Inspiring Women and Their One Weakness…

From The Telegraph.
From The Telegraph.

I read this obituary of Naty Revuelta Clews, Havana socialite and one-time mistress of Fidel Castro, and it made me sad to see such a fascinating, unconventional woman reduced to pining and sighing after a man who did not treat her well and probably did not deserve her. Why is it that so many inspiring women have their moments of weakness (which in many cases last for years) when it comes to a man, that they succumb to the charisma and myth of the ‘great man’?

We need to see and hear about inspiring women not just for the 8th of March, but all year round. Here are some of my real-life and fictional inspirations – and their weakness:

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Katharine Hepburn

She was considered ‘insufficiently sexy’ to play the part of Scarlett O’Hara and her sharp tongue and independent manner made her unpopular in Hollywood. She even became box office poison for a while, but engineered her way back to a brilliant career by acquiring the script for The Philadelphia Story. No weak maiden waiting for a studio boss or even a knight in shining armour to rescue her! Still, one chink in her armour: Spencer Tracy.

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Pippi Longstocking

The creation of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, Pippi lives by herself (with her horse and pet monkey) while her father is sailing the seas. She may not be able to count or sip her tea properly, but she is strong, fearless, cheerful and utterly non-conformist. Her weakness: her Dad.

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Debbie Harry

The epitome of cool, devil-may-care sexy style, Debbie Harry had the voice and inimitable, slightly off-beat jazzy singing that I’ve always loved. She survived band break-up, drugs, caring for her seriously ill ex Chris Stein (that’s her weakness right there), and nevertheless managed to have a solo career, a reunion and lots of interesting musical projects. She is a true survivor, and a lady, without the need to be constantly in the limelight that some other rock stars have.

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Simone de Beauvoir

Philosopher, writer, feminist and political activist, Simone was so bright that she only narrowly missed out being first  for the agrégation for her year (Sartre was first, but he was a few years older than her). She is famous, of course, for her ‘open’ relationship with Sartre, but she is no superwoman – she is complex, conflicted and often prone to jealousy and sorrow. Her intellectual journey came at a cost – but she was always candid about it, bravely forging a pathway for others. For a nuanced look at her life and work, see Toril Moi’s biography. I’ve been carrying it with me for about 16 years now, across four moves to a different country.

 

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19 thoughts on “Inspiring Women and Their One Weakness…”

  1. You’ve chosen some excellent examples of strong, influential and inspirational women, Marina Sofia. I think your post shows that no matter how strong we are, we have weaknesses – our own ‘kryptonite,’ if you will. It’s not always a man, a woman or other relationship, but there is always something. In a way it’s oddly comforting: nice to know that these amazing people are also…human.

    1. As you say, we all have our weaknesses (in my case, quite a few). It’s wonderful to see how much they have achieved nevertheless. But isn’t it tempting to daydream a bit about how much more they could have achieved (well, the real women, not the fictional ones, obviously) if they had not spent so much of their time supporting the men in their lives?

    1. Admittedly, Pippi Longstocking is not quite a woman yet, but can’t you just see what a wonderful, strong woman she’ll become? Thank you for your kind comment.

  2. What great examples, there is nothing more refreshing that realising that inspirational women doesn’t equal perfect women! I’m particularly pleased to see the inclusion of Pippi Longstocking who I spent years idolising 🙂

    1. Me too. I was planning to introduce her to my daughter – but then I didn’t have a daughter (I did introduce her to my sons, though), so I’ve given her as a role model to all my friends’ daughters instead!

  3. This is a great list and quite interesting because I don’t necessarily equate these women with having weaknesses. Do you think men is the weakness or love or the idea of love which proves such a folly?

    1. Ah, that’s an excellent point to debate! I would argue that it’s not love per se which haunted these women, but a specific charismatic man (after all, they had other relationships which did not have such long-lasting consequences). However, this may be because they’d somehow fallen victim to that belief (which we all secretly would wish to be true) of finding their ‘other half’ perhaps? That’s too reductionist, I know, and there were probably many other factors involved – including societal expectations at the time those women were living – perhaps they had enough willpower to confront expectations on one level, but not quite on all levels. And of course they probably got a lot out of those relationships, too, which we don’t perceive, viewing them from the outside. (And being of a somewhat cynical bent.)

  4. Love this – I’ve so often wondered why beautiful, iconic, talented women can make a hash of their lives because of men! Adored by the world, but there’s so often one man who can destroy it… with Debbie I think it was her own drug problem, yes – but I watched a new, recent film about her a couple of months ago, in which both she and Chris were interviewed, and apparently she got out of the relationship; it was she who left and got cleaned up first!

    1. Just saw a snippet with the director of the Amy Winehouse film who said exactly that, so yes, most definitely another to add to the list. Also Claire Claremont and Byron – or pretty much any of Byron’s ‘loves’.

  5. I ‘liked’ this post a year ago. Now I admire as you do Simone de Beauvoir. She was a scholar, but no saint. I read 3 of her short stories recently. They were 3 women in crisis. Each feel they are losing what they lived for: a man. Yet De Beauvoir was just the opposite….free, her own boss leaving others instead of being abandoned herself. De Beauvoir’s vocabulary was impressive…..I had to look op so many new words and expressions!

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