In our blog this week, Dale, Brooke, Baylee, and I are going to give our different interpretations of “womanhood.” More specifically, we will answer the question, how do you define the concept of woman, and how has that concept defined/shaped your life? We decided that the answer most definitely varies for each of us, due to our different experiences and perspectives. So here are each of our thoughts…
In a way, I think I prefer not to define “womanhood.” Yeah, I don’t really want to define it! Because now that I think about it, and after reading some of the writings from Roxane Gay, I think that maybe defining concepts that don’t really have one definition could be the root of the problem. Maybe it’s not the root of the problem…but it’s certainly part of the problem. Gay writes about how women are constantly critiquing each other, she wrote, “there’s no way for women to ever get it right.” Maybe that’s because, way back when, and still today — there’s a definition of “womanhood,” in other words, a way that a woman is supposed to be. I think it’s supposed to be whatever each and every woman wants it to be. So as to how the concept has defined/shaped my life — I don’t think it has. I think I’ve defined/shaped IT!
I’ve been told by guys in the past (as have many girls) “you’re not like other girls.” This is such a bizarre statement. Of course we’re all not the same. This statement is another example of how the one definition of “womanhood” causes statements/assumptions such as that. And I think when they said that – they meant “other girls” as in, other girls are bitchy, dramatic, emotional, vulnerable, not ‘cool.’ But what’s funny is, I can be bitchy, dramatic, emotional, vulnerable, and ‘not’ cool. But I also can be kind, calm, unemotional, tough and cool. Why? Because people are COMPLEX. All people…not just women.
So again, I don’t let it shape me. I shape it. I’m not those few adjectives those boys assume girls are – I am so many different adjectives. However, I don’t want to disregard the obvious fact that there IS pressure to be a certain way as a women: sexy, nice, defiant, skinny, etc… and I feel that pressure as many other women do. If I leave the house without makeup or my hair is a mess – I look down at the ground more, I make eye contact less. I feel the pressure to be that ‘cool girl’ that is calm all the time, tough as a rock, beer in hand.
I think I feel that pressure for many reasons. I certainly have looked at pretty athletes, models, actresses, etc. and thought to myself, wow I wish I looked like them, and in small ways without even really noticing it – I try to look like them. I buy clothes or accessories or makeup that I don’t really need. Before this class, I never really thought about why I bought these things… I knew that I liked those things, but again, I didn’t think about why. Now I know that it’s because of that pressure. I’ve spent all this money on my appearance because society tells me to do so.
So as far as feminism goes, I like Gay’s version of feminism. It’s less about defining the ideal ‘feminist’ and instead accepting that feminists make mistakes. I think it’s time we strip back these concrete definitions – of gender, male, female, sexy, and leave the definitions open and flexible. That way the labels don’t define you; you define the labels. If that mindset was imbedded in our society instead of the opposite, these definitions would include many, many, more kinds of people.
To wrap it all up, I am aware of the pressures that exist surrounding being an ‘ideal woman.’ But I do my best to still be confident in the type of woman I am. So yes, I am a woman, yes I am unique and different than other women, yes I have flaws, yes I like myself, and yes that is okay! Thanks to platforms that are fighting against the patriarchy, more and more women are becoming comfortable with themselves as well. Comics like Bitch Planet, Lumberjanes, or the writings of authors like Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay, are a few examples of ways that the definition of “woman” or the definition of “feminist” are changing. And really, just the idea of having a class called “women writers” is amazing in the first place. All of these platforms are spreading awareness. There is no one type of woman, so it doesn’t make any sense to tell a woman how she should behave or look. That is completely up to her. My life, my appearance, my actions, everything in my life is up to me. I won’t let society, the patriarchy, movies, social media, or any human being tell me differently.
Gay, Roxane, Annette Kühn, and Christian Lux. Bad Feminist Essay. Wiesbaden: Lux, 2015. Print.
