One does not often hear this term today, but in 1977, we heard it a lot. It was part of the song lyrics of Billy Joel's hit, "She's Always a Woman to Me." Web search that song to see all of the lyrics. It is still a cool song today. The lyrics speak to me about behaviors that I have encountered in women that have touched my life. What do you suppose that Billy tells us when he says of the woman about which he sings, "The most she will do is throw shadows at you?"
I have read some treatises about the meaning. One of them is that she stands in a spotlight or sees herself like a rock star. She does not see her man. He gets only her shadow. My analysis: That one does not work for me. Another is that she is a gloomy person, that she casts her shadow on her man, to bring him down. My analysis: I do not like that one either. A third is that she wants to hit her man at times, throws air punches or shadows of a punch at him, meant to wound his pride, self-esteem, or ego, but not to maim him. My analysis: Nope. I do not think so.
She does not give value or substance. Maybe. I can see that in his mind, she always falls short of what he expects her to be or what he believes that she could be. She is a shadow of perfection to him. Does she turn her back on him sometimes? Perhaps, but not in his hour of need. She may be a survivor, someone who has been hurt by men before, so now, she can not or will not commit to a man – her man gets only her shadow. Worse, she does not know who she is. A shadow is the best that she can do. My analysis: She is not perfect, is moody, sometimes willful, does not like to be controlled, will exercise control on her man, but she is his woman and she knows it.
So, I have decided that this song is about a woman who does know who she is, does know what she wants, but she updates her want list from time to time and expects her man to automatically update his ability to provide. In that, he disappoints her, yet she does not want him to ever see that she is disappointed or hurt. She will not reveal a vulnerability. Thus, she throws shadows, or confusion when she feels cornered. He does not understand this behavior. But, that is the effect that she wants. She slips out of the corner, while he is confused, and continues to live her life as if nothing happened.