What does it mean to be a woman?
I swear, I’ve written about this topic countless times because it’s something that’s concrete, and yet forever moving in my mind. When I first started owning my identity, I wrote about being strong. I wrote about how strength is a characteristic of every woman—each in our own ways. Then, as I accepted some of the more tender parts of me, my definition of ‘womanhood’ shifted to include the traditional roles I celebrated, alongside descriptions of power and masculinity that I also claimed.
And now, I realize that feminism is really a mix of both. And I love that.
The other day my boyfriend and I were talking about feminism. (Side note: What I love about him, about us, is that our minds are sometimes so very different. And when we get into debates or deep conversations, we have so much to learn from one another—and I think all women and men in general have so much to learn from one another because our ways of seeing the world are so varied—there’s incredible value in that!!) Anyways, we were driving down the highway and I was reading a Tweet one of my dear author friends, Nikita Gill, shared about feminism allowing her to be both the breadwinner and the ‘mother.’
My boyfriend listened to me read the Tweet, then responded from his male perspective, saying that if women wanted to be everything—both the man and the woman in the relationship—then what’s a man’s role?
And that stumped me for a moment.
Speaking on behalf of my boyfriend, I know that his words came from good intentions. I know that he’s the kind of man who wants to provide for his family, who wants to work hard, who finds his purpose in being the head of household, the protector. And yet, even with those values (which are good ones, by the way) he celebrates me—the woman I am/am becoming, the role(s) I want to take, both the traditionally ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ parts of me.
He gives me the space to become my own breadwinner, own head of household, and own boss. And this doesn’t emasculate him (which it shouldn’t, by the way). But I do get where his devil’s advocate comment is stemming from—If women are to be everything, then what’s the purpose of men like him? Where do they fit?
In our relationship, we have simply balanced one another out, both taking on roles that are traditionally of ‘the opposite sex’ and finding a healthy medium in pursuing who and what we want to be.
And honestly, that’s what I value in contemporary feminism—it’s not about removing a man’s role, feeling like women have something to prove, or pushing the opposite sex away in the name of equality.
Feminism is about pursuing equality and empowerment but also allowing women (both sexes, really) to be whomever they choose in a space that celebrates those decisions.
And I think that’s what I’m celebrating the most today.
I don’t think that feminism should be about finding one single answer or definition for womanhood. I don’t think it should be about reverting back to traditional gender roles OR shaming those who enjoy those roles.
I don’t think feminism should be about pushing traditions away so completely, that we become selfish under the belief that we don’t need men. But I also don’t believe its right to believe that women need a man to begin with—we are enough, and capable, and strong on our own. And it’s okay to fall on either side of the spectrum, as long as the beliefs you have are healthy and not abusive.
I think, the most important thing about feminism is that we create a space to believe, become, and embody whatever you choose for yourself.
Whether that’s being a mother, girlboss, wife, lesbian, bisexual, Christian, Atheist, lover, independent woman, in a relationship, single, etc.—you are allowed to, and supported in becoming any and all of those roles.
Whether that’s staying home with the kids while your man works, working while your man stays home, or having a mix of both. Whether that’s not having children altogether. Whether that’s dating for fun, or falling into long term commitments. You feel safe, comfortable, and confident in being who you choose.
We still have so much work to do as feminists.
But we also have so much to celebrate.
But I think the most important thing is to know that as a woman, you don’t have to fit a certain box or be a certain something. Want to be delicate, ‘girly,’ and sweet? Do it. Want to be tough, rough around the edges, and physically strong? Do it.
Embrace your ‘masculine’ side. Embrace the softness of you. Be the breadwinner. Be the caregiver. Be whatever the hell you want to be. But empower women similar, and dissimilar to you. Build one another up.
Happy women’s day.