Are Women Weak?


I often check out a very popular blog on my local online newspaper. Written by Meredith Goldstein with comments by often hundreds of readers, “Love Letters” usually is smart, funny and wise. However, one recent letter-and-response set me back on my heels.

A woman wrote in to complain that her longtime boyfriend was selfish. When they went out, they tended to go where he wanted to go; he wasn’t much help around the house; his opinions seemed to matter more than hers, and so on. She highlighted her dissatisfaction with an anecdote: recently he had wanted sex when she wasn’t feeling in the mood. Apparently he wheedled, whined and pouted until she gave in. Her point was NOT that he in any way threatened her, or used force or coercion either physical or verbal — there was no hint of anything of that nature. Her issue was that such tactics didn’t work when she used them: when she wanted sex and he wasn’t keen, all of her wheedling, whining and pouting came to naught.

Okay. The guy did sound self-centered and a little piggy. However, I was not prepared for Goldstein’s advice, which characterized his behavior as assault and included a suggestion that the letter-writer might consider calling the police. In other words, rather than suggesting that the woman learn to say no — to sex when she didn’t want it, to places she didn’t want to go, to doing all the housework herself, etc. — and risk, perhaps, losing a relationship with someone unwilling to compromise, Goldstein in effect turned the incident into rape and the woman into a hapless victim.

Is that what we women are: weak and helpless, unable to stand up for ourselves, so fragile that the least bit of turbulence breaks us in two?

Let me be clear: real violence against women is utterly unacceptable. Women who are raped, battered, oppressed, psychologically abused, denied equal opportunities and equal pay, mocked and belittled, and turned into sexual objects are deserving of our full support and action. Physical vulnerability is one thing — most women I know would not be able to fend off a 200-pound man without very special training. But when an incident such as the letter-writer described is designed “rape,” what do we call it when a woman is genuinely violated, perhaps in fear of her very life?

The tendency to treat women as intrinsic victims seems to be growing. A professional women’s organization to which I belong recently advertised a meeting featuring a local journalist who is outspoken about women’s rights. All to the good, I thought. Then I read the description of the talk in which several rhetorical questions were posed:

  • The New England Patriots recently signed Albert Haynesworth, who had pleaded no contest to a 2003 domestic dispute — should they have refused to hire him? (In other words, should Haynesworth forevermore be denied access to his profession?)
  • The Boston Bruins, who had improbably won the Stanley Cup this year, inspiring great multi-gender elation in Boston, held their victory parade on the same day as a women’s march for peace — should the Bruins have deferred? (One might note that nearly every day in Boston there is some sort of political or charitable event and sports championship celebrations are always scheduled for a day or two after the winning game. Nearly 1.5 million people showed up to cheer the Bruins and among the throngs were as many female faces as male.)
  • Should Strauss-Kahn be prosecuted for rape despite serious and legitimate doubts about the accuser’s credibility? (In other words, is an accusation by a woman about a sexual violation in and of itself evidence?)

Finally, I remembered a very heated online discussion a while back among members of a feminist media group to which I belong. You might recall when Al Gore was accused of sexual assault. Many of the group passionately advocated for publicizing the accusation in every outlet possible, denying Gore whatever protection his fame and reputation might offer and basically skewering him with the blade of feminist solidarity. When it came to light that the accuser was very likely a liar and that Gore had not done what he was accused of doing, suddenly the conversation dried up. Nobody suggested that Gore’s exoneration should be given the same attention as the accusation against him.

I’m a woman and I believe that in our indisputable strength, resiliency and compassion lies our salvation — and our ascendancy. To encourage women to feel helpless, to depend upon others to be forthright and make difficult decisions, to retreat into the role of victim when it’s convenient or likely to attract sympathy, is, for me, the ultimate abuse. Yes, of course we need to fight violence against, and oppression of, women wherever we find it. But let’s deplore any attempt to keep women down by glamorizing weakness. This crazy, threatened world needs women — needs us as warriors, not wimps.


Related Stories:

Beaten By a Partner or Departed, Which Would You Choose?

