Friday Photo Musing: Strong

[Note: Photo by Mrs. Maze on Flickr]
What does it mean to ‘be strong’?

When I think of strength, bulging biceps and loud voices come to mind. It seems a very masculine characteristic. Yet I desire strength. To gain it, I lift weights and learn to speak confidently. I assume an assertive and confident air.

So today I’m considering my strengths, those that I have and those that I still desire.

I ask myself if I have the strength…
to speak truth?
to forgive?
to choose right?
to be wrong?
to share sorrow?
to learn from my mistakes?
to bare all?
to avoid pride?
to listen?
to laugh at myself?
to sing?
to share your burden?
to walk a narrow path?
to try harder?
to let go?
to do it all…again and again and again?

Here is my new favorite poem about strong women:

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 somehing 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

I love the closing of this:
Strong is what we make each other. Until we are all strong together, a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

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5 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    Ooh, I like all the pictures in this series of Mrs. Maze!

  2. Caroline says:

    This reminded me of one of my favorite poems about strong women.

    Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

    Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
    I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
    But when I start to tell them,
    They think I’m telling lies.
    I say,
    It’s in the reach of my arms
    The span of my hips,
    The stride of my step,
    The curl of my lips.
    I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    I walk into a room
    Just as cool as you please,
    And to a man,
    The fellows stand or
    Fall down on their knees.
    Then they swarm around me,
    A hive of honey bees.
    I say,
    It’s the fire in my eyes,
    And the flash of my teeth,
    The swing in my waist,
    And the joy in my feet.
    I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    Men themselves have wondered
    What they see in me.
    They try so much
    But they can’t touch
    My inner mystery.
    When I try to show them
    They say they still can’t see.
    I say,
    It’s in the arch of my back,
    The sun of my smile,
    The ride of my breasts,
    The grace of my style.
    I’m a woman

    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    Now you understand
    Just why my head’s not bowed.
    I don’t shout or jump about
    Or have to talk real loud.
    When you see me passing
    It ought to make you proud.
    I say,
    It’s in the click of my heels,
    The bend of my hair,
    the palm of my hand,
    The need of my care,
    ‘Cause I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Those were cool pictures. Is Mrs. Maze someone you know? Does she take the pictures herself?
    (Emilycc, nice new pic)

    I like the idea of being strong. I had a great cycling aerobics teacher who would have give us the last song to ourselves, to go any speed, any resistance, but told us to give ourselves positive thoughts through the whole thing, “I am strong, I am confident, etc.”
    It was a very powerful exercise for me, combining the physical and mental exertion to a positive goal.
    Thanks for this post.

  4. Jana says:

    I don’t know her. I just came across her pics in flickr and loved them. They are self-portraits–pretty amazing!

  1. November 26, 2010

    […] been thinking a lot about this post that I wrote two years ago, and wanted to share it with you again… What does it mean to ‘be […]

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