God is, without a doubt, working with me/my life and continuing to expand my horizons.
One month ago, I found myself in deep thought about women and (what most people call) their “struggles” over time. It began when I was sent an article titled the “10 Worst Ways Companies Have Used Feminism to Sell Women Products.” I thought about the many roles, restrictions and treatment of women in the Bible. Then I took the time to study the modern views and definitions of feminism and womanism. I had conversations with many women in my life about the article, my research, my questions, my confusion, my anger towards the men of yesterday/today, and how (unfortunately) tomorrow doesn’t look any different.
The next step that I took was a bold one… I reached out to women around the world and simply asked them: “In your opinion, what does it mean to be a woman?”
Immediately, I was faced with hesitancy. Although I approached the subject with positive intentions, I soon realized the odd piece to this puzzle… I have a penis. I am a man.
I thought about it… It’s no different than a white man approaching me and asking me: “what does it mean to be black?” – Naturally, I would respond with: “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
I understand. Regardless of my natural curiosity and positive intentions, the fact that I am male and asking this question will rub people the wrong way. However, I am able to confidently say that I began this project with selfless and respectful motives. The purpose of this article is not to compare their responses to my personal beliefs and opinions. You will see that the content below features no opinion or response from me. My goal is to simply showcase women and what they believe to be true about their existence. This is an opportunity for all parties involved, readers and writers, to be educated and to share opinions.
All of the responses below feature fresh, genuine content from friends of mine around the globe… I chose to only feature a name and age with each response. This takes away any possible assumptions from the reader based on location, nationality, sexual orientation, physical appearance, etc.
Thank you to everyone who has given their responses, and to you, the reader, for taking the time to view this showcase. Please feel free to share this article with your friends and family.
What does it mean to be a woman?
To me, it means to be
multi-faceted; resourceful; determined; resilient; thick-skinned; flexible; self-disciplined, self-motivated, self-sufficient yet willing and able to be a team player; introspective enough to be thoughtful in life’s choices, but not so introspective that you don’t get out there and give-it-a-go-despite-risking-everything.
A deep understanding of community and relationships is critical and, when done well, could be the hallmark of being a successful female.
- Martha, 57
It means being confident enough to know you can do it all, just not at the same time, knowing that you can have high heels and high standards, and recognizing your vulnerabilities but not letting them be your limitations. It means recognizing that we are the bearers of life and not to take that lightly.
One of my favorite depictions of womanhood (besides Proverbs 31) is this quote: "A good woman knows God. She knows that with God the world is her playground, but without God she will just be played.
- Vanessia, 23
It means being able to wear both a dress and baggy shorts, but preparing to be criticized as slutty or a lesbian. It means free drinks at the bar, but being afraid to walk to your car alone. It means having to prove your strength and ability to those who doubt it. It’s a blessing and a hazard, but I’m rather fond of being a woman.
- Carrie, 22
Being a woman means a lot of different things. It's not about possessing a vagina or breasts, for I know women who do not. Being a woman means you are, naturally, a paradox. You are told to behave one way, and if you do, you can be condemned for it, and vice versa. Being a woman is a sort of damnation. However, it is beautiful because we are more than just one role. We take on many hats, and even though our male counterparts also have to abide to rules and roles, I feel womyn have a bit more on their plate since we are still striving to be "equal". Women fight to survive. We fight to exist, and in turn, we do. Beautifully and with a subtle power.
- Mikey, 18
I'm pretty sure if I had any say so in the pre-existence spirit world, I marveled at such beings and begged the Most High to make me a woman. We are the most powerful, considerate, and yet the most sensitive species on the planet. I fully believe that we can do anything when our hearts and minds are properly aligned with the Most High's plan.
Unfortunately, that which makes us great is also our great downfall. Any man with wisdom and knowledge can recognize our strength both historically and in the present day. However, such knowledge in the mind of an insecure man makes us vulnerable to his will. Most religious and some governmental laws seek to subjugate women and their power by requiring silence and submission to the will of any man when I am certain that God's law only requires it for her loving, self-sacrificing husband. Again, silence and submission are two very powerful tools that women use to their benefit, but it was not meant to create inferiority and second class citizenship. At times, we can be considerate to a fault, placing other’s dreams, visions, and ideals before our own. Finally, because we are so sensitive, if we are not careful, we will take on perceptions of who we are, positive or negative, devised by other people, neglecting whom we had once imagined ourselves to be.
