Saturday, May 9, 2009

Being a Woman

As a young adult, my (boy)friends used to call me a feminazi. There are probably definitions on the internet, but what it meant in my circle was a rigid (if not aggressive) feminist. I was on a quest—no, a mission—to have equal rights and experiences as men. Equality means the same, right? Woman=Man? I wanted to be taken seriously but felt like all guys could see was my anatomy. So, I downplayed my feminine characteristics (note the large plaid flannel). In fact, I went so far as wanting to be treated as one of the boys. I wanted to hang out with them in the kitchen or around the truck—those exclusive meeting places of the fraternity of boys. What did they do there? They rolled their own cigarettes and drank. They talked shit and challenged each other. Equal? Heck, I can drink this whole bottle of tequila! They spit and worked things out by wrestling or with their fists. Hey, I could do that, too. Walk alone at night? Sure. Adventure! It wasn’t until I decided to have a baby that I realized something: I’m a girl. Boys and girls are not the same, but that doesn’t mean girls are the weaker sex. We can still work together for equal rights. For this, I am grateful to the feminist movement. Because I’m a woman, I will always advocate for women—just not to the detriment of men.

In The Spirit of Intimacy, Sobonfu Some says, “Being a woman does not mean you have nothing to do with masculine energy. Similarly, being a man does not mean you have nothing to do with the feminine. Vaginas and penises are not the only things that define our sexual nature. Our lives are influenced by the presence within us of both feminine and masculine energies. It is important that these energies maintain harmony within us.” She goes on to describe annual rituals in which the women go off together to dance their projective manliness and the men go off to dance their feminine receptiveness. Sobonfu says, “You will notice in many villages in Africa, during the days women are all together, men are all together also. This is not a sexist practice. It’s just that for some reason there’s a feeling that a clear sense of otherness is essential to a harmonious coming together with your mate.”

I am a woman. It’s taking me awhile to figure out what this means to me. To value and refine my intuition. To learn to be assertive without being (or feeling like) a bitch. To love my womanly body. To recognize the importance of being the matron, the priestess of the home. To envision the healthy heritage I want to pass on to my family and my extended family. To find support and camaraderie in my girlfriends.

So sisters, what does being a woman mean to you?


  1. I think mostly we have moved on from this idea of equality needs to mean sameness. The 90's was a real social shift time. I think now we have learnt to embrace our femininity and that it can also mean strength. And even, that we as women have a uniique tyoe of strength.

    That's why now, many women can be SAHM's or whatever term you prefer, and it's more acceptable by other women (not ALL women yet) because it's now a eprsonal choice rather than an oppressive and powerless situation.

    I think it's wonderful that you have found your feminine power.

  2. Jenell, you said it so perfectly. I was raised by feminazi's! Women that had taken the opportunity of women's rights to divorce abusive husbands. I am thankful for that. My cousin worked closely with Gloria Steinem. Was appointed by Carter to work for women, can't remember the ridiculously long title.Arranged the first women's conference in Texas. It was huge for me growing up.
    I was raised to believe that I did not need a man for anything...including raising a family.

    Needless to say I am in recovery! All I ever wanted to be was a mom and work with kids. I never had the urge for a career or for money, I do not have the provider instinct even though I was surrounded by working women.

    As I have grown up I value men so much. I need them. I am not ashamed to say it anymore. I value the role I have chosen and am not ashamed to say it anymore.

    I want my daughter to know that she can do anything...even be "just" a mom.It is odd to me that such a part of being a woman almost needs to be reclaimed because of the feminist movement. But as with all changes refining and balance needs to be sought.

  3. For me, being a woman means being self-sufficient, strong, independent, nurturing, courageous, hard-working, loving, supportive. It's means I am more than a paycheck and that I do not have to meet up to any quantitative standards. That I am not just about producing but being. It's also about knowing when to be these things and when to step back and let someone else be them - whether they are male or female. I hope to instill these values in my daughters so that they can step out into the world with confidence to blaze their own trails.

    Being a woman also means knowing I can ask someone else to change a lightbulb or get rid of a bug. There are some things boys are just meant to do! lol

  4. Oh, my. I just want to hug you guys! Your responses were actually like a hug to me--which I desperately needed. Thank you so much. You are beautiful, strong ladies through and through.

    Here's another question: If you could choose your gender in another life, would you choose to be a man or a woman?

  5. Oops! I meant to say I just want to hug you GALS!!! Happy Mother's Day. :D

  6. Wonderful post! I think the original feminist movement was so extreme (I knew some lesbians who adopted out their baby sons!) there has had to be an extreme backlash these days just to balance it out. But in some ways I think the initial extreme action was necessary to break apart the old modes, and this current extreme reaction is necessary to locate the middle ground. Now many women are trying to come back to a middle ground.

    I think we still have problems - such as when the prime minister of our country said women should take a six week maternity leave and then get back into the workforce "where they belong and can do the most good." And such as the Catholic Church still not accepting divorce, even in dreadful cases, although it was clear even to me that Jesus was against divorce because it was being used in his time to abuse women. But I have more hope.

    I hope your Mothers Day was wonderful :-)

  7. I agree that the feminist movement was necessary. And that women still need to speak up for what they value. We DO still have problems. Even though women are encouraged to go back into the workforce after childbirth, when there, they don't even get equal pay for equal qualifications. In the short term, it might be best for the economy if women return to work, but think of the children who are raised by the system!

    Instead of Grrl Power, we have Motherr Power!

  8. Great post!

    I also rejected femininity for a long time. I associated it with what was considered "weak". Then I did a series of artwork that was all about those things classically considered feminine in our society and through it, rather than rejecting those things I started to value and appreciate them. In my art I used materials like lace, floral fabrics, nylon stockings, and all shades of pink. Things that used to disgust me I started to find absolutely beautiful! So it made me realize we do not need a Unisex in this world. Men and women are different, mentally, physically, & emotionally. Both have strengths and both should be valued. Different and equal. I'm a proud SAHM. I don't see this as a sacrifice or something I have to do as it was seen historically by some, but something I want to do, am good at and passionate about!

    Mom power all the way!

  9. Becca, I love the idea of your art series! How inspiring. Your thoughts brought up some weird memories for me!

    I made a list in highschool about all the things I would NEVER do if I ever had a child. I kept it for a long time but ended up throwing it away, because I later felt how ridiculous some things were: having my child call me by my first name, not having a pink girl, never saying "Because I said so." Oh, the list was long. Wish I could remember! I also remember wanting to invent a gender neutral pronoun to be used instead of he/she, his/hers, etc. Oh, how funny! Then I went through a period where I decided not to bring another person into the world, but that ended up being what my heart really desired. Ahh, life.... :)