“That was what men wanted, wasn’t it? Soft, helpless women that they needed to protect?”
– From A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin
Before I say anything else, let me just say, with absolute clarity: no, that is not what we want.
Now, moving on.
Perhaps it’s because I was thinking about my mother last week, or because I’m seeing so much more of my sister lately, or because my nephew and I are working our way through the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, or just because I’m also working my way through Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but whatever the reason, my mind has recently been lingering on this idea of strong women.
Firstly, I do not believe women are, or should be, weak, soft, and helpless. I come from Viking stock, raised on stories of women defending their homes while the men were away. I have a mother and two sisters, who I admire greatly (arguments notwithstanding), who are strong women, each in their own way. From them, and many others I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that if women were weak, civilization would have collapsed long ago.
Second, from what I have seen, the only men who truly want their women to be weak are those who want to dominate them. These are the sort of so-called “men” who abuse, threaten, and otherwise bully others to make themselves feel big and strong. It’s pathetic, and the depths of my loathing for such cannot be described.
I, for one, appreciate strong women because I appreciate strong people. I love seeing people succeed and thrive and be happy and free. I enjoy when people overcome their obstacles and difficulties. I am inspired, not threatened, by such people, men and women alike.
Thirdly, in the story this quote comes from, it’s the inner thinking of a woman who became a knight. Unfortunately, she’s never really been comfortable as a knight, not really any more comfortable than she is as a woman. In her mind, the two ideas of “woman” and “strong” are still at odds with each other, which I’ve already elaborated on before. By contrast, there are other women we meet who are also warriors. They had to be, to protect themselves, their people, their home, etc., and to them, there is no such conflict in their minds. As such, one character observes that they are more comfortable both as women and as warriors than this lady knight ever has been. They are strong women, and it makes them all the more attractive, not less.
Finally, I do have to admit that something behind this quote is not entirely untrue. As men, we do want to protect our women, we do want to be their knight in shining armor, and we do want to be their Prince Charming. Yes, we do sometimes fantasize about winning their hearts as easily as slaying a dragon, or some other grand gesture. But, that is simply a desire to be useful to them, to show our worth clearly and earn their affection. We want to be there for them and make their problems go away.
However, there is a huge difference between wanting to be useful to our women, and wanting our women to be weak. If we love them, and we do, then of course we want to protect them, but that doesn’t mean they have to be restricted from defending themselves. Heh, I actually remember one time when my mother, in course of becoming a nurse, worked temporarily at a mental hospital, and my dad, wanting her to be safe, took her shopping for a small gun, just to be on the safe side. This is the same man who had a rifle with which my mother was intent on defending herself with when a pair of intruders were at our front door (she figured our snarling, protective dog could take one with his teeth while she took the other with the gun, but, fortunately for them, they looked for a house that did not include a snarling, sixty-pound dog on the other side of the door).
Women are often talking about how they want men to be kind and sensitive, but I’ve yet to hear them say that they want a weak man. I can assure you, we don’t want weak women either. A strong man and a strong woman are stronger together. That is the ideal.