"Woman" is not a Definition

'Woman' is Not a Definition

By putting definitions on womanhood, we automatically join into the masses of oppressors who limit what women are allowed to be.

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I am a woman. According to Simone de Beauvoir, the late and great social theorist and feminist author of The Second Sex, I was not born this way. Rather, I was made into a woman by the society in which I was raised. There was a time when I would have argued this, stating that my breasts and my genitals are what makes me a woman. I would have argued that my love for children, my compassion, my appreciation for beauty are what makes me a woman.

But now I no longer live in a tiny town with no exposure to the outside world. I am no longer confined to the limitations put on me by the adults in my life controlling what knowledge I am exposed to. Now, I have a vocabulary to describe who I am and it is not limited to simply "woman" and "tomboy", or in the case of my male counterparts, "man", "girly", and other such asinine terminology that boxes in the very complex and intricate humans that such words attempt to describe.

Now, I have taken multiple gender studies classes. I have participated in discussions at various events bringing awareness to the injustices committed against both men and women because of the imaginary divides drawn between the two sexes. I have written papers, walked in marches, met with doctors and philosophers who are the heads of their fields, professionals of incredible caliber who don't bother with petty arguments over facebook that inevitably deteriorate into name calling and accusations.

Now I understand that by defining myself as a woman simply because of my breasts, I would say that any woman with larger breasts is more of a woman, and any woman who has had a mastectomy and chosen to not go through with reconstruction is no longer a woman (or if she has gone through reconstruction, she is a "fake" woman). By defining my womanhood by my genitals, I say that those who have had cervical cancer or severe ovarian cysts and chosen to have the sources of their pain removed are no longer women.

I realize that by saying that I am a woman because I get along with children, any female who does not like children is not a woman, and any male who teaches and loves his students, or the Sunday School leaders and camp counselors and child therapists are all women. By saying my compassion is what makes me a woman, I also say that women who are not empathetic or are not tender are not women, and all the men who have shown me kindness throughout the years, all of the male activists who fight for others are all women. By saying that my appreciation for beauty is what makes me a woman, I am also saying that anyone whose breath is not stolen by the sight of the sunset and the mountains is not a woman, but all the artists and the designers of the world are women.

By putting such definitions on womanhood, I automatically join into the masses of oppressors who limit what women are allowed to be, and that is not something I can ever allow myself to do. I have been forced to fight my entire life to be recognized as equal to men because of my sex. I have seen too many women degraded and put down because of their sex. I have been shamed for my body, for the choices I make and the things I have no control over because of my sex. I have witnessed myself and my friends wither under an onslaught of limitations and critiques because of our sex.

I refuse to partake in such behavior.

We as a people have been trained to believe that feminine and masculine are opposites and that they are a binary rather than a spectrum. We have been taught that only women can wear makeup (just not too much, but god forbid you to wear too little) and that only men can wear suits. We have been taught that women who are not polite are bitches and men who cry are weak. We have been taught that even colors and scents are gendered - just look at the names and marketing campaigns of deodorant options at the supermarket.

We have, as a society, been conditioned for millennia to believe that the biggest and most important defining trait of people is based on their reproductive organs, and that there can be no grey area in regards to how we separate those reproductive organs (yet just look at how much variation there is in sexual biology). How ridiculous is that?

I do not want to be limited by my sex or my gender. I am a woman, but not because of my biology (look at the multitude of women who have faced sex verification issues in the Olympics because they had naturally higher levels of testosterone), and not because of my personality (I am thinking of my younger brother, who is so empathetic that he cries every time Sarah McLaughlin sings "In the Arms of the Angel" for the ASPCA commercials). I am a woman because society has made me a woman, and I have chosen to continue to identify as a woman because of my experiences within that society. But I also choose to not let my womanhood be a limitation on me, no matter how much societal conditioning might try to convince me that it is.

My sex makes no difference in who I am, just in how society views me. It is because of the views of society that my sex has any bearing on who I am as a person. But I am a woman, and I am also the toughest person I know (other than my mother and grandmothers). I am a woman, and I am also ambitious, and strong-willed, and cynical. I am a woman and I rough-house with my cousins and brothers. I am a woman, and I know I am capable of everything a man can do because being a woman is not a definition or an explanation or a limitation. I am a woman, and I am all of the same things I would be if I were a man.


"One is not made, but rather becomes woman... it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine," (The Second Sex, 1949).

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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Arab-American Heritage Month Is Not A Well Known Celebration And I'm Pissed About It

I'm an Arab-American and didn't even know this was a thing... That's sad.

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The month of April is special for a lot of reasons but this one hits home for me. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the culture, history and amazing people who have helped bring something to this country. So many Arab-Americans have contributed a lot to society yet they don't get the recognition they deserve for it.

In today's society, the Arab community is always being looked down on and degraded. The lack of understanding from those around makes Arab-Americans feel like outsiders in a place they should be able to call home. The inaccurate images and stereotypes that inhabit the word "Arab" are sickening.

It's time to raise awareness. It's time to look beyond the media's portrayal. It's time to see a neighbor, a teacher, a doctor, a scientist, an artist, an athlete, a parent, a child, but most importantly, a human being, NOT a monster.

Arab-Americans encounter and fight racism every day. As a society, we should be better than that. We should want everyone in this country to feel wanted, needed and appreciated. Together, we should use this month as a time to shine light and celebrate the many Arab-Americans who have, and continue making this country great.

While you read this list of just a few famous Arab-Americans keep in mind how much they want this country to be amazing, just as much as anyone else does.

Dr. Michael DeBakey, invented the heart pump

Dr. Elias Corey, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1990 

Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1999

Lucie Salhany, first woman to head a tv network 

Ralph Johns, an active participant in the civil rights movement and encouraged the famous Woolworth sit-in 

Ernest Hamwi, invented the ice cream cone

Pvt. Nathan Badeen, died fighting in the Revolutionary War

Leila Ahmed, the first women's studies professor at Harvard Divinity School 

We should recognize and celebrate these achievements. There are so many things you can learn when you step inside another culture instead of turning your back to it. This April, take time to indulge in the Arab-American heritage.

Instead of pushing away the things you don't understand, dive into diversity and expand your knowledge of the unknown. Together we can raise awareness. #IAmArabAmerican

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