We are superheroes, but our kryptonite is, for the most part, that we don't even know it.
- Linetta, 39
Being a woman means growing up being put in a box. You face hardships, stereotypes, and pain, but you learn that in order to overcome these barriers, you need to break through the box and learn to love yourself.
- Greer, 19
You get really sick of men asking what it’s like to be a woman.
- Kaelie, 20
For me, it's impossible to box in the definition of what it means to be a woman; that would simply be too limiting. So I believe that to be a woman nowadays means to be a game changer. Everything society said we could never do, we’re doing… and then some.
- Brianna, 22
I feel that it is more than the lack of a "Y" chromosome, feminist beliefs, and generic stereotypes. To be a woman, you must first know in your mind and heart that you are woman. That's it. After that, it is your duty to embody and appreciate whatever kind of person, not just woman, you are; home maker, athlete, activist, businesswoman, lazy ass, drug dealer, whatever! That simple.
- Alea, 17
To be a woman, is no longer being a little girl. It's modeling for all the little girls in your sphere of influence, character, strength, integrity, kindness, love and grace. It's a soft spot for your husband, boyfriend or significant other to rest. It's being a daughter, mother, sister, auntie, cousin and wife. It's the first woman your son falls in love with. It's being a confidante and best friend to another woman. It's having class and sass. It's not being afraid to cry or fight, whatever the situation calls for. It's teaching your babies to love and reverence God. It's knowing that you are created in God's image, and that you can do all things through Him, who gives you strength.
- Sherry, 60
I'm still trying to figure it out.
- Sojourner, 19
Being a woman means being under pressure, and if there's anything I've experienced in college in the past few years, its pressure. Attending an extremely competitive school is exhausting in every way you can imagine, and on top of the grades/work/money there are the social pressures. I know you know the situations I'm talking about, but I it wasn't until recently that I realized how much social standards and expectations can influence a young woman's life.
This past semester, I was under a huge amount of stress from leadership in an extracurricular organization and post-graduation plans, and midway through the semester a good friend and alumna back in town noticed I looked thinner- it wasn't until then that I realized I had lost weight as a result of sleeping less and not eating because of the stress. But around the same time more boys had been noticing me, one guy hitting on me in a bar (which had never happened before in my life) and another asking me to write my number on a napkin "Harry Met Sally style." I had never had this attention before, and my best friends made it seem like this was an achievement and congratulated me. Now looking back it seems childish, but things like body image can occupy so much of a woman's time and thoughts. I still check my weight way too often, smile when I've lost a pound. But I understand that I should never ever let this affect my well-being and am trying to work it all out still.
**just a note that I completely understand there are men who go through similar situations, who have to live up to gender expectations too. And I know my stress is so insignificant compared to the women who have situations like these that consume their entire lives.
But, being a woman also means having pride. I have been part of organizations run by women that are extremely successful, I have female role models both famous and personal (I give credit to my fellow students who are all working towards successful careers and/or further education, and not only can but most definitely will become leaders in their fields). I push myself harder knowing that I have opportunities that generations before me could only dream of, and work my hardest to accomplish my goals- graduate, find a job, continue research in Neurobiology, get a PhD, have a family, all of it. Being a woman means I have the strength to do all of these things and so much more.
- Kelly, 21
My first reaction is nothing. My humanity pulls me much more strongly than gender. Then I think… Womanhood, to me, can not be without sisterhood. Connecting to other strong/beautiful women.
- Maya, 22
It means I have femininity and am defined differently by others, but I take pride in my differences.
- Catherine, 21
We have the power to trigger men to initiate war; we are blessed with a subtle power. Coming from a man’s rib, womanhood embodies protection, nurturing. We uplift, we cultivate, we create, carry life. We bleed and do not die. The only word I can think of to describe womanhood -- is magical.
- Kailah, 20
To be a woman is to be a person who is built with all of the world’s contradictions placed into human form. Being a woman means that I am strong, independent, confident and a leader. But because I am a woman, I can be and are the opposite of those things. I have my weak moments, I may need to rely on those around me for help and I can be vulnerable. A woman is a being who can be playful, serious, sexual, reserved and headstrong. Normally a contradiction is considered a bad thing, but to be a woman is to be a complex person. Without those complexities, we lose apart of who we are as a person, but most importantly as a woman.
