District 41 Toastmasters

The Myth of Strong Men and Women

Disclaimer! In my speech I will be using words like masculine and feminine, however I am not talking about men or women. I believe Masculinity and femininity are energies, traits and skills that anyone can acquire.

Masculinity: Often associated with qualities expected from men like strength, toughness, focused, driven, competitive, aggressive, result oriented, logical.
Femininity: Often associated with qualities expected from women like kind, considerate, compassionate, collaborative, creative, experience oriented.

Few facts: Daphna Joel, a neuroscientist in her ted-talk “Are brains male or female?” emphasized that we are all a combination of masculine and feminine features, but due to our social and cultural construct females adopted feminine traits and men adopted masculine traits more and failed to tap into other traits, hence the association.

Now, let me share an incident that provoked this thought on how and why one trait is considered more favorable or stronger than another.

Few days back, my husband’s cousin brother had come from Bangalore. During late night chit chats our conversation took turns into how men and women are different, and the conversation went on to the point where I was all choked up and couldn’t speak any further…
My brother in law said “you’re a STRONG WOMAN!! Why are you being so emotional- be logical, common”.

I couldn’t say anything and left the room and went to sleep with my daughters. That’s when it hit my head, what is the definition of a strong woman??

Are strong women those who don’t express their emotional sides?
Are strong women those who are driven by logic only?
Did he call me strong because I value progress, intelligence and accomplishments? Or did he call me strong because I am decisive, direct and dominating?

Why in our definition of strong women do we think of women with more masculine traits only?? That night I slept with disturbing thoughts.

But, the next day, I still woke up bright, I didn’t want to carry the negative experience of the previous day ruin my new day, and waited for a proper time to put my point forward.
I asked “why do u perceive being emotional as a womanly thing only? Why do emotions sound so stupid to you?

If you cannot connect with me at an emotional level your logic makes no sense to me! Therefore, if you truly want to connect with others and stay attuned to yourself you need to tap into your emotional side. Tap into your femininity.

I don’t know what he understood, but that’s when I experienced the true power of femininity.
It was patient yet fierce. Embracing femininity along with masculinity felt satisfying and powerful. That’s when I realized feminine energy is as strong as masculine energy, as opposed to the normal understanding of only masculine energy being strong.

Dear friends, I give you this story because I think it’s parallel to what is happening in society right now.
Our society values masculinity over feminine energy. Let me give you few examples:

  1. We admire women who adopt masculinity at work and assume that women need to act masculine to be successful. We cautioned that being emotional or too sensitive will prevent them from succeeding.
  2. Whenever we say, oh! I am just a housewife or my wife or mother is just a housewife. We are devaluing characteristics like caring and nurturing which are associated with femininity.
  3. Men taking on traditionally feminine roles characteristics are seen as men lowering themselves. For example, men doing household chores and showing emotion are often criticized as “joru ka gulam” or henpecked. They are not considered strong men!

All these are examples why our society is tilted towards masculine direction.

I think this entire female empowerment movement liberated masculinity in women, which is a good thing, women have achieved great things previously perceived as impossible to achieve ,but sad is they forget to liberate and celebrate femininity in men and women, leaving men and women orphaned to their feminine side.

And this creates a strange imbalance. Urbanization, over commercialization and increase in the human disease like depression, anxiety and fatigue are all the pitfalls of over masculinity.

That is why I find the definition of strong men and women so distorted. My definition of strong is the balance of both traits. I am not saying abandon masculinity…I am saying that we restore femininity in ourselves.

What the world needs more today is leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, innovators, homemakers who are in touch with their femininity. The world does not need people who are driven by love for power but people who know the power of love. The power of femininity. With this speech, may you celebrate that in you.

Thank you!

Rupali Poddar
Kathmandu Toastmasters Club