The ontology of womanhood
“What is the essence of being a woman?” has become one of the big questions in the attempt to honor women’s empowerment. Often, it is answered with: “A woman’s capability to bear a child, to tend to a husband, to keep a house, to love unconditionally, to be resilient that whatever comes their way, they’d bounce back.” And we come up with countless glorifying answers to validate that a woman is indeed essential but all these answers beg the question, “What is the essence of being a man?” is never the same as asking the essence of being a woman and that is because the fight for gender equality is still an ongoing battle.
To join the fight, we, women and everyone, need to stop reducing the essence of womanhood into roles that have been assigned to females at birth; mothers, wives, housekeepers – and the characters they are expected to embody; to love so hard they would always put anyone before themselves, to be so resilient they’d forgive, cope and carry on. To be resilient is to endure tribulation without cracking and that is often too much. No woman should endure inequality, violence, scrutiny, and unsolicited decisions made for them on the basis of sex. To be relentless is to still have the strength of resiliency, but also to be unyielding.
We idealize the concept of resiliency when women should be unyielding to the concept that their essence is determined by the conventional roles and characteristics they have to play.
To say that women are essential because they are primary caregivers, mothers, wives, loving, and nurturing is flawed. Not all women choose to be mothers, and not all women “can” be biological mothers but these women are equally essential to women who are empowered by motherhood.
For generations, girls are trained to manage a household, and boys are told to break their backs to be good providers. But some women choose to build their careers in lieu of building a family; most can do both but still frowned upon. Whether a woman chooses to spend her hours at home or work, women as housekeepers and women as providers are merely two of the wide spectrum of equal roles a woman chooses to assume. Society would say that a woman’s gentle and caring nature is her essence, but some are also enraged and driven as much as they are loving and forgiving. Women are not made of sugar, spice, and everything nice like the Power Puff Girls. We can get ugly, bitter, and mad which may not be very feminine but are very human.
The value and dignity of being a woman, which is always measured by modesty and how much skin you show, purity and body count, how many bottles you drink, and how feminine you are, do not determine the essence of your being a woman. Women are diverse in roles and nature. Women empowerment is inclusive and encompassing; it does not alienate; it does not answer that the essence of being a woman is by becoming a mother or being a modern woman who chooses to provide. All of these, conventional or unconventional, are not enough to qualify or disqualify a woman as essential, and neither do they answer the question being asked. The essence of a woman is the ontology of womanhood. Women are essential simply because they exist not by the roles they choose and their embodied nature.