Tender Heroine: The strength in being female

One of my favourite phrases to describe women is: “steel magnolias.” I think I have a new one in “Tender Heroine.”

That’s the name of a new art project from a London-based illustrator called THx that depicts women and all their emotions. The aim is to show strength through our vulnerabilities.        

"While it started as a personal endeavour to capture my own feelings, it has quickly grown into a collection of portraits of Tender Heroines I meet, read and hear about every day," says THx.

Tender Heroine 1

I love this idea. It constantly bewilders me that in the 21st century, we still view qualities seen as feminine – such as emotions, empathy, sensitivity, giving, nurturing – as vulnerabilities: something to be ashamed of, something weak, especially in Britain, where a stiff upper lip is seen as a national quality to have. Show your emotions? Are you mad?

It gets worse as we get older. Men in their 50s are seen as “silver foxes”, eligible men at their peak with a wealth of experience and wisdom. Menopausal women at the mercy of their hormones, on the other hand, are washed out and past it.

Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t fancy trying to get between a woman and the person they love. Have you seen the posts on Mumsnet? They’re vicious if anyone dares criticise DS or DD. How many women do you know who look like the Walking Dead, struggling to get through the day because they’ve been up all night nursing a member of their family? They’re exhausted, but life has to continue and they have responsibilities and so they do it.

How strong is that?

Tender Heroine 2

And when we’re older, those “vulnerabilities” can become powerful. Think of Emmeline Pankhurst – she was in her mid-40s when she truly began fighting for women’s suffrage; Marie Stopes was also in her 40s when she opened her first family planning clinic. Michelle Obama is 54 and stronger than ever.

All of them using their weaknesses to make the world a better place. 

Tender Heroines every one of them.

To me, that’s what THx’s images represent. Now I’ll admit, they’re not your standard living-room fare because they’re not showing women in the traditional way we think of them – they make you stop and think. But I love them because these aren’t heroines in distress needing to be rescued; they’re strong women. Their tears become the main focus, swirling crowns, not something to be hidden, and their sadness makes them human and beautiful.

They’re available as limited edition fine art Giclée prints and every sale will help women, too. Ten per cent of the profits of Tender Heroine will be donated to charities that support vulnerable women and girls, including Girls not Brides, which aims to end child marriage, and My Body Back, a London charity that helps women who have experienced rape and sexual violence. There’s also 10% off if you use the code: Tenderxmas at checkout - the website is here.

Time to celebrate our weaknesses!