On Womanhood, Gender & Self Determinism

in Ladies of Hive2 months ago

If there's one thing on the internet that riles me is people who argue that gender is something we're born with. It's something people don't like to let go of whenever any kind of gender fluidity, choice or denial comes up in society. It's easy enough to google a definition of gender - it's 'the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.'1


With this in mind, I've always fought for self determinism. Why should society decide what a 'woman' is? Surely that's up to me to define, and if I don't agree with standards of womanhood based on my sex at birth, then I should be free to reject them. Perhaps it was the books I read, with heroines living out lives on the edges of society refusing to bend to the rules or punished for their transgressions. My sense of justice was piqued at an early age. How dare people try to control and mould people to their own standards? It was the woman that continued to break these boundaries that appealed to me, and the way they were treated that horrified me.

And though we may have come far, we still live in a world that trolls, berates, demeans, disadvantages and oppresses people based on social constructs.


"These are the women who are wickedly smart, completely comfortable with their sexuality, and not remotely interested in any of the boundaries that have been set by society." — Jenny Nordbak

I always appreciated my son's high school, where diversity was celebrated - queer culture is more accepted by a youth raised within it and awareness of how we're forced into moulds is appealing to a generation who rejects the one before it. She/her, he/him, they/them - they don't bat at eye at that stuff. People have the right to define themselves how they like. 'Should' is all about other's impositions and made up moral standards. Some argue that people shouldn't need to even identify themselves at all and what is all this pronoun bollocks? It's about the right to define oneself according to one's own rules. 'Should' be damned, unless you're killing puppies.

"Oh great, you too. So now I wear this label 'Queer' emblazoned across my chest. Or I could always carve a scarlet 'L' on my forehead. Why does everyone have to put you in a box and nail the lid on it? I don't know what I am—polymorphous and perverse. Shit. I don't even know if I'm white. I'm me. That's all I am and all I want to be. Do I have to be something?" — Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle)

This week I watched 'The Most Hated Man on the Internet'. In 2011, the internet was still the wild west - though there were laws against hacking, there were none about bullying or posting revenge porn. Hunter Moore's sociopathic personality didn't care that he was using and abusing woman to suit his business model of creating a website that allowed people to submit photos of woman that didn't give permission to do so, causing untold trauma to the victims involved. Yet still, woman (and boys) fought for his attention, led by celebrity. The whole affair made me squirm. How could people treat each other like that? How are people raised to look at a naked picture of a woman and say something like: 'fuck it, then kill it?'. How do young people survive the internet - not always a space of possiblity, but of abuse? Not always a place of creativity, but a place that screams at you from all angles to be a particular way or suffer the consequences.

Ultimately, I'm okay with being a woman and identifying as one - I gave birth, have curves, bled all my life into the earth, have strength beyond expectation and a million other things - but I'm not okay with other people defining me as a woman against their own standards - lesser than, slut, whore, witch, crone - or, only being a good woman for behaving in a particular and acceptable way. And I see it all the time - in some ways we haven't come far at all. Woman newsreaders get critiqued for what they wear whilst men's attire is ignored. Woman politicians are called witches when they're not agreed with, powerful woman are called ball breakers over the more masculine descriptor of 'ambitious', and post menopause, we're invisible. And of course it's not all men - of course it's not. Woman too can level these accusations with no awareness of how it damages them, arguing that feminism is dead when it's needed now just as much as ever.

And we have all this to fight against without even looking at the spectrum of gender identity, from bisexual to asexual and everything in between. Everyone seems to have something to say about the 'should'.

I'm not for anyone defining anyone against any social rules.

"How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?"
— Anaïs Nin

My daughter in law is 28 weeks pregnant and we were talking about kids and screens. I know they affect brain development - there's a lot of research out there that says to keep your child away from them as long as possible - but they're also places where children get hurt, and where they are socialised. A parent needs to be wary of that, and teach children to have the skills to navigate such a place. To question what they read and what they see, and to distrust it.


