What Being a Woman Means to Me

To me, being a woman means a lot of things. I have the door held for me more, I get to wear cute dresses without being judged and I own a personal pepper spray. Being a young woman in America means I live my life through rules written by someone who was nothing like me. Being a woman in America means I'm called sexy a lot more than I'm called strong. It means when I say I love a woman, the response is "that's hot," not "that's amazing." Being a woman means when I'm stretching after a workout in the gym, I look behind me before bending over so as to avoid giving a man the wrong impression. Being a woman in America is so unbelievably challenging every single day, but out of those challenges come great rewards - and it's important not to focus on one without the other.

Being a Woman Means I'm constantly judged for the fat under my arms and the wrinkles on my ass. Having a body like mine means I have a responsibility to keep it in tip-top shape so that one day someone might find it attractive enough to marry. Having my body means when people find out I don't have curves, I'm demoted to less of a woman. I'm called anorexic, 2-by-4, little boy. Being a woman means if I don't fit the standard set by straight white men, I'm not living up to my full potential.

Being a Woman Means one day I will be lucky enough to deliver a child into this world. Not just anybody has that privilege, and I thank my stars every day that I was given the ability to create life inside me. I will take two single cells and merge them to grow an entire being inside my uterus, and then bring that child into the world like my mother did and her mother before her. Being a woman means I am blessed with the most important job of the human race, creating life.

Being a Woman Means if I decide that bearing children is not something I want to do, or if I discover I'm unable to have children, I am considered less of a woman. If I cannot provide another child to this world, then I have no purpose. Being a woman means if I want to be respected, I must prove that I fit into the biological box that ignorant men created for me before I was even born.

Being a Woman Means when I cry, people don't sympathize with me like they would a man. I'm overly-emotional. I'm dramatic. If I experience a breakup, I'm annoying if I cry and coldhearted if I don't. Because I'm a woman, I'm allowed to cry more often - but each tear I let fall from my eye is another hit to my rationality, my professionalism, or my worthiness of empathy.

Being a Woman Means people see me as more caring. I'm considered kind and compassionate. People don't look confused when I show love to those around me. I'm allowed to console a friend in need without being called gay or effeminate. I can comfortably hug my friends goodbye, even if I'll see them again tomorrow. I can smile and laugh freely knowing my value isn't being questioned every time I act softly.

Being a Woman Means I won't have as many opportunities. If I get a job in America, it's likely I will be paid 81 cents for every dollar a man is paid for the same work. I will be overlooked for promotions and talked down to in boardrooms. I won't be taken seriously when I attempt to voice my opinions on how the workplace might be improved. I will make an effort to assert myself as a strong and reputable woman in the business world, and yet every now and then be mistaken for the secretary.

Being a Woman Means that when I do finally accomplish something, it will be even more impressive than if a man had done it. When I get that pay raise, or land a big project, or become the marketing executive of my company, I will know that it means more because I am a woman. Being a woman means every time I reach my goal, I know I've accomplished it despite the world playing a game weighted against me. I will live my life with pride knowing I deserve the rewards I receive.

To me, being a woman means a lot of things. By no means is this what being a woman means to everyone. There are people in this world who don't share a single value similar to mine, yet they are just as much of a woman as I am. And that is something we can all understand: being a woman isn't about your body, your children, your emotions, or your pay. Being a woman is about feeling that sense of pride knowing you are not just surviving, but thriving, despite the odds stacked against you. It's about knowing that you have nearly 4 billion people on this Earth who share something in common with you. It's about being resilient, powerful and understanding. It's about being you.

Happy Women's History Month, I'm with you.