Defining womanhood is no easy task, as every single person has his or her own independent relationship and experience with what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Additionally, there are SO many different types of women that I’ve come in contact with who all express their womanhood in different ways, which makes defining woman almost impossible. It is way too hard to confine everything I see in all the women around me into one socially constructed, constrictive box. And besides, who gets to decide what it means to be woman? If I am more feminine than someone else, does that make me more of a woman? If one woman is a mother, is she more of a woman than a woman who is not? Absolutely not. The concept of woman, therefore, is an all-encompassing factor of identity from which people can express certain things. I also think that being a woman is more than just having biological differences from men or fitting into the categories imposed on people today. To me, womanhood is not limited to what society (and even myself) find key traits to be a woman, but from the most influential women around me, I have found some things that seem to be common factors: (DISCLAIMER: this in NO way is what all women have/should have, they are instead just some key traits I have noticed most women in my life have)
Notice, that there are only three things I have found in common between almost all of the women in my life. I think that holds immense value in defining what a woman is – you really can’t. All women are unique, so when thinking about what being woman means, it cannot be narrowly defined. Notice too, that these three things are not just traits for women: they are HUMAN traits. GROUNDBREAKING… women are human. Furthermore, men can have these three traits too, reinforcing the idea that traits women have are simply human traits. Not everyone has to have them, making the idea of defining womanhood an irrelevant venture. Being woman is being human. Womanhood is a unique experience, and when considering what it means to be woman we should celebrate the uniqueness we find in ourselves and the women around us, rather than restricting ourselves to the rigid social constructions of what women are and should be in the modern world.
The one thing that, I believe, sets women apart from men, is the inequalities and injustices women still face today. It seems that this is truly only a woman experience. While my aforementioned list of traits can be seen in both women and men (making them seem equal), immense inequalities exist between women and men today. To name a few: women still make less than men for the same pay, and they are more likely than men to be illiterate and in poverty. On top of that, it seems that women living in a patriarchal world are deprived of basic human rights and human decency. Women have to work harder than men, and if they fail, it is a reflection of all women. This is not hard to see: political reporters consistently comment on Hillary Clinton’s colorful pantsuits and appearance, rather than her groundbreaking political achievements. Women are objectified in the media, which constantly reminds us that our worth is measured in how we look in a bikini. Women are pitted against each other in a competitive environment where they prevent all women from gaining ground in society. In order to overcome these degrading facets of womanhood, women must come together and pledge to advance women’s rights. Women have made great strides towards equality, but it is still not all the way there. I, for one, am hopeful for the future.
The concept of womanhood has shaped my life in many ways. I identify as a woman, and I really am proud of that. I believe that women are incredibly strong, after all – transforming the role and perception of women only really started a few centuries ago. Making such great achievements in such little time takes some pretty badass people, and those people happen to be women. Women have strength in their bodies, their minds, and their hearts. While some of my experiences with womanhood have been negative, *cue the high school boys calling me an “overachieving, control freak, bitch”* overall I find that my identity has only helped me. Most importantly, I have been lucky enough to have some really incredible women shape me into who I am today (most importantly, my amazing mom), teaching me the most valuable lessons and developing my character. Here are some of the most important things I have learned from women about being a woman:
1. I am worthy and I deserve to be heard.
2. I will always stand up for what I believe in.
3. I will always voice my opinion and take time to learn from others.
4. I do not have to justify the way I feel.
5. My worth is far more than a number on a scale or the size of a dress.
6. I will dress for myself.
7. I will empower and support those around me, especially other women.
8. I know what I want and I will work hard to achieve my dreams.
9. I will not apologize for saying what I think.
10. I will not be quick to judge.
Reading the texts in this class reinforced these lessons for me too, as well as inspired me with the future of the women’s movement. Again, these lessons are important for women, but they are equally important for men. So, to reiterate once more, being a woman is being human. And my experience with womanhood is also my experience with the human condition. These things go hand in hand. ☺
Okay well it’s pretty obvious I’m going to have a pretty different stance on this topic… I’m a guy. I don’t pretend to know what it is like to be a girl I only have my stories and my experiences and the people in my life that have helped shaped me. To be a woman, to me, doesn’t mean you have to be this certain thing. I don’t feel like there are certain characteristics that come along with being a woman. However, in a large point I do believe with all my heart that all woman are strong and beautiful. Why strong and beautiful to describe a woman?
Well to be a woman means you are automatically enrolled in this gender position where you face inequalities. Yeah its sad, its tough to say but that’s what happens. So to be a woman means you are handicapped from the start, yet you all break free and fight through those handicaps to become something. Something Beautiful. There’s the second word to define a woman. When I think of a woman I think of something so peaceful, something that can tame any man no matter how tough they are. Women have the strength to see through the toughest man and make him realize that he is nothing without her. Okay so I just got all lovey dovey but its true. Women in today’s society face injustices. It is sad to think though that the concept of a woman and what a woman does, how does this person deserve to be treated the way they are.
