Defining a ‘woman’

Jacklyn Belo
I'm afraid I am mistakenly placed in a woman's body. Apparently, I don't cook and I'm not domesticated. I am not caring and I don't think I'm sweet

Sarah Kay, known for spoken word poetry, wrote a beautiful piece about women. Her poem, “The Type”, gave new insights on how women should see themselves.

She wrote in Huffington Post: “Media attention has been paid to what it means to ‘be a woman,’ but often the conversation focuses on what it means to be a woman in relation to others…I believe these relationships are important. I also think it is possible to define ourselves solely as individuals, without comparisons or relationships.”

True enough, women are often defined and valued based on their relationships. This explains why we use labels such as ‘good wife,’ ‘mistress,’ ‘other woman.’ For every stage in a woman’s life, her identity is always associated with her relationships.

When a woman reaches her mid 20s, people wonder why she does not have a boyfriend. When a woman is at her 40s, people think she is missing a large chunk of her life if she is not married. When a woman is married, people expect her to have children.

Ask a beauty queen, a husband, and a wife on what the essence of being a woman is and most of them will surely answer: “It is childbearing or child-rearing.”

But how about a woman who cannot bear a child or a woman who remains single by choice or by act of nature?

Society’s definition

I have high regard for women who strive to be the best daughter, best girlfriend, best wife, and best mother. All these roles should be part of our aspiration in life. Our relationships shape our lives and build our character but there is something more than what a relationship offers. Yet, culture tells us that it should define us.

Society dictates how women should naturally maintain relationships. Hence, when a relationship fails, a woman needs to justify herself. When a married woman is caught having an affair with another man, she is immediately guilty of adultery.

But when a married man is caught having an affair with another woman, he is not yet guilty of any extramarital crime. Philippine law states that he is only guilty of concubinage if his affair is under scandalous circumstances.

READ: Laws that discriminate against women

I told my friend: “So what do we do then? Should we protest? Protest that we can also have extramarital affair and not have an automatic crime of adultery like men do, unless we do something scandalous?”

Defining the word ‘woman’

But how do you define a woman? Is it by length of time she spent on the bathroom? If she knows how to use an eyeliner, then maybe she can call herself a ‘real’ woman?

Two men told me that I should know how to apply makeup. It’s an unexpected irony to think that girls are more open about grooming and style. My inner self tells me that I shouldn’t groom myself because I am only pleasing the eyes of men. And when I aim to please the eyes of men, I allow my relationship with others to define me.

I allow culture to define me. I allow society to define me. That for me is a form of oppression.

We all have a shared picture of an ideal woman while we don’t have a concrete picture of what an ideal man should be. Yes, he should be a provider but we can disagree that he does not have to know how to drive, how to fix electric wires, how to repair a faucet, and how to play basketball. He can be tough yet he can be soft spoken.

Not a ‘woman’

I’m afraid I am mistakenly placed in a woman’s body. Apparently, I don’t cook and I’m not domesticated. I am not caring and I don’t think I’m sweet. I honestly feel I am less of a woman. But I’m hoping someday I will raise my own family and epitomize a conventional woman.

At the same time, it is within my understanding that life has many possibilities. I’m afraid to disappoint but I’m more afraid of losing myself in the course of finding and keeping people who can make me happy.

As written by Sarah Kay: “Let the statues crumble. You have always been the place. You are a woman who can build it yourself. You were born to build.”

A woman can navigate her life with her own ambitions and talents. She is not a set of hormones and norms. She has individual traits. She is capable of finding her own happiness and building her success. She has many stories and many thoughts which should be magnified and adored.

There’s more to a woman’s life than finding the man of her dreams, bearing a child, and being the best lover or homemaker. Let us set aside prejudice for women who failed in fulfilling their traditional roles and look at the other parts of her life.

Relationships are pieces of who we are but they do not speak of our entire value. –

Jacklyn Belo works as a Client Services Executive in Financial Times Electronic Publishing. Visit her blog:

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