I read a statement recently by a breast cancer survivor about redefining womanhood. She’d decided to go flat after her mastectomy and she’d had a complete hysterectomy that removed all of her lady parts from the cervix to her womb. Her point, and I’m paraphrasing, was that those biological parts of her did not define her as a woman, that womanhood specifically is more than the biological parts that differentiated her from a person not a woman.
This got me thinking. Of all the labels that have resonated with me over the 40+ years I’ve been alive, both womanhood and motherhood are two that have been significant in my life.
Let’s first look at the dictionary definitions:
Womanhood (woo m-uh n-hoo d) (noun) the state of being a women; womanly character or qualities. Women collectively.https://www.dictionary.com/browse/womanhood
Motherhood (muhth – er – hood)
Noun: 1) the state of being a mother; maternity; 2) the qualities or spirit of a mother; 3) Mothers collectively.
Adjective: having or relating to an inherent worthiness, justness, or goodness that is obvious or unarguable; legislation pushed through on a motherhood basishttps://www.dictionary.com/browse/motherhood
These dictionary definitions are certainly not restricted to biology or biological parts. We know from adoption that men and women who aren’t biological parents can fulfill the role of parents in an exemplary way, so motherhood or parenthood isn’t biologically based as well. Yet, there is still such an emphasis on biology. I’m reminded of the new categorization questions that distinguish between was biological sex was present at birth versus what category the person identifies with now.
And this got me thinking further — why do we need a label? Other than for government forms or trials or surveys, I don’t get asked which gender I identify with. And why would I be? Do the outside trappings of clothing or accessories define gender? Biology?
I identify with the gender that I was born with biologically, so this blog post isn’t about the struggle when biology versus identity are asynchronous. That’s a whole other struggle in so many ways and my heart goes out to those who are struggling with that, legally, personally or otherwise. Labels for those who don’t have a label that resonates is an entirely different thing and I’m not suggesting that it’s not an issue, not at all.
And maybe that’s the point. When a label doesn’t resonate, like how survivor doesn’t resonate with me as a terminal patient, there then is a lot of energy invested in figuring out what label does resonate. And then when a label is found or created and it’s not “mainstream,” it creates angst and struggle. We humans are social creatures and tend towards categorization. When there is no applicable category, we are simply “other.”
Being an “other” isn’t a comfortable place to be.
Belonging is important. Belonging is safety. Belonging is acceptance. Belonging is comfort. Belonging is necessary, like food or air. Belonging is a longing shared by each human being; albeit often in different ways.
I’ve found those places where I do fit, where I do belong and that’s an amazing feeling. Some of that has to do with labels. Some of that has to do with shared experiences. Some of that has just been kismet, connecting with someone else I never expected; realizing how much I have in common or don’t have anything in common with someone that I just click with. When it happens, it’s magic. When it happens, it’s warmth and peace and hot chocolate all wrapped up in a beautiful package.
Belonging is what every human needs.
Where do you belong?