"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.


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).

Popular Right Now

I Am A Female And I Am So Over Feminists

I believe that I am a strong woman, but I also believe in a strong man.

Beliefs are beliefs, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm all about girl power, but in today's world, it's getting shoved down our throats. Relax feminists, we're OK.

My inspiration actually came from a man (God forbid, a man has ideas these days). One afternoon my boyfriend was telling me about a discussion his class had regarding female sports and how TV stations air fewer female competitions than that of males. In a room where he and his other male classmate were completely outnumbered, he didn't have much say in the discussion.

Apparently, it was getting pretty heated in the room, and the women in the class were going on and on about how society is unfair to women in this aspect and that respect for the female population is shrinking relative to the male population.

If we're being frank here, it's a load of bull.

SEE ALSO: To The Women Who Hate Feminism

First of all, this is the 21st century. Women have never been more respected. Women have more rights in the United States than ever before. As far as sports go, TV stations are going to air the sports that get the most ratings. On a realistic level, how many women are turning on Sports Center in the middle of the day? Not enough for TV stations to make money. It's a business, not a boycott against female athletics.

Whatever happened to chivalry? Why is it so “old fashioned" to allow a man to do the dirty work or pay for meals? Feminists claim that this is a sign of disrespect, yet when a man offers to pick up the check or help fix a flat tire (aka being a gentleman), they become offended. It seems like a bit of a double standard to me. There is a distinct divide between both the mental and physical makeup of a male and female body. There is a reason for this. We are not equals. The male is made of more muscle mass, and the woman has a more efficient brain (I mean, I think that's pretty freaking awesome).

The male body is meant to endure more physical while the female is more delicate. So, quite frankly, at a certain point in life, there need to be restrictions on integrating the two. For example, during that same class discussion that I mentioned before, one of the young ladies in the room complained about how the NFL doesn't have female athletes. I mean, really? Can you imagine being tackled by a 220-pound linebacker? Of course not. Our bodies are different. It's not “inequality," it's just science.

And while I can understand the concern in regard to money and women making statistically less than men do, let's consider some historical facts. If we think about it, women branching out into the workforce is still relatively new in terms of history. Up until about the '80s or so, many women didn't work as much as they do now (no disrespect to the women that did work to provide for themselves and their families — you go ladies!). We are still climbing the charts in 2016.

Though there is still considered to be a glass ceiling for the working female, it's being shattered by the perseverance and strong mentality of women everywhere. So, let's stop blaming men and society for how we continue to “struggle" and praise the female gender for working hard to make a mark in today's workforce. We're doing a kick-ass job, let's stop the complaining.

I consider myself to be a very strong and independent female. But that doesn't mean that I feel the need to put down the opposite gender for every problem I endure. Not everything is a man's fault. Let's be realistic ladies, just as much as they are boneheads from time to time, we have the tendency to be a real pain in the tush.

It's a lot of give and take. We don't have to pretend we don't need our men every once in a while. It's OK to be vulnerable. Men and women are meant to complement one another — not to be equal or to over-power. The genders are meant to balance each other out. There's nothing wrong with it.

I am all for being a proud woman and having confidence in what I say and do. I believe in myself as a powerful female and human being. However, I don't believe that being a female entitles me to put down men and claim to be the “dominant" gender. There is no “dominant" gender. There's just men and women. Women and men. We coincide with each other, that's that.

Time to embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: chrisjohnbeckett / Flickr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Past Legal And Modern Social Apartheid

An opinion piece on past legal Apartheid in South Africa and how it is socially reflected in the United States.


When stepping inside of a solitary cell at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, I felt a tightness in my chest and wanted to leave that small space immediately; imagining a Black South African who broke the pass laws during Apartheid being in there is beyond disturbing. Due to laws such as the Native (Urban) Areas Act No 21 of 1923, the Bantu/Native Building Workers Act of 1951, and the Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970, Black South Africans during Apartheid were extremely limited in where they could live, detrimentally affecting their economic and employment opportunities. When touring the former Constitutional Hill prison, the guide told us that, when Black South Africans were caught without passes permitting their stay in Joburg for the day and/or night, they spent 5 days in prison, along with murderers and others who committed serious crimes. If caught multiple times breaking these pass laws, they would spend 5 years in this prison. Most of those who violated these pass laws were unemployed or sought better employment in Joburg; this is understandable, as a person has a better chance of having a job by being there physically. When thinking further about the lack of opportunity they suffered from due to the aforementioned laws creating this effect, this legal repercussion becomes further and further disturbing. Additionally, this also directly led to the creation of "White" and "Black" areas, where Whites lived in areas of better opportunity (ex. cities, suburbia), and Blacks were subjected to living in poverty and townships where there was limited economic and employment opportunities.

This lack of opportunity is echoed in the U.S. when looking at socially designated "White" and "Black" areas. Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman essentially because he thought Martin "was not where he belonged", which was in a nice suburban area. As a person of color myself, I have been stared at in museums, followed in stores, and once at 12 years old kicked out of a shop (I did not do anything wrong), because I "stuck out". In this way, society told me (and violently told Martin) that we don't belong in those areas, that we "belong" in ghettos or prison; the racial demographics of populations in U.S. prisons will support me here. Therefore, by society socially designating where people "belong", not only do they bind themselves in their own ignorance, but also prevent people of color from sharing the same access to plentiful life and economic opportunity.


Native (Urban) Areas Act No 21 of 1923: Prevented Black South Africans from leaving designated area without a pass. The ruling National Party saw this as keeping Whites "safe" while using Blacks for cheap labor.

Bantu/Native Building Workers Act of 1951: Allowed Black South Africans to enter the building industry as artisans and laborers. Restricted to "Native" areas. Prevented competition between Whites, Coloureds, and Blacks. Could not work outside a designated area unless given special permission.

Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970: All Black South Africans would lose their South African citizenship/nationality over time. Would not be able to work in "South Africa" due to being aliens. Black South Africans would have to work inside their own areas and could only work in urban areas if they had special permission from the Minister.

South African History Online. "Apartheid Legislation 1850s-1970s." South African History Online, South African History Online, 11 Apr. 2016, www.sahistory.org.za/article/apartheid-legislation....

Related Content

Facebook Comments