Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

I Am Woman, See Me Love: What Is Feminine Strength?

This week is book-ended with woman-centered marches in our nation’s capital, the Women’s March and the March for Life. The first touted the “rights” of women and trumpeted the need for “progress.” The second seeks progress, too; it urges society to leave behind the dated and detrimental notion that a woman must be allowed to harm others in order to actualize her Self.

The first march was fueled by the liberal agenda and its maidservant, the mainstream media, which has played an invaluable role in sanitizing the message of the Left to make it palatable for our schools and homes. An example that comes to mind is the Girl Power message I received in the mail on an ad recently, featuring a young girl with an atomic symbol on her t-shirt side-kicking a stack of books. The idea was, I think, girls are smart and can understand books about nuclear physics? Or maybe, girls who wear science t-shirts like to kick books? At any rate, parents who would be horrified by the things that went on in DC last weekend have been compelled to embrace the mantra, “Raise strong girls! Be a woman of strength!”

Girl Power vs. Feminine Strength

I have six daughters ranging in age from 20 months to 20 years, so I’ve been exposed to the media’s messages for girls for going on two decades. Well, double that, if you count my exposure when I was a girl myself. On the face of it perhaps, the “woman of strength” message doesn’t seem so bad. Who could argue with wanting women to be of strong moral character? It is by the morals of women that societies rise and fall, after all. But no, this message isn’t about moral character at all. Instead it’s about three very different kinds of “strength” – physical strength, strength in self-reliance, and strength of emotion – all of which are implied in the ad I described.

The Strong Woman message’s emphasis on physical strength is evident in everything from girls’ t-shirts at Old Navy to the propping up of certain women’s sports. Again, there is nothing bad about women seeking to be physically fit, but why is the media so keen on making it such a big freakin’ deal? Because of the same old shtick – physical strength is, biologically, a man’s domain. It is by that very fact a military objective for feminism. Authentic womanhood, on the other hand, emphasizes moral strength – a quality to which every woman, regardless of her ability or desire for physical endurance – can aspire.

This is not to say that women do not possess physical strength, but its natural and most striking expression usually occurs in the service of others, particularly in the bearing of new life. A newly pregnant woman climbs a mountain every day in terms of the energy her body expends on building the tiny new person. Around the fourth month a pregnant woman’s body experiences a strong hormonal shift as it pours energy into the building of a new person’s life support system, the placenta. Looking at my own profile in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy I myself have even wondered, “How the heck am I able to do this?” Then there’s childbirth, when a woman gets to see what her husband’s face would look like if he beheld an actual superhero.

Feminism of course also emphasizes the strength of self-reliance. This tenet is a direct attack on the truth that man and woman are made for communion and interdependence. Dependence on another means vulnerability and it means risk, and that is why true strength can be seen in a woman’s willingness to depend on her spouse. The woman who forsakes her career to be at home with her children because she feels it’s the best thing for her family is taking a courageous step. There is false safety in self-reliance, but there is courage and strength behind faithful dependence.

Another noticeable aspect of the Strong Woman message is the license for strong emotion. In other words, there is a value placed on strong emotions for emotions’ sake. We see this in popular media of many kinds, when women are celebrated for childish outbursts of anger, “following their hearts,” and just generally doing whatever feels right at the moment. The authentically strong woman, on the other hand, puts her emotion at the service of others. Her feelings for her spouse and her children can motivate her to place their needs above her own. The empathy that is a signature of the feminine genius makes her the emotional center – the heart – of the home. As that center, that heart, all the family members come to rely on her compassion and love, and she becomes strong in prayer and self-discipline, because she must.

Authentic womanhood, then, has a strength that defies the modern Girl Power hype. Rather than a physical strength that imitates that of men, we find a moral strength that calls others to a higher mode of living. And we see her uniquely feminine physical strength as the cradle and defender of new life. Rather than limiting herself through relying solely on her own power, the authentic woman is free to depend on those she loves, and draws them into loving dependence on her. Instead of being a slave to her emotions, this woman’s emotions serve to inspire her self-giving love.

The Order of Love

In giving herself away through love, woman finds herself, becomes more herself. For a photographic negative, we need only think of abortion. Its abhorrence and inhumanity is rooted in its utter contradiction of woman’s call to love, because that call is first and foremost to be answered in vocational motherhood – spiritual or physical. It would be a failure for a woman to refuse to defend the life of any of her children, but to fail in defending the most defenseless of all is a particularly poignant affront.

