The first time someone told me that, I was 6. I had been out playing with this boy, can't recall his face or name now. We were playing piggy back, we took turns carrying each other on our backs in the school corridor.(notice the non-princess treatment). After three trips, the fourth was my turn, and the boy intentionally passed so close to the wall that it scrapped the skin of off my hand. I only remember screaming so loud, seeing pink on my hand, then red, oozing red. I still have the scar on my right hand. The teacher looked at my hand one time, and said,
"Bosibori, you are so strong"...
That should have been a compliment, but at that time it didn't sound like one, I was in pain. The worst thing is that she let the boy go scot free! Yet I knew the accident was not an accident it was intentional. I healed in no time, forgot about it even except for the fact that I was strong.
Women, especially black women get this "compliment" all the time. If a black woman lost a husband today, or had to go through a painful break up, or pulled through hospital, or got through school on her own the adjective strong would be appear as many times as the word hustler appears in Ruto's speeches.
I like this word, or atleast I did. One problem though, it is associated with pain, with suffrage, with overcoming something terrible. You see my point? I mean, why can't I be called strong if I walked all day on six inch heels? why can't we refer to this word when I change a tyre? or take hours to choose an outfit or even when I just smile? Why do we call serena williams strong and call rihanna pretty? ( peep the double standards).
There are probably words for that, words like pretty, words like fashionable, words like skilled. But strong? noo we don't do that here because apprently no pain no compliment. I had my birthday three days ago and it's ridiculous how many times the word strong popped up. It all just made me realise that I must have been through hell and back for more than ten people to collectively think to use the same word almost at the same time to describe the same person.
I saw a tweet stating that, strong is the least of compliments that a woman should be accorded. I tend to agree, simply because of the stereotype attached to it and the reference too. So whenever you call a woman strong do you really refer to her carrying her own groceries to the house or you would rather she looses a baby and get through it first? You see why I'd rather be called educated, intelligent, sharp than strong.
No offence to people who use it often, but trust me when I say we'd go for witty or skilled any day. Strong is posh for 'unastraaaagooo!'. Strong is saying you look amazing but we all know you've been through the shits. I don't need a reminder, been there done that, for now we should move regardless. If a wrestler was called strong then that's okay, or even a construction worker that would be totally cool, it would not settle well with me because it retrieves old wounds.
Some people would prefer strong to any other compliment, they like it, the transformation.They like telling their victory tales, how they moved from A to B. How they pulled through and how inspiring it should be to the listener. Oh! how they smile and nod in agreement when called strong. Good for them!
Strong sounds like a 100lbs mighty and muscular man who carries mountains for a living. Now make that man a woman and we have tripple the problems.We now have stereotypes , we now have black women feeling manly just for having a little muscle, we now have women afraid of hitting the gym since they will be too strong for the man, the same one who gave the compliment. We also now have women trying to dim themselves for others or fit in places they have outgrown.
This is not a green light to call me weak, just so you know I can bleed for seven days straight, push a human out of me and walk miles on heels. Don't confuse my strength for suffrage.