“Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.”
— Michelle Obama
There’s an unusual idea has been making its way around that’s set on the belief that love in the media is weakness. And perhaps, in the real world though I’ve been fortunate enough never to witness this. You’d think Once Upon A Time’s late Cora Mills is in position of their hearts or something. But there’s no theory or idea that’s more laughable, and I say that with the utmost respect. There are a number of opinions that differ from mine that I could respect, turn the other cheek, and agree to disagree on, but when said idea is damaging and leads to young women believing that strength is coldness and isolation, I draw the line. There’s great bravery in honesty and it takes more courage to be vulnerable than it does to build a wall. It takes more courage to understand and explore our feelings than it does to shut them off. It takes strength to fall into the great unknown with a partner that we’re willing to share our entire lives with. Strength is understanding the difference between right and wrong. Strength is understanding our value and trusting our instincts in every obstacle we face. And when someone is right for us, they don’t take those things away from us, they don’t dim them or lock them away, they welcome them with open arms and admiration.
Women are shamed too much in the media. We’re always too much of one thing and not enough of another. If we are perceived as badass then somehow we cannot be vulnerable — crying is then professed as a sign of weakness. And to feel anything but rage or detachment is immediately “uncool”. It’s immediately less badass. In order to be badass, definitions state that one must be intimidating, but then if a woman is even slightly intimidating, she’s considered pretentious. There’s no winning. Subsequently, while we should admire a woman for her strength, we often forget that it’s not always about that unyielding vitality but rather honesty. I don’t want to see a woman on my TV screen that isn’t real, and real women are never just one thing. And at the end of the day, real women fall in love not because they feel they have to, but because they want to. Or they don’t, but that too is simply a choice. Thereby, to state that a woman is weakened for a choice she made is ultimately discrediting every part of her agency.
There are a number of strong women that have found themselves in love from shows like Game of Thrones to Parks and Recreation. Now whatever definition we choose to define strong women as, to me, a strong woman is anyone that’s easily admirable. Someone who strives, struggles, and succeeds. Someone who remains steadfast in their beliefs. Now, without further ado, here are a few of the women that can easily be recognized as strong who’ve found themselves a partner to live life through. For what it’s worth, we know plenty of strong women that have fallen in love and not only are they more courageous today, but they’re also happier. That’s what matters most in life — genuine happiness and the choice to live life the way that it is desired.
Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter
Is there anyone more badass than Marvel’s Peggy Carter? The answer is no. Peggy Carter has honor, class, and strength written all over her. Peggy Carter is a queen — no questions asked. In what is probably the most established way, she is the embodiment of the word “badass.” The person you look to and want to be. But Peggy Carter is no stranger to love. While she made the rest of the world fall apart with the grace and beauty she carried, Steve Rogers encompassed her heart with his kindness and bravery. The adoration and reverence Peggy carries for Steve is eternal. And after his death, though she didn’t waver, Peggy silently broke for him, protected him, and drew out his legacy wherever she went. After some time passed, Peggy found love again in the arms of a man who was her equal, her partner. From what we know, Peggy Carter went on to create S.H.I.E.L.D. and something tells us that Daniel Sousa supported this decision with a fervency stronger than zero matter.
Princess Leia’s name alone should be enough to embody strength. A Princess yesterday, a General today, a Hero forever. Leia could rule the entire galaxy if she wanted to. There’s not a single person/droid that doesn’t respect her. And with the fierce strength she carried in her independence and wisdom she effortlessly inspired many of us. Leia knew where she stood. She knew how to fight. But most importantly, she could see people for who they were and when she fell for Han Solo, I loved her even more. When we reunited with her in The Force Awakens, that love then grew exponentially. To have fought and endured as much as she had only to lose her son and love couldn’t have been easy. But Leia, General Organa was still a force to be reckoned with. A woman who conquered too much but still stood honorably as the face of the rebellion, the symbol of hope, light, and strength. And in the end, Leia never stopped loving Han — she loved him so deeply, she felt his death. To be as emotionally vulnerable as she was with him in their final moments was bravery at its finest, for it takes great strength to admit heartache, and she did so without shame. Leia isn’t just the woman who always speaks her mind, but the woman whose heart is so massive, it’s an irreplaceable force on its own.
