When strong is used in the context of women, often it implies strength at the cost of lost femininity. To be tough and womanly at the same time is a hard balance to strike. So you have the boss who cracks the whip and simply does not tolerate incompetence or insubordination. Her expensive clothes and accessories drip power and control instead of chic. On a "lesser" woman they may have made a fashion statement but not on her. Superficially there is nothing less feminine about the strong woman - she is just as attractive, blessed with just as much fashion sense as anyone else but in her mind she is strength first and woman later. She does not want gender to bias her or those who interact with her.
I met Yvonne for the first time about five years ago. At the time, she was going through crisis in her marriage. Her husband had been cheating on her for a while and growing indiscreet about it. Her friends would find him with the other woman at restaurants and movies. The day she found her husband with his girlfriend in her own living room, she left home carrying with only things she had bought with her own money.
Yvonne had a high school education and a twenty year old son who was struggling to stay employed. Her day job while a steady one did not pay very well. To supplement her income she worked as a store manager at a local grocery store. For the year we worked together, her wardrobe was limited to two pairs of jeans, half a dozen tee shirts and a couple of coats for winter. Everything she earned was going to pay the divorce attorney and rent. Unless you knew her well, you would never know how much she was suffering. Her spirits were always high, she took pleasure in the smallest wins in a time was incredibly difficult for her. If there was anything she could do to help another person, she would even without being asked. Her son floundered from one part time job to the next and had no motivation to go to college. Yvonne, dealt with the conflict every parent endures in that situation - whether to prop him up and enable him or allow him to fail and fall hard no matter how much it hurt. She chose the later option.
I met Yvonne again recently. A lot has changed. Her son died in an a car accident in which she was very seriously injured. Needless to say the car was totaled. The incident happened after a particularly nasty spat with her soon to be ex husband. Reconstructing her face after the accident took over a year. The divorce is finally coming through though the terms are not to her satisfaction. She managed to squeeze in an undergraduate degree in the middle of all this and got two promotions at the job. She makes more money now than she ever has in her life. The events of the past three years have taken their toll on her face but she looks very fit - athletic even. I complimented her on being is such perfect shape at close to fifty. There is bounce in her step and her wardrobe has undergone the most amazing transformation. She has almost reversed her age to where physically she looks a lot younger now than she did a few years ago. "I want to look my best for the court date - you know when I get my divorce decree. Ted has been a helping me a lot".
Ted is Yvonne's boyfriend. They have been going steady for a couple of years now. Her face radiates joy whenever she talks about him. They workout together every day so she can be good and ready for the big event coming up. "When I see him there at the court, I want him to see that he could not take anything away from me. I have made peace with losing Kenny and don't blame him for it anymore" Her ex-husband is a very successful man who had married Yvonne for her youth and good looks. As they started to fade, he moved on to someone else who met his needs. What happened to Yvonne's marriage is commonplace but how she responded to her circumstances is what sets her apart - makes her an absolutely inspirational woman.
There is nothing that can make up for the loss of her son. The fact that she has been able to make peace with that is a testament to her inner strength. She rose like a Phoenix from the ashes in all her splendor. Yvonne is inspiration to any woman who feels like a victim, feels like her life could not grow any more difficult, that the world has wronged her and she deserves better. She took on a combination of adversities very few have the misfortune to face in their lives and transformed it into energy to thrust her ahead. In her heart she is still a woman, capable of falling in love and nurturing a romance. When she walks with her head held high, her body in the best shape its probably ever been, she still turns heads. She is everything a woman can be if she has the courage to take on her lot in life without flinching.