What Makes A Woman A ‘Real’ Woman?
When Serena Williams spoke with Stellar Magazine about awaiting the birth of her first child, things took an interesting turn. Williams explained to Stellar, “I am about to be a real woman now, you know? It’s going to be something incredibly impressive to go through.” Her tactless remarks offended many — primarily childless and childfree women — and with good reason. If only women who bear children are “real” women, what are we to consider the rest of the female population of childbearing age — a whopping 47.6 percent — in U.S.? Just what makes a woman a real woman?
When I first read her comments, I immediately understood how women could feel slighted or even outraged. However, I didn’t have the same reaction. I don’t actually blame Williams although I’m by no means denying her social snafu. I actually kind of feel sad for her. If she — a world-renowned tennis player, four-time Olympic gold medalist, philanthropist, sister, daughter, and partner — really believes she was not a woman up until getting pregnant, that is devastating. Devastating and, as it turns out, not all that unusual. A recent study shows that most people view motherhood, and even fatherhood, as a moral imperative.
Perhaps Williams thinks so too. Could that be why she decided to have a baby in the first place? Pronatalism is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it wouldn’t much surprise me if that were the case.
From Woman to Real Woman
Now that some time has passed since Serena Williams’ interview, I’ve been giving thought to what it is that makes a woman real. I can’t help but think back to being eleven years when I got my period for the very time. I nervously told my mom and she let me stay home from school. I called my best friend, who hadn’t yet gotten hers, to brag, “I’m a woman now.”
I said phrases like these because they’re what my mom said to me, and no doubt what her mom said to her. However, I didn’t feel like a woman. I felt like I had the weirdest and worst stomach ache in my life. I cried in the bathroom just thinking about how terrible one week out of every month for the next fifty years of my life would be. Was pregnancy regarded in this same fashion in Serena’s upbringing? It makes me wonder.
Having your period, much like having a baby, may be intrinsically feminine. Regardless, I think you’d agree that an eleven-year-old is still a child, despite what her uterus is up to. And I know we’d all agree that women are women irrespective of their baby-making abilities. So then, when does a woman become a real woman?
To be completely honest, I don’t know. At least, I don’t know when it happened in my own life. But at some point, I became a woman. And yes, even a real woman. Was it simply because I grew older? Was it because I had certain life experiences? Was it because there’s no such thing a fake woman? I’m not sure. But, at some indiscernible point in time, I went from being a little girl to a young woman and from a young woman to the woman I am now. All the while, never questioning the realness of my womanhood. And it really wasn’t until this offhanded comment in an interview that I realized I might be the anomaly in a predominantly pronatalist society. So, ladies, I want to ask you.
Did you ever feel, or did anyone ever try to make you feel, that you weren’t a real woman? And when do you think you became a real woman? Comment below!