Women don’t need a cape to be heroes, nor do they need to lift a car to be strong.
When people think of the word “strong" the first image that comes to mind is a male with large muscles. What many lack to realize is that strength comes in many forms and, more importantly, it is not only tailored for men.
Senior pre-med student Alexis Barbati, senior journalism student Ife Okantah, and recent Kent State graduate in Public Relations, Brianna Figley are just a few examples of the endless faces that strength lays itself upon.
Barbati, in her freshman year of college, was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a life-threatening immunodeficiency disease. This lead her to one of the most difficult journey’s of her life. What started off as Mono, lead her down the path of being life flighted to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, being put on a ventilator for nine days, and enduring 11 rounds of chemotherapy. With this at hand, she had two options.
“I had a choice to just feel sorry for myself or to wake up everyday and fight it and see the good things that were still happening in my life,” said Barbati. “It was one of those moments where you just have to say, ‘Okay, I am going to be strong’ and if you can tap into that strength, you will see that there is a lot there.”
Strength does not have a look. Strength does not have a voice. Strength does not have an identity.
“ I don't think you can put a definition on a strong women, it something that is in all of us. It’s embracing whatever season of life that we are in in that moment,” said Barbati.
With any walk of life, there comes stigmas that are often attached. The stigmas that have been attached to women in society has and continues to grow and evolve.
“Women have always known the scales tipped in men’s favor, and have been fighting that stigma for decades,” said Brianna Figley. “But it seems in today’s world, women are not just fighting for equality and respect – they’re demanding it and taking no prisoners along the way.”
Figley is a recent Kent State public relations graduate who juggled both education and being heavily involved in ROTC during her time as a student. Currently, she is both a Project Coordinator for Davey Tree and serves as a sergeant, E-5 in the Ohio Army National Guard. Her official role is serving as a transportation operator. Although she admits to dealing with some of the stigmas that are associated with being a woman, she says,
“In my eyes and that of many people I’ve served with, a person in the military is not treated no differently than the one next to them, no matter their gender. You are not a man or a woman; you are a soldier.”
In a way, all of us are soldiers forced to endure the walks of life and the struggles that come along with being faced with reality. Today, more than anything, women are called in all directions and are being embraced for roles outside of your typical housewife, but with that, women are also expected to do above and beyond, more now than ever before.
“Women are expected to do everything. We are expected to be educated, we are expected to work, we are expected to be a parent, we are expected to do 99 things – we are expected to be wonder woman. Before we were expected to do nothing, but now we are expected to do everything,” said Okantah.
Okantah, when she was around 16, was sexually assaulted and this encounter has forever changed her.
“It took me until 20 to 21 to even realize what had truly happened to me, but that’s an example of, in that situation, of me having to be strong and grow older,” said Okantah. “Unfortunately, I think that is something I share with a lot of women.”
Okantah believes that a strong women should not be defined by the amount of pain a women endures, but rather a women who is living her best life and who, despite what is going in the world, is just doing what makes her happy.
“I hate that people say you are so strong, but you don’t have to be raped to be strong. You don't have to be depressed to be strong. You don't have to go through all of these negative things to be strong. You are allowed to just be.”
All women are strong, even if it has yet to be discovered for some. Alexis, Brianna, and Ife are just a select few of the many beautiful, independent, and more importantly, strong women in this world. It is strong women like these who help lead in this powerful movement that women are as strong, if not stronger than men. As women continue to share their stories, we continue to see progression of how women are perceived not only by one another, but by society and even in the media.
An example of women showing just how powerful they are is in the upcoming movie, ANNIHILATION, starring Natalie Portman and various other strong female leading roles. The movie reveals “Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X - a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline. Once inside, the expedition discovers a world of mutated landscape and creatures, as dangerous as it is beautiful, that threatens both their lives and their sanity.”
This movie will be a great example of just how smart, strong, and will-minded women are and that they are not a force to be reckoned with. The movie will be released February 21st but be sure to follow ANNIHILATION on social media to get a sneak peak into all of the action.