Once Upon A Time
To be abandoned as an infant, tossed from foster home to foster home, wrongfully convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, and much more only thickened the walls Emma built but never shattered her ability to love. And perhaps the most unfortunate, heartbreaking truth about Emma Swan is the fact that for years, she essentially believed she wasn’t worth it — a happy ending wasn’t in the cards for her. To believe that Emma is anything other than badass would be undermining to anyone whose career is focused on selflessly protecting. As Storybrooke’s “Savior”, Emma Swan is the epitome of a badass, strong, real female character, and when Emma decided it was safe to let her walls down, she immediately became more intune with herself and her family. Killian’s ability to look beyond Emma’s stoic exterior and into her lost, burdened soul allowed her to then confront the profound, underlying insecurities that told her home and happiness weren’t in the cards for her. His steadfast belief in the fact she was much more allowed her to understand the magical gifts bestowed upon her since her birth. His unwavering, ardent adoration forced her to free herself of the bridges she’s built and accept the reality that her crazy, unbelievable life turned out to be. Emma Swan has never been afraid of being vulnerable — she’s given in to her emotions and explored each of them in a healthy, empowering manner that showcases the very fact that real women are complex. And by removing her walls, she’s not only allowed herself to love wholeheartedly, but she’s courageously chosen to fight for what’s right despite how traumatic her past has been. She’s chosen light over and over again.
Jessica Pearson is the woman everyone wants to be when they grow up. The woman who lights up every room they walk into. The woman who rocks the most gorgeous suits in a way we all wish we could. Thereby, in the 1oth episode of Suits’ sixth season when Jessica chose to follow her heart, to follow love despite her fears, she became a thousand times more badass. Jessica’s hard work and undying passion has made it so her name’s always been on top. And essentially, when a person reaches such high position, they don’t always want to come down from there. Why would they? Not to mention the fact that Jessica’s loved being a lawyer — it’s what she’s always dreamt of. But sometimes, life forces us into circumstances we can’t come out of, and we’re forced to choose between things. Jessica’s choice to go home to Jeff and start a life with him beautifully showcases the fact that there’s great strength in chasing love. Jessica was afraid, for the first time in her life, she was in a position where she couldn’t see the end result, but in spite of those fears, she rose above them. She crushed them. She stood tall and welcomed love into her life authenticating the fact that her very act took more bravery than anything she’s ever done in the past.
Parks and Recreation
Women are marvels. Some are literally badass in the way they fight and others are badass in the way they pursue their dreams, and Leslie Knope is the prime example of the latter. It isn’t easy to be heard when you’re a woman, but Leslie was never quiet in her beliefs. Leslie’s persistence and perseverance in achieving each of her goals have made her incomparably strong. Although we’re in the 21st century and we’re headed towards equality, women in politics still threatens certain people, thereby to pursue it in spite of the negligence that continuously met her has effortlessly made her one of the strongest females to exist. And no part of that strength was diminished when she gave her heart to Ben Wyatt. No part of her fire went out when she chose to start a life with him — it only grew. It helped her take the same kind of stands women took to make their points long ago. And as Leslie fought to make sure she could have a relationship with Ben, she also fought just as hard to deal with the ramifications that arose. Leslie Knope is a cut-throat, realistic example of a career driven women who’s always dreamt of a loving partner by her side. She’s the prime paradigm of a woman whose ambitions and overly emotional persona have taken her to the top. And to have a devoted, dorky, perfect husband by her side makes her even happier. Who are we to say that a woman is weak because she fights for happiness? Who are we to say she’s weak because she’s living the life she wants?
Honorable Mentions strictly because if I talked about all of them, we’d find ourselves with a 20 page article: Michonne (The Walking Dead), Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones), Ygritte (Game of Thrones), Sarah Walker (Chuck), Donna Meagle (Parks and Recreation), Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans), Snow White (Once Upon A Time), Erin Lindsay (Chicago P.D.), Elizabeth McCord (Madam Secretary), Reyna Jaymes (Nashville), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Iris West (The Flash), Tauriel (Tolkein), Regina Mills (Once Upon A Time) and much, much more.
Women are strong in a number of complex, beautiful ways, but strength shouldn’t be measured by how much a woman can carry on her own. Instead, she should be admired for how fiercely she believes in those around her, how fervently she cares, and how tirelessly she fights for whateve she wants. A strong woman isn’t someone who never cries, but rather the woman who wipes her tears and moves forward. A strong woman doesn’t always wear a cape or rule a kingdom, sometimes, they work in an office — sometimes, they’re the women everyone turns to because of their kindness. Sometimes they’re the ones who help out when no one is even looking. A strong woman is a real woman — we’re surrounded by a number of them everywhere we go. Our mothers who’ve never once given up on us. Our sisters. Our friends. Our teachers. And to undermine women by allowing them to be only one thing discredits the amount of fire that resides in them. In the words of Madam Secretary’s Matt Mahoney “Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of — quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.” Strong women are amongst us everywhere we turn, whether they’re silently fighting a battle we know nothing about, or they’re simply using their place of power to spread love (Meryl Streep). I for one, want the females in media to portray real women. And sometimes, real women fall in love.