I devised this project some time ago as an experiment: instead of individually interviewing a number of strength athletes, the idea was to leave the question as a discussion item for anyone who identified herself as a strong woman.

What did strength represent for them? How did strength interact with their self-representation as women or humans in general? How much was strength morally laden? How did it relate to health, to compassion to the representation of Man in abstract form? All these were questions that seemed to be better approached in interactive form.

Besides that, instead of defining who was a strong woman myself, according to criteria that would have to be clearly stated if any methodological precision was to be respected, it seemed interesting to leave this as a self-definition item. Whoever responds to these questions obviously considers herself a strong woman.

All criteria seemed flawed to me. What first comes to mind is adopt an external makers, such as being a competitive strength athlete. One may be a competitive strength athlete precisely because one feels so weak that competing in one of the thousands of available powerlifting meets was a strategy adopted by friends or family to start this beaten up woman on her journey towards self-empowerment. So, no: being a competitive strength athlete is not a good criteria. Being a champion isn’t, either: I’ve known extremely strong women in the physical sense. Real champions. However, they were only lifting to please someone else – usually a spouse (boyfriend, husband or whatever) or parent. As soon as the relationship was over or didn’t require lifting as a form of obtaining love, the woman ceased to give her own strength any priority.

Considering all this, I decided that self-representation would be a better criteria. A woman will be considered strong if she considers herself strong. The questionnaire was opened. Interestingly enough, the questions themselves provide a selective tool: they don’t make any sense to whoever does not consider strength an important item in their own identity and, sometimes, in human identity.

It is still an experiment. In 14 weeks, I will know where it led us.

The questionnaire can be downloaded at the links bellow and are also reproduced here.

For those who wish to answer this question in interactive form, go to the “BOSS Bitch Crew” group

 

A brainstorm with strong women – pdf version from Marilia Coutinho

A brainstorm with strong women – docx version from Marilia Coutinho

 

  1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your existence as a strong woman (athlete, coach, neither)
  2. Tell us a little about your relationship with strength in your early childhood. When do you remember being aware of gender roles as applied to strength? Have the adults around you attempt to deviate you to a route with less physical challenges or confrontations because you were a girl? Did you have support from adults while growing up strong (if you did) and who were they?
  3. If you did not grow up as a strong little girl, when did the shift to a “strong perspective” happen? How was it?
  4. When you started to manifest your strength, what was the reaction from the immediate surrounding? Were people supportive and excited or not?
  5. If you had to associate strength with other qualities, such as boldness, determination, violence, trauma, happiness, love, destiny or whatever (notice that the examples contain positive, negative and neutral qualities on purpose), what would that be and why?
  6. If you are a coach or even if you are not, but you are helping people become stronger, do you perceive this role as different from that of a male coach or helping person? In which ways?
  7. Scientific data show there are differences in strength and power output between men and women. Should this information be discussed with women who want to get strong? Does it make any difference?
  8. Why do people in general need to recover their strength? How do you see your role there?
  9. Do women have different needs in recovering and maintaining their strength then men? Considering aging related strength losses, do we have a special role in the lives of aging women or do you think it makes no difference the gender of the person helping this aging woman?
  10. Do you feel prejudice because you are strong? If so, can you share some examples?
  11. Do you feel encouragement and admiration for being strong? If so, can you share some examples?
  12. A man being aggressive or sarcastic is a man being a man, while a woman doing the same is a bitch. Elaborate on the topic if you wish.
  13. Sports economy and marketing: are strong female athletes becoming more valuable for the sports industry? If so, did you feel the change or have some anecdotal evidence you can share? How do you feel about yourself in this context (sponsorship, public support, etc)?
  14. What are your plans for the future?