Which matters more?
There are people who’ll say I should insist you ignore the package that contains my brain. There are also people who’ll say I should insist you seek me out because I’m a woman, because there needs to be more of us working, writing, speaking, leading—and that you (the world, even) should learn from my gender-informed perspective and expand your worldview accordingly.
There are people who’ll tell me I should care—about which matters more, about which you notice first.
But you know what? I don’t care. I really don’t.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently, and this past week in particular, on various aspects and issues of “women in [whatever].” It’s a cyclical conversation, and one without resolution, simply because the label “woman” is too generic to be valuable.
I’m a woman, yes, but hopefully that’s self-evident. I don’t choose to label myself a woman, I prefer just to be one. And there’s a reason for that: when you put a label on yourself, people will use it. And not only that, people will use their definition of the label—not yours—and whatever preconceived notions and stereotypes they might associate with it.
That’s very dangerous.
I’d prefer my gender be an additional piece of information you know about me, rather than the primary one. That’s not to say I’m not glad to be a woman, nor that I deny my femininity or think I should. But the fact I’m a woman has never limited me in any way I’ve either noticed or cared about.
We see the world we think we do. If you think being a woman makes life harder, well then, it does. And if you don’t see it as a barrier, then it isn’t. I’m not saying women aren’t experiencing real discrimination or real hardship because of their gender. I know for many, many women their gender is a defining factor in their lives, and the struggles they experience are real.
But you can let what other people do and say define you, or not. You can observe their restrictions, or defy them. Or work within them. Or around them.
If you want to see change in the world, you have to make it. You have to look not only at what is possible, but at what you can and are willing to do. And, perhaps most notably given the tenor of recent discussions on the topic, you can’t build something great while pulling others down.
There are many, many paths to changing the roles, and prominence, of women both in this space and beyond:
Some will want to talk about it. Let them. That creates understanding.
Some will want to meet about it. Let them. That creates a network of support.
Some will want to write about it. Let them. That creates awareness.
Some will want to do something about it. Let them. That creates role models.
But all of it, all of it, creates change. The only thing that isn’t helpful is criticizing how we each choose to pursue that change (or if we choose to pursue it all). And yes, I’ll admit that this very stance is a change I’ve made, very recently.
So whether Tweetheart or Twitter Queen, a woman by choice or chance—let them all be. Embracing women in all their manifestations defines more powerfully than any blog, website, panel, or conference can, what it means to be a woman, and all the myriad forms womanhood can take.
That doesn’t mean that I identify with all the various forms. Why would I? Women are, and womanhood is, far more nuanced than that. The existence of one type doesn’t bring the others down, regardless of what much of the prevailing rhetoric might have you believe.
No, the more definitions of “woman” out there, the less and less meaningful—or useful—the “woman” label is.
And that, I think, helps us all. Woman or not.
What say you?