Presidential Coverage Takes a Turn for the Sexist

French Police Question DSK Over Allegations of Rape of Writer

Photo from Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games via flickr creative commons


Kamran Ather
Kamran Ather5 years ago


Christina Dylan F.

dear sir or vagina:

please join the movement at and support the ladies who take pride in NOT being manlike.

do any other females think that there is something not right about a female who can't get a sense of esteem without being regarded as "manlike".

i am starting a movement for females who love and respect femininity as the absence of masculinity that it IS, rather than as the "a woman can do anything a man can do" propaganda-line that feminists love to recite but cannot justify. feminists have no respect for the feminine gender, they have no respect for their gender being the shorter/smaller/weaker gender, they have no respect for reality or for they way things ARE. they're trying to put some kind of a spin on gender so that society regards a woman as man-like with a womb (wombman). now, i realize how the word "woman" stems from "wombman," much like "ape-" and "spider-" are both prefixes to the word "man" which differentiate the prefixed man from the actual man, but the population of vaginas all seem to want to be man's equal (even though both the bigger anatomy and the superior ability of one gender has slapped that notion of gender-equality right in the face ever since the coney island hot dog eating competition had to placate the lesser gender by adding a woman's division in order for the little gender to triumph).

i am starting a movement f

Heather A.
Heather A7 years ago

Both the advice columnist and the author of this post need to remember that only the individual knows if they've been sexually coerced. To dismiss this woman's experience as consensual because that's the way you interpreted her description is just as bad as calling it an assault.

I believe sexual assault survivors. Why? Because it has a lower rate of false reports than most other crimes. Because speaking out about rape is highly stigmatized, and our society and courts have a nasty habit of victim blaming. I refuse to contribute to a discourse that further discourages survivors from coming forward, as this is a much bigger problem than this "glamorization of weakness" the author speaks of.

Helena Plum Bowyer
Helena B7 years ago

It is true that women need to stop seeing themselves as victims. But to wider degree why do both sexes adhere to gender stereotypes? In coutries where they are a lot less pervasive there are smaller differences between the sexes. There are sensitive men and competitive women.
On the Strauss Khan affair a lot is said about the crediilty of the witness, that she has had run ins with the autorities etc. Can anyone please tell me in any other kind of assault would this make a difference? For example if a male cleaner had gone in that room, and got a punch in the face for doing a rubbish job would it make any difference to a prosecution that he had had a criminal conviction himself? Because the way I see it is you have to be perfect if you are the victim of a rape and that isn't the case in any other type of trial. I think this is wrong on so many levels.It's an open invitation for men to target vulnerable targets. Ian Huntley the killer of two girls in the UK had numerous rape allegations against him but none were followed up as the girls he targeted were rough and young.

Halle K.
.7 years ago

How can women be weak? We physically endure actual jobs,household chores and errands (includes cooking, cleaning,shopping to paying bills) , take care of the kids and partner, have hobbies and interests. Then we go through emotional and mental abuse on a daily basis not to mention the biological changes-pregnancy, birth, weight gain and loss, menstrual cycle, menopause and anything else nature seems to throw our way! Weak? Huh! I doubt it!

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare7 years ago

No we are not weak; we are just different. Its like comparing an omlette to a cake, yes one of them is meant to be a dessert, its meant to be extra sweet, but arent they both tasty? Saying your cake is good, doesnt make your omlette bad, does it?
Men are meant to be stronger, specially physically, they go through far less mood swings, and dont PMS, and dont cry as much as we do, but we are strong too in our own way. Hell, some women are even just as strong as men, both physically and emotionally!
Lets acknowledge and celebrate our differences instead of making lame comparisions that lead to nothing but lamer conflicts ;)

April Thompson
April Thompson7 years ago


Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

Not good to cry rape when one has not happened. But it does sound like this woman was in an abusive relationship and should have been given better advice. There are different kinds of strength; learn to exercise what you have.

colleen p.
colleen p7 years ago

biology, physiology. there are differences right?

Linda McKellar
Past Member 7 years ago

Ginger - Very well expressed. Thank you.