What Does it Mean to be a Woman Today?
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When does a girl become a woman? In biological terms, this is a really easy question to answer: it’s defined by a puzzling process called “puberty” that we all learned about in health class. And in some cultures, this is the entire answer. A girl reaching childbearing years is cause for celebration, and it allows her to move into the next stage of her life, whether that’s marriage or another role in her community.

However, it’s not always that simple, especially in our Western society. In our culture, we spend our youth in training for adulthood, even though most of us aren’t quite sure where we’re headed in the future. Womanhood can feel like a mysterious, distant destination. Unfortunately, we can’t use Google Maps to find it. Biology might not reveal the dividing line between girls and women in our culture, but the question is: what does? What does womanhood really mean?

As young women, we are faced with a number of conflicting messages. There are teachers and professors demanding academic excellence. The media teaches us to settle for nothing less than perfection, both in our careers and our appearances. And then there are the “traditional” views that suggest a woman’s place is in the home, raising her children and caring for her husband. Family and friends have influence too, based on their own values and perceptions.

Within these stereotypes of womanhood, there are impossible standards for success, making some girls feel like they will never become the woman they’re supposed to be. While they try to sort through the confusion, girls see wealthy but isolated businesswomen, proud but unfulfilled housewives, and exhausted women who struggle to fill both roles at once. On either side of the spectrum, “successful” women still receive criticism. Our culture seems to label motivated women in the workforce as too aggressive, especially in male-dominated fields, and dedicated mothers as too submissive or even apathetic in their life goals. It’s no wonder girls head into womanhood looking like a deer in the headlights.

If womanhood has so many different definitions, how can we know which one is right? Perhaps womanhood can instead be defined by characteristics: integrity, physical beauty, compassion, ambition, obedience, wisdom… Which traits are the right ones? We crave the fulfillment that comes from meeting the expectations for us as women, but it’s hard to decide how to achieve it.

Western culture tells girls that in becoming a woman, they have some pretty big shoes to fill. How can we choose the “style” or the “size” that fits our role in society and the direction for our lives?

What do you think it means to be a woman in today’s society? Feel free to post your comments below!

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5 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be a Woman Today?

  1. BritMc1

    Awesome article!

    I think most females have felt the many pressures from
    family, friends, and society to become the ideal woman figure. It can be
    overwhelming to try to grow to fit all the different definitions of womanhood
    that the people around us push us towards. It is easy to get the feeling we are
    inadequate and incapable of becoming the women we are “supposed” to be. I think
    it’s important for all of us to remember that there isn’t one definition of
    womanhood and that each and every one of us can create our own definition. We
    will never be intrinsically happy if we try to reach the impossible standards
    for success that are pushed upon us by those around us. In my opinion, we will
    be most successful if we follow the path that we believe in our heart is where
    our passion lies and where we can contribute most to the world we live in. The key
    is remembering to take a step back and look at the big picture. We all have our
    own unique traits and talents that we have been blessed with. We have to figure
    out the best way to put those traits and talents to use.

  2. Hillary Flinn

    I definitely agree with you, Brit! We each have our own set of individual characteristics that defines who we are as people. Following our passions can be so tricky, though – especially when they don’t fit well into the mold of what society deems “feminine” or “mature”. I personally believe that there is a plan for our lives. Maybe uncovering and pursuing that plan is what allows us to reach that mysterious threshold of “womanhood”.

  3. Eric David Nielsen

    Hillary, I’m no expert on what it means to be a woman in today’s society:) But I am curious to hear from you what you think are the distinctive attributes/character traits that make someone a woman, and no longer a girl. Is there stable marks of what makes a woman which don’t change in any culture, time, or place?

    1. Robin Wendell

      A girl becomes a woman when she has her first period. Everything changes after that.

  4. Robin Wendell

    I have known men who also have integrity, physical beauty, compassion, ambition, obedience and wisdom. These are qualities that everyone can work toward and become.

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