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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 something 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 , 1978- "The Moon Is Always Female"

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