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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » What Makes A Woman A Woman?

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Author Topic: What Makes A Woman A Woman?
Member # 100

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I recently took on a new job as an editor at a women's newspaper. Yesterday, I was having a talk with my new boss about the question "what makes a woman a woman?"

We're both women, and feminists, and people with many years of working on women's causes and feminist politics behind us... and we couldn't come up with a definitive answer!

So I thought it'd make a really interesting topic for discussion here.

What *does* make a woman a woman? Chromosomes? Hormones? Our bodies and our organs? Our clothes? Our roles in society? Anatomy? Reproduction? When we're born and the doctor says "Congratulations, it's a girl?"

What do you think?

Hanne Blank
Co-Editor, Scarleteen

Start a Revolution -- Stop Hating Your Body!

Posts: 1538 | From: boston, ma, USA | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Wow ... great topic

I would have to say it's a mix of hormones and being able to reproduce.

If i were to have a baby girl tomorrow, i guess the first thing i think if the doctor were to say that is "wow, maybe one day she'll have a daughter too". To go through the whole pregnancy and delivery process seems like a real gift I can't wait to get pregnant and have my own babies (Not like i'm gonna really do it tomorrow ... when i'm ready)

Also the hormones. Cant forget those. The ability to take yourself and everyone around you on an emotional rollercoaster b/c you broke a nail. Or you can't find a sock. Or you put your noodles in the microwave 5 mins ago and they're still not ready!! Gotta love those hormones ... LOL

However, just b/c you can't reproduce (lack of physical ability, or desire) or you're not a hormonal basket case like i am, doesn't make you less womanly. I guess this goes right up there w/ the virginity thing ... It's an opinion

Posts: 7168 | From: Ontario | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 713

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Oooh. I like this topic.

To me at least, gender is an identity. Society says that women possess certain traits, and men possess other traits. If one has mostly feminine traits, one is likely to identify as female; if one has mostly masculine traits, one usually identifies as male. Thus, what makes a woman a woman is her saying that she's a woman. Most of the time, people don't even think about this: they have a female body, they've been socialized as a female, and they have feminine characteristics, so they automatically identify as female.

This is just how it's worked for me, though, so it might be completely off base when it comes to the rest of the population.

To the rational mind there can be no offense, no obscenity, no blasphemy, but only information of greater or lesser value.
-- Jennifer Diane Reitz

Posts: 266 | From: Portland, Oregon | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 2769

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I was just watching the movie "Erin Brockovich" yesterday, and there was a woman in it who had cancer... She asked Erin (Julia Roberts), "Do you think not having a uterus and breasts make me less of a woman?" or something to the effect of that. I don't think that there's a "definition" for a woman (sorry, Webster). I believe that if one believes he/she/it is a woman, then one is. It's all inside... The emotions, the soul, the feelings, the beliefs. Even if one is born male, I believe that he could actually be female, if that's what he feels he is. There's an episode of ER with a girl who comes into the hospital with her parents. The girl's about 8 or 9 I think, and the doctors discover that she's actually male. I'm not sure how that happened or how the family wouldn't have known, but the family decided to keep on letting the girl live her life as a female. Even if someone is born with the hormones and wonderful what-nots of a female or male, they could certainly be the other sex "inside".

Never criticize someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes, because then you're a mile away, and you've got their shoes!

Posts: 500 | From: Ohio, U.S.A. | Registered: Feb 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 3023

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I agree with both Lynne and Mary. (Lynne, you sound like a sociologist! I love it.)

Since I know a lot of transgendered people, and I've taken enough sociology to make me seriously question some societal norms...well, I think your gender is what you make of it. I mean, that's the whole reason we can't even all define it the same way.

It's also weird for me because I've had to come a long way to identify as female. It's kinda hard to explain but it has to do a lot with having to spend a lot of time in hospitals and being poked and prodded. I was a lab rat for people and so why bother with trying to be feminine? But I also did have tomboy tendencies (still do.), and I often connect better with guys than girls, but I think that's another defense mechanism. Against what, I have no idea, but I notice it slipping more and more lately.

So now it's pretty special for me when I DO feel womanly and when I DO connect with girls socially/emotionally. I guess just because it's nice to have proven that I do have an identity and a sexuality and all those things. So when I feel most female...hmm, when I have my period (for this reason, on the first day of my period I always am pretty happy, at least for an hour or so--yes I'm weird) and ... there's more, but I honestly think that's the best one. Like I said, I'm really weird. *grin* I'd also say that going to the gyn has a similar effect, though. I'd say that's as close as I'm getting to the whole "I can reproduce" concept for a WHILE, so it's just as well that those are my little indicators.

rambler (posting more today than she has in the many months since coming to Scarleteen. I CAN'T SLEEP!)

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Member # 2050

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I thought about this question for a really long time.

I think to a certain extent, it wasn't up to me if I wanted to be a woman. When I was born with a vagina, I was wrapped in a big pink towel and labelled 'female'. I was dressed up in skirts and dresses. When I shouted or played rough, I was told "Girls do not act that way." My room was painted pink while my brother's was blue. People bought me barbie dolls and not transformers. As I grew older, I discovered an attraction to the opposite sex which was termed "normal".

I believe that I am conditioned to be a woman. And I never saw any other way around it. Not that I am complaining. I love being female but I have learnt various reflexes and responses which are deemed "female".

But I agree very much with Mary. You are who you want to be.

And if I give birth to a girl, you can bet I'm not wrapping my kid in a pink towel. I'm thinking purple. For royalty.

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Lynne, you sound like a sociologist! I love it.
Hee! I'm not, but thanks.

Posts: 266 | From: Portland, Oregon | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I agree that social "norms" dictate what we perceive as womanly or not womanly, but I don't know if they do so for me personally. I don't relate well to most women I meet- my good female friends tend to be women who definitely aren't mainstream, although most of them would be more traditionally feminine than me. About a month ago, I did one of those silly net tests that was supposed to determine your gender- interestingly, it used data from previous responses to come up with the answer, so every person who responded affected the outcome of every future test. I did it twice and it told me I was male.

Not that I believe silly stuff like that- I was only doing it for a laugh- but it's an interesting indication of societal norms. And yet- I'm very much female. I like being female, and I feel womanly, even though I don't fit perfectly into the little niche carved out for being "a woman". I'm definitely not gender nuetral, and while I like men, I definitely am not one- I really can't say what makes me a woman, that's just what I feel that I am.

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Gumdrop Girl
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warm when it's cold,
cool when it's hot,
smells of sandalwood
with hair lgistening in the sun.
she is yin, she is yoni
she is mother, she is lover
she is woman

This space reserved for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.

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Ok Mary, that was almost frightening...cause those were the exact two shows that popped into my head when I read this topic!

I think being a woman is alot of things that are very hard to describe. For me, it's a feeling, as opposed to necessarily being something physical or visible to the general public. It's a feeling, an attitude, a way of looking at the world, and looking at yourself. I fully believe that it's something about my soul that makes me individual, and that makes me a woman.


"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch."
~Lily Tomlin

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I think women are more sensitive, and have a different way of carrying themselves than men, and they think in different patterns. Also, when you are a certain gender, don't you feel it--most of the time??

I am a fail waiting to epically win.

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Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Also, when you are a certain gender, don't you feel it--most of the time?
I think that's a tough question to answer for a lot of reasons, but in part because we're all so different, and our gender identity doesn't have the same weight for all of us, just like say, the way we identify/are per our sexual orientation, our race or ethnicity, our economic status, our politics, our religion (or lack thereof) doesn't carry the same weight for everyone.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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