The “order of love,” noted Pope St. John Paul, “takes first root” in women. We see this played out in Our Lord’s ministry on earth, at the incarnation, at the cross, at the Resurrection. Our Lady is the preeminent example of womanly strength, but as we approach Lent I’d like to point out another saintly woman who has long been one of my heroes, St. Veronica. When Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was released, my mind immediately flew to the sixth station of the cross. How would he portray Veronica?

In my opinion, he did so beautifully, and his portrayal highlights true feminine strength. Veronica shows physical courage when she approaches Christ in spite of the angry crowd, the abusive soldiers, and the volatile situation. Spurred by love, she offers a cool drink to the thirsty, a clean cloth to a suffering face – actions that bear the hallmarks of motherhood. While self-reliance has an inward focus, Veronica’s very dependence as a Hebrew mother seems to heighten her awareness of the needs of others, and strengthens her to respond. The emotion she must feel at the sight of Christ is turned toward service, not wasted on rage. In Gibson’s Veronica we see the particularly feminine power to be unobtrusively present in a dangerous situation and to do what is right without self-seeking. Her action is small, but her impact is immense.

A Love that Roars

Women now must turn on its head the old Helen Reddy feminist trope, “I am woman, hear me roar.” I am woman. Like Mary, like Veronica, I may not make a lot of noise. But if you look, you will see my strength. By the grace of Christ, my love will roar.

24 thoughts on “I Am Woman, See Me Love: What Is Feminine Strength?”

  1. Pro-Choice discussion are full of rabidly insistent references to freedom, autonomy, and self-actualization. To condemn or forbid a woman’s ‘right’ to abort is tyranny, we are told, for it curtails autonomy
    But such discussions miss entirely the central points made here by Ms. Sammons: that true self-actualization flows from self-sacrifice….that freedom must always be constrained by love … and that autonomy without purpose is nothing more than anarchy — empty & hollow.

    And so we begin, unbearably light, independent, and autonomous; each of us seeking through every choice made the comic-book fantasy of a totally self-actualized potential. But our choices yield consequence. And each consequence bears weight. And as we each move through life that weight increases, binding us to the lives we build as a result of every choice made — binding us to the people we love. And so we are joyfully constrained by the bonds we ourselves forge which tie us, inevitably, each to the other: father to mother to child… today to tomorrow… this life to the next.

    We discover, in fact, that our fullest potential can only be realized by turning away from our own selfishness to embrace the Other; sacrificing our own desires in service of another’s. We discover in fact, that the life created through the union of man & woman is most precious of all — and the potential most fully realized is the child, lying in our arms. How could it be otherwise?

  2. “Then there’s childbirth, when a woman gets to see what her husband’s face would look like if he beheld an actual superhero.” Thank you Ms. Suzan! Very nice article. These self centered projects for women or men always seem to get pricked by reality at one juncture or another. In the meantime, the participants usually are consistently furious at all others who are not “with them.” My cross gets lighter when this happens because it’s so unrealistic.

  3. This is a nice piece, and I think you would find many people from all political and religious spectrums who agree with you.
    Let’s not let the false feminism being forced upon us by for-profit corporations — Hollywood, advertising agencies, clothing manufacturers — obscure the real strength of so many women.
    I know of one woman (I could think of many) who is raising three boys, two of them twins and one of whom attempted suicide a couple years ago, while holding her marriage together and working full time as a public defender attorney in inner-city Baltimore. That to me is strength that comes from the strength of her convictions and not some phony ‘girl power’ message.

  4. Thank you. You beautifully captured the essence of true femininity. I, too, have a great devotion to St. Veronica – a woman of great moral strength, courage and tenderness.

  5. Beautifully written and wise beyond words. I can think of so many confused women of my acquaintance whose lives would be blessed if they read this. Unfortunately, not one of them would go much beyond the second paragraph. It is so sad that those who most need truth and wisdom are least likely to seek them.

  6. Feminism is nothing more than the satanic lie of the serpent to Eve, “you will be as gods”. This is why they want to call themselves goddesses, claim super powers above men in strength, intelligence, and what have you – that only exist in their minds.

    Indeed, feminism is the Curse of Eve writ large for the world to see, and why all societies have strictly curtailed women’s activities lest they corrupt and destroy those societies.

    Woman was created to be a helpmate and to bear man’s children. As St. Paul writes to Timothy, “woman shall be saved by childbearing” – the one thing feminists are dead set against, proclaiming they are not “brood mares”. They are told to be faithful, submissive wives, respecting and obey their husbands, but they refuse.

    Are there such good women today, yes, of course. But they have all to some extent been corrupted by Satan’s siren song and can only realize their true nobility and potential by adherence to the authentic teaching of the Church.

    I believe this is beginning, as more women are wearing dresses to Mass, wearing veils and beginning to return to right Order.

