I don’t like calling myself a woman. I don’t like being called a woman either. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely satisfied to inhabit my female body. But there’s something about the word “woman” that doesn’t compute with the way I see myself.
Several somethings, actually.
I don’t like the way “woman” is constructed in opposition to man. It’s a binary that is used to alienate and pressure and bully people into acting a certain way or presenting themselves differently. It’s often used stereotypically, and often to the detriment of the person who is a woman. It marginalises anyone who doesn’t fit into the norms and parameters of “woman” and “man,” like transgender and intersex and genderqueer people. I don’t like the expectation that I have to behave a certain way and act out specific patterns of femininity that I don’t agree with and am not interested in.
Mostly I don’t like the rhetoric about “being a woman now” that unfortunately dominates a lot of discussions about things like puberty and sex. I don’t like that girls are seen as women once they get their first periods. I know it’s a significant event, but the underlying message of being able to have children and its accompanying sexuality are based in the historic tradition of marrying women off at a young age to provide children and heirs.
I like the idea of becoming a woman after having sex for the first time even less. How often have you seen those words in fiction or heard them from other people? “You’re a woman now,” “I feel like a woman now, not a girl anymore.” I hear and see them everywhere and it makes me uncomfortable. When I, as a twenty-year-old female, refer to myself as a woman, I don’t like people inferring something about my sexuality from that. I don’t like the idea of people assuming that I am a sexual person because I call myself a woman.
I know that the word woman probably does not have that connotation for everyone – it’s obviously a reflection of my own identity as an asexual person and my own disinclination to see anyone else in a sexual way. When I hear the word woman and think back to all the times I’ve experienced “woman” associated with sex, I feel like I’m not a proper woman (because I haven’t had sex), and that I don’t want to use the title anyway, because the connotations of woman that I’ve picked up on don’t match up with the way I see myself.
I know that there are problematic connotations for “girl” as well – lack of experience (both sexual and non-sexual), lack of understanding, innocence, not-an-adult – but I still prefer that term to woman. I feel more comfortable in it, and I feel like I can identify with it more. And female alone just sounds a bit sterile, doesn’t it?
What are your thoughts?