Evolution is another aspect of what it means to be a woman. Through my experiences, I can say that as a woman I don’t have all of the answers to make life a bit easier. But as I live and learn, I get closer to my true self. I will continue to evolve into many forms of myself until I reach the woman that I am meant to be. I learn what it is that I want in my life and what it is that I cannot accept. Embracing the contradictions and the changes that come with being a woman, helps to make me who I am.
A woman cannot be placed into one box, because she is made of many things. That is what it means to be a woman.
- Courtney, 21
So for me, myself and I, I can only speak through my experiences and how I grew up. I was surrounded by strong women, and always had them to look up to. In my family, my mom called the shots, and my dad thought he did. She always held it together when things got tough, and he always fell apart. My Aunt Flor crossed the border when she was 3 with her pregnant mother. They traveled through desert and encountered very difficult obstacles. Flor and her mother also are strong women that I look up to. Flor ended up going to UCLA and her younger sister USC. For me, being strong means paying these women back for everything they showed me. I feel like the women that I know, and specifically the women of my culture, are the definition of resilience. And I can only hope to also embody that. With all that said, I’m a bit more modern thinking than some people in my family’s past. To me, gender is fluid. Overall, a woman is a woman if they want to be. Gender is a part of self-identity, and I may identify as a woman, but so may another person that looks nothing like me and has different anatomy. I love that and I embrace that.
- Jasmin, 24
According to Dictionary.com the definition of a woman is:
1. the female human being (distinguished from man ).
2. an adult female person.
3. a female attendant to a lady of rank.
4. a wife.
5. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness.
According to the word of God:
Gen. 3:20 - English Standard Version
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
Gen 2: 21 - English Standard Version
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
Gen 2:22 - English Standard Version
And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Gen 2:23 - English Standard Version
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
To be a woman, in my opinion, is to be the mother of all living, as according to the word of God. I, as I will refer to myself, was created for a purpose far greater than what I see in the mirror (whether I like what I see or not). The role of the woman comes with great stress, joy, delight, responsibility, fear, strength, doubt, insecurity, confidence, challenge, success, and resiliency. I was created to be a helpmate, and in that, God equipped me to do so. Even when I do not think I have the strength to go on.
I need to help those around me. Feed into these young women, and sometime the older ones. Show them that being a woman means that I should be honored, respected, treated as a precious jewel, loved, cared for, etc. However, I must learn that (preferably from other women who are to be the right role models), so that I can walk in that calling.
I was created to give life! I know that some women are not able to physically do so, and by the grace of God, I was able to; even though the doctors said I would never have children (I have two, and a grandchild). But giving life could be to your spouse, your friends, your job, a stranger, someone else's child, or a situation. I was created a woman, beautiful in God's sight, and created, to give life!
- Tiffany, 41
I would like to say the way I was raised, and having Jesus in my life, a woman is strong physically, mentally, and spiritually. She is confident in her words, yet she knows when not to be overbearing. She is giving and loves with all her heart, mind and body. She WILL answer a "what’s wrong with you?" with an unconvincing "nothing." She just has figured out how to express herself without choking on tears, anger, etc. She is a wonderful follower and an even better leader. She can forgive and needs some time to forget. She knows the difference between right and wrong. BUT… how would a woman know what is right and wrong if she didn’t have anyone teaching her [right and wrong?]. All I pray for is that Jesus will soon be in that girl's heart.
I believe I am a woman. Yes, I’m a woman succeeding in life with the support of my loved ones… But I pray that I continue to be an even stronger, lovable, well-balanced, goal driven, and Christlike woman that is able to share my "womanhood" with others. Most of the time I just consider myself a 6-year-old trapped inside of a bill paying woman (who can make an AWESOME PB&J)!
- Alicia, 23
A woman is an individual who embraces the meaning of life. A cycle that involves constant change; to go through so much but still overcome all the things that were road blocks to cause her to be uncomfortable in her journey to become; and live out ‘loud’, stereotyped, categorized and undivided, as she, her, female and all the above names that are not mentioned. A woman is a being of power who should always be respected and called by her given name.
- Jessica, 22