I am a woman – or at least I think I am. What does that statement even mean? I have so many questions about what it means to be a woman, and about gender in general.
Is it all about behavioural patterns? Do I ‘perform’ my gender and manifest it in the way I act? In that case, why? Because of my upbringing? Did my parents train me to behave in a ‘womanly’ manner? Would I have acted differently if I had been raised in a gender-neutrally? What does gender neutrality entail? Being both ‘womanly’ and ‘manly’, feminine and masculine? What about the other genders? Can I have a non-binary, demi-girlish, or genderqueer behaviour? It seems to me like we put ourselves into (or outside of) these categories more based on internal identification than behaviour.
So, do I identify as a woman? Do I feel like a woman? Does that depend on how other people perceive their gender? If my friend identifies more strongly as a woman than I do, does that mean that I am comparatively less of a woman and more of… what? Should that be reflected in the pronouns we use? What other purpose could gendered pronouns have than reflect identity? Of course, most people identify more strongly with their name than with their pronouns, but it would be annoying to say a person’s name over and over when we talk about them. So why are these pronouns specifically about gender? Is gender the primary characteristic – the most significant part of our identities and/or behaviour?
Some people think that this is simple: “if you have a vagina and two X chromosomes, you are a woman and should be called she”. Gender is reduced to biological sex. That seems strange to me. How are my genitals and genetic makeup relevant in everyday conversation? Say that biological sex is relevant because it is a strong indicator of several personality traits. Then, if someone says “this is Märeta, she is my friend”, the she lets people know that I am a certain way – feminine – but am I really? Does it not just tell people that I have an increased likelihood to have feminine personality traits? To me, it sounds like saying “this person has a 64% chance of being gentle, 79% chance of being caring, and 87% chance of liking romantic comedies”, and how is that relevant? Why not get to know the individual rather than the stereotype?
There are psychological, philosophical, sociological, historical, linguistic, and other theories that try and answer some of my questions. I do not know all of them, but the ones I am familiar with are contradictory and unsatisfactory. So for now I am a woman – or at least I think I am.