Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be A Woman?

Hello, My name is Samantha. I am a woman. This is part of what that means to me.

1. Being a woman is about sanity, not anatomy.
Don't get me wrong, I know, and have known many sane men in my time. Not that kind of sanity, but a longer view. About cherishing our lives, hearts, minds, souls and family in ways I've never known men to really "Grok" as the saying goes. It means seeing more connectedness the ourselves, each other, and our world than many men allow themselves to be.

2. Being a woman is a state of grace.
Not in a particular religion specific context, and not about being graceful. It's just a different place, in time and space. I suddenly think about the first entry in my list. But more, it's about a level of freedom our socio-cultural context doesn't permit men to experience.

3. Being a woman isn't about feeling, it's about what we do with them.
In general, men (singular man) regarless of culture suffer under a systemic oppression rooted in every facet of being. Social skills and connections, language, appearance, "presentation" all are rigigidly controlled to what frankly I consider an insane degree. Mistake not what I say here; Men (Man, Male half of the species, whatever) have a hard row to hoe, they feel every bit as deeply and powerfully as we do. They are as much slaves to their hormones as we are. They even, if you get to know them well enough, have cycles like we do. Men can be every bit the slaves to "British Boarding School Syndrome" as we can be.

The biggest difference there? We can (and often do) talk about it, embrace it, accept it, and integrate it into our lives. They. Do. NOT! They cannot, it's not permitted. DO NOT even think about it! Their own internal existence makes them run screaming from the concept, let alone the socio-cultural taboos ingrained into them.

4. Being a woman is about being this terrifying, mystical creature.
We terrify men. Just ask them. I did once, and the answer was so primal and simple I was floored. In all serious a man looked at me and said:

"I'm sorry, but anything that can bleed for days straight and not fall over dead, terrifies me! Women just happen to be at the top of that list. "

We speak, according to them, a language wholly our own and unique, because while they understand and can spell all the words we use, they often have no idea what we are talking about. And you know, that terrifies them too.

Many of us, after a little bit of "mattress dancing" STOP bleeding for a while, swell up like we've consumed a watermellon whole, and then after walking around like this for months, have another little human being come out of that place of blood, fear, pleasure and mystery. And getting there, well that scares men. Ask them to push a disabled car off to the side of the road, and WhooRa! They are all over it like white on rice. Have them catch a cold or get constipated and they turn into frightened little boys and complain constantly. Then they have to watch as over the course of several hours sometimes, as we push a bowling ball out of a part of us they spend some much time trying to get close to, in what is a times a comic obsession they seem to have.

5. Being a woman is about being free, and beautiful, connected, connecting, whole and part of something infinitely greater than ourselves.
Sure, we're a majority of living breathing, wonderful people who have been forced into a minority position. We're second class citizens. We DO NOT enjoy male privilege, and everything that means. We are oppressed, abused, used, misunderstood, treated like property, and almost always on the wrong end of "male privilege" and it's something we can't even relate to other than the see what men use it for.

Frankly I think we're better off for not being able to use it or relate to it other than as outsiders looking in. I've never really seen anything good come of it, and wouldn't know what to do with it if someone GAVE it to me. It's use and consequences go against fundamentally everything thing I believe and feel is important to me.

But it's freedom and connectedness I keep coming back to. It's the sisterhood I know and feel at a level so deep I'm not even sure there are words for it, and something that men don't get. It's inclusion, connection and sharing. Not about size, exclusivity and being King of all one surveys.

6. Being a woman is about living with shame, pain, and all sorts of horrific things that would kill a man outright.
No, not shades of my younger "Militant Radical Lesbian Feminist" self, just some of what I've lived through. Men cannot even begin to comprehend what I and my sisters, mothers and grandmothers and so on have lived through. Which is why regrettably our daughters will have to go through it too.

But we survive and grow more often than not. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Which again is why we scare men to their core. (See number 4 about blood, same thing.) But it the things we feel, express, live through and move on from. "Shelter from the Same" by J.D. Danner comes to mind, and it's something men usually cannot relate to in anyway.

It's about not having to actually walk a mile in someone else's shoes to care about how they are feeling, what they are going through, and instinctively need to help in someway, even if it's just a hug, caring heart, and a willingness to listen and share.

7. Being a woman is about being, not becoming.
It's about a presence in our own lives, and the lives of those around us, our children, our families, that men to the best of my knowledge don't get to experience. Yes, we grow into ourselves, but we are not exploding forward into a harsh world that needs to be conquered and controlled. It's finding ourselves walking along where we are, not where we are going to.

Being a woman is every bit the difference between is and will be. Being a woman means being able to talk about body parts and functions without giggling like a child. Being a woman is about way more than breasts, a vagina, and makin' babies. It's about love and so much more.

It's about freedom and beauty. It's about something my Mother shared with me a lifetime ago it seems: "We live through the bad times my dear because it helps us really appreciate the good times." Being a woman is about contrast, strength and all the wonder of the universe.

That's just a small part of what being a woman means to me.

My deep thanks to Liz, Lori, Véronique and Flartus for bringing this idea for a blog post to my head and heart, for always managing to touch my soul with some beauty. As this blog chain grows, I'll add updates to other perspectives. If you want to add a link to your own entry addressing this topic, please feel welcome to by clicking below:


Wendy said...

You have expressed in words what I have sensed. Especially 2,3, & 5 capture my thoughts. Thanks for the insights.


Samantha Shanti said...

You are most welcome Wendy, I do what I can. For something completely unplanned I'm pretty pleased with the way this post turned out.