n. An adult human female
Indra Nooyi. Angelina Jolie. Hillary Clinton. Malala. Beyoncé.
We are surrounded by women who strive to empower. We are surrounded by women who seek challenges and turn them inside out. We are surrounded by women who prove they cannot be defined by a singular definition.
When a friend asked me this exact question, it got me thinking. How could I respond to him when being a woman meant being so many different little things all at the same time?
This is my interpretation of what it means to be a woman.
To be a woman means to be the product of warriors.
I was raised in a family where women are cherished, loved and respected. I grew up around powerful females. My mother – the voice of reason and finality in our household. My grandmothers – the women who have overcome societal pressures and proven their worth and value. My older sister – the one woman I will never stop learning from and being empowered by.
Being raised in a family with so much respect and value for their women has taught me about gratefulness. Everyday, my prayers hold the same thought, that I am grateful to have such a dynamic and supportive system, to nurture, protect and help me grow. It’s with that thought in mind that I seek to create change in the world, so that one day, my daughters will also grow up in a world where globally, women are respected as much as they are in my family. I’m using my blessing to make sure the world knows I will not back down until we receive recognition. Because I am the product of warriors, and it is my duty to uphold those values and make the world a more equitable place.
To be a product of warriors means to use my education and privilege to continually fight and ensure every single woman born has access to the same privilege of embracing the warrior in her.
To be a woman means to be an activist
We still live in a world where women are beaten, raped and abused. Where it’s our fault we were hollered at, innapropriately groped and mistreated. Where it’s excusable behaviour for men to make suggestive, lewd and sexist comments against us. It is in our empowerment that we must stand together and fight to make the world a safer place. It’s in our empowerment that we use our knowledge and wisdom to educate our boys to respect women, and treat them as equals. It’s in our empowerment that we use the activist within each of us to create change and see the fruits of our labour.
To be a woman means to use your voice
We are brought up in a culture where women should be seen, not heard.
Demure, eyes downcast and shy. Hiding behind the locks of our hair.
To be a woman means to stand up for what we believe in. To be a woman means to speak up, argue and debate. To bring my own heritage into this, Indian culture thrives on quietening our women. Why though? Why should we remain quiet and complacent when we were gifted with voices that are strong, emphatic and deliver both knowledge and wisdom? Why must the older generations of women quieten the younger? When we know that women must work together to achieve equality and justice, why do we silence each other?
To be a woman means to use the voices we were gifted. To say what’s on our minds, to argue, debate and discuss. It means that our voices can carry emotion, sentiment and power. It means our voices can say no and we can believe that our statements will be valued and respected.
To be a woman means to be more than just the makeup that covers our skin
To be a woman means to embody grace and beauty inside and out. To be a woman means to not be society’s fetish for obscene beauty standards. To be a woman means to love the bumps, curves and skin that makes us who we are. To be a woman means to love and cherish the features we’ve been given. To be a woman means to work on ourselves so we are happy for ourselves. To be a woman means to rise beyond social pressure to be perfect. We are all beautiful, just the way we are.
To be a woman means to be strong
To be a woman means to be able to carry the weight of the world and still maintain a straight back. To be a woman means to be able to handle hardship without cracking your mask. To be a woman means to be strong for yourself and for others. To be a woman means to be prove everyday that we are simultaneously CEOs, actresses, politicians, social leaders, changers, movers and shakers; alongside being sisters, daughters and wives.
To be a woman means to be resilient
The glass ceiling still exists, even in 2017. To be a woman means to hold your head high in the face of constant comparison and inferiority. To be a woman means to not back down even in situations where we are judged, poked and prodded. To be a woman means to show that we are equals in the boardroom, on the street and in the house.
To be a woman means to be independent
We’re taught that we need men. Marriage is our priority, not our choice. But it really isn’t like that. To be a woman means to have the choice to settle down. To be a woman means to have the ability to choose a partner and a status. To be a woman means to be able to choose when we want children. To be a woman means to have access to our own finances, our own means of travelling and our own source of control.
To be a woman means to be driven
We’re often told women can’t do certain things. Women can’t be truck drivers. Women cannot be in construction. Women cannot be astronauts, physicists or race car drivers. Women will never be as great in sport. To be a woman means to break down those preconceptions and to be whatever you may please. For me personally, it means pursuing not only business, but also photography, writing and fashion. It means telling society to step back and let me make my mark. It means telling those who said no that I can do whatever I want.
I am a woman. An embodiment of all those characteristics. A being who is seeking to actively improve herself, empower herself, and change herself. It is our time to protest, create change and mobilise action to make society more equal.
I am a woman. I am a nineteen year old business student, striving to enter the corporate world. I am a product of warriors, shaped by the teachings of powerful women before me. I am that shameful, disrespectful Indian girl who isn’t afraid to claim her voice, body or mind. I am that young woman striving to reach for higher things every single day, finding ways to break the glass ceiling. I am that young woman – the one who loves photography and fashion as much as I love cars and rugby. I am that independent young woman who doesn’t need a man, but who can claim her own sexuality and desire for intimacy as a facet of my human experience. I am that young woman, who is not limited by the hardships in her life, but rather proves just how strong she is.