I have learned what a woman was from a very powerful one. I learned what a woman was from a lower class Hispanic woman. My Mom. Your mom shapes so much about you. See even though I have no idea what it is like to be a woman I witnessed my mom shape it for me and shape me as well. My mom a lower class Hispanic woman started with nothing. She had decisions to make and she chose to go the path less traveled by a Hispanic woman. She went to college, paid for on her own, got a business marketing degree. Then went on to become one of few Hispanic women if not women in general to hold Vice President and Chief positions in large fortune businesses.
So to be a woman means yes you are starting off in this difficult position but you are strong and you are beautiful and you can do what any man can do. Seeing my mother and this concept that I hold has helped shaped my life currently. I hold the upmost respect for all women. I love how I actually believe though yes physically men hold strength but the woman has so much power that society needs to recognize.
It has helped shape my life to view things from multiple perspectives, to be less aggressive, and to learn about women more. As Gloria Steinem says sit back and listen and learn just as much as you speak. This is my major take away from this class. I think if we all just sat back and listened as much as we spoke, there would be more understanding.
To be a woman yes may mean, stay at home with the kids and take care of the family (a full time job). Or it may mean going out and pursuing a job. There are no limitations to what it means to woman.
So overall I guess my main points to realize is that there are so many different perspectives on what it means to be a woman. I hold a perspective from a guy’s mindset. If you ask the girls this question I think they are a little set back because you are asking them basically well, how do you define yourself? It’s a difficult question that will have different answers. Overall though women do so much. I am very glad I have had my mom and my family and my friends to help show me what it means to be a woman and what woman go through.
Taking this class has also shaped my opinions. Gloria Steinem left me with a concept I just can’t seem to get out of my head. Listen as much as you speak. I have tried listening more and truly retaining information better when it comes to people. Especially girls… I think the girls notice when you actually remember things they talked about previously. I really enjoyed this class a lot.
Thank you all.
For me, being a woman is more than just a biological classification of gender. While, throughout my life, I know I have been subjected to many views of what society believes a woman should be and I am sure that I have internalized those concepts to some degree, but I like to think that I have ownership over my gender as well.
I have a firm, firm belief that women ought to be equal with men and that this is very infrequently the case as I go about my life. The truth is that women can do anything men can do, yet I can’t figure out why that is not a given. I’m not totally sure how we got here, but I know as I go through my life it can be hard sometimes when I face blatant and disrespectful sexism and all I want to do is scream.
The first time I saw Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon was a really important moment in my life in deciding who I am as a woman. I am being completely genuine and in fact the sentiment has been written about by others. But honestly, I found it to be such a novel concept that Elle Woods, the movie’s protagonist, didn’t play by anyone’s rules. Despite being categorized as a dumb blonde sorority girl, she broke through that by going to law school at Harvard. Then, when her boss hits on her, she uses her own skills and knowledge to show that she’s better than him. Throughout the movie, Elle does girly things like wear a lot of pink and bring her little Chihuahua around with her, but that doesn’t dictate who she is or what she knows she can do. I loved it.
In this article where Gabriella also sees it as an important feminist moment, she says:
“Elle creates a take-charge environment and instills confidence in the women around her. She empowers Pauline to fight for her right to see her beloved dog. Also, many of the conversations Elle has with other women are about law and/or other aspects of her academic life. In the end of the film, Elle graduates top of her class and with several job offers. Her perseverance and determination to prove that she was more than the box that society tried to fit her in—a blond, dumb sorority girl—should be an inspiration to us all. Elle proved that what people perceived as weakness can actually be a strength.Legally Blonde has and will continue to empower women to go after what they want with unstoppable determination and will.
^ from another article about Legally Blonde.
Honestly, that sentiment carried me through middle school and much of high school, at which point Beyonce’s feminist message became an important influencer. In college I began to study feminism and its history, which only deepened my understanding. I was in a class once and we were talking about feminism when a fellow classmate said that being a feminist is really just about doing whatever you want. Because doing whatever you want openly defies the concept that you should do or be anything. It is freedom, self actualized, and I try to embody the idea in my life. It also helps with the screaming.
In the end, throughout my life being a woman has shaped my identity and been a source of inner strength. I am glad to have taken this course in which we were able to explore feminism and women writers as it has served to further deepen my knowledge and understanding of feminism.