For Strong Women… by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405This month I had planned to write a long column of finding joy in the midst of pain, or rather enjoying what you can still enjoy. I know you all will be reading this the day after Thanksgiving…I want to be grateful and I am… for so much. I want you to find what you are grateful for and hold onto it.

But, I am also scared and desperately raging and deeply upset that Standing Rock and the protesters there were recently hosed with freezing water, hit with rubber bullets and assaulted… 

I am not even going to hotlink here the things that I am deeply and grievously upset by regarding Trump’s new “President-elect” status. As a confirmed and unapologetic sex predator, he will never be my President. I embrace the social media hashtag #NotMyPresident.

I am stunned by the fact that Hillary has closing in on 2 million more popular votes than him. I am #StillWithHer. I am grateful that she is considered the #ThePeoplesPresident.

But here we are with Trump in place, set to be inaugurated in January. I am doing everything I can to Flip the Electoral College. If you want more information about the electoral college and an opinion on why it isn’t working right now you can start here. If you want to know how to write letters and or call the electors to see if they can be persuaded to change their minds you can start here.

I am trying, in the midst of this time, as we approach the holidays to be grateful. I am a strong woman. I have been nurtured by strong women in the feminist movement. And that is what I want to give you, FAR family, this Thanksgiving—a poem for strong women. This is by one of my favorite writers, Marge Piercy.

As we work on all fronts to survive, to thrive and continue to fight back…I am grateful that my belief is in community, that we all survive together. Not just some of us, all of us, and for that my wish is that we may all be “strong together”.

A Strong Woman – Poem by Marge Piercy

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.


Marie CartierDr. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall(Routledge 2013).  She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine. She is also a published poet and playwright, accomplished performance artist, scholar, and social change activist. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) and an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting), both from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University.  She is co-chair of the Lesbian-Feminisms and Religion session of the national American Academy of Religion and co-chair at the regional level of the Queer Studies in Religion session, founder of the western region Queer Caucus, and a perma-blogger for Feminism and Religion. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style, and a 500 hour Yoga Alliance certified Hatha Yoga teacher


7 thoughts on “For Strong Women… by Marie Cartier”

  1. Thank you, Marie, first for the information about the letter-writing campaign and secondly for one of my favorite Marge Piercey poems. It’s the right one for these days!

    I had already decided to write to the electors here in Wisconsin, a state that supposedly voted for Trump over Clinton by .7% when a week before the election Hillary was 6% ahead. (And now Jill Stein has asked for a recount here, YAY!). I’ve done that, in part urged on by your post. Thanks again.


  2. I sometimes watch old movies on youtube. Last night I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” ( I think that was the name of it) There is a rapist/murderer on the loose and I was horrified when one of the detectives, referring to the rape, said something like: “at least she had some pleasure before she died”. I noticed the date of the film – 1972 – and thought of how recent that is, and of all the strong women who have, and continue to bring us to the point where we recognize and oppose the people today who would take us back to that sick mentality.

    Strong women indeed! In less than 50 years we have moved forward – more in some places than in others. And we will not be stopped…hindered, slowed sometimes, but not stopped.


  3. Ah, this is a powerful essay and I thoroughly enjoyed the poem, probably because it isn’t sugar coating how difficult things are for us now. Standing Rock horrors are right there staring us in the face, and some of us are still reeling, others like me, are trying to figure out what we are going to do is survive these treacherous times. Thank you.


  4. Wow. I love this. It is amazing what this election and season has stirred up in our collective, creative lives. If nothing else, I try to celebrate beauty rising from the ashes. This poem answers part of a poem I wrote in the wake of the election:

    tell me
    what does it look like to be a woman?

    but don’t tell me about having it all
    as i try to write
    but i can’t breathe from the guilt gripping my chest
    as i try to leave
    but my kids scream and my heart shatters
    not only because of their unmet wants
    but also because of
    as i try to be
    just let me be
    not overtaken by

    the pressure.

    so, tell me
    i can be a mom and nurture?
    i can tame my passion?
    i can shut up or shut down afraid of what i might
    but what if i am more afraid of what i
    don’t become?
    because what about my other “options”

    i can be strong

    i can be wild

    so, tell me
    you want me to pursue
    until it makes you uncomfortable
    you want me to love
    what you tell me to love
    you want me to feel
    what you can hold in the palm of your hand

    nothing more.
    nothing less.

    why do you get to tell me what it means to be a


    Sorry to unload completely in this comment! I have been struck by how challenging it is to find examples of the paradoxical nature of femininity. Thank you for all you offer in this space.


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