If my grandchild came to me with confusion or disatisfaction over their gender, I'd want them to understand how the entire world is constructed - and how that reality isn't the truth. The truth is absolute oneness without labels - we are as much a tree or a mushroom as a woman or a man. Who is making up these definitions that prejudice against us, that keep us from being our true selves? Who has the right to do that? The only person that has the right to define oneself is oneself. You be what you what to be, darling, as long as it's on your own terms. Sit with it for a while and figure out where it's coming from, and if it's not your heart, then it's not you.

"I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful."
— Michael Cunningham

I'm a huge believer in teaching kids how their brains work. Why is it we react to things in particular ways, for example, believing we're not good at maths, when really, it's just we haven't practiced and created those neural pathways in the brain? No one has a natural inclination toward anything - it's all about neuroplasticity. Teach a child they're unworthy, and they'll act that out. Teach a kid to be compassionate, kind and empathetic, and that's what they'll be. Teach them to understand why it is they feel particular ways, and I think they'll manage their emotional lives a little better. Like, 'oh, I'm feeling inadquate because I've been following a whole heap of skinny girls on Instagram or listening to trolls - maybe I should unfollow these people and remove myself from that situation?'. Neuroscience (which to me teaches pretty much what the Buddha taught) can teach kids better digital literacy.

"I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves." — Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)

Take out the [woman] from the above quote and it's really just about self power, self determinism. No one needs to label anyone. Everything is a social construct. Dear child, you are a beautiful breathing living thing that has value in the world, and you can choose your own path and be damned if anyone should tell you what that is.

This post is written in response to Ladies of HIVE weekly question about how we'd answer questions to our children and grandchildren about womanhood and changing concepts of sex and gender in a digital age. You can find the prompt here

With Love,



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And claps.

I knew I could have hit reblog before I even started reading this 😄

This quote made my heart smile:

"I was not ladylike, nor was I manly.
I was something else altogether.
There were so many different ways to be beautiful."
— Michael Cunningham

Thank you !LADY (Haha😉couldn't help myself 🤣😁😂)

And your post reminds me of this quote which I rather love and think of any time I notice a woman speaking or writing in a determined, unapologetic and/or fierce way:

"It actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman.
That’s why there are so many of us."
~ Jane Goodall

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Exactly @consciouscat I did reblog too 🤣🤣🤣🤣. Her post is too lovely to ignore the nudging to reblog...

Haha when LOH started I objected a lot to the word LADY with it's particular connotations. But I think we can reclaim the word here on HIVE and make it a label of diversity, power, strength. We are LOH!!!

THANKS lovely. There's some ripper quotes out there that question gender.

You're WELCOME 😂😄😃

"Lady": I get it. For YEARS anytime someone called me a lady I would somewhat politely rip their head off. !LOL Eventually I realised it didn't mean weakness (as I had made it mean) but rather that they were being respectful of me.

So yes, let's reclaim the word !LADY to make it mean anything we damn well want! 💆‍♀️🤦‍♀️🙇‍♀️🙋‍♀️💁‍♀️🙆‍♀️🙍‍♀️🤰👰👱‍♀️👳‍♀️👵👩👧

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Society has found a way of manipulating people and things to fit their narrative. They put the "do and don't" and stereotype gender.

People have the right to define themselves how they like.

I agree with you. We should be our own author, define ourselves, and make a change. Culture men brought in indeed affected a lot of things, no one can tell how things were 3000 years ago but it's glad women are living their dreams now and standing tall against all odds.

We are what we believe we are.

I hope so. Woman are still suffering though. Sometimes I despair.

With the education, I believe there'll be a change in the future

The society can never do without the woman. Ok who would give birth to the governor's, kings, celebrities and they (the society) cannot compensate the woman allowing her to be in national bodies?

I suggest it's time each and everyone wake up to your passion. It's your passion that will get you access against the biasness of gender based issues. Thanks for the post it got me inspired

I enjoyed reading this post, indeed it is a great entry and yes our kids turn out to be what we constantly teach them to be.
@riverflows thanks for sharing your thoughts, good luck 🌹

Yes, it is quite strange.. In an age where societies try to become wider minded does it appear that girls are girls more than ever before! Even the very small ones get nail polish put on.
I wouldn't say, I'm a tomboy, but we were brought up to try things and not be too timid when it comes to injuries and such like. I have a full motorbike licence, because my Dad convinced me that I could do it! Mind you, he was lacking any sons.. 😄

Still, society drives what we should wear and what not, however, it's more driven by sales figures of course, so again, driven by ourselves by what we buy.
It is almost impossible for me to buy tops that are not pink or turquois.. I hate both, but not keen on just kaki that is available for men either..

