What Makes You A Woman?
by Maria Romero, January 10, 2019 5:00pm
Art by Dani Elevazo
Transgender women joining a cisgender women pageant has received both praises and backlash after Angela Ponce, a transgender woman, won as Spain’s bet in Miss Universe 2018. With this as a hot-button topic for social media discussion, a more trivial question resurfaced: "What is the essence of being a woman?”
When you google this question as an intellectual does, you’ll be surprised that the results are less disappointing with a few sporadic blogs and media websites discussing gender stereotypes and how to combat it. But those think pieces uplifting women and defining them as empowered and independent are far from undoing what society engraved to women: sexual objects and fragile home keepers who can’t do strenuous jobs. And to tell you honestly, women’s battle of sharing equal terms with the rest of the world is far from over.
Bearing children no longer define womanhood
Despite recent phenomenal changes taking its course across the globe, women’s status has not changed much. For so long, a woman’s role and even the construction of her gender are based on the idea that women are expected to raise a family. Often, they are also defined by their relationships.
But what does being a woman really means in a progressive society like today? It’s quite absurd how women—regardless of race, religion, and beliefs—are condensed into stale categories: child-bearers and homemakers.
The world is rapidly changing, and the alpha and omega of womanhood are no longer defined by bearing a child. If so, womanhood is robbed from a large number of cisgender women who cannot have kids. Numerous reasons such as endometriosis and menopause prevent some females from naturally conceiving.
Womanhood is not a ticking timebomb—the ability to conceive does not define a woman’s purpose.
In addition, there are also people who went through gender dysphoria, a condition where a person feels that his/her/their emotional and psychological identity is the opposite of what’s assigned to them. How do we know that? It’s because Miss Spain Angela Ponce sparked the conversation. Her participation in Miss Universe made evident that transphobia remains as an underlying battle in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community. And that’s something we need to talk about.
Angela took a huge mark in history and in the realm of pageantry, not to mention how big it was in Miss Universe’s end to be inclusive. The pageant giant ended its longstanding policy to ban transgender women since 2012 when they allowed Miss Canada Jenna Talackova to compete.
What's wrong with transgender women joining such pomp? Before we cast our judgment on people who identify beyond societal gender norms, we first have to understand their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression or SOGIE. Learning SOGIE is crucial in understanding why some people are more comfortable expressing themselves as neutral or another gender than the gender assigned to them at birth.
Sexual orientation is the pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, both sexes, or more than one gender. While our assigned sex does not determine our gender identity.
The common assumption is that our assigned sex and our gender identity are the same (male = boy/man, female = girl/woman). But those are different and separate things. Simply put, sex is like a water container while gender is the water that fills the container. Is water any different if placed in a bucket or a styro cup? No. It’s still water. Thus, if a person is more comfortable showing off as a woman, her assigned organs shouldn’t prevent her from feeling that so.
In an ideal world, SOGIE are guidelines to understand a person’s preference, behavior, and identity. But in our current densely prejudiced society, these are mere definitions resulting in discrimination and inequality. What happened to Miss Spain was a manifestation that our society is in a long way of understanding what gender normalcy is. And that’s something that we all should end by being open-minded, accepting, and investing in self-education.
As the fox said to the Little Prince, “It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
So, what really makes a woman?
Caging women into stereotypes is only as bad as limiting them to who “true” women can be, and it’s biased to those who don’t fit into existing stereotypes on sex and gender.
In this liberal world, a true woman goes beyond stereotypes and conquers a world outside the room she used to comfortably dwell to change the world. Those may be hard pills to swallow but being a woman is more than just marrying a man, bearing children, and nurturing a family. Let us set aside prejudice for women who failed in conforming to their traditional roles and accept that their choice not to conform still validates their existence despite their SOGIE.
The true essence of being a woman is baring the strength to face any challenge life throws, embracing the willingness to be expressive and vulnerable, and having the warmth that brings out the authenticity of others. All of which Angela proudly carried out as she represented herself and her advocacies in the Miss Universe pageant.
Therefore, we should stop calling a person ambitious and hypocrite for simply embracing womanhood and tag her struggles as invalid and futile. Because a true woman, no matter the assigned sex at birth and the capacity to give birth, is a significant role player in every business and institution. The significant balance that her energy brings—more intuition, higher multitasking abilities, and a vital deal of leadership with compassion—should be magnified and encouraged.
True enough, a real woman can easily drive her life with her ambitions and talents. She has traits that smash stereotypes and norms imposed upon her.
In all the strangeness of human composition, we must not be outraged with what we don't understand.
Here’s to every woman who's always doubted and ridiculed but managed to stand up for what she believes is right. You are built to endure and survive a storm so don’t question the world when its people’s opposite ideologies come crashing you. Just flip the doubters off. You deserve to be written as a plot point so that the world will be able to read your stories.