You've never read quotes quite like these.
In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf wrote, "Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems." Put the two together, apparently, and you'll suffer no lack of things to write about, nor things to read.
The things written about women — by women, often by men, sometimes about the woman in question, sometimes sprung from a character's own fictional lips — well... there's no theme or motif, exactly. To find a pattern would be reductive: Women are far too much to condense into some kind of bare-essentials handbook.
But I love the writers who try. The ones who write about women in anger or in admiration, the ones who put wild words in their women's mouths, the ones (like Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott, especially) who know that we aren't all sweetness, hoping to be loved, that plenty of us, to some degree, have a darkness you don't want to mess with. And I love the ones who seem on the verge of "solving" us only to find the puzzle box of a female opens onto a padlock with a combination that keeps changing.
And, fine, I love the writers who just plain get it up for us. That may be why I quote the barfly poet Charles Bukowski here more than once. I'll catch flak because many say he's a misogynist. But he's a misanthrope, and hated both sexes quite equally. And liked women a good deal more than he did men. At least enough to be out-and-out drunkenly devoted to wanting us and all the attendant misery we might bring.
Who could blame him for deciding that if he couldn't solve the problem, he'd try to make it his own? With that, here are 37 strong women quotes.
1. "Her joke of a name aside, her general unprettiness aside, she was, in terms of permanently memorable, immoderately perceptive, small-area faces, a stunning and final girl."
"A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power."
3. "She was free in her wildness. She was a wandress, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and to no city."
― Roman Payne, The Wandress
4. "I stopped looking for a Dream Girl, I just wanted one that wasn't a nightmare."
5. "Dispute not with her: she is lunatic."
(Author's note: Is this the first time in literature a man has referred to a woman who doesn't take his shit as 'crazy'?)
6. "Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting."
"Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination."
(Author's note: Unfortunately for poor Proust, he was probably imagining the ugly ones as men.)
8. "You're only a man! You've not our gifts! I can tell you! Why, a woman can think of a hundred different things at once, all them contradictory!"
9. "I am two women: one wants to have all the joy, passion and adventure that life can give me. The other wants to be a slave to routine, to family life, to the things that can be planned and achieved. I'm a housewife and a prostitute, both of us living in the same body and doing battle with each other."
10. "She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down."
"I loved you like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of."
― Charles Bukowski, Love Is a Dog from Hell (line from "An Almost Made Up Poem")
12. "So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."
13. "I've always loved strong women, which is lucky for me because once you're over about twenty-five there is no other kind. Women blow my mind. The stuff that routinely gets done to them would make most men curl up and die, but women turn to steel and keep on coming. Any man who claims he's not into strong women is fooling himself mindless; he's into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in her makeup bag."
14. "'I am not an angel,' I asserted; 'and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.'"
15. "She was a dull person but a sensational invitation to make babies."
16. "An elegant woman is a woman who despises you and has no hair under her arms."
17. "Because she was solid gold, fourteen-carat, barely burnished despite twenty years of hard molling. But beneath it, I knew, beneath that gold and stardust, she was all grit and sharp teeth gnashing, head twisting, talons out, tearing flesh. She was all open mouth, tunneling into an awful nothing."
"That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them."
― Dorothy Parker, While Rome Burns
19. "You, Yunior, have a girlfriend named Alma, who has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit."
20. "Patty knew, in her heart, that he was wrong in his impression of her. And the mistake she went to go on to make, the really big life mistake, was to go along with Walter's version of her in spite of knowing that it wasn't right. He seemed so certain of her goodness that eventually he wore her down."
21. "Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something."
22. "You boys can keep your virgins
give me hot old women in high heels
with asses that forgot to get old."
— Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog from Hell
23. "She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit."
"All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be."
25. "Leo wondered how he and Evan had wound up sitting bitch in the backseat while Sarabeth steered them from danger and Teena rode shotgun — in the literal sense. All those studies about chicks being more academically successful than guys could be recalibrated to also include superior survival skills."
― Iva-Marie Palmer, The End of the World as We Know It
(Author's note: Excuse the vanity, but I included this because it's true.)
26. "I'm the bitch who makes you a man."
27. "She had been looking all along for a friend, and it took her a while to discover that a lover was not a comrade and could never be — for a woman. And that no one would ever be that version of herself which she sought to reach out to and touch with an ungloved hand."
28. "'She can't help it,' he said. 'She's got the soul of a poet and the emotional makeup of a junkyard dog.'"
29. "And for that one moment of freedom you have to listen to all that love crap... it drive me nuts sometimes... I want to kick them out immediately... I do now and then. But that doesn't keep them away. They like it, in fact. The less you notice them the more they chase after you. There's something perverse about women... they're all masochists at heart."
"I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been."
31. "Darwin may have been quite correct in his theory that man descended from the apes of the forest, but surely woman rose from the frothy sea, as resplendent as Aphrodite on her scalloped chariot."
― Margot Datz, A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids
― Elizabeth I, Collected Works
33. "A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her, if she has a plain face. What folly will not a pair of bright eyes make pardonable? What dullness may not red lips are sweet accents render pleasant? And so, with their usual sense of justice, ladies argue that because a woman is handsome, therefore she is a fool. O ladies, ladies! There are some of you who are neither handsome nor wise. "
34. "She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises."
"For a woman, all resurrection, all salvation, from whatever perdition, lies in love; in fact, it is her only way to it."
36. "'Oh, Vivian Apple,' Harp says. 'You beautiful, crazy bitch'."
― Katie Coyle, Vivian Apple at the End of the World
(Author's note: I say a version of this to myself quite often.)
"I'm a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist, a Black... an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive."
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