Define Woman

“You are a woman. Skin and bones. Veins and nerves. Hair and sweat.
You are not made of metaphors. Not apologies. Not excuses. ” – Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay, known for spoken word poetry, wrote a beautiful piece about women. Her poem, The Type, gives a new insight on how women should see themselves.  She wrote in Huffington Post: “Media attention has been paid to what it means to ‘be a woman,’ but often the conversation focuses on what it means to be a woman in relation to others…I believe these relationships are important. I also think it is possible to define ourselves solely as individuals, without comparisons or relationships.”

True enough, women are often defined and valued based on their relationships. This explains how we make labels, ”The Good Wife,” “The Mistress,” “The Other Woman”. For every stage in a woman’s life, her identity is always associated with her relationships. When a woman reaches her mid 20s, people wonder why she does not have a boyfriend. When a woman is at her 40s, people think she is missing a large chunk of her life if she is not married (even if she has a house, career, business, nieces, parties, and friends). When a woman is married, people expect her to have children. Ask a beauty queen, a husband, and a wife on what is the essence of being a woman? They will answer: “It is childbearing or child-rearing ” But how about a woman who cannot bear a child or a woman who remains single by choice or by act of nature?

I have high regard for women who strive to be the best daughter, best girlfriend, best wife, and best mother.  All these roles should be part of our aspiration in life. Our relationships shape our lives and build our character but there is something more than what a relationship has to offer. Yet culture tells us that it should define us.

Society depicts that women should naturally maintain relationship. Hence, when a relationship fails, a woman needs to justify herself. When a married woman is caught having an affair with another man, she is immediately guilty of adultery. But when a married man is caught having an affair with another woman, he is not yet guilty of any extramarital crime. Philippine law states that he is only guilty of concubinage if his affair is under scandalous circumstances. I said to my friend: “So what do we do then? Should we protest? Protest  that we can also have  extramarital affair and not have an automatic crime of adultery like men do, unless we do something scandalous?

woman vir

Define Woman

But how do you define a woman? Is it by length of time she spent on the bathroom? If she knows how to use an eyeliner, then maybe she can call herself a real woman. Two straight men told me that I should know how to apply makeup. It’s an unexpected irony to think that girls are more vocal about grooming and style. My inner self tells me that I shouldn’t groom myself because I am only pleasing the eyes of men (more than my eyes….you don’t get to see yourself as much as the people around you) And when I aim to please the eyes of men, I allow my relationship with others to define me. I allow culture to define me.  I allow society to define me. That for me is a form of oppression.

We all have a shared picture of an ideal woman while we don’t have a concrete picture of what an ideal man should be. Yes, he should be a provider but we can disagree that he does not have to know how to drive,  how to fix electric wires, how to repair a faucet, and how to play basketball. He can be tough yet he can be soft spoken.

I’m afraid I am mistakenly placed in a woman’s body. Apparently, I don’t cook and I’m not domesticated. I am not caring and even if ants love to bite me, I don’t think I’m sweet. I honestly feel I am less of  a woman. But I’m hoping someday I will raise my own family and epitomize a conventional woman. At the same time, it is within my understanding that life has many possibilities. I’m afraid to disappoint but I’m more afraid of losing myself in the course of finding and keeping people who can make me happy.

Before this post exceeds more than 1000 word count as this might lead to random ramblings on  being a woman, in a gist what I like to say to women:

It is probably a mistake to fall in love with the wrong person, to get pregnant without marriage and preparation, to have a sex video and find out later it is publicized, to raise a child who turns out to be a black sheep, to provide and serve less for a family who needs your commitment. But you can forgive yourself.

It is okay to submit  to the people you love and care for but it can be very devastating to build yourself based on your relationships with them. For when a relationship is broken, you question your worth as a woman. We need affirmation from the ties we bind. But even without them, we can find happiness and be complete.

i am no bird

As much as I like skirts and flowers, I don’t like to identify myself as a woman. The word ‘woman’ itself is in relation to a man, wo- “man.” I’m not a woman, not a girl, not a lady. I’m just a plain human being who happens to have menstrual period and who happens to like the boys. I am independent from the many variables that make a woman.

“Let the statues crumble.
You have always been the place.

You are a woman who can build it yourself.
You were born to build.”

-Sarah Kay

The Weaker Sex

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In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. And on that sixth day, God made man from the dust of the ground. Then God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone. And then God took one of Adam’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. And God made a woman. The thought that man first appeared on earth speaks for men’s superiority. But the fact that women were created after men meant God made perfection in women and that men were just his initial draft in making human species. Thus, woman was the last creation. Women were God’s masterpiece.

But, beyond religion, in which women may portray as a source of temptation, women can be at their best socially, physically and politically. Little has been known about women in history. Women were just figures of fertility and that their functions were limited to the propagation of human race. In ancient Greece, the idea of citizenship was not for women. Plato mentioned in in The Republic, that guardian woman should be treated equally as men but not as strong as men. The notion, which states that “not as strong as men”, belittles the capacity of women to govern, to lead, and to participate in the state of affairs. Woman’s right to vote was only approved in 1920. At present, there are only thirteen elected women heads of state or government out of over 180 countries. In theatre, Hroswitha, the first post Roman playwright was overshadowed by men. Is it because men’s insecurity that women were God’s masterpiece? Or is it because our patriarchal society that degrades the position of women?

But women are not as small as how history and how society depict. Women excel in the field that men are expected to dominate. The field of mathematics, science and engineering were once so-called the world of men. But we have Judith Resnick, the American astronaut who was the second American woman in space. We have Racel Carson, an environmentalist and Mary Edwards Walker who was an American feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, and the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Women have also improved their status quo in other profession. In the early 40s, America’s manpower and population in the military was decreasing. In effect, the military sought to incorporate women in the field. Almost 400,000 women served in with the armed forces, a number exceeded total male troop strength in 1939. When Marines were attacked in Afghanistan, no one paid any attention if they were men or women. So, who says guns and gears are only for men?

In health, stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, kill men more than women do. Also, psychological tests now suggest that women have greater tolerance for pain. Thus, women live longer than men, a truth revealed by statistics.

And we say, behind every man’s success, there is a woman. Woman can be a source of man’s strength and also his weakness. Adam could not have survived in the garden alone without Eve. He asked for it. Men asked for women. Behind the heroism of Ninoy Aquino is a woman of courage, Cory Aquino. Though we believe that no man is an island, we will never find in any text that no woman is an island. Therefore, women can and will survive.

And how women make men weak indicates an unconscious power of women, Samson, a man gifted with might, lost his glory when Delilah cut his hair, his source of strength.

Lastly, a woman is made of perfect balance. Both have strength and beauty. Women are better to be seen than men. Women can be found in the front cover of all types of magazine. Women pose in men’s magazine and also in women’s magazine. Though men may be featured in female’s magazine, it is rare for a man to pose in men’s magazine. This is because women are appreciated by any gender.

Men will always argue that they are the stronger sex as much as women do. But men owe a lot from women. The mere fact that all men have X chromosome from their mothers is a tribute to women. They will never be complete without it. Women have two X chromosomes. According to studies, two X chromosomes meant women are stronger and more immune to diseases compared with men having a combination of XY chromosomes. Thus, by biological composition, women are far better than men, having fuller breasts and wider hips.

Therefore, the weaker sex is not the female. Otherwise, we would not have JK Rowling, Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Oprah, and Gabriela Silang. Women were God’s masterpiece, his last best creation.

 A speech  I made for one of my subjects in College, 4 years ago