What does it mean to be a woman? A response

These days I don’t read my ‘baby’ blogs anywhere near as much as when I did while pregnant, as writing and reading has become my escape from all things ‘baby’, but today I decided to read about what Rixa has been up to on her fantastic blog, Stand and Deliver.  She’s written a short essay to inspire her students for their first writing assignment, and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d write something in response.

Once I got past puberty, whenever I heard the word ‘woman’, I’d squirm.  Woman.  There was something old, frumpy, big, mother hen-like about women; and I didn’t want to be that.  Don’t get me wrong, I was always happy being female.  But being a woman irked me.  In fact I never thought of myself as womanly, and if someone ever described me as curvy or voluptuous I’d really hate it.  I think this has to do with my weight issues, but also the fact that I’ve never been particularly maternal.

So for me to answer a question like what it means to be a woman is really a bizarre thing.  I remember my midwife referring to me as a ‘woman’ during my prenatal visits and I had to voice my feelings about that.  It was good to get it out.  I was never surprised that my body worked perfectly, that all the aspects of being female where, in me, efficient and effective and exactly as they should be.  I knew I was fertile, and I knew I was strong.  I knew I could get through labour, whatever it was, and that being a fantastic example of femininity would stand me in good stead.

Because I chose to have a baby at home instead of hospital, I began to read.  And inevitably stumbled upon all the hippy/crunchy stuff out there.  All the so-called ‘feminists’.  I’m all for empowerment, but of human beings in general, not just women.  I get the whole suffragette thing, I really do, but I really can’t stand women who go on about being ‘equal’ to men.  What’s the point when men and women are so incredibly different?  Why do we have to compete?  So women earn less that men, on average; so what?  Women are more likely to be at home with children.  This isn’t a burden; this is what women are great at.  Men can’t breastfeed or grow a baby or give birth.  Men don’t have bodies that secrete such delicate and perfect amounts of so many different hormones, that create life in such a complex and mysterious way.  We don’t have to prove ourselves or try to become ‘equal’; it’s an illusion.  We already are great.  Money is not a measurement of greatness, nor does the amount you earn have any bearing on your greatness as a human being.  The relationship between remuneration and gender is arbitrary.

I struggled with all these ‘women’ who wrote ‘womyn’ instead and expressed anger about men in general.  Apparently because we live in a patriarchal society, all hospitals are run by men who try to bring women down and violate them; so all men are evil.  Being a woman means fighting for your rights, fighting men.  This doesn’t sit right with me.

I have done the things that only women can do.  I’ve conceived a baby; I’ve carried that baby until he was ready to come into the world; and I’ve given birth to him, which was beyond the hardest thing I could ever have imagined doing.  Although I’ve never been maternal or interested in children, I give all that I have to this baby, my baby, my boy.  I do this not because I am a woman specifically but because I am a mother.  So being a woman is not just about motherhood, which I don’t even know well yet.  Being a woman is about knowing true power and being satisfied with that.  It’s about feeling so in tune with nature and the universe, and being thankful for the gift that is knowing the secret of creation.

Unlike some really crunchy hippies out there, I don’t catch my menstrual blood or participate in women’s workshops.  In fact I hardly notice my period coming and going most of the time.  But I do notice how wonderfully efficient my body is and how amazing it is that I can do what I’ve done.  Beyond having babies, being a woman is being a creator, whether you feel creative or not.  Being a woman is powerful; knowing womanhood is empowering!