I'd like to think society is able to change, but sometimes I think it swings and roundabouts...

Greetings from the UK! 😃

That's so interesting, I guess I hadn't thought we are actually becoming more gendered in appearance due to media. If I had kids I'd be really limiting access to screens until much later with some really good digital literacy conversations happening!

I hate the pink and turquoise or pastel fashion cycle. Give me greens and blues, khaki and black anyday.

Where in the UK are you?

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Awww this is so timely. I am just feeling bad lately. I feel like a bit oppressed by my society.. . due to at my age (late 30s) for still being single and independent. Now I am very careful putting my age out there especially on mainstream social media like Twitter where "conservative men" can freely attack me for being me. You won't believe the amount of vitriol online and hatred targeted against women who chose their own path. It sucks I don't want to get affected but my everyday life, in this small town, men make me feel this way...

Oh gosh I'm sorry you feel attacked. That's what annoys me about woman who say we don't need feminism anymore. I don't think they understand what it's like in various parts of the world or for different ages or types.

I guess you need to set an example and be brave and do YOU. Just laugh in face of trolls. You are powerful, wonderful and unique.

Reality nice
Kudo's to you

No one has a natural inclination toward anything

I respect you, and love what you have written, but I do think we have natural inclinations. I also think that much of what we like and covet is culturally defined. But does it matter how we get to be who we are, or if we maintain that preference over a lifetime? It's personal. Whom I love, or why I love is relevant only to my life.

Everyone else, mind your own business :)

Yeah you're right in a sense. Of course there are natural inclinations - I probably should have clarified it but I was writing fast without proofing.

I guess what I meant in that bit was kids that say 'Im so bad at maths' or 'I can't spell'. In terms of neuroplasticity, what we practice we get better at and we enjoy it because we are good at it and it makes us feel good. We avoid what makes us feel bad or that we don't have success at and then we just can't do it. Doesn't mean never will be good at it, just that practice is needed.

Sometimes that's determined by what we are born with - our very bone structure can lend well to certain activities eg dancers hips vs runner hips.

But a huge part, alot of what we become is socialised and cultured - reinforced, I suppose.

I love meaningful and thoughtful quotes that build bridges rather than divide,

"I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves." — Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)

She was a bit of a star suffragette. Did you know she was Mary Shelley's Mum?

The definition you talk about in terms of social construct. Who wrote it? Some person arguing enough that it's just stuck on the internet.

You will hate me for this because I don't agree withyour truth because it's notthe truth.

From memory a peep psychiatrist from new Zealand pushed for this fluidity idea so they could get away with abusing these two twins. Wish I kept tabs of the article but shrugs 'meh'.

I will agree to disagree with you on your opinion.

No worries, you can disagree. Of course there are multiple truths.

But it's always been the definition... Even before the internet. Sex is the biology... Gender is society and culture. You just have to look at different cultural views on mam/woman gender to understand that, as well as how it changes across time.

The term social construct was first written by "Mind, Self, and Society" by American sociologist George Herbert Mead in 1934.basically he said that we build our own realities through interactions with each other. It's an actual theory, and a very well known one, continuing on an age old nature/nurture debate.

How much is genes, how much is how we are raised, how we see the world?

Gender fluidity - hmm, not sure what you mean there. I think it started in the 1980s. I did have a Google to see if I could find that case but couldn't. I have always used it from woman's studies at uni, which also dived deep into queer identities and minority cultures. The more you understand I guess the less you fear it and associate it with abuse, as you do here.

I don't hate you. Rational and respectful discussion is where it's at.

Awesome, I'm glad you say rational and respectful discussion.

It's good not to be hated.

We're doomed if we choose division over listening to each other!

"How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?"
— Anaïs Nin

Such wise words! Only if I could always pin this line and make all the women in the world read it, I would be satisfied.