This International Women’s Day, we had 23 hours—thanks, Daylight Savings—to think about the contributions and wonderful qualities of women in our lives. From relatives, to friends, to public figures, we are surrounded by incredible women who persist in a world that limits them.
While it’s impossible to define what womanhood means to all women, we thought we would ask the women around us what being a woman means to them. We put out a call to our contributors to ask them about their individual personal experiences with their womanhood. Here are the voices of the women who responded:
“To me, being a woman means being a valuable member of society.
It means being opinionated, articulate, and strong-willed. It means working to destroy the disgusting double standards that can be forced upon us. You can like wearing makeup and sundresses while also being intelligent and deserving of powerful positions. It means refusing to accept the words “prude,” “slut,” or “bitch.” It means supporting fellow women, when society ceaselessly pits us against each other.
Above all, it means being unapologetic for who we are, what we want, and what we deserve. We’re real human beings like everyone else, and we deserve to be heard. Society will be better for it, not worse.”
—Julia Harmsworth, ArtSci ’23
“To me, being a woman means being myself unapologetically. Through sharing my ideas, pushing boundaries, and finding my own voice, I can prove that although gender is part of anyone’s identity, it should never restrict them to cultural boundaries of how a woman is expected to be. Women are all unique, and that’s the beauty of it.”
—Geneviève Nolet, ArtSci ’21
“When faced with the question ‘What does being a woman mean to you?’ there are about a million answers, and every day, the answer changes.
Being a ‘woman’ is multifaceted, complex, and often unfair. It’s a difficult gender to identify with. Society holds us to ridiculous standards, outdated gender norms are pervasive in our daily lives, gender pay gaps are still rampant, and the patriarchy, although facing criticism, is still a force to be reckoned with. Often I find myself frustrated and angered at the situations that still confront us.
Despite this, I take so much pride and hope in knowing that there’s never been a greater time for women. Facing the spread of feminism, #MeToo movements, and strong feelings of solidarity, despite the wide and intersectional diversity of issues faced by women, I am beyond glad to be part of this collective force of womankind.
Being a woman to me is a lot about strength, mutual support, and love. The women I choose to surround myself with are always there to back me up, to rely on for whatever and whenever with unwavering levels of support. I feel so much comfort in this.
There is certainly far to go, but the tides are changing. I often see this phrase stuck on laptops, bags, or on signs littered all over campus, and every time I do, I feel a little more empowered by the knowledge that ‘the future is female.’”
—Iona Cleave, ArtSci ’21
“The only way I can describe what being a woman means to me is to say what aspect of my life makes me most proud of who I am: being a sister. I have two biological sisters who are my best friends. When we’re together, I’m both my best and worst self. I’m supportive and supported, loving and loved. It’s the deepest and truest relationship I know.
I’m honoured and elated to have shared my life with them, and to have grown into a woman alongside them. It’s through seeing who we are today and remembering who we were 10 years ago that makes me take notice of my own personal growth. I have them to thank for so much of who I am today as a woman.
So for me, being a woman is being a sister.”
—Brittany Giliforte, ArtSci ’20
“Being a woman might come with the unfortunate downside of gender-based discrimination, made worse by intersections like race, class, and sexuality, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being a woman has allowed me to be a part of a beautiful lifelong community. I may have been teased, taunted, and harassed for doing nothing more than existing in this society as a woman, but I always know I can rely on other women to support me and protect me. Our universal negative experiences have brought us together, and I think that solidarity is a wonderful thing.
To me, being a woman also means using my own privilege to support others—Black women, disabled women, and trans women—who face even more barriers than I do. I love being a woman, and I love having the privilege to fight for my right to be a woman with full control over my body, future, and life.”
—Tegwyn Hughes, ArtSci ’20
“To me, being a woman means a lot of different things. Being a woman means being able to be powerful and assertive, yet kind at the same time. It means being compassionate and vulnerable towards those we love in our lives without feeling weak for doing so. It means striving for our goals even in the face of the adversity we may encounter along the way. A large part of this is achieved through a strong female support system that encourages us to be our best selves. For me, my mom, my sister, and my friends have so many great qualities that I constantly inspire to model in my own life.”
—Anna Logan, ArtSci ’20
This article has been updated with a graphic that more accurately represents the scope of the voices of those who contributed to the call for comments on what womanhood means to them.
The Journal regrets the error
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