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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Womanhood must be defined by women, individually and in solidarity

Certain words and terms are hard to define. Oscar Wilde did say, “To define is to limit.” There is one term, in particular, that seems to have more than one definition – womanhood. What exactly is womanhood? How would someone define me? How would any other woman define herself? These issues of identity and identification are core pillars of the modern self, and cannot be ignored. I asked several women for their perspectives on what it means to be a woman.

To first-year Rebeccah Swerdlow, “womanhood is really just synonymous to adulthood nowadays.” As a woman, she has to “be responsible for [her] physical and emotional well-being.” This includes periods, hormones, future pregnancy, breast cancer, etc. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud would agree that periods, for example, make a woman a woman because his analysis of people is based on their anatomy.

But does anatomy really define someone? If a woman with breast cancer decides to get a mastectomy, does that make her any less of a woman to have no breasts? If a woman gets a mastectomy, she does not automatically lose her womanhood because she does not have the anatomy to define her.

As a young feminist, Swerdlow is “pursing [her] education and career goals so that womanhood will no longer be a fancy word for mother and wife.” Now that new opportunities have been opened up to women, womanhood isn’t confined to “housewife.” Now, a woman does not have to be a housewife or a maid; she has a choice. Womanhood is all about choosing how you want to define yourself. Let me make it clear, however, that there is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to be a stay at home mother, for she chose that for herself.

Additionally, women should feel confident about how they choose to identity themselves. Confidence, according to first-year Brooke Prendergast, is a component of womanhood. An example of womanhood is “a girl who is lovely and is confident as they are,” she said. It is important for women to embrace themselves. While womanhood promotes the strength of a woman as an individual, it is important for women to share their experiences with each other. “I feel like womanhood is being an individual yet sharing a common fierceness and bond with other woman out there,” she continued. That is right: womanhood is about being fierce.
This fierceness, however, did not seem to be a part of womanhood in the 1950s. This part of womanhood has developed over time because our views on women changed. I am not particularly fond of how much of an impact our culture has on the definition of womanhood, though. In the 1950s, I would be identified much differently than I am now. Psychiatrist Karen Horney believes that culture has a lot to do with how women are viewed.

Perhaps it would be easier if we stopped trying to define womanhood. “Once and for all we should stop bothering about what is feminine and what is not. Such concerns only undermine our energies,” Horney said. Everyone has his or her own unique personality. All women are different. Therefore, it is tough to define womanhood on the whole.
When defining womanhood, we should not use the word “femininity” to describe it. How can we differentiate between femininity and masculinity? A woman can have the characteristics of both. “Scientific differences between the two sexes certainly exist, but we shall never be able to discover what they are until we have first developed our potentials as human beings,” Horney says.

When defining femininity or womanhood and masculinity or manhood, we should focus, as Horney suggested, on “our potentials as human beings.” Specifically, we should focus on the potentials of each human being. Maybe womanhood and manhood are not two separate things; maybe womanhood does not have a single definition. Womanhood is how an individual woman defines it. Echoing Oscar Wilde, while we may understand the stereotypical definitions of womanhood, it is important to understand that womanhood, in the end, is simply what an individual woman chooses to do with such stereotypes and her life.

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  • AnonymousApr 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm


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Womanhood must be defined by women, individually and in solidarity