I am 41 years. And I still feel like I am discovering what it means to be a woman. Each passing year brings about new revelation to the essence of womanhood. I am still curious about feminine nature. What does it mean to be a woman? Can it be so easily defined? For basic sense purposes, yes, we can define a woman very simplistically. And biologically. A woman is an adult human female. From an experiential view, however, like my view, womanhood is an essence that accompanies a physicality, which combines with consciousness and spirituality, in a form that is observable and multi-dimensional.
I didn’t always fit the form, however. As a young girl, I was often mistaken for a boy. I wore a lot of blue clothing, and my mother massacred my hair prior to kindergarten. I did look like your typical boy in school, and my school pictures reflected that. For 4 long years, I had to correct people, “No, I am not a boy…No, it’s not ‘Daniel’, it’s ‘Dan-yell’.” Even as I got older, I didn’t look like a girl. But despite other people not seeing what I was, I didn’t let that prevent me from seeing myself as a girl, and then eventually, a woman.
I didn’t look like a girl, but I always knew that someday, I would be a woman. As a young girl, this meant a lot to me, but it also meant absolutely nothing. I understood that it meant I would grow and change, that I could one-day bear children, that one day I would have sex, and that there would come a lot of responsibility with being a woman. But I also didn’t understand sex or responsibility, I was too young to hold such vast concepts in my mind.
I observed my world and saw millions of depictions of what women look like, but that still doesn’t help a young girl fully comprehend what goes with that term woman. What does it mean to be a woman?
What I have come to understand about being a woman is that you cannot possibly know all that it means to be one. I know that sounds so confusing, but being a woman is a lived experience. And women all around the world understand that it incorporates so many experiences that we share. It means watching your body transform. It includes the mental and spiritual changes one experiences within. It’s the frustration of menstruation, cramping, bloating, headaches, and irritability that follows our monthly cycles.
Being a woman includes sensing the gazes and looks of the world and deciding whether to allow you to ascribe to yourself a term. This means hearing men say cruel and unusual things about your face, your body, and your opinions, and quite possibly reducing all of that because of your biological sex. As though a woman’s appearance, views, and opinions matter less than that of a man’s. I’m not trying to take a dig at all men when I mention this. It’s just a fact of life for a woman. We are questioned about our motives and behaviors because men do not think the way that women do. This is a fact of life.
And although it is a fact of life that I once resented, I now receive the fact as a gift. There is something rather beautiful about the difference between men and women. And ancient societies once embraced this difference, not as a means to compare, compete, or decide which sex takes the top ranking position in the hierarchy of humanity. Rather, it’s the differences between men and women that draw us to one another. As if some creator or higher power had a hand in ensuring the survival of our species. If we were all so very alike, if we all thought the same, acted the same, and looked the same, what would there be to desire or to understand? What would compel us to move toward each other in curiosity if there was nothing to be curious about?
I get it. People are afraid of their curiosity. There are so many institutions and influencing agents out there that insist curiosity is simply temptation and a path to evil. We would be better served if others could simply reduce the essence of who they are to a few words and phrases. If I could articulate who I am in a simple bio, then people will understand who I am and what I am about. If I can pack in all that I value and believe into one tweet, how wonderful that would be for all others so that what they see about me is what I claim to be. It certainly eliminates the need for conversation and exploration, doesn’t it?
I find it heartbreaking, however, that we have advanced as far as we have as a humanity only to find a way to reduce ourselves to absolutely nothing. The more time I spend as a woman, the more I realize how many layers accompany my essence. The more experiences I have as a woman, the more I realize how little I know about my womanhood. I mean, my womanhood has expanded into motherhood. My womanhood has been enveloped by unwavering love from a man. Every obstacle, every oppression, every rejection, and every interruption add to the fullness of my feminine divinity. No woman can explain that in a few short words. No social media bio, no IG photo upload, and no amount of accessories could ever encapsulate what it means to be a woman.
I could use every word available in the English language to describe what it means to be a woman, and still, yet, it would not be complete. My heart breaks over the attempts of our society to reduce woman by way of anti-words. The idea that woman can be defined simply as a feeling, or by clothing, hairstyle choices, or accessories—that one day a man can suddenly decide to be a woman, it’s absurd, appalling, and offensive.
Woman is so great that she cannot be so easily defined. Yet woman is also so obvious that she need not be defined. I aim, not to imply that we do not need words to define woman, but I will say that you need woman to define words. More than that, you need woman to define worlds. The erasure of woman will lead to the erasure of your reality.