  7. Well written. I only wish young women’s attention spans and reading comprehension allowed for them to read it and understand it. I’m not trying to be flip or insulting, I mean this. Education has largely failed many young women today, and they no longer have solid reasoning abilities nor are they very literate. Just another problem here. Many young people can only comprehend 140 characters.

    • It has failed men as well. People do not really “read” anymore as they do not have the attention span for it.

      But by and large, women still can comprehend and read better than their male counterparts.

      I am always amazed when I post online – or join a Facebook “discussion” – how few respond to what I’ve actually said. If, for example, I point out the traits Trump demonstrates with regard to sociopathy, I am met with personal insults, and assumptions that I must be a Hillary supporter or pink hat wearing activist.

      The current culture is that which has done away with critical thinking and embraced reacting, for the sake of reacting.

  8. By the Grace of God, Love that moves civilizations and influences generations, literally.
    Roman philosopher Seneca (4BC-65AD) ” as women goes so goes the nation.
    The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

  9. I agree with Suzan on a lot of her observations, however she emphasizes the feminine role of “service” to distraction.

    Both spouses are supposed to be subject to one another, but the man is supposed to “lead” in “service” to the woman and his children, even giving up his life to defend them, as Christ did the church.

    Because men don’t defend women in this world is one of the reasons there are so many woman staying single.

    Not all are called to the married state.

    But “Self reliance” (based in complete trust only in God) is something every person should have. There are many brainwashed “traditional” women now trapped in abusive “marriages” (with young children to feed) because they were wrongly taught self reliance was unfeminine (not “their” role) or naively assumed religious affiliation and “traditional” values ruled out mental disturbances or dangerous personality in a husband.

    Much like those who voted for Trump.

    There will be no abortion in this country only when abortion is acknowledged not just as something of which women are guilty, but an abuse against women by MEN, as well as killing both parents’ offspring.

    Abortion and barbaric behavior as demonstrated by some in the “women’s” march is only the inevitable result of man’s barbaric behavior towards woman for centuries, using them, then placing them in double binds. Not acknowledging this is further polarizing.

    How many neo conservatives, shocked at the displays of vulgarity in the “feminist” march, for example, condoned our own president’s piggish verbal remarks against women, as a valid means to an end? How many touted a sociopathic male as a “lesser” evil than a sadist woman?

    All men should show human respect to all women. All fathers should defend their own children. This is only common sense.

    “Act, and then men will act” – St Jeanne d’Arc

    • The references to marriage in this article were to marriages that fall inside the norm. Abusive marriages fall outside of the scope of this article. Likewise for critiques of male behavior; my focus was on finding an authentic view of what a “strong woman” truly is.

      I don’t believe a Christian can overemphasize the role of service. The expression of that service will look different for men and women, and it will differ among vocations, and among folks in seemingly the same vocation. But what were Satan words, I often remind myself? *Non serviam.* Every Christian must strive to overcome the same impulse the Evil One spoke – his or her life must be a continual SERVIAM!

      • I appreciate that you intended to refer only to “normal marriages”, but Christ emphasized a LEADERSHIP of SERVITUDE by the male role in “normal” marriages.

        This is different than just a different manifestation of service, though both in the “same” vocation.

        An article then – on servitude in marriage – should also address this male LEADERSHIP in serving his wife.

        Yours did the opposite, in fact, emphasized the woman’s role as one of service because she bore children.

        My point was that when the male headship of servitude and sacrifice by the male is not emphasized, neglected or minimized, women run the risk of being objectified to meet a men’s needs and to bear his children. This is abusive, not an example of “strong” women, and not the proper understanding of motherhood, which is a great gift and privilege. It is attitude which in part what has led to abortion, a fact that is typically ignored.

        The emphasis should always be on men using their greater physical strength (the greater strength serves the weaker) to meet the needs of women (because she’s his equal, but has greater vulnerability) and the children conceived through mutual love.

        A strong woman is one who insists on this proper order of things.

        • Judy, I am not saying that you don’t raise some valid points, only that addressing them fell beyond the scope of this article.

          • I understand and that’s my point. You didn’t consider it intrinsic to the subject.

            To focus only on a woman’s servitude (and there are many articles like this from so called traditional women) is NOT a strength – without insisting upon the male leadership which has been neglected in this area.

            Woman’s main strength is counseling and chastising men, not the other way around.

            Mary did this.

            Saint Veronica’s brave act as a woman was an in your face act against men who, unlike her, would stand idly by and watch other men kill Christ, instead of defending Him, and standing by His side. She put them to shame.

