I’m still a girl

Superhero businesswoman“And she’ll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you’re bleedin’
But she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me.”

~ Billy Joel

I’m a mom, wife and professional with a few years under my belt, but if someone asked me to describe myself, I would probably say something like, “I’m a girl who….”
_
She’s always a girl to me

I’ve realized that I still see myself as a “girl,” not a “woman” or a “lady” (notwithstanding the title of the “about me” section above). Similarly, I wear underwear panties and, on occasion, I wear tights pantyhose – likely residual from a tomboy-ish childhood. But that doesn’t explain why certain lady-terms make me feel uncomfortable or downright squeamish.

On the surface, when I call myself a “girl,” it infers that I’m young (at heart, at least), informal and I generally look at the world with a whole lot of curiosity because I’m still learning. If I try using the word “woman,” it sounds to me like a life-weathered broad wearing blood-red lipstick, who doesn’t take shit from anyone. I don’t know why. This is just how my brain works. And, I don’t see myself in this image.

Realizing this raised some questions that I’ve been mulling over for a couple of months. Am I a “woman?” Why can’t I call myself “woman” with a straight face? Why does it sort of scare me?

So, why the struggle with “woman”?

Girl wearing mom's heelsUltimately, I think it has nothing to do with looks, age or whatever life events you’ve experienced, and everything to do with the stigmas attached to women in power. When you read “women in power” do you hear a booming voice? I do. In an article I read on xojane.com, Kate Conway writes, “When I occasionally try out calling myself a “woman,” I feel like Xena: Warrior Princess sending a warning yell into the wilderness. Awesome, yes, but kind of a poseur.” My sentiments exactly, Kate. I also feel like I’m trying on my mom’s high heels and fancy dresses if I call myself a woman – it’s just not a fit. I floop and flop around, tripping over all the womanliness. I either don’t see myself as a powerful woman or I don’t want to be associated with being a powerful woman because I don’t want to be what society thinks of those women – aggressive, uncompromising, intimidating are a few traits that come to mind.

Gaggle of girls

I think my avoidance also has to do with how I relate to other women. I want to be part of the group more than anything. I am self-deprecating to the point of ridiculous, I giggle, and I avoid compliments as if they carried Norovirus because I don’t want to stand out as a brainy female with any kind of leadership ability. This leads me to think that I tag myself as a “girl” to gain acceptance from my peers, and shape my persona to match even though I would identify so many of my friends and females I work with as strong, intelligent women.

Under construction

What is interesting to me is the underlying sense of being not yet fully formed and the realization that I am still working on all aspects of my life – that there is more to come before I can claim to be a “woman” rather than a “girl” and I’m light-years away from being a “lady.” Will I ever feel like I am *there*? And, do I even want to reach *that* place? I still have so many questions and a lot to continue thinking about.

What about you? Are you a girl or a woman? Neither? Are you a man/boy/guy who has a thought to share, too? I’d like to hear from anyone who either wrestles with this issue of identity, or has some clarity of thought on the topic. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

P.S. Ironically, the song “She’s Always A Woman,” by Billy Joel has always been one of my favourites. Here it is for your viewing/listening pleasure:

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Comments

  1. I think that a lot of women have it ingrained in them that words like “woman” or even “feminist” are harsh and won’t win you any friends (sentiments I strongly disagree with, personally, but it’s definitely there in society). But girl is demeaning, infantilizing, in many ways, and I’ve been trying hard not to refer to people (especially others) as “girl”, particularly in professional settings. Ladies seems to be more of a middle ground, for me anyway, where I can start an email to a group of friends as “Hey ladies” rather than “hey girls” and I don’t think it loses any meaning or would be seen as strange. Anyway, I have LOTS of thoughts on this, perhaps the next time I’m in the area we can have a coffee and chat so I don’t take up your whole comment stream with a post-length comment!

    • Hello my friend 🙂

      First of all, I would LOVE it if we could catch up when you’re in town sometime! It’s been so long.

      Second, thank you for reading and commenting. I think you have such a great handle on gender and identity perspectives. I actually do use the term “ladies” or “lady” as one of endearment for my friends quite often, but would never choose to say, “Hey women!” It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. What is it about “woman” that seems so big and inaccessible, and why would we not want to use it if it IS so powerful? Again, lots and lots of questions 🙂

      Roshan

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