Anyone can be a woman

Femininity is not written in the stars. Photos courtesy of Edit by Morgana Carroll

Morgana Carroll, Columnist

I am a woman. 

Femininity isn’t written in law, it isn’t written in biology, it isn’t written in the stars. It’s a code we write ourselves and adhere to personally. It’s something that’s different for everyone. It’s an outfit, it’s a mask, it’s a style and everyone’s femininity is unique in the way that they wear it.

The distinction between sex and gender is worth drawing attention to when deliberating womanhood. The World Health Organization states that: “Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”

Anyone can be a woman, just by the simple act of being a woman. All it takes to be a woman is to be a woman, and doing that just requires introspection and realization. One just needs to evaluate their own feelings, their experiences, the composition of their identity, and realize who they are.

To try and police who is a woman, who can be a woman and who has the right to be a woman is nothing short of authoritarian gatekeeping. What benefit does it bring anyone to enforce a patriarchal system that defines gender? What does harassing me, saying that what I’m doing isn’t real femininity but a performance mockery of femininity, on social media achieve? 

What confuses me about when other women try to gatekeep my womanhood, is why they would even spend their energy on such an endeavor. You’ve let a patriarchal society turn us against each other, rather than try to connect to each other personally and share our experiences as women. We’re being pit against each other intentionally.

This policing of womanhood has grown to such drastic proportions that cisgendered women are being hurt by transphobic rhetoric. This argumentative gatekeeping of who gets to be a woman is what prevented Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two cisgendered Namibian teenagers, from getting to compete in the Olympics. Two cisgendered women were deemed too masculine to be allowed to compete, based on an arbitrary system that measures arbitrary levels of hormones. The rhetoric is harming more than transwomen at this point. 

This isn’t the first time this has happened, with Caster Semenya having her Olympic title taken away from her because she tested to have high testosterone levels as an intersex person, meaning she has anatomy of both males and females. Despite being intersex she didn’t know that she was intersex until the test came back because she was born and raised as a girl, having no visible male anatomy. 

Societal standards of womanhood and femininity are so rooted in western, white standards that they also intersect into racism. These standards are based off of anglo-saxon ideals, much like a lot of other societal standards, going into racist and colorist territory. 

Having such strict, uniform definitions of womanhood is harmful to transgendered and cisgendered women, and only aims to further a patriarchal society’s agenda. 

What is your definition of woman?