When I was a little girl growing up in rural Canada, I was subjected to nearly intolerable amounts of racial abuse that often manifested as physical abuse as well. Mostly from peers, but sometimes from adults. Mostly from males. It was the eighties, and we weren’t really talking about racism then and certainly not on my exclusively white, rural island in the North Atlantic.
I learned to stand up for myself, to fight back. I became a “tomboy” and decided I really didn’t like being a girl. I tried to copy how the boys walked, what they liked, and how they talked. I became one of the guys, both as a defense mechanism but also as a subconscious response to what I think I viewed then as the weakness of femininity. To that point in my life, being a girl seemed like a disadvantage.
As I grew older (and bigger) the physical abuse waned and the racism I faced was mostly limited to verbal attacks, which I felt relieved by if I’m being honest. I can handle words, but how does a little girl face off physically against teenage racists who enjoy watching a little black girl cry?
With that mental transition, I also began to embrace my femininity. Periods, bra shopping, hairstyles, crushes…despite my unusual life circumstances, in many ways I was just a typical teenage girl.
I left to join my American family as an American at 18 and never looked back. I went on my first date ever, got my first boyfriend ever, and began to discover the joyous aspects of my female body. I began to enjoy dressing this body, styling this body, and yes, enjoying attention for this body from cute boys.
When I finally married is when I really came into womanhood.
Becoming a wife transformed me from a girl to a woman. I had no concept of how to make a marriage work outside of what my faith offered me. I didn’t come from a nuclear family and most of the people in my family were divorced. I learned how to keep a home (hey, I didn’t say it was a tidy home!), prepare meals for my husband as he commuted long hours to work (I’m not saying they were tasty meals! And neither is he). I had difficulty navigating female relationships in my new city. It was a culture I hadn’t been prepared for and didn’t quite know how to fit into. I struggled with loneliness but dove into community service and church life, where I was matured and sharpened.
Our first child arrived in 2002. I had never wanted to be a mother, but acquiesced to the desires of my husband (who was from a traditional family background) and my pregnancy spurred yet another leap in my journey of womanhood. I suddenly felt powerful and competent and yes, feminine. There is no better confidence booster than growing and nurturing a whole human being within your own body. It is inexplicably powerful. I hated all the changes in my body and loved all the changes in my personality.
The agony of childbirth brought me yet another level of confidence. I wasn’t just a woman, I was a survivor! If I can bear a child and bear the agony of bringing that child into the world, I could bear almost anything.
A second child arrived a few years later and I dove headfirst into full-time homemaking. That is something I swore I would never do. As a “strong, independent” young woman, I had thought that staying home to raise a family is what women did when they weren’t smart enough to do anything better. As a mother, I was blessed with the insight that there was really no better thing I could do with my time. I still pursued community service and writing, but I only did what could be done with children in tow.
When I began a career in punditry, I found the landscape as a woman to be daunting. The nature of womanhood and motherhood makes it such that men are dominant in professional industries, especially in leadership. I suppose another term for this is the “Boys Club.” I found peers to mentor me. I learned to use my perspective as a woman to inform my political arguments. I made other female friends and we commiserated about the challenges of our sex.
As I’ve aged I’ve navigated my changing female form; my relationships with women, with men, with my husband, my children. I’ve viewed every part of this journey through many lenses, not the least of which is one we call ‘WOMAN.’
I say all this because suddenly and tragically there is a movement afoot to erase womanhood. The “woke left,” progressives, some well-meaning conservatives, and even my own President have decided that in order to appease the tiniest of slivers of humanity who believe they can change their genders by surgically altering their bodies they must completely erase womanhood for all of us. It has come to the point where our own governmental and academic institutions have replaced the word “mother” with “birthing person,” as if that is some type of equality.
You’ll notice we are not replacing “father” with “sperm producer” or some other idiot term. There is something so grossly misogynistic about the movement to erase womanhood. It’s as if none of the notions of women have changed in the last 1000 years. One philosophy is to the far right and one is to the far left, but both paint womanhood as inherently disgusting, flawed, misshapen, and grotesque. The natural form and function of our bodies are repulsive to each extreme. One extreme sought to eliminate our gender through silence – keeping us tucked away at home, away from the reaches of “civilized” society. The other extreme seeks to eliminate our gender through erasure – denying us the privilege of the markers that make us different than men and seeking to nullify the most beautiful aspects of our bodies. It is vile.
I am not a “birthing person.” I am a mother. I am not a “person who menstruates.” I am a woman. My body and my gender deserve your recognition. God knows I have fought a bloody and emotional battle to obtain that recognition. I have earned the respect of womanhood. How dare anyone suggest that because some people are gender bigots that I do not deserve the respect I have earned in this body?
I have given birth to the very future of humanity. That is the privilege of motherhood and the function of womanhood. And if one happens to be a woman who can’t give birth, or who chooses not to give birth, rest assured she is taking those journeys as a woman. She is dealing with the emotional fallout from how that affects her life as a woman. Those things still fall under the umbrella of womanhood and yes, motherhood. Because motherhood – the choosing of it or the absence of it – is an exclusively female function.
As I’ve recounted, I have walked through fire to learn how to walk in the fullness of womanhood. I have earned every damn scar, and woe to anyone who wants me to cover those scars up now just so they can feel better about themselves.
Live your life how you want, but you will not steal my God-given and gloriously created form. You will not reduce me to a function – a person who can give birth. You will address me with the respect I deserve, the respect my mother and her mother and her mother before her fought for. The respect I deserve and I have earned as a WOMAN.
My gender is not your social experiment.