AGA Roll Call: For Strong Women

    A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
    A strong woman is a woman standing
    on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
    while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
    A strong woman is a woman at work
    cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
    and while she shovels, she talks about
    how she doesn't mind crying, it opens
    the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
    develops the stomach muscles, and
    she goes on shoveling with tears
    in her nose.

    A strong woman is a woman in whose head
    a voice is repeating, I told you so,
    ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
    ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
    why aren't you feminine, why aren't
    you soft, why aren't you quiet, why
    aren't you dead?

    A strong woman is a woman determined
    to do something others are determined
    not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
    of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
    a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
    to butt her way through a steel wall.
    Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
    to be made say, hurry, you're so strong.

    A strong woman is a woman bleeding
    inside. A strong woman is a woman making
    herself strong every morning while her teeth
    loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
    a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
    every battle a scar. A strong woman
    is a mass of scar tissue that aches
    when it rains and wounds that bleed
    when you bump them and memories that get up
    in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

    A strong woman is a woman who craves love
    like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
    A strong woman is a woman who loves
    strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
    terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
    in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
    she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
    suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
    enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

    What comforts her is others loving
    her equally for the strength and for the weakness
    from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
    Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
    Only water of connection remains,
    flowing through us. Strong is what we make
    each other. Until we are all strong together,
    a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

      ~ Marge Piercy, "For Strong Women"

The above is one my very favorite written piece ever about women's strength: I think it hits the nail right on the head with a two-ton anvil, weilded by a woman with shoulders the size of a house. I love how well it addresses all the facet's of women's strength, the boons and the burdens, the gifts and the challenges. How multi-dimensional it is, its sources, its heartaches, its beauty.

Write about strength and women.

Some ideas:
• Where do you find your strength? What in your life and experiences has made you strong, the good stuff, the trauma, the survival? When do you feel/have you felt the most strong?

• What's it like to BE strong? Does it always feel empowering, is it always a boon, or is it also sometimes a challenge or barrier? How?

• What does "strength" even mean to you? Are your definitions the same for men and for women, or do they differ?

• If you DON'T feel strong, what do you think you need to gain strength? What do you think you can give to others who need strength: how can we all help cultivate it in other women?

• What barriers have you experienced/do you see to making women strong and keeping women strong? What challenges do women face in this world who ARE that strong? Is there a place in the world for women's strength to be celebrated, seen, recognized for what it is; are there some kinds of women's strength which ARE okay, culturally, and others which are not?

• What women in your life, or out and about in the world, or historically, do you celebrate and admire for their strength?

Flex those mental muscles: there's strength in numbers.

Tag your post with "AGA Roll Call: For Strong Women." If you're a reader here, talk about women and strength in comments or at the All Girl Army forums, or a link to your thoughts on the issue at your own blog or journal in the comments here.

To read our writer's responses to this call as they come in, click here.