On this Mother's Day, it is important to address the concerns of women across the Western World about the definition of womanhood. The question "What is a woman?" has faced unprecedented scrutiny and sparked debates surrounding gender identity, biological sex, and inclusivity. These discussions involve issues such as transgender participation in women's sports and the representation of transwomen in ad campaigns highlighting women's struggles.
While it is crucial to support personal gender choices and promote equity, it is equally important to avoid hasty and potentially dangerous changes to the definition of scientific terms that have been established over a millenium, as doing so may hinder the creation of safe and inclusive spaces. it is equally important to navigate these discussions with sensitivity, ensuring that the progress made in achieving equality and justice for marginalized groups is not compromised.
As advocates for women's rights, we have a responsibility to examine the values, beliefs, and social movements that challenge our goals of equality, sisterhood, and global progress. Women, who have traditionally played crucial roles in bearing, raising, and shaping future generations, have the right to question how certain lifestyle choices of some transgender individuals might impact the progress made against patriarchy and other forms of discrimination. At the same time, there are members of the LGBTQ+ community advocating for sensible rights and legislation, particularly in the field of education. However, it is important for all parties involved to engage in open dialogue and acknowledge the potential consequences of their choices on others, rather than dismissing all challengers as transphobic. A fair and respectful approach is essential for achieving mutual understanding.
Let's get clear on what biological women want the world to know and why they are the ones who can define what a woman is.
How do you define yourself as a woman?
Women's definitions of womanhood are influenced by various social, cultural, and emotional factors. While it is true that biological characteristics, such as breasts, menstrual cycles, specific hormones, and absence of "Y" chromosomes, are associated with being a biological woman, it is essential to acknowledge that emotional, social, and mental constructs have blurred the lines in these debates. The fact remains that biologically, men and women are distinct. Clarifying the definition of a woman is necessary to create a safe and inclusive environment for all women.
As society becomes more inclusive, it is important to recognize that some individuals choose to identify as a gender different from their biological sex. While some people view gender as a choice, others perceive it as an inherent aspect of biology. Discrimination should not be directed towards either belief; instead, mutual respect and understanding should be fostered. It is crucial to acknowledge that genetic differences exist between men and women, without devaluing or erasing the experiences and roles of biological women in society or those of transpeople. This perspective is not transphobic but rather emphasizes the unique contributions and roles women play in today's world. Ideally it will help ensure that individuals are not judged, endangered, or devalued based on their gender ideas.
What are womanhood characteristics?
It is important to distinguish between womanhood and femininity. Femininity is a socially constructed concept, and one can possess feminine characteristics without being a woman. Womanhood primarily encompasses the physicality of being a woman, including genetics and the physical development including the influence of hormones on growth, movement, and cognition. As highlighted by a molecular geneticist at a debate at the University of Berkeley, "being a woman is not a feeling…being male or being female is a developmental process. You can't go backwards. You can't change your sex." The assertion that being a woman is a developmental process that cannot be reversed or changed is supported by scientific evidence. Intersex individuals, who represent a minute fraction (0.018%) of the population, are considered exceptions in this discussion.
Throughout history, Women have been devalued, erased and oppressed across the globe. According to the UN's Women's Foundation, women still face restrictions in employment opportunities in 50% of the world's countries. Additionally, 30% of women experience violence by men, and female migrants face disproportionately higher levels of violence compared to men when living in another country. It is crucial to recognize and address these ongoing challenges faced by women while promoting gender equality.
While inclusivity is essential, it is necessary to establish boundaries between different spaces and contexts. It is counter survival to put women or children in harms way or invalidate biological women in order for transwomen to gain equality or entry into female spaces. Respecting the experiences and spaces of transwomen should not come at the expense of the progress made by biological women in creating their own safe spaces. It is important to consider age-appropriate gender expressions and ensure that public spaces, especially those involving minors, prioritize moral and respectful behavior.
What motherhood teaches us about womanhood?
Motherhood often plays a significant role in a woman's life. While not all women choose to be mothers, many possess qualities that enable them to excel in this role. Empathy, nurturing, and loving-kindness are qualities often associated with motherhood. Recognizing and appreciating the unique contributions of women, both as mothers and in various other roles, is crucial for understanding womanhood.
The importance of a mother in a family cannot be ignored. She is often the heart and soul of the family, and women are known to be strong and resourceful in order to run a home, a family and often a career. Mothers will continue to teach their children values in order to raise responsible, respectful young people. And women will continue to ensure they are improving girls' chances at thriving in life, whether their oppressor is traditional patriarchy or a wolf dressed in woman’s clothing. When women love themselves they will know no alterations are needed, no surgeries can threaten their identity, and they will forever be the bearers of life who should be honoured.
"The role of women in the development of society is of utmost importance. In fact, it is the only thing that determines whether a society is strong and harmonious, or otherwise. Women are the backbone of society."
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Humanitarian & Spiritual Leader
Understanding womanhood in a diverse world requires navigating complex discussions with empathy, respect, and an openness to different perspectives. While biological characteristics form the basis of being a woman, it is important to acknowledge the role of emotional, social, and mental constructs that shape individual experiences. Promoting inclusivity and gender equality should not undermine the progress made by women historically. By fostering dialogue and creating safe spaces, we can create spaces for all women that resonate with their needs and honour their contributions to society.
If you're struggling with how to handle these tough conversations at work or in your circle reach out here, and we'll figure it out together.