What makes you a woman? What circumstances need to exist in your life to feel as though you’ve earned the title and trappings of womanhood?
I ask because there has been a longtime conversation raging in popular culture about what makes a man “a man”. The responses are very limited in range, in my view, and may sound very familiar to you.
- A man is able to provide (financially) for a woman/his family.
- A man is someone who is able to protect those he loves.
- A man is physically strong. (My assumption is that this is necessary for the protection of the aforementioned loved ones.)
One after another, the handful of men I queried – including my own husband, whom I consider quite progressive – gave variations of the same 3 responses. What that says to me is that a male cannot define himself as a man in a vacuum. His definition of manhood or masculinity cannot function independently of a relationship of something/someone else.
I got to thinking about what my personal definition of femininity and/or womanhood would be. In the old days, they would say that you became a “woman” with the onset of menses. This means that girls as young as 10 years old qualified as women because biologically, they were capable of making a baby. Fortunately, may of us have been liberated from the doctrine of the good old days.
I find that what makes me a ‘woman’ flies in direct opposition of what makes a man ‘a man’. My foray into maturity means that I am able to care for myself. That I have a capacity to protect myself from threats. That I have earned the freedom to care for and attire my body as I see fit. That I am able to gain as much knowledge and information for myself as possible – with the goal of using them as tools to further my personal ambitions – and impart that knowledge to someone else. Financial and economic independence makes me feel incredibly womanly. For me, in order to consider myself a mature woman means self-reliance and self-actualization. Funnily enough, I have never considered childbirth and/or rearing as markers of ultimate femininity, despite the fact that I have had and am raising four kids. I find that odd, given what my somewhat traditional upbringing informs me: That in order to be a “real woman”, one must have gone through the exercise of giving birth – and if possible – done so on multiple occasions.
I’m curious to know: How would you define femininity? What informs your ideas about this concept? If you would like to write an extensive essay on your thoughts, I won’t be mad! (Send your document to adventuresfrom[at]gmail . com) The concept of gender is ever expanding and changing, and I believe to each of us, that milestone is something that we must all ponder and is informed by personal experiences. What makes you a woman, Adventurer?