I don’t know how womanhood feels to every woman, but I do know what it is to simply be a woman. My experience as a woman is different from other female experiences. I am a white, able-bodied, middle class woman. I was raised in a stable home by religious parents in a small town. All of these things influence my way of being a woman and how I think about womanhood and the world.
All day today I’ve been thinking of the words I have wanted to write on International Women’s Day. I began writing this piece in my head about all the strange, uncomfortable and sometimes abusive interactions I’ve had with men, but then I realized, that isn’t a piece about women at all, it’s a piece about men, and only a small fraction of men at that, for most men I know are incredibly kind human beings. But then I felt like I simply didn’t know what to write about with regard to being a woman, because for most of my life, I’ve tried to suppress my femaleness. Here’s what I mean by this:
I don’t know if I would go as far as saying I have been ashamed of being a woman, but there have definitely been times I have been frustrated about the fact that I am a woman. I have seen and experienced gender inequality in countless ways. These moments have made me so angry where I’ve realized that the only way to get what I want, deserve, and is equal in this world, is to be less female and make myself more masculine, or at least androgynous. I’ve been paid less because I am a woman, I’ve been objectified because I am a woman, I’ve been told to shutup because I am a woman. But none of this is what I really want to write about.
What I want to write about is all of the women in my life who have inspired and encouraged me to embrace who I am as a woman. For that is what International Women’s Day is really about. It’s not about how women have been oppressed, it’s about celebrating all of the achievements women have made.
I’ve heard many times that women, in particular, can’t have it both ways. I hate that thought because, both ways is the only way I want it (which is also the title of one of my favorite books), and I’ve been determined to live my life within this understanding. It’s not that I feel I am entitled to everything, it’s instead that I feel that it doesn’t have to be one way or another for women, it can be both ways. Motherhood has always been something that has scared me. I suppose it’s largely through the Internet that I’ve seen and met so many mothers who not only have families they are taking care of, but whom also have strong, active careers. This has always been so inspiring to me on my quest to having it both ways. I’ve always been determined to keep the core of me, and while eventually I do want to have kids, the core of me has always been to dream big and dream hard and make those dreams and my career a reality. There are so many women I have to thank for this, for making me see that it is possible to do both. Motherhood (and parenthood) is perhaps one of the most self-sacrificing things a person will ever do, and yet, it is entirely possible to still do you, just in a different way.
I’ve been inspired by women who aren’t ashamed of the way they dress. Too many times I have left my home wearing a dress only to go back inside and change into pants, a safer option, a more masculine option. I wouldn’t describe myself as a girly girl (in fact as a kid, I was sure to always avoid things like purple and horses), but I am a feminine woman, and yet I haven't always felt I've been allowed to express my femininity in a way where it is still valued. It’s been women who show up at work and you can just tell that the way they dress represents exactly who they are. I’ve always thought clothing to be a form of art and self-expression, and so when I see a woman wearing the clothing she truly wants to wear, well, I’ve always been inspired by that. It doesn’t only inspire me to feel comfortable in the clothing I wear, it’s that these women inspire me to once again, maintain my core and not be ashamed of who I am.
I’ve been inspired by woman who are financially independent. Not that I think a woman has to be financially independent from her partner, but I think it is incredibly, incredibly important for woman to have the option of being financially independent. I think it levels the playing field and allows both partners to pursue their goals and dreams in an equal way. There are so many hard working women out there who have careers or maybe they are stay at home mothers, but whatever their job is, they do it to their fullest and are fully comfortable of taking initiative and making decisions. These women inspire me and encourage me to be confident in my decisions, as a woman and as a human being.
It’s weird to say this but it’s only really been in the past two and a half years that I’ve started to feel comfortable in my own female skin. And I owe it to all of the women around me who have embraced their own femaleness, encouraging me to embrace my own.
Thank you, ladies. <3