In the sense that being a woman means assuming one's part in the collective identity of the prettier/gentler/weaker/second sex, as we are too often referred, which entails experiencing similar challenges and fighting certain battles through life, lately I've been intensely reflecting on the preconception of that particular identity. Which aspects of our womaness are prearranged and imposed by the environment and which ones are born out of our own free will and spirit and genuinely part of our nature? Who gets to decide on the value of those aspects and measure our womaness? Should anybody be entitled to do that at all? In the contemporary culture of openly encouraged diversity and publicly praised individualism, can we claim womaness to be a general concept?
Although I cannot offer neither simple nor right answers to these questions (alert for the readers!), I am not prevented from exploring both collective and individual, as well as my own, personal and almost intimate, the meaning of womaness. To me, it is a constant exploration as well as a genuine admiration for its infinite nuances and the enigma of the bolder sex (I claimed it and named it!).
While the humanity sinfully enjoys its self-praise for achieving major and, until very recent, unimaginable scientific and technological breakthroughs that have made our lives easier to live and gave us more time to spare, we remain appallingly retrograde in our perspective of gender and undeservingly tuned against the female sex. As the human race and society flourish in so many different aspects and ways, more than half of the world's population and talent pool remains undervalued and misvalued in too many of those. The fight for gender equality and for feminism as a universal, shared principle among all people remains the biggest fight of today and the breaking point of the 21 century.
Although it is our duty and responsibility to take part in this collective and global fight regardless of our own gender, the aspect of an individual fight of each woman as a woman in a world tailored to men is what particularly intrigues me. How can a woman defy the imposed rules and stereotypes and define her own womaness? Aren't we unique and fabulous in our own interpretation of the named concept and utterly divine in the shape we claim as our natural one? I say YES, WE ARE!
The Inherited Identity
As women, we were brought up by our mothers and grandmothers, aunts and older sisters, nannies, teachers, culture and society as fully rounded systems of norms, standards and pre-established patterns to become exemplary daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and fill in all other preordained roles for women which are forced upon by social conventions and the inherited patriarchal tradition inherent to our common reality.
We were taught to behave and how to behave, usually rewarded with the title of being "good" or "smart" ("good/smart" meaning measuring up to the standards imposed by other "good and smart" and more experienced women close to us, to which the same standards had been previously imposed as well). Good and smart in that context are the standards we as women, even as young girls still blissfully unaware of the complexity of our gender identity, were measured by and which determined our value as such. We were taught to sit right; eat right; cross our legs; don't get dirty; don't be loud; don't be late from school; do homework and all other choirs impeccably and on time; get good grades; be kind and polite; stay pretty; speak softly; cook and bake; clean and polish; wear a skirt and our hair long; balance in high heels (because "pretty hurts"); to choose the right profession; accept men as they are (our men in particular); sacrifice our careers for the sake of family; stay in a marriage to save a reputation; balance (and survive) between family and work and many, many other lessons from the Good&Smart Women's Practical Guidebook. Does it ring a bell, gals? Well, my bell is ringing and the noise tells me it's not alone!
As generations of women were more or less taught the same lessons for their own sake and with the best intentions because things are how they are, they were deep down never convinced that that is indeed how it should be. History is full of stories of great women who proudly carried the beacon of the feminist movement, as well as our family histories. Many of us had an emancipated great-aunt/cousin who spoke her mind and swore at politicians like a man - a friend of mine had a grandma who got married three times, buried all three husbands, wore jeans in her sixties and went to America all alone and still illiterate. She lived a rebel and died a legend.
Luckily for us, today we have grown to be more self-aware of our potential, and desires, as well as aware of the various forms of oppression that have been placed upon us for far too long. It is beyond any doubt that now is the time for the next wave of feminism and the higher level of the collective female consciousness. So praise to that!
The Wild (in) You
While reflecting on the very essence of womaness and what the concept of it entails, the word wild came to my mind. By definition, "wild" means living or growing in the natural environment; not domesticated or cultivated; living in a state of nature. In the context of human nature and spirit, wild can be used to describe what is genuine, unspoiled, untainted by social norms and stereotypes, what is original, unique, free. The question poses itself naturally: why shouldn't we be wild in our womaness - genuine in who we are as women, uninhibited in how we look, feel, speak and act, free in our own skin? Wouldn't that be liberating! And who says we can't'?
I believe that precisely that is where the essence and the true value of womaness lie - in being a woman by your own measure and taking tremendous pride in it. Expressing our inner worlds through words, celebrating our womanhood and indulging our femininity as we perceive it ourselves and not as a society and others do, making our own choices and empowering others to do the same - isn't that the wild we can embrace? I believe that is the only way to be happy and free, but also to remain unique and memorable, a real original, which is something we as humans, both women, and men, aspire in our notoriously known vanity (don't we just looove to believe how special we are and like nobody else?).
Both a She Wolf and a Woman
Translated to practical life, you can live and succeed as a woman in society in spite of the still apparent relicts of conservatism, the outdated social conventions, patriarchy and gender stereotypes rooted in our culture, without having to give up from your authentic nature - your wild. Although you are to find your own way to do it, I am happy to share a few thoughts of mine on how to embrace your wild and be a she wolf and a woman at the same time.
1. Satisfy your hedonism
The same as all living creatures, we also have primal needs and urges. Whether it's food, drink, desire or anything else, it is your responsibility to satisfy your needs accordingly, so that your wild does not get too wild. And remember - frustrations are born from unsatisfied needs.
2. Speak your mind and your heart
Genuinity and integrity come from your heart and your mouth. Don't be afraid to speak your mind and speak up when needed. Do not apologize for having an attitude, but make sure to master its articulation. The same goes for feelings and emotions - if they are positive, share them, If they are not, find a way to release the energy without causing harm.
3. Measure by your standards
Studies show that people who compare themselves to others are destined to remain unhappy and unsatisfied with who they are and with what they have. Bear in mind that we do not have the same background and starting point in life, as well as the journey and the goal ahead of us. Don't compare yourself to others in any category. In fact, denounce any categorisation - there are no categories!
Measure things and yourself by the standards you set up or choose to assume.
4. Carry yourself with grace
No matter how you look, dress, do your make-up and choose to come across, carry yourself with grace. Respect and love your body and show it in how you walk, sit and what you put inside. Use fashion to express yourself, have fun and don't take it too seriously - it's a self-indulgent game of endless creativity with a touch of harmless vanity.
5. Take pride in yourself unapologetically
There is nothing wrong in taking pride in your achievements and celebrating your success, both small and big wins. Do it moderately and with taste and remember to share the reward with those who helped you and those who loved you through the difficulties.
Be equally proud of what you are and what you aren't – the choices we choose not to make are also part of our identity.
There is no better way to be memorable than to be unashamed of your wild and unapologetic for your strength.