Society has various definitions of what a woman is and has a plethora of archetypes of women roles. There is quite a number that believes that to be a woman, it means to be fearless, brave and zealous like the historical figures like Joan of Arc or even Hua Mulan, the legendary female warrior first described in the Ballad of Mulan. Whereas, there are others who say that it is to be a damsel in distress, one to cherish, sympathise and rescue.
Some might say that it is to be a femme fatale like Mata Hari, or the biblical seductress Delilah that was Samson’s woe, and even to be in the likeness of the beautiful and yet frighteningly dangerous woman just like the one so eloquently described in ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ (the beautiful woman with no mercy); A ballad penned by the English poet John Keats, a second-generation Romantic.
Here is the ballad , which I believe is an intriguing read.
Basically, the ballad is about a fairy who condemns a travelling knight to eternal damnation by luring him through songs and her wild eyes.
* starts to apply kohl to my cat-shaped eyes, Ahem *
Regardless of the paths, careers, and lifestyle we choose, and irrespective of our cultural backgrounds and regions we originate from, I believe there are some core elements that makes a lady or a woman. Growing up, I was under the impression that to be a lady I had to be quiet, docile and obedient and not to bring dishonour as the eldest girl in the household. I needed to put the needs of the family before myself.
This is something that I would say is very cultural coming from a south Asian background. Yes, south Asian, you heard it right! So, you can only imagine the strict gender norms I had to abide to. Growing up as a girl, I didn’t come to comprehend the beauty and power of being a woman despite having strong and revered female images like the goddesses such as MahaKali and Ma Durga in Shaktism ( which is the worship of the female principle of the divine). Granted that I came from a staunch Christian background but still nevertheless I saw Shaktism depicted in various aspects of culture, songs and literature and have deeply appreciated them and yet I fail to realise the beauty and power of being a woman.
But now I believe that I do.
These are my personal reflections on what it is to be a woman.
I think that to be a woman it is to be the embodiment of compassion. I believe a compassionate heart brimming with love and care is what adds grace and beauty to a woman’s countenance. No brands of makeup nor amount of jewellery can adorn a woman such as benevolence. A compassion heart is a different sphere altogether and you know when you are in the presence of one where you feel safe and not judged. To love with no ulterior motives. Of course, there are various levels and forms of expressing compassion, but it is there, and that we are not afraid to express it. I believe unconditional love and compassion are the truest and strongest power there is.
The true beauty of a woman is reflected in her soul; it is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows; The beauty of a woman with passing years only grows.
You know the kind of smile that can light up the whole room where the sparks bounce off the walls and into the hearts of all those around? That can only be achieve with the most genuine of smiles. A real down-to-earth woman who understands herself, who is comfortable in her own skin and is not afraid to encourage everyone around her to be as comfortable and to be the best version of themselves. She who is not afraid to talk about her fears or goals and is human centric in understanding and empathetic to those she lends her ears to. I have been fortunate to have witnessed this type of authenticity where it is just truly themselves such that the earth fades around them. Simply beautiful.
I know you all might have probably already expected this, but I am going to put it out here. You do not necessarily need to be a mother or to give birth to exude maternal warmth. This is something I strongly resonate with as I adore children (yes, with a capital A), but I do not have any of my own and neither am I married. It is something almost second nature to us to run after a child that is about to harm himself or herself or to play and cuddle a child that needs it. Just extraordinary caregivers. This is not to say that men are any less when it comes to this but for this post, I am only interested to talk about “maternal” warmth. Maternal warmth isn’t reserved to just young children and babies but also to all those we surround ourselves with. Checking up on those around us, lending a helping hand, giving a listening ear and being a pillar of strength to those that might need to vent, providing shelter if it is possible or if the situation calls for it, etc. The list is endless when it comes to displaying that protective nature of us. Again, just extraordinary caregivers and having the heart to take care of people around her is what a powerful woman is to me.
One Who Paves the Way
A woman is someone who is able to stand up for what is right and is not afraid to declare it. One who is willingly to stand in the gap for others who might not be able to do so to uphold what is right. She who is not afraid to stand her ground for herself and for others who might need her help in doing so. That is a woman to me. She who has a voice and has something to say. She who paves the way for others looking at her and breaking through that thick silence that still holds us down with the undeniable inequality that affects all of us regardless of colour, language, region, sexual orientation and faith. I can tell you of the powerful women from both history and present that I have looked up to growing up from Anne Frank, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Michele Obama, and Malala Yousafzai and so many others. Yes, I found inspiration from all these various women from different backgrounds and time frames of history, but they all have left a lasting impression on me. The power of having a woman representation is understated; It allows us to dream and to convert those dreams into reality. We must never underestimate the power of dreaming and paving the way for others to dream as well.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai
These are my personal take on what it is to be a woman and at the age of 25, I am confidently contented with saying that I am glad that I was born a female which is something I could never imagine saying at the age of 15. Yes, even if you were to point a knife at my person.
These are again my reflections but feel free to have your own personal take on what it is to be a woman and I would love to hear your thoughts too!