I will be honest about my first reaction when I was asked this question, and my immediate first thought was that this was a question that I was not the most suited person to answer. I felt that I did not have the tools to work through this question, as I have never really felt the inner need to question my being a woman. As a cisgender, white, and traditionally pretty girl, I am aware of my privileged position, and of how such a position has hindered me from thoroughly interrogating my identity as a woman. On top of this, I feel so deeply imbued with societal expectations of who and what I am supposed to be, that it is incredibly hard for me to genuinely identify what, intrinsically, it is to be a woman. I feel that being called her or she matches my being, I fully identify as female in each and every sense and, while acknowledging the performative quality of gender, I have never felt a clash between my genuine sense of identity, my sex, and the gender assigned to me at birth. Thus, I find it hard to explain my womanhood: it has never really been a question for me. Being a feminist and - obviously - not believing in gender essentialism makes it extremely hard for me to say what, ‘essentially’, makes me a woman.
So I stopped and I thought, thoroughly, about what it means for me to be a woman. Because I could not come up with something that I intrinsically felt, I started thinking about what it factually means to be a woman. For me, it has meant having a feeling of not being whole. It has been feeling forcefully reliant on other people. It has meant that I hated my voice and my laughter because the man I loved did. It has been living for his gaze, always for another gaze that was never my own. It has meant that life has always been a performance. It has meant working on my high, ‘feminine’ pitch, having to check my anger, being called crazy. It has been humiliation and fear, feeling worthless and invisible whenever I did not manage to make a man love me. It has meant playing my sexuality like a card, my body like a prop, my face like an indisputable element of my CV. It has meant silence and endless waiting. It has meant lack of agency. It has meant feeling ugly if I did not shave my legs for a week. It has meant feeling like a goddess when I lay topless on a beach and men stare at me. But none of this has truly meant that much, other than asserting the stage-like-ness of the world and the performativity of my place in it.
Thinking about what it means for me to be a woman on a structural level is what let me to identify what it actually means to feel like one. And it is not feeling 24/7 graceful, it is not embodying an illusory binary of being either a virgin or a whore. It is the potential for survival. It is the ability to be reborn. It is not the flexibility of the body, but the flexibility of the heart. Stronger and kinder going hand in hand, I feel deep my capacity to regenerate more than any other trait. My period is a metaphor for this cycle, but not all women have periods. But we are circles, swirling, wavering magic, unending power to be able to survive even when we do not thrive: because we do not need to win every time, because we can get back up after a loss, because we, much like water, win by persisting, by twisting strategically. Yes, being a woman is having a powerful capacity for survival, for rebirth, for hope, both innate and acquired.
Maybe this is where our affinity, as women and femmes, comes from. It possibly springs from looking at each other and thinking ‘I know we have been through battles, and I also know your inner strength’. Being a woman, and having lately come to terms with the power of being one, has allowed me to reinvent myself, to maintain a fresh, ever-growing energy. It has made me feel a sense of collective bond: we are all Lady Lazarus, and looking at my fellow women’s strength is what has made me say: ‘me too’, what has enabled me to discover my own voice and imbue the world with it. We, together, represent the ultimate power of unity. We are stronger because we are strong in our vulnerability. We have the power to be creators of life - our own life - , not always in the traditional sense, but in a much deeper and illuminating one.
Tiare has an amazing blog of her own, check it out at thelittlemermaidsvoice.wordpress.com
Or find her on her insta @tiaregmora