Embracing womanhood, whatever that may mean

What does it mean to be a woman? To be honest, I think I am still figuring that out. I can tell you what it means to be a female—I am reminded of that every time I have to go buy a bra or a box of pads—but we don’t (or shouldn’t) live in a world where that is all being a woman means.

March is Woman’s History Month. I think that, a lot of times, having an Anything History Month is misunderstood. I suppose on some level naming a month in terms of one thing makes it seem like that means it does not matter the rest of the time, or perhaps that something else matters the rest of the time, but that is not the point. Calling March Woman’s History Month is not calling April though February Man’s History Months, but rather it is standing up and saying “THIS MATTERS, TAKE NOTE.”

As a woman living in this world today, I have found that a lot of what it means to be a woman is having to prove something to everyone else. I am supposed to prove to a man that I am attractive, funny, dateable, can drive a car, don’t sit in the kitchen all day and wear certain clothes because of personal style preference, not because I am “asking for it”…etc. So basically, I am supposed to prove that I am a human being with basic rights and needs.

At the same time, I am supposed to prove to other women that I am fashionable, on trend, fulfilling the standard ideals of beauty, and worthy of friendship. That’s a lot of planning, time, money and proving to do. So don’t do it. Well, it is not as simple as that, because if I do not do these things I become subject to judgment and the prejudicial consequences that it brings. It sounds sort of shallow, but living in a world that constantly labels you, judges you and shoves you into a little, lonely box is really, really lousy.

This is where I tell you why I am a feminist. I am a feminist because I do not want to live in that world—I do not want anyone to live in that world. I am not asking for power or pity; I am asking for equality. This is why I think it is important to separate what it means to be a female from what it means to be a woman. Biologically, females and males are different, that will always be a dividing force. But why does that mean women and men should be/can be treated differently. The fact that I am biologically female should not mean that I cannot change a tire, or drive well, or make a sandwich without there being a big hoopla about making sandwiches for my brothers and staying in the kitchen.

That’s why I am a feminist; because that is not yet the world we live in. We live in a world where a history of male dominance is still a bitter aftertaste in a woman’s mouth. A world where I have come to expect a wolf whistle and a derogatory call while walking down the street. A world where what I wear can become an argument against me being a victim. A world where a double standard is the norm.

I really like shopping, doing my hair, princesses and painting my nails. I gush over romantic comedies, young-adult romance novels and dresses at award shows. These aren’t things that make me a girl; these are things that make me Fíona.

And guess what? So are being really into superheroes, growing up playing every sport offered and being a die-hard White Sox fan. Liking “girly” things isn’t what makes me a woman. Liking “boy” things doesn’t make me any less of a woman. Preferences don’t solely drive identity, and identity doesn’t solely drive preferences.

I wish this was something more people took the time to comprehend. I do not have a grand plan to make the world a better place. In my eyes it is quite simple. Live by the rules you were taught in first grade: Don’t judge a book by its cover, and treat others how you want to be treated. Maybe if we could all do that, being a woman – or being black, or being any minority – would not find a way to negatively impact how we live our lives.

I may not know exactly what it means to be a woman, but I am very grateful for the amazing woman in my life who remind me every day to be proud I am one. Happy Woman’s History Month!