MSU, Mankato Women Speak
written by | Katelynn Ogunfolami
Being a woman means many different things to many different people. Each woman who experiences womanhood defines their experience differently. Being a woman is much more than just the gender that was given to you at birth. It’s a mentality, it’s a way of life that only women are aware of. Being a woman is something so different for everyone. That’s why to truly capture the voice of women I went around my Mankato campus.
I asked women of different backgrounds what it means to them to be a woman. I excluded the identities of these women because even though these are just the experiences of a few women, many other women share the same feelings. We all move through womanhood differently, but we also still share some similarities in how we function. The anonymous voices of these women are to help us take a step back and see how a variety of women experience their womanhood. Not only did I ask them this question, I also asked those of racially diverse backgrounds to answer what it means for them to be a woman of color. Women of color experience life much differently (yet similarly as other women) due to the circumstances of their life. We also can’t forget women in the LGBTQ+ community and women who experience womanhood while having a disability. All women, of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds are important. It’s important to always include intersectionality when we look at anything, especially the diversity and experience of women because we are so diverse within ourselves.
Beyoncé once said, “We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves.” She couldn’t be more right. Women are so versatile and view themselves in so many different ways. Many of us are affected by who we think a woman should be based off of the opinions of others. When in the end all that matters is how we view ourselves, what we think of ourselves. When I asked women what it means for them to be a woman I got many different answers. Each of these paragraphs represents how a different woman defines their own womanhood. These are raw unedited answers to show the true voice of women and how they view their womanhood.
Being a woman to me means being a nurturer, being a de-escalator. Being a woman means being able to love and being worthy of love. Being a woman means being resilient. As a woman we have to always be able to bounce back from what life throws at us, no matter how difficult. Now, being a black woman means being twice as resilient. Being a black woman means being open minded, self-taught, being a change maker, being a door knocker. Being a black woman means being aware that I am black and doubly disadvantaged. Being both a woman and a black woman means standing up for myself and taking what is mine. Being a woman means being knowledgeable about myself, what I can do, and why I am here. I feel as though being a black woman is one of those things where you can’t afford to blindly going into a situation; I need to always know what you’re talking about and know what you came here to do and execute it.
Being a woman means it comes with a lot of responsibilities. Especially now as we fight for gender equality. Being a woman means feeling the weight of having to prove ourselves worthy. We have to work twice as hard to prove that we are worthy of being equal. Being a woman to me means being responsible, being caring, being thoughtful. Being a woman of color means living a life twice as hard, because you have to prove yourself twice as worthy as much as a regular woman. Being a woman of color means being cautious and careful because often times we have to represent every one of our race, even though that is not our job.
Being a woman is something that you think about all the time, whenever you look at yourself in the mirror there’s always expectations, more on women then on men most of the time. You have to look a certain way or act a certain way to be accepted. For me what it means to be a woman is constantly being judged by the people around you and being compared to everyone. It’s hard to be comfortable with who you are when you think about those expectations. It’s hard sometimes to be a woman, but I wouldn’t change that for anything.
Being a woman to me means being me, being different. And being uniquely who I am. Being a woman is being vulnerable to societal standards and not being free to do whatever you want. Being a woman means always having standards and things you’re told to do.
Being a woman, to me, means being strong. It means being faced with an eternal life challenge of proving adequacy. Being a woman means that we work harder because we have to. Women are not valued or supported on the same level that men are. We are constantly proving ourselves; I consider this a challenge, and challenges help make us stronger in my opinion. If I need to prove myself or if I need to work harder to be viewed as being just as good as a man I need to be aware of that. I need to have the mentality of a successful woman, whatever that look like. Being a woman is being a phenomenon. Women have been disadvantaged and been fighting for their rights for a long time. We continue to fight and put in work because we don’t have any other options. Women have to fight every day; whether that be for their rights, against societal standards, or even in their everyday life through experiences of abuse. Women are so versatile and experience so much. No matter how down a woman may feel about herself she is still exceptional and strong, because as women we have to be.
Women are a moving force, one able to withstand great trial and tribulations. We have much to carry and overall, we carry it well, even though we shouldn’t have to. As Beyoncé said, “we have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves.” As women we don’t always view ourselves as strong. We compare ourselves to each other and let society tell us who to be instead of following who we want to be. Women are strong, we have always been even when the world wants to tell us otherwise. It is so vital to always remember the importance of women and the crucial role we play in shaping our households, work environments, and our countries. Even as we transition out of March, out of Women’s Month, we must always remember the value and importance that women have. We must continue to value women even when all their wants, needs, and activism doesn’t fit neatly into the month of March. Women are here 365 days, March just scratches the surface of who we are. Hence as we move into April or May or any other month continue to carry the same love for women in your heart as you did in March. Continue to tell the women in your life how much you value them and how important they are; because even in a sea to drown in, women continue to swim.