Of The Strong Woman Scam

Don’t call her strong…

It seems like a compliment doesn’t it? To celebrate someone one’s capacity to endure. It seems like solidarity doesn’t it? To tell someone to stay strong when they are facing challenges.

I have been unlearning.

Our cultures are peppered with sayings that extol the virtues of a woman and make her the embodiment of a home and a village, even a nation. Musha Mukadzi which translates to the key person in a home being a woman. On the surface, it seems like a beautiful sentiment but it comes with shackles.

Our mothers and our grandmothers were taught to be resilient, to endure and just like those before them, to be strong. They have been praised for their strength, to strike a woman you strike a rock ….  There are many stories of women, whom when facing marital difficulties would simply be told such was the way of life in marriage, stay strong.

This served to glorify suffering, that it almost feels like its commendable to suffer so, instead of offering solutions, one is placated with praise into believing such is the role of a woman, to endure, to not rock the boat or ruffle feathers, or shake tables.

This wasn’t just in a home setting but even the education of the time used to subtly reinforce how women should be seen and not heard, given etiquette classes to be demure. Drilled with a sense of duty on how to be perfect for marriage.

Life has had a sense of irony in how men have a lower life expectancy. I have seen how my grandmothers from both the maternal and paternal side suddenly grew less conservative and conforming when they became widows. If you needed an ally in something that went against tradition then either of the grandmothers would likely be the one to tell you to do what you felt you had to do even when they did not agree with it.

Times have been changing we have been learning and unlearning and relearning.

Daughters of Light, a poem in Batsirai Chigama’s debut poetry book Gather The Children has stayed with me from the time the book was launched back in 2018.

We are dancers of light
Never slaves to gravity
Daughters of wind.
Daughters of fire.
Silence was taught to our mothers
and we rejected it at birth
-Daughters Of Fire-

This post is in honour of all those who have challenged me to think differently and inspired largely by a poem by Buhle Matsha Don’t Call Me Strong.

Don’t call her strong.


Week 3 Stories Of Awareness WinterABC


  1. On my grandmother’s funeral I even read a piece called ‘A strong woman’. It sounds so much like a compliment, but it comes at a cost for sure! I will join you in the unlearning.


  2. I love this. This is what I keep fighting against and everyone thinks it’s a great attribute even us women…like whhyyy ..I refuse….DO NOT CALL ME STRONG!!!


  3. Maybe the phrase should be Be Strong and fight back as opposed to stay strong which definitely implies “and do nothing”


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