another man weren’t using his physical strength or power or place in society to be a predator to the damsel in distress she wouldn’t need to be rescued in the first place. Women don’t use their strength to be predators, as men often do, but that doesn’t mean they are any less strong. We don’t need men to save us, we need you to stop fucking attacking us.
Chivalry is another cultural favorite that has never really sat well with me, although it wears a pleasant mask. “It’s funny how villainy masquerades as chivalry,” to quote literally myself. Treating women like delicate flowers in need of a man to open doors is just patronizing. If you want to do something nice for a woman, treat her with respect. Treat her like an equal. You can celebrate the soft, tender, feminine aspects of a woman without belittling her.
When it comes to the idea that women are less physically strong than men, well, that’s just simply untrue. Strength is not a black and white thing, composed merely of height and muscle mass. A few moments of googling and you’ll find that women outlive men in general life expectancy, and are far less likely to come down with the common cold or flu. Women have superior immune systems, and this has a lot to do with our ability to grow and sustain foreign tissue in our wombs. Oh, and don’t let me leave out the fact that women have been pushing giant babies out of their vaginas for millennia and, until very recently, without anesthesia.
One of my best friends is an absolute beast in the gym. At only 5’2, she can squat 260 lb, bench 145 lb, and deadlift 315 lb. I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley (jk I would cause I love her). Come to think of it, I don’t have one girlfriend that isn’t far more fit than my guy friends, including my chubby ass. I’m 5’8, 200 pounds, work out daily, and have naturally muscular arms and legs. I work as a door person at a bar downtown and a lot of guys have asked me “How?” It’s as if they are baffled that a woman could be some version of a bouncer. While I rarely have to kick anyone out and have never been physically attacked, why does my gender matter? If I’m more vulnerable to attack because I’m a woman, what does that say about men? One of the first things misogynists like to say to feminists is “Ok so can I punch you then?” and it’s like honestly Greg, if you’re in such a hurry to punch a woman, go ahead and have your fun and enjoy your assault charges. I’m not afraid of being hit any more than a man is and am perfectly capable of doing my job, regardless of what is between my legs.
Another point I think a lot of people miss is that men’s body types range from very scrawny to very short to very fat, as well. I don’t say this to body shame men. I say this to point out that the average man is not some Neanderthal, and if you look around you, a lot of us could beat your ass without a problem. We are not all dainty little doves. You are not all Greek Gods.
“Oh, wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart!”- The Scarlet Letter
The idea that women are weaker emotionally because we are more emotional is quite obviously a thread of toxic masculinity, so I doubt I have to harp much on this one but I do have some things to address. While women may appear to be more emotional, we are not. We simply experience and work through our emotions in different and often healthier ways. Rather than punch walls and fight randoms at bars, we might be more inclined to cry or send you a five paragraph text telling you what we need in the relationship. These are cliches of course and don’t apply to how each individual deals with emotions because gender norms are rarely accurate, amiright???
In my experience, the cis-men in my life did turn to rage, violence, and substance abuse to deal with emotions while the women in my life turned to prayer, meditation, self-help books, sobriety, even astrology. In my past relationships, all of the emotional labor was done by me while the guy sat on the couch playing video games or watching sports, throwing up an emotional brick wall and occasionally throwing out a “fucking bitch” when I tried to discuss our problems. Is this the behavior of an emotionally superior being?
Women by nature have to be incredibly resilient. We have tremendous pressure from society from a very young age to be physically perfect, and we also have to spend our entire lives in fear of predators. Most of us have to overcome sexual assault at least once in our lives, not to mention a lifetime of sexual harassment that can happen almost daily. We don’t get the privilege of “boys will be boys” when we make mistakes growing up. This is why we mature at a much younger age; we have no choice. Most of us spend our lives fighting to survive, fighting for a place to feel safe and respected, for love that is healthy and not toxic or abusive. Anyone who has a mother has to understand on some level how strong a woman’s love can be, and how much a woman will endure without complaint.
Am I saying that women are superior to men in physical and emotional strength? Not quite. I’m simply stating that we sure as hell aren’t inferior, and that gender is kind of irrelevant in the grand scheme. Masculinity can be mad toxic and fragile, and femininity can have some serious big dick energy.
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