What It Means to be a Woman
Alice Paul, Ph.D, LL.M, LL.D (b. 1885; d. 1977)
If you think being a woman is all about biology, think again, because that is just a scientific identification and bodily function. Although I experienced nearly all that there is to physically being a woman, including bringing life into this world three times over, what my body is capable of doing does not make me a woman. This hub is dedicated to all real women - the ones who paved the road and the ones who travel it daily.
Physicality does not define "a woman."
Let me explain. Having a menstrual cycle does not make her a woman. Some females begin their cycles at nine. She is not yet a woman. Some females, because of a medical issue, may never begin a cycle. She is not less of a woman. Eventually, all females stop menstruating. She did not stop being a woman. Bringing life into this world does not make her a woman. Some women are unable to conceive or carry life. Some women choose not to. She is not less than a woman.
Some women are well-endowed while others have no need for a bra. The "DD" cup woman is no more of a woman than an "A" cup. Some women have no breasts at all after surviving the battle against breast cancer. She is not less than a woman. For some women, due to a medical necessity, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries were completely removed. She is still a woman. Nothing less.
Some women have curves; some are rail-thin. She is still a woman. Some have long hair and some have short hair. Some cry because they lost all of their hair. She is still a woman. Some wear make-up and some do not. Some wear dresses and others wouldn't dare. Some wear heels while others prefer to be bare. She is still a woman. Some love men and some love other women. She is still a woman. Some cook, clean, and take care of babies. Some are astronauts, world leaders, doctors, lawyers, or soldiers. Some are educated and some are not. Neither is more woman than the other.
One thing is common to all women, we all struggle to fit into a male definition or stereotype of what a woman is rather than defining it for ourselves. The time has come for that to stop.
Give that woman an award.
As if we don't have enough stereotypes of what a woman is, or should be, now we have to deal with the fact that someone who was a man for more than 65 years is now "a woman" and received a "Woman of the Year" award. Now the voices are putting forth the notion that this is what women should aspire to be. As if it were not enough that the message forever has been that women are not as good as men in any arena, now women are not good enough to even be a woman - her birthright. Somehow, a 65-year old man can do that better if you give him a great surgeon, a dress, and six months of parading as a woman. Assuredly, "she" is not a woman. "She" is a human being, free to do what "she" wants with "her" body, mind, clothing, and life. But "she" is not a woman because "she" has no concept nor the experience of being a woman. All of "her" success comes from being a man - "her" very celebrity comes from being a male athlete.
If one needs proof of the misogynistic world in which we live, consider "Chaz" - born a woman, was completely disrespected and mocked when he identified as a male and underwent gender reassignment. Did GQ give him an award for man of the year? The message then is this: a woman is not accepted as a man (no matter what she looks like physically) but a man is accepted and celebrated when he identifies as a woman.
We live in a perpetual misogynistic world that sends the message that the only thing of value in a woman is her set of breasts and that she wears a dress rather than who she is as a person and giving her credit for the obstacles she must overcome simply for being born and raised as a female.
"One in four women is a victim of severe intimate partner violence. From 1994 to 2010, 4 out of 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female." The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Victimization of Women
- 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
- 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
- 9 out of every 10 rape victims were female.
Women "are refused access to education and political participation, and some are trapped in conflicts where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war. Around the world, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are needlessly high, and women are prevented from making deeply personal choices in their private lives." Human Rights Watch.
Income Inequality for Women
- For Women, Income Inequality Continues Into Retirement : NPR
Lydia Smith, 87, is one of the 2.6 million women ages 65 and over living at or below the poverty line. Older women are more than twice as likely as men to live in poverty.
Women & Economics
- Women make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.
- Black women earn only 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by white men.
- 1 in 4 homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her.
- Over 1,000 public K-12 schools in the United States have single-sex education programs. Many rely on discredited science and gender stereotypes.
American Civil Liberties Union.
Being a Woman
Every woman faces the challenges and pitfalls of what being a beautiful woman means - because it is ever changing. Many go to the extreme. Literally, they cut off their noses to spite their beautiful faces - an attempt to achieve perfection available only through Photoshop. Many starved themselves to be thin only to be criticized for the same. Many overeat to soothe their emotional wounds only to be ridiculed for their size. Women have the daily battle against the voices who say they are not good enough or not woman enough.
Being a woman is found in the soul, the mind, and in the struggle of being a woman in a sexist, male-dominated world. A woman is a living, breathing, feeling, human being. "She" is just a pronoun. Being a woman is something more.
Being a woman is about standing tall when she is degraded as a woman or shedding the tears when she can stand no more. Being a woman is about surviving the "power struggle" to have a voice about the trajectory of her own life. Being a woman is about pushing forward when the men in her life tell her it cannot be done; and she says, "Watch me." Being a woman is about having to prove to everyone else, everyday of her life that she is not weak and should not be underestimated. It is about banging on every door of opportunity until someone opens it. Sometimes it is a woman who opens the door. Being a woman is about all that she brings from her heart to uplift her family and other women. Being a woman is about a valuable perspective that only women have. Being a woman is not about being the same as men or "equal" to them but instead being valued for her femininity. And for so many equality never comes because it is falsely defined as taking on the role of the man in addition to her "duties as a woman."
Being a woman is about hugs, wiping tears, encouraging others to be their very best, setting the example for other women to follow, unconditional love, and bringing that "feminine touch" to the world that only we can bring. Being a woman is about being set up for failure and succeeding anyway. The strongest women define womanhood for themselves but only after they survived the inferno of attacks that come along with being born and raised as a female in a male-dominated society.
I'm a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a girl's best girlfriend, and more. I'm soft, I'm sensitive, I'm tough, I'm me. I will always be grateful that I am a woman and for everything that it means to be one.
By Liza Lugo, J.D.
(c) 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Originally published November 16, 2015. Latest revision: November 17, 2015.
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American Civil Liberties Union. "Women's Rights." http://www.aclu.org/issues/womens-rights. Access date 11/16/2015.
Human Rights Watch. "Women's Rights." http://www.hrw.org/topic/womens-rights. Access date: 11/16/2015.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline. "Get the Facts and Figures." http://thehotline.org/resources/statistics. Access date: 11/16/2015.
RAINN. "Who are the Victims?" https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims. Access date: 11/16/2015.