Tarkovsky on Women

A woman, for me, must remain a woman. I don't understand her when she pretends to be anything different or special, no longer a woman but almost a man.
Women call this "equality".
A woman's beauty, her being unique, lies in her essence, which is not different, but only opposed to that of man. To preserve this essence is her main task. No, a woman is not just man's companion: she is something more...

I don't find a woman appealing when she is deprived of her prerogatives, including weakness... and femininity... her being the incarnation of love in this world.
I have great respect for women, whom I know often to be stronger and better than men, so long as they remain women.

That was Tarkovsky's answer in A Poet in the Cinema. At first, I bristled at his seemingly old-fashioned view of gender roles, dismissing it as a traditional Russian male perspective, but on reflection, I see his point.

When women try to be strong, they often over-do it. Think about the female politicians or business people who decide that in order to compete with men, they have to be more ambitious and backstabbing -- so they in effect become psychopathic men. Think also about female athletes (particularly fighters), who become more vicious and driven than similar male athletes. If women were allowed to play professional football, they'd probably kill each other on the field.

This phenomenon happens when the strength is an act. It's inauthentic. And when someone chooses or has been conditioned to act inauthentically, problems are bound to follow. In my experience, this kind of strong woman can vacillate between domineering and passive. When the fa├žade gives way to nurturing or traditionally feminine instincts, the inauthentically strong woman expects to be taken care of. At other times, the switch is flipped, and the woman demands to be in charge, as if the previous mood never happened. It's confusing because there's an internal conflict. Nobody wants to be seen as weak, yet real inner strength doesn't come easily. It can only be faked for so long.

Women manifest strength differently than men. Through devotion, receptivity, consistency, selflessness, she shows real fortitude. If she reacts against innate femininity, she becomes a caricature of a man. It must be confounding for women today, who are pulled (and pull themselves) in opposite directions, denying their inherent differences, never finding a resolution.

Of course, a lot of this strife comes about due to thoughts, ideas, expectations, beliefs, and projections of how things should be. So, how is it possible, for a woman or a man, to be authentic, to be complete, to transcend the ideas of roles naturally? It's a tall order! I suspect it involves mining the deep well of compassion, found through solitude -- the precious resource of which we deprive ourselves.

Tarkovsky knew all of this and through his films, expressed it in his unique, dreamlike way.