What Does it Mean to be a Woman?
Cheers to International Women's Month from our International Women
To read this story on Medium, click here
What does it mean to be a woman? Such a simple, yet such a hard question. Well, I have to get a little poetic here, because it is impossible to describe in plain words something as majestic and as magnificent, as womanhood.
Imagine you are making a chocolate fondant. You buy the ingredients, prepare the molds, whisk, stir, mix, beat, pour, mix and stir again. Divide the dough, heat the oven, leave, wait, wash equipment and plate up. Then eat, wash plates, regret last bite, go to the gym and dive into cardio.
Do you think you will ever be bothered to go through this again? Oh yes! Why? Because those several seconds in which your tongue touches the melted chocolate is just so majestic. Being a woman is so much harder than making a chocolate fondant.
Get born, get judged, face stereotypes, face even more stereotypes, disappointments, discrimination, heartbreaks, did I mention more stereotypes? Confront betrayals, jealousy, resentment, knock-backs, abuses, manipulations, stereotypes, senescence.
And yet, am I happy to be a woman? Yes! 1000 times YES! Because this powerful fire that every woman has in her heart can burn down all these difficult obstacles, and once the ashes are swiped away, what is left, with enough pressure, is a diamond. That diamond is womanhood for me.
To celebrate women’s month, we wanted to ask the same question to some other amazing women of the Metta Space team around the world. Let’s see what they had to say.
Haneen AL-Nahar, Network Ambassador, Jordan — ‘Being a woman at this present time is like being on a balancing scale; you’re standing on one side of it, while the other side is being filled with society’s expectations of you, along with responsibilities, work, and many other things.
So by being on the other side, seeing how light your weight is, you start thinking of ways to balance the scale; you increase your working hours, you try to live up to society’s expectations, and keep your mouth shut about all that is around you, because you want to be at a peace of mind.
What most women forget is this: this balance thing, we got it all wrong! What matters is you balancing your inner self with your outer self. You must be representing who you really are. It doesn’t matter who says what, or what expectations are set, what matters is you being at ease with yourself, loving yourself and those who matter to you’.
Lucia Tomás Lluquet, Network Ambassador, Spain — ‘In my opinion, being a woman nowadays revolves around three focal points. First, the acceptance and letting go of the cruelties and injustices of the past — it’s important to know them, but also to be okay with them and act from the now. Second, the education and reporting, even in one-to-one conversations, of discriminatory behaviours. And third, the empowerment of our current and upcoming generation by acting as an example of a strong, self-worth, and courageous woman’.
Shivangi Prasad, Network Ambassador, India — ‘When I see movies or hear stories from women about how it used to be for them, I feel truly blessed to be born at a time when things were better for us — a time when we are not treated as second class citizens, where our opinions matter, where we can be entrepreneurs, leaders, mothers and everything else at the same time. However, I also see that a lot is still left to be done — to be able to have safe streets or be able to wear what makes us happy, to not be judged for being in a relationship, or divorced, or “not straight” and to not be stereotyped generally. I hope that as individuals and as a society we do enough to ensure a better world for future generations’.
Victoria Luján, Network Ambassador, Venezuela — ‘I was born in Venezuela at the start of a new century, following the first two years of a government that would make it difficult for so many to get by. Many haven’t been lucky enough to migrate and look for opportunities to thrive. Instead they are having to perish in this sinking ship.
Traditionally referred to as the icon of beauty in Latin America, the Venezuelan woman has been sexualized and manipulated throughout the years, excused as a symbol of praise, rather than calling it what it is: disdain. The sexualisation of women in this country has even turned into a matter of policymaking, as state officials since the early 2000s have encouraged teenage pregnancies, leaving thousands of low-income young women around the country unprotected and financially unable to sustain themselves.
According to Hofstedes, Venezuela is still the fifth most masculine country in the world, meaning that gender roles are clearly defined and certain positions, despite the global efforts for gender equality, are not expected to be undertaken by women. Yet, a vast majority will deny that the Venezuelan society is sexist, despite harassment being the daily bread or the gender gap being 71%. There are still many steps to take for progress to be reached, educating and empowering but especially identifying the issues at stake: stopping the normalisation of gender inequality, of catcalling, teenage pregnancies, and rape’.
Viktoriya Shepilo, Network Ambassador, Ukraine — ‘Being a woman in the Ukraine can be seen as a game with its own unique (and 50’s outdated) rules. You win by fulfilling your expected gender norms — “happy mother, beloved wife”. Good luck!
Start with the population being 8 men per 10 women, which creates a feeling of invisible competition, often ruining friendships by seeing other women as rivals. Win points by supporting the USSR’s stereotypical anecdote “dad is working, mom is pretty” — always look like you’re about to go to a fancy dinner, even if you’re going to the supermarket (you never know when you can meet “The One”!). Lose points by doing “man’s work”, lose double points if you earn more than your man (why would you want to intimidate him, overshadowing his masculinity?). Win points by denying the “normality” of LGBT, win extra points by kissing a girl at a party (helps to get a guy’s attention!). Lose points by having short hair, tattoos, and saying you’re a feminist. Win points by smiling to the “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” comments, win extra points if you say, “it’s against woman’s nature to be a leader”.
Pro-tip from older Ukrainian women: once you get a man — forgive everything (abuse, alcoholism, cheating — boys are just being boys!) — do whatever it takes not to lose him. God forbid you be the last one of your girlfriends to get married and have kids — you’re 25, the clock is ticking!
Seems impossible to win and stay sane? Sounds like you understood the game of Ukrainian reality, female edition’.
Marcela Zablah, Network Ambassador, El Salvador — ‘Had I thought about this question while still living in Spain, my response would have been a different one. Here in El Salvador, however, the role of the woman is not as progressive… yet. To be a woman in this country means having more opportunities to learn and grow, but still be expected to fulfil traditional gender roles.
While it is finally acceptable to have two providers in the household, one must still manage raising the children alone. It means not being able to exercise outside without male protection for fear of being assaulted and then blamed for “running alone”. It means having men constantly request to see or speak to your superior because the thought of a woman making decisions is ridiculous.
Worse, it means women must limit themselves because they unquestionably believe they cannot achieve as much as their male counterparts. It means the act of dressing up always being perceived as either “sexy” or “sloppy”. It means exaggerating one’s politeness in E-mails to avoid being labelled “mean” or “bossy”. To be a woman, especially a younger one, is to challenge antiquated perceptions and face constant backlash for doing so, often even from other women. To be a woman is to be expected by society to sacrifice one’s career and always come second’.
Anna Lotta Hattig, Research Ambassador, Germany — ‘For me, being a woman today means redefining the very notion of womanhood. We live in times of a leap forward and consequent rapid movement in terms of gender equality and I think it is essential that we use this moment to leave behind the constraints of expectations and formats pushed upon us from outside and chose our own definitions.
We have the chance and the historic obligation to push the boundaries, by proudly being exactly the women we want to be, no matter how that fits into society’s standards. Only like this, can our daughters and granddaughters hopefully live in a world where being a woman cannot be defined, as being a woman can mean anything and everything’.
We agree. So here’s a big cheers to women! A big cheers to International Women’s Month!
Written By: Dea Suluashvili, Research Ambassador at Metta Space
Edited By: Paula Koller-Alonso, Head of R&D at Metta Space