What does being a woman mean to me?
My first instinctive answer is that it means I am different. I guess this is because I was the only daughter in my family with two much older brothers. My mum had always wanted a girl, was unable to have one so adopted me.
As a young girl, I probably played more with boys than girls interestingly always creating myself a role so I could be part of their games. I remember my Mum turning away the boys as I got older when they came to ask me to play out. I could not understand why but when I get my first period she announced to all the family that I had become a woman. I was upset that it was no longer deemed acceptable to play with the boys but it did mean that my Dad was dispatched to buy cake to mark this momentous womanhood. I have always loved the fact that my period was seen as a milestone to be celebrated.
I did not really think deeply about my place in the world until I became a teenager. My Dad said I just came downstairs one morning ranting and raving about various injustices in the world with the position of women in society being right at the top of the list.
I continued ranting when I went to Cambridge University where women were very much in the minority. Whilst other girls were seeking boyfriends, I was joining and then running women’s groups. I even invited some hapless blokes to come along to be educated! Back then I was so sure of myself in terms of opinions even if not so brave socially or boyfriend seeking wise. I used my womanhood as a reason to join a group where I knew they could not kick me out. Of course I learned a lot about women and the world through women’s group and those harsh facts just made me rant all the more infamously getting the porn removed from WHSmith for a whole day and arguing we should not have the Sun in the common room.
In the advice world, I saw so many women in a state through mistreatment by men. Wives left with debts where men had signed their signatures. One woman in particular is on my mind today from my early days as an advice worker. She was a victim of domestic violence and I could not work out why her hands were black and purple with bruises. I went home and Dad explained why. Police officers know these things that people who have not seen domestic violence don’t have to think about most of the time. I hope this woman is alive and living a positive life today. So many are not.
As a woman, I do not think I should have to conform to some media expectation of how I should look, how many hairs I should have on my bits, my underarms or my legs. I don’t actually trip over any of them you know!
As a woman, I wish some women would not reject the term feminism whilst we still have women killed every weeks in their own homes never mind on our streets. We have bigger battles to fight and we should join together until people of every gender and sexuality are treated with respect.
My mum’s hope for me was that she would have instilled backbone into me. That in itself says she knew I would have my own challenges as a woman and indeed we both suffered assault by men on the streets in our time.
My hope for my daughter is that she will respect herself mind, body and soul.
I am a mum. I am not always sure I should have become one as I struggle with many aspects of it. Having said that, I have released two boys and one little woman who have values that will ensure they do not abuse others moving forwards in life. And just possibly, that makes me woman enough.