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Nowadays thanks to the World Wide Web anyone, much like the good Generation Z-er I am, has an endless black hole of knowledge right at our fingertips wherever we are in the world. Whether one may think it’s a good or a bad thing, there’s simply no hiding from it. When trying to conceive an answer for what it means to be a woman, I trusted my handy pal Google to help me out. Much to my lack of surprise, the results were nothing to shake your tail feather at. It’s easy to find the few recurring blogs from singular perspectives or an array of online articles. Each piece is found to be discussing stereotypes, hormones, psychology, or biology. How IS it that such an intricate and varied group of powerful people are condensed into fitting sterile categories? These categories with little to no mention of what lies beneath these things? Brushed under a rug to be left as nothing but a list of certain criteria and criticisms. Is being a woman really chalked up to being only a superficial idea? I stumbled across a question that had no definitive answer; a question that I realized is nearly absent from our current world conversations.
For nothing but the sole benefit of absolutely everyone in the world, there is no such thing as a fixed self. Change is happening all around us. Whether we register it consciously, subconsciously, or if we decide to ignore it... it’s still there. What we understand as our identity is nothing but an ever-changing process within ourselves, a constant adaptation to our environment, our beliefs, dreams, and emotions. We’re like a glass that’s constantly emptying and filling itself with new water. We remain and yet, we change. So when someone asks, “what does it mean for you to be a woman?” I can’t help but remain silent at first, wondering, what really is it that makes a woman a woman?
Opening a new browsing window, I thought maybe some insight from the dictionary would help, and quickly researched the definition of “woman”:
- The female human being (distinguished from man)
- A wife, girlfriend, or a lover
- A female person associated with a particular place, activity, or occupation
- Refers to an adult human being who is biologically female; that is, capable of bearing offspring.
Albeit still very far from satisfied, at least I was getting somewhere in this exploration.
First, what does it mean for a woman to be distinguished from a man? Is it based off where we differ between our bodies or was I supposed to be constantly defining myself against men? If this is the case which is beginning to be built, what does it take to be considered a full and a true woman? If someone wasn’t to fit into all of the above categories, will that leave them only a third, fourth, or maybe just half of a woman?
While growing up, during my childhood there were two surpassingly powerful women in my life that played a heavily handed influence. By the hand of God, I’m still able to call them my two moms. Nearly 23 years into my life, I have only just begun to fully grasp the significance and weight of their lives and how they have affected mine. Thankfully what I have known from the start is that neither of them allowed a societal definition of what it means to be a “woman” to define their place in life. Each of the two female role models in my life, with heads held high, defied stereotypes, psychology, biology, and the dictionary. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Each in their own ways, my mothers both taught me things of great importance. There were two values that were constantly ringing in my ears and really stuck with me. In ways of love and comfort, one of my moms was able to open my eyes to see that it is possible to have it all in life, that whatever I seek or desire can be mine IF I truly want it. If I put my mind to something and truly worked at it, anything is achievable. Certified Mom-ism or not, she’s right. On the other hand, with a more rigid yet still caring approach, my other mom instilled in me the belief that I cannot depend on anyone else to make my dreams come true. "There's no such thing as a knight in shining armor coming to sweep you off your feet.” I'd hear quite often, "Be your own knight."
Growing up I could (and I did) sit and watch both my parents tirelessly work their jobs in order to provide a healthy and secure environment in which both I and my brother could each thrive and flourish within. Our parents sacrificed so much of their lives to fight for ours. It was a constant battle in which they fought to ensure we grow with successful futures. This is my thank you.
Hundreds of years ago, society thought that being a woman meant being naïve. That it meant being fragile, an eternal child, a baby producer and caretaker, a sex doll, a trophy, a prize. It meant being sometimes shunned into silence or being cast aside, turned into a needful pariah in a male-dominated society. Centuries ago—hell, not even that long ago—it meant behaving in certain ways, wearing certain kinds of clothes, being concerned about certain stuff, and expecting anything from very little to absolutely nothing from their life. Being a women meant having others choose for you. You had no voice. I must confess, it sounds a lot easier than having to make decisions and do everything by yourself, but that's boring, predictable, and smothering. As well as so against Nature’s greatest gift of all: the free will and mind we were all born with.
For many of us girls, while growing up, it meant a childhood of pink dimensions. Where little girls who would be found playing with dolls and other toys are thought of to be harboring the legacy of those days when women were taught to stay home and take care of their babies. Conflicting with the aforementioned mindset, it was also getting our knees and hands dirty when we went out to play. (Which in my own opinion is better than sitting indoors with some dolls. Maybe I owe the thanks to growing up with a twin brother but nonetheless!). Being a female is walking barefoot on the grass, imagining wondrous worlds and sparkling stories where we would play at being adults or pretend to be those TV characters we loved. All of these cases in some way helped shape us into the women we are now. From time to time, it meant being divided into teams (“boys vs girls”) in a preferably low-key competition to see who was better. In the end, though, we realized that competitiveness, however fun, was unnecessary, and that the only thing that mattered was that we were all playing together. United.
Being able to have a daughter of my own now is a wonder. Having a daughter who can grow up around the two most influential people in my life, and have them now be in hers, is nothing short of a blessing. It is my hopes for her that in growing up she enjoys whatever her heart may desire. May it be make up and high heels, getting dirty, playing sports, you name it. If she wants it, no doubt in my mind that as her mama, I can and I will do everything in my power to give her the life that she deserves. There are no set guidelines she need follow to become a powerful, successful girl turned woman, other than to be herself. A wish for her is that the world not change her, but she change the world.
One of my hopes for my little girl is that she will see how being a woman is also about pursuing your dreams, and about challenging the ideas which are outdated, many informing those of what their dreams should be. It’s also about working with beneficial allies. Whether it be found with men, other women, other people, there are ways to reap the benefits from all. It is sometimes a struggle to make things right and to show that it’s okay to do whatever you want with your life. Sometimes showing that you deserve to be treated right isn't always the easiest of things. It should be an easy thing but hey—life won't always be sunshiney days for anyone. And if they're telling you so... it's more than likely not the case. Being not just a woman, but just being human in general, is realizing that others who have had it worse than you also deserve a good life. It is following the beliefs that inspire you. Luckily in many cases, you never quite know where you’ll find those moments of inspiration, these moments of chance. To some people these moments are to be found in a group of friends, in a religion, or in a philosophy. Where it matters most is in the end where you'll find yourself to be embracing Nature's greatest gift of all.
Each and every one of us are given things in life. Nothing matters quite like the biggest: the ability to decide, to be both sculptor and masterpiece of our own life.
Both reality and identification are a matter when it comes to being a woman. These ideas are not fixed, but instead they are ever-changing. That is the most bewitching part of it.