Accommodating. Emotional. Modest. When I say these three words, I imagine them as pillars upholding society’s image of “what it means to be a woman.” Now, it’s fine to conceptualize our understanding of the world because that’s how humans grasp their environment - they organize, categorize, and characterize. Yet why is it that when women embrace a side of them that advocates for their needs first, they’re abrasive? That when we maintain our composure and act with professionalism, we’re frigid? And when we take ownership of our sexuality, we’re sluts?

Whenever I see “what it means to be a woman,” it’s as if these descriptions were created in a vacuum where only black-and-white existed. Either you “throw like a girl” and “act like a pussy” or “take it like a man” and “grow a pair of balls.” These deeply-rooted dichotomies are what have shaped our understanding of how the world perceives us and how we must present ourselves to the world. And if we don’t associate ourselves with society’s unyielding mold, we’re reprimanded for stepping outside of this gender-box and given excuses for why we’re beaten back into our place. Oh, you got assaulted? Well what were you wearing? Oh, you didn’t get the job? Well why do you have ambitions anyways?

I’ve had enough of society telling me “what it means to be a woman,” because its butchered that privilege. We’ve been denied the agency in choosing who we are, can, and want to be. We’ve been told how we must experience the world, which domains we can tip-toe in, and even what we should look like. We’ve been told to listen. But now we’re recognizing this power that’s been stifled by society’s gender-conforming ideals. And now, YOU listen.

Being a woman doesn’t mean mutual exclusivity. We can be assertive yet gentle, humble yet proud, ambitious yet grounded. We can like sports over makeup, excel in science over humanities, and choose careers over housework. Being a woman is being a myriad of presentations, both physical and intangible. What it really “means to be a woman” is something so beautifully organic and powerful that cannot fall into “all or none” categories. So don’t demand what I should be, while denying the real me, and making excuses for hurting me when I don’t fall into your image of “woman.” That’s not up to you, it’s up to me, because I am a woman.

Caryn HaComment