Defining ‘womanhood’

Photo Courtesy of

What makes a woman a woman?

To care, to cater, to lightly toast a child’s bread on Saturday morning? The mundane practice of repetition in fulfilling the needs of others?

It is an almost cynical question shrouded in misogynistic idealism that produces nothing but closed minded cognition.

Practice makes perfect. Cross your legs, fix your hair and make sure those around you never see you without a smile.  Be nice. Laugh. Speak up, but not too loud. If you don’t, people will think you hate the world.

I know I won’t object to that statement.

Many may feel as though this perception of womanhood is dead. After 21 years of life, while simultaneously witnessing the progression of respect toward women across the world increase only a sliver, I’m here to say that this ideology is not even close to dying.

I’m surrounded by that shroud of absurdity on a daily basis. In fact, the one place I thought I would find a significantly less amount of nonsense when discussing the topic of being a woman was by joining an organization made for women, by women. Joke’s on me. I was wrong.

I find the same individuals speaking on authenticity and originality pertaining to femininity continually contradicting themselves by spewing an abundance of bias; not only through words, but also through action.

Although the thought of men and women alike practicing these ideals throughout the world — specifically at my own HBCU —  makes my blood boil, I believe I may have finally grasped where this self-constrained influence originates.

I won’t get in too deep, but let’s just say some of you folks need to unlock that childhood trauma in therapy.

So then, what is it that makes a woman a woman? Well, that answer is quite simple; be true to yourself —  as corny as that sounds.

Being content with who you are, what you like, who you like, whenever, wherever. It quite literally doesn’t matter what you say, or what you do. Nothing can make you any less of a woman than the day you realized you were one.

I’ve had so many people explain the things I do wrong that don’t constitute the definition of always being “a lady.” What does that even mean?

Voranica Joseph, a senior psychology student at Florida A&M, believes individuality plays an important role in womanhood.

“Having the strength to be different, and not feeding into what society wants us to be [is what shapes a woman],” Joseph said. “We have endured a lot throughout history, and we as women continue to preserve and be the change we want to see in our society.”

Women for generations have suffered with the concept of identity. An identity crisis has swept most millennials into a frenzy over sexual identification. This dilemma files atop the already endless combat against a societal fall into the grasp of an overbearingly patriarchal institution.

Finding one’s own identity outside a professional box can be extremely difficult, especially for women. It takes someone strong and determined to be themselves, no matter the price that needs to be paid.

Jaleesa Smith, a third-year music education student, believes in the true simplicity in the definition of a woman.

“You can’t put the definition of a woman inside a box,” Smith said. “It’s a personal feeling.”

Freedom of expression is an illusion established via social media. Some form of alter ego or persona is inevitable when establishing yourself on social media. By turning oneself into a specified facade, you automatically limit yourself to displaying that specific persona, taking away from your true identity.

It is an issue many face in this world, but like most other issues, women stand front and center with this one.

Adriana Medina, a senior music student, delves into the perspective of self-identity.

“A woman can be the biggest or smallest person in the world, but as long as she claims she’s a woman, who am I to say otherwise?”  Medina said. “Nobody has to tell you who you are. I can’t decide that for you.”

Whether or not someone feels as though being a woman can be determined by their genitals or mindset, wholeheartedly, womanhood will never be more than what an individual makes it.

I always remind myself that Rome was not built in a day. By taking small strides toward the goal of finding ourselves in womanhood, maybe our great, great, great, grandchildren will have the freedom to be completely and unapologetically authentic.