I recently spoke at an event that had all female speakers. Because of the female presence, the host asked us all to share our idea of what is means to be “a real woman” at the end of our presentation. This idea was meant to challenge gender roles, but in my opinion lost its value by looking for one specific idea of what it means to be “a real woman.” My response at the end of my talk was simple and about as “ladylike” as one would expect from me. “Being a real woman means whatever the fuck you want it to mean.”
There has been so much attention on gender and its fluidity that I am concerned with how stuck we are on the concept of being “a real man” or “a real woman.” No answer is better than another. We all have an idea of our own gender. So often we see the photos on social media which talk about how “a real woman” will do something specific. There are then others showing how “a real man” does something specific as well. Sometimes these are meant to challenge gender roles, but in the end we are simply attaching a new role to that gender. These quotes can talk about how “a real woman” has strength and demands specific things from "her man.” Then there are ones that completely degrade women such as one that reads “A real woman never lets her man leave the house hungry or horny.” Why do we have to put rules on what “a real woman” does? Then we have quotes that talk about how “a real man” treats his woman with respect and/or shows "his woman" his emotional side. It is great that we are trying to enforce fair treatment of women and challenging men to be vulnerable, but why are we still putting specific characteristics on men? And why are we always talking about “his woman” as if women are still property.
Then we get into the issue of gender and sexuality. What if someone identifies as transgendered? The idea of "a real woman" or "a real man" causes even more difficulties for both binary and non-binary
trans-people. We also never see anything about same sex relationships. I have never seen anyone share a quote about how same sex partners should treat each other, but we seem to have plenty of ideas on how “a real woman” treats her man and “a real man” treats his woman.
Why in a society where we want gender equality do we continue to place gender roles on ourselves and others? Why are we even trying to show what “a real man” or “a real woman” means? Gender should be fluid. We should stop attaching characteristics to it, stop promoting gender roles, and stop placing expectations on others.