As soon as I heard that question, my mind began to fill with all kinds of proverbial frou-frou images that have, for most of my girlish life, represented woman: red lipstick; panty hose; shoes that go clip-clop! as I walk; pearls; tulle; eyelash curlers; pink bows; Victoria’s Secret’s super padded push-up bras; Chanel No.5; oven mitts.
But I know better. These are just things, empty tropes that have senselessly carried the weight and sacredness of adult femaleness for centuries. I see these “emblems of womanhood” and feel an instant sense of disconnect with them, because I know that there is a lot more to a woman than what brand of perfume she wears or where she buys her bras—simply because there’s more to me and my womanness than the perfume I wear or the bras that I buy.
Oh, I wish it were that simple. If only I could just by a tube of lipstick, a lacy bra, and a frilly skirt, and then—bam! Sensual adult woman activated! Wouldn’t that be nice?
And while it is true that those emblems of womanhood can contain within them an essence of the womanness one seeks, they’re only meaningful when they are worn, embodied. Otherwise, they’re just perfume on a shelf, bras on a clothes hanger. Empty.
So if being a woman (and I mean the essence of a woman, not the caricature of one) is not found in the lacy bra or the frilly skirt or the sugar, spice, and everything nice look and feel. . . then where is it and where can it be found?
What does it mean to be a woman?
Here’s what I think.
I think what it means to be a woman is as vast and varied as the women who claim the word themselves. I think that the expressions of womanhood are truly unique and intimate and personal, and cannot be defined by any one person—that is, not without using some of those empty tropes I mentioned above, which, as I’ve seen, can be useless.
I think that if anyone on the planet ever says to you, “Look here, being a woman means this and this and this!” run in the opposite direction. I don’t believe that anyone has any jurisdiction in telling you (in telling me) what it means to be a woman. Yes, even if she herself is a woman.
I don’t think that we can ask that question “What does it mean to be a woman?” without also asking “What does it mean to be who I am?” Because your womanness is intrinsically tied into the truth of who you are—all of your quirks and traits, even the ones that are not soft.
I believe that if you incarnated into this life as a woman, if you claim that word as yours (regardless if the claiming is done with pride or uncertainty), it is your task to define what it means to be woman. Namely, to uncover who she is—who you are—in your own way, on your own terms.
So how do you uncover her? You give her safe space for her to be conjured. You honor her presence whenever you feel her pulsations inside of your body. You open yourself up to feel the pulsations of her inside of your body. You embody the truth that you are already a woman, that there is nothing that needs to be done or applied.
That’s a start.
I like to ask this one question whenever a client of mine is unsure of her womanness (or “lack of”):
When do you feel most like a woman?
I love this question because it has an air of lightness to it, much more than “What does it mean to be a woman?”, and there’s all kinds of curious things within its answer(s), things that can help her (you) to begin that journey of uncovering and actualization.
So, when do you feel most like a woman?
As for me. . . it’s true that I tend to feel most like a woman when I’m sporting red lipstick or when my hair looks just right or when I’m baking a pie. But mostly, the essence of my womanhood comes out when I feel at total home with myself. When I am unabashedly in my body—every crease, curve, and freckle.
My womanness includes much of the frou-frou images mentioned above, yes, but those things do not define me as a woman. And that, for me, is liberating, because it’s exhausting (not to mention unsustainable) to put such precedence on products or symbols and not on my own inherent magnificence.
I am a woman because I say so.
And so are you.