            For abortion laws to be overturned women are going to have to re-find this strength to speak up about man’s negligence, insist upon this right, not stress motherhood as a role of “service” or “submission”. Motherhood is a gift!

            And although the end does not justify the means, “pro choice” persons have valid points regarding the long suppression of women as utilitarian objects to serve men – points which pro life women continue to ignore – posting pictures only of the more radical marchers in Washington, for example.

            Where is woman’s united strength speaking out against the dehumanizing remarks made by our current president against women, a man who got away with mocking Megan Kelly simply for having a menstrual period? Where is woman’s united strength in speaking out against how his words warp the pro life movement from one that protected the feminine as represented by the vulnerable, the handicapped and weak into one that only protects the unborn who have potential to become “superstars”? Why didn’t your article support or even mention those in the Woman’s March who marched for those reasons? Too beyond the scope?

            For God’s sake, anyone can conceive a child from their husband or from rape through passive resistance. A woman’s true strength lies in her greater emotional insight, and abilities to detect the real cause of things.

            Christ Never Ever considered man’s leadership role in serving his wife or the church – beyond the scope of his teachings on service. Christ was not a sexist. In fact, He insisted that woman was to “submit” to man “serving” her.

          • Wow, Judy, you’re clearly intent on painting my article and me with a particular brush. So… all righty then. You do that.

          • Please don’t assume my motives instead of responding to my reason. This is not female “strength” but female weakness.

            I don’t even know you and was just questioning the chosen emphasis for an article supposedly addressing female strength. Please focus on the issue I raised and do not attack me personally. My arguments were not a personal attack on you or a repainting of what the article focused on – in any manner, shape or form.

            You said what you said.

            And yes, human lives are in the balance of how female writers choose to balance – the equation of “service” and “strength”. I don’t hear any men acknowledging that their neglect of and use of women as utilitarian, “serving” objects has resulted in widespread abortion. We are going to have to be strong and call them to task for what they have caused.

            Unborn babies are the evidence that most men are happy to neglect, not defend.

          • I also want to add that it is dangerous and intellectually negligent for anyone to imply that abortion is caused by a woman’s neglect of her “duties” to serve.

            What triggered the abortion movement is just the opposite, that point in our history – when working man lost the purpose of work, to SERVE a wife and children.

            Man moved towards “careerism” in which he shuffled women and children about to serve the advancement of career, and to make more money, regardless of how it effected his family. Women were taught wrongly even by prelates in the church that they were to submit without question to this disorder, that men could “think” better than them, and to put a lid on their God given strength of superior emotional insight. It was as if it was “disobedient” to express to a man what was best for them and the children. He knew “better” about this than she did.

            To make matter worse, many husbands came home emotionally absent, or had affairs with the subsequent surplus of single women in subservient working positions, like secretaries and receptionists. (This is a far cry from Joseph fleeing into Egypt with Mary and the child Jesus, despite the personal discomforts it caused him.)

            Resentment had already grown in the hearts of mistreated women for thousands of years, and men didn’t know what women wanted, because they weren’t being told.

            Just as Mary had to literally be the first human to behold to mankind the Fullness of Truth Incarnate, resentment between the sexes and the subsequent sacrifice of children will always be with us until the fullness of truth is exposed by strong, outspoken women.

            Men are supposed to lead in service, and women are supposed to lead men to Truth.

          • Finally, to assert that the Women’s March was “fueled by the mainstream media” as if oblivious that it was largely FUELED and CAUSED by the election of a brute misogynist pro eugenics sociopath with outright contempt for weakness and vulnerability, to the presidency of the United States – well – I can’t even wrap my head around that one.

            Do all neo conservative women think women and children have to be dehumanized – so that one woman, Hillary – could be defeated? There’s no strength in letting one’s entire gender get stereotyped and dehumanized for a “greater” good.

      • Where every woman has abandoned her child by abortion there is also a man who has abandoned his duty to serve, defend and protect them.

        Abortion is not a woman’s issue, and a strong woman will not criticize women for aborting without first calling to task the male, the physically stronger, for neglect of duty.

        A strong woman will call men to task loudly about their neglect of service and defense, , not just blame and point fingers at their sisters.

        At the very root of abortion is man, not woman, and until this is acknowledged abortion will always be with us.

        Abortion is the refusal of man to lead in service and defense, a reversal of the order of love, and man’s destruction of the evidence. Women deal with what they receive. This is not a justification for women to abort, but the explanation (in summary) of why women abort.

        A woman who just blames women for abortion as if it IS just a woman’s issue is a very, very weak and ignorant woman.

        A strong woman is not one who turns to abortion but insists abortion is an abuse of women (and children) by men.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...