Community essays: This is womanhood

Essays for our August writing prompt, This is womanhood , by members of the Lane 9 Project community. To keep up with our next prompt, join our newsletter! 

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By Kassandra Dalton

“I’m not sure when I became a “woman”.  It’s been a label I’ve been reaching for since my early teenage years.  At the time, “women” were the celebrities I saw on television and flawless women that were constantly being pushed in front of my eyes.

Then came the diets, the restriction, the exercise, the injuries, the sicknesses.  Yet I still didn’t feel like a noble woman. If anything, I hated myself even more.  The weight was not the problem. Diet culture was the problem. Abusive men were the problem. Media was the problem.  My body was not.

Fast-forward ten years and I am relearning to be a woman I love.  My period, something that I used to hate, I now appreciate after losing for so many years.  I am learning to love the softness of my belly, the natural curves of my body, and the amazing acts that my body completes every. single. day.

Womanhood is no longer about the abs, toned arms, skinny legs, and perfect complexion.  I am so much more. Women are so much more. I am compassion. I am a safe place. I am a lover of knowledge.  I am a strong-willed, natural leader. I am a seeker of adventure and a supportive friend. I am a woman I love.

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By Laura Broderick

Strength. Defending yourself. Loving your friends. Sharing stories. Understanding each other. Telling your deepest secrets. Hugs. Sticking together through easy and difficult times. Not always liking what you look like, but learning to love yourself. Growing and transitioning. Sharing hair elastics before practice and sharing dresses before nights out. Baking together and opening your hearts to your best friends. Going out of your way to take care of them. Community. Taking chances. Appreciating differences. Accepting change and taking risks. Learning from the past and being true to yourself in the present.

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By Sydney Benator

WOMANHOOD: On being cat “called” when running

“Ow Ow!”

“Damn Chicka!”

“Look at that little chihuahua!”

As these words enter my ears I cannot help but feel my legs from under me turn faster. My blood starts to boil. My frustration (picture my ears steaming Harry Potter style) elevates

I am not an object. I am a woman.

It is not that when I run the streets of my city with joy in my heart and bounce in my step (thank you new balance beacon)  that I cannot avoid the demeaning screeching calls of men acting as if I am on some type of big screen for a show.

NEWS FLASH:

I am not a show. My running experience is not open to your interruption.

I am allowed to float freely in this world in my “fresh foam”

To run my pace

Without your face

All up in my space

And screaming up words I hate

You should be ashamed

 

I am a woman.

I am strong.

I am fast.

I am not an object for you to pass.

 

You are not cute and your words still last…

In my head.

 

I am a woman.

Not an object.

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By Megan Marie

Reveling in the moment. 32 years of age. Bloodied for the second time since sweet puberty ridden 16. I am not this? What is this? Foreign feelings flooding this body of mine. The intensity of the nature of being a woman. No longer am I a being cloaked as a lady, the blood emanating from the sacredness tells me otherwise; woman it screams! I stