Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Strong women and the men who 'love' them

Perhaps ironically, I’m writing this blog at my husband‘s behest. It’s basically an attempt to put on paper (/screen) a half-baked theory I was expounding the other evening, and to see if I get massively shot down for it.

Anyway, I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but my contribution was a kind of taxonomy of men who claim to be interested in being with strong women, according to how they actually behave when in a relationship with one. It goes as follows:

type one says that he wants to go out with strong women and that he respects their strength, intelligence etc. What he actually wants to do is wimp out; by playing the ‘I’m a new man who respects my partner’s opinions/wishes’ card, he gets to abdicate all responsibility and therefore all blame lies with her when things fuck up. He often displays a masochistic tendency to defer at every opportunity, even if she’s desperate to get an opinion/some activity or support out of him – his idea of a strong woman is one who always has to be the strong one in the relationship; for him to have any backbone or be supportive would be oppressive and patriarchal. She winds up doing all the work, (emotional and logistical) but then can be written off as a nagging bitch if he wants to a) whinge to his mates, or b) latch onto a new woman. Despite his claims to ‘evolved, feminist new-man’ status, he’s actually just manipulating the idea of equality to give himself permission to be idle and weak, and then blame her for being a castrating bitch when she takes ‘too much’ power in the relationship;

type two, the opposite of this (in some ways), claims to like strong, independent women, when what he actually likes is breaking them. This type can do a very good job of fooling you that you’ve met your emotional and intellectual equal in a relationship, but what he’ll actually do is get you into a weak position (as he sees it) – ie being emotionally involved – and then use it against you. The latter can take various forms, including two-timing, emotional abuse, suddenly becoming emotionally distant, or raising expectations about how supportive and respectful they’ll be in a relationship and then withdrawing that support and respect for no obvious reason. This breed is especially common amongst left-wing ‘activist’ men;

– fortunately, the third type is more positive, because there are actually some men out there who are apparently able to interact with their female partners in a reasonably equitable way, accepting that relationships involve give and take and that even the strongest woman needs support sometimes, and vice versa. Or maybe he’s just one of the other two types and hides it better…

Obviously this is a completely crude typology, people change, people are different with different partners, many men will have aspects of more than one of these ‘types,’ women have faults in relationships as well as men, I’m an evil feminazi blah blah blah. There are also probably many sub-taxa to be proposed for this rather simplistic scheme. And I should emphasise that I’m talking about relationships within a ‘normal’ range of messiness, not men who indulge in properly from-under-a-rock behaviour like domestic violence. But I guess it’s worth sharing, if only to be shot down. Enjoy.

Oh, and yes I could supply lists of names to illustrate each ‘type’. Especially, needless to say, the first two. But I won’t.

4 comments on “Strong women and the men who 'love' them

  1. Dwight Towers
    January 1, 2011

    Well, my evil little feminazi, as any fule no (or “fulette” to use the diminutive), for a *really* successful typology that gets the chattering classes chattering, you need a grabby name for each of your categories.

    Type one could be “Door Matt” (I believe there was a one-off cartoon about a character like that in Viz magazine – I could check my back catalogue if you liked).

    Type two could be Mr Petruchio (though the reference to “The Taming of the Shrew” might be a little subtle?) How some asinine assonance/alliteration – “Brian the Breaker”?

    The third, well you could call him Nicholas, as in “Santa Claus”, since lots of people (pretend to) believe in him.

    Dwight Towers (type 2, just hiding it well).

  2. Dwight Towers
    January 1, 2011

    Leonard has a song for it, natch

    The Stranger

    It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers
    who said they were through with dealing
    Every time you gave them shelter
    I know that kind of man
    It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone
    who is reaching for the sky just to surrender
    who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.


    But now another stranger seems
    to want you to ignore his dreams
    as though they were the burden of some other
    O you’ve seen that man before
    his golden arm dispatching cards
    but now it’s rusted from the elbows to the finger
    And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter
    Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter.

    Mostly the song seems to be about Door Matts…

    • Eli
      September 10, 2015

      Well this sure does ring true. I’m always alarmed when I hear men declare their love of strong women–or intelligent women, women with opinions. Especially when they seem to think that this makes them special, or if they seem to expect you to take the declaration as a compliment.

      I’ll be thinking about sub-divisions now.

      Also, I reckon there’s a case to be made for Cohen’s “The Master” as a song by Type 1 about Type 2, showing these apparent competitors to be in covert collusion through their twinned projects of elevation/destruction.

  3. Pingback: Men (and the strong women they annoy) «

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This entry was posted on January 1, 2011 by in Women and Feminism and tagged , , , , , , , .
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