Being woman – being FEMALE – cannot be replicated through surgery, hormones, makeup, or clothes.
Because being female in this world is an integrative experience from the day a girl is born to the day she dies.
Having a uterus, the ability to bear children, shapes how you go about building your life, regardless of whether you plan to actually reproduce, regardless of whether you present as traditionally “feminine.” Living with a vagina – a complex organ of muscle and pleasure nerves – which takes things INTO your body – impacts everything from sex and mental and physical health to how we experience pleasure. And I find it mind-blowing that even though I never plan to gestate a baby in my womb, the fact that I actually CAN, and that I have this organ that then delivers a child into the world – is kind of badass.
I do not oppress myself or define myself as “just a vagina” by saying this. What I am actually doing is LOVING MY BODY AND FULLY INTEGRATING IT INTO MY LIFE. If women divorce themselves from one of the most important features of their body, if they refuse to acknowledge it exists, that it is part of what defines a woman, or believe that its celebration is “essentialist,” how can we love our bodies – especially in a world that hates us?
We live in a world that hates vaginas, encourages women to mutilate their sex organs to please men, a world where Porn Hub, which promotes a violent, degrading version of women and women’s sexuality – opens a curbside shop in New York. We live in a world where Hugh Heffner is described as a “visionary” by LIBERAL news outlets. We live in a world ruled by men such as George Soros, who spends millions not actually liberating women world-wide, but actually encouraging the destructive sex trade among our most vulnerable sisters.
We live in a world where women do not have full reproductive liberation. Birth control and abortion is not enough – although it is essential, and we live in a world where it is constantly demonized. If a woman cannot have children when she is young and most fertile, when it is safest for both her and the developing fetus, because she has to focus on her career – but men can have kids whenever they want because are not the one who actually “have them” – then she is not truly liberated. And even if we don’t plan to reproduce, we are still discriminated for the ability to do so.
If motherhood, an essential part of millions of women’s lives all over the world, is also an essential aspect of pushing women as a class into poverty, we will never be truly liberated. Women the world over are disadvantaged by the fact that they can have children. That they menstruate. That they aren’t as physically powerful as men, so they are denied access to the highest-paid, highest status jobs.
Women are disadvantaged because of FEMALE BIOLOGY.
We live in a world where everything continues to evolve around the life cycle of men – completely unrestrained by reproduction. A world in which men own most of the land despite the fact that it is overwhelmingly worked by women. A world where essentials such as water are privatized and owned by men, despite the fact that it is women who retrieve it and use it to feed her family.
But let’s say this all disappears, that women miraculously achieve liberation.
Being female would still be an integrative experience only understood by other females. The way our bodies develop, their potential for reproduction, our health, the way we experience sexual pleasure – this impacts how we fit in the world, no matter how many rights we gain and how liberated we are. Our movement in the world will still be different from that of men. You can’t run away from being female, and men cannot replicate it.
As we mature, our bodies develop to be rounder and softer even as we train to gain muscle, while men’s bodies become bigger and stronger – most obvious in athletics. There may be exceptions, but most women stop growing in high school. Actually, I believe I was 5’4″ for life beginning in middle school.
As we go into puberty, menstruation begins, often out of nowhere, and we must integrate this into our lives as seamlessly as possible. And even if a girl doesn’t menstruate, this doesn’t mean she has the same life trajectory of a male. She now must spend time figuring out what is happening in her body, especially if she wants children. This can be heartbreaking.
And as we mature into women, we gain weight and experience health problems different from men. Menopause looms on the horizon, along with reproductive cancers such as breast, uterine, cervical, and, the most scary of all, ovarian cancer. Our sexual drive may change, as will our metabolism and bone density. Even the way we experience heart disease is different from men.
Even if women achieve liberation, being a female will still be an integrative experience unique to females.
But we haven’t achieved liberation.
We live within an economic system that is dependent on the brutal marginalization of women, particularly women in the “developing world,” in order to function. We must navigate through a world that hyper-sexualizes us, that is dependent on our commodification. We are considered to smell like fish and be impure; we are considered burdens because we reproduce and are not as physically powerful as men. This is often held against us, as is our made-up “woman’s brain” – which disturbingly is back in vogue. We are shunted into second-class citizens constantly fighting to be taken seriously as HUMANS.
We live in world where patriarchy adds a dark side, an oppressive side, to the unique integrative experience of being female. In fact, at times it prevents us from truly integrating our minds and bodies with ourselves and the world.
Toys, colors, heels, the desire to wear long hair and dresses – this does not even begin to reflect that integrative experience of being female, or the experience of being unable to integrate oneself due to structural oppression specific to the female sex. Removing breasts, having hysterectomies, sculpting a “penis,” calling oneself a man, still does not guard one from womanhood because XX chromosomes will continue to translate as female. One will still need to visit a FEMALE health professional, and forcing others to say “people who menstruate,” etc. only hides the fact that we all continue to be female, and that we will experience the world as female.
Denying female biology, attempting to prevent others from acknowledging its distinct existence, debilitates ALL women from fully integrating their bodies and minds together with the world, no matter how many legal rights we win. It works the same way in which patriarchy works to prevent women from being fully integrated, actualized humans being satisfied with their bodies, and thus themselves.
A woman is an adult female, and a female is defined by having the physical attributes of the XX chromosome pairing. That’s it. Nothing else. No “feminine essence” that can apparently be felt by men. No particular clothing or hair styles, or particular desire for toys – or particular desires for a certain sex.
Being female is a BIOLOGICAL EXPERIENCE AND REALITY.
And it unites women throughout cultures, throughout time – despite differences in life, despite difference in cultures, we still all experience the world as women. Just because our experiences aren’t EXACTLY the same, and in fact may be vastly different, does not mean we have NOTHING in common. Acknowledging differences such as race, class, sexual orientation and culture, only makes it easier to fight for ALL women, because not only does it help us to fight against racism, classism, etc., but it also forces us to find our SIMILARITIES (like the mere fact of having a uterus) so we can unite as one.
Being female is an integrative experience that can be absolutely free and empowering – but only when we are actually integrated physically, mentally, and with the world at large. We cannot be truly liberated if we do not recognize the unique, integrative experience of being female, as separate from male, and as defining of woman – and how it impacts us in this world.