Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A bit about gender and 'real' women

Just lately it seems like I've come across a whole new set of memes, adverts and such like going on about 'real' women. On the one hand I support the idea that women who aren't skinny are still beautiful and attractive. On the other I really don't think yet another way of telling people how they should look is the best way to get that message across.

There's another issue here too. By telling people that there is a way to be a real woman that's sending the message that anyone who doesn't conform to whatever ideal is being pushed isn't in fact a woman at all. Seriously, this is not OK.

In my view anybody who identifies as a woman is a woman. It's really that simple.

I was lucky, the gender suggested by my sex is the one I happen to feel comfortable with. Luckier still, I happen to have the physical characteristics that other people identify with being a woman. Namely, breasts, curves, a womb and ovaries. I've never had to fight to be accepted as a woman. So for me, these 'real woman' messages are upsetting because they just seem like another way to dictate how I should look, but that's it on a personal front. Of course, there are other discussions about being 'real' women going on. I'm thinking now not only of the aesthetic side of things, but debates about non cis women.

I particularly hate the idea that to be a woman you have to be born a woman. Gender is a social construct, often confused with biological sex. It's impossible to be born a social construct.

Now I want to talk to you about two women I know and how messages like this upset them. One of them, who I shall call B was like me, born female and identifies with the associated gender. However, when she was in her late teens she found out she was infertile. She couldn't have periods or carry a child because her reproductive organs hadn't developed properly. When discussions about 'real' women pop up, she tells me she still feels a bit uncomfortable. She identifies as a woman and lives her life as one, is accepted by people as one. But, when people start saying that in order to be a 'real' woman you have to have been born with the right set of genitals and reproductive equipment that's when she starts to feel bad. Is she only half a woman? Part 'real' and part made up?

Then there is a woman I am going to refer to as Anna (not her real name). Anna is a trans woman. She spent most of her childhood and adolescence being told that she was wrong. The things she wanted to wear and do were 'inappropriate'. As an adult, she decided to change her name and start living her life as a woman. Years later she's happy that she made the right decision. As a woman she feels right. Yet still she's faced with the message every day that her choices are somehow inappropriate and wrong. She's often banned from women's spaces and discussions about what it means to be a woman because apparently she's not real enough for those.

It sickens me, it really does. Anna faces the same issues that other women do, she shares many of the same concerns. She's an active feminist and advocates for women's rights and equality. She just didn't happen to be born with the right parts. But then again, neither was B.

To my view, both B and Anna are woman and therefore 'real' women, since both of them exist because they both feel most comfortable living their lives as women.

As I said earlier, it really is that simple.

No comments:

Post a Comment