Womanhood is a sensitive topic for me, and that is making it more interesting to write about. One year ago, my answer to that topic would have been a lot different. What happened ? I have acquired knowledge and personal experience about the gender theory and the queer world. Also, I transitionned to identify not as a woman, but as genderfluid, then non binary.
Let's begin with the word woman. Whats is a word ? It is a symbol humans create then use to communicate and try to make sense of the world. It means words can appear and disappear, and that the meaning of the word can change. It also means that there is no eternal truth in a word or a concept, only a human invention. The word woman describes for most human beings at the same time a biological condition, the sex of the person, and a complex cultural concept, that is gender. Using the same word for both leads to confusion : that if you have a certain body you are supposed to think, feel, and behave the way it is culturally expected. From that is emerging a lot of freedom limitations, you can't express yourself by all the ways you would like, and also to violence : others are policing consciously or not that you are acting accordingly to the cultural concept.
The gender theory is here to separate the biological body you have from the cultural expression and feeling of gender. So it alows more freedom, but also questions our cultural concepts about gender, and the oppression within. It means that you were born with a female body, a male body, or an intersex body. Because of the society expectations, a gender has been assigned to you at birth without regards for your personal choices. The gender theory is bringing this new idea : you can choose your gender, and it could be a different one that the one assigned at birth. So you can choose to keep your gender assigned at birth, and a word was invented with this concept : cisgender. You can choose to identify to the gender opposite to the one assigned at birth, then you are transgender. The third option is to identify in between : then you can identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, non binary, agender... I won't explain all the terms here, but I invite you to do some google research if needed.
According to this theory, talking about women means to talk about all the female identified people, both the transgender and cisgender women.
My own experience of being assigned female at birth
Most of my life, I had no idea I had a choice in the matter. I was supposed to be a woman. And even if a lot of freedom has been gained in France, where I grew up, there is still a long way to go. With a friend of mine, a few years ago, at dawn after a night drinking, we asked each other this question : when did you notice that being a woman was going to make your life more difficult ? She told me that it was at the kindergarden, an event made her realize that to succeed in her life, she will have to put more efforts than a man, ans she get angry. For me, it was more during my teenage years. First, I realized that having an active sex life as a woman was something you were supposed to be ashamed of, while men were admired for it. I get very angry. After, I understood that walking at night, drinking a lot, hitchiking, or travelling alone would put me in a greater danger. I had some experiences to prove it. I get even more angry. My male friends had also a terrible period of joking about sexism, telling me things like « woman, go to do the dishes. Why are you upset? You know we are just joking ». Folks, there are a lot of jokes to make that are not harmful to others, that are not sexist, rascist, transphobic or homophobic, I invite you to be creative.
So, one part of being identified as a woman made me feel angry, oppressed, scared as hell, ashamed, weak. But fortunately, that was not all. I also loved being a woman, and even more when I discovered sexwork and sacred femininity. The sexwork part made me explore how to express the sexuality and sensuality of womanhood, even if it was a lot limited by social expectations. I felt powerful, I felt beautiful, I felt magical. The sacred femininity movement enriched me a lot : it was offering so many empowering and beautiful concepts of womanhood. The wise, the witch, the mother who knows how to give life to a child or a creation and how to nurture, the grandmother who knows the secrets of life, the peaceful warrior, the mystical lover. My inner feminine world grew to something more complex and positive for the world. There was already some beautiful growth and freedom happening, but it wasn't enough to be really me.
How do I feel about womanhood now that I partly jumped off this ship
If you have read my other articles, you have already understood that I wasn't identifying as a woman anymore. That doesn't mean I'm not highly influenced by the women cultural conditions : my culture raised me to be one for 26 years. But how you define your own identity is suprisingly powerful.
I always felt attracted to expressing my masculinity, particularly through reversing gender roles with my male partners, for example in a sexual situation. I was also intrigued but scared to dress as a man. And I heard some comments saying that I was masculine, or that I had too much yang, and most of the times it wasn't a compliment. I learned more about gender at the last Burning Man, and I came back to France obsessed with the genderluid concept, fighting with so much shame and guilt at the idea of identifying like that. I was questionning everything : « Am I lying if I identify like that ? Why do I need to identify like that while other cis women are acting masculinly and are still identifying as women ? Is it worth annoying everybody ? Am I betraying womanhood by wanting to quit ? ». But I continued my journey anyway, with difficulties, depressed periods, dysphoria crisis, but also gender euphoria, when dressing and looking more as a man, when people are using my prefered pronouns (« they/them » in English, « iel » in French)...
On the way, I came accross all my anger about the gender oppression connected having been identified as a woman all my life, with all the psychological violences involved. One part of me was strongly rejecting cultural womanhood because it was connecting to all this pain. I went in a Rage Room to scream, throw glass bottles to a wall and destroy a print machine with a baseball bat, and it has been really helpful.
So, the difficult question is how I feel now about womanhood, about my feminine side. And I would say that I feel better. Even if there is still external violences that could happen, a lot of the oppression about being a woman was being done by myself to myself, because I internalized it during all my life. I was limiting myself, I was shaming myself for being a great slut, I was thinking that I had to behave a certain way in order to please cis men, or to fit society expectations. And identifying as gendefluid, having the inner freedom to feel or express masculinity, femininity, both or neither, is helping me healing and changing my beliefs about myself. It is hepling me to love myself more, and to allow myself to be more authentic, and more creative about who I am and who I can be. I still love my feminine expression, and my feminine qualities. I'm talking about cultural femininity, which is not an eternal truth, just a human concept matching the time and geographical space you are living in. But I know that I have more freedom than ever to express these qualities the way I choose to, and when I choose to. And I enjoy watching femininity expressed in a lot of beautiful ways by trans women, cis women, and genderqueer folks. The world is a fascinating and suprising place fellows, and the ways of playing with a human concept like womanhood are infinite. Accept diversity, allow yourself more self expression, work to stop the oppression and violence towards any identified woman, and watch the magic happen.
In my articles, I make a lot of statements. It is hard for my philosopher side which would love me to explain in greater detail and give stronger arguments, but it is not fitting the short form I'm using here. I just want to specify that I'm not telling a general truth, just my truth at this precise moment of my life, which will change and evolve.
Also, I used a lot of specific words and refferred to specific movements, my apologize to not explain everything, I hope that your curiosity will convince you to do some more researches.
And a big thank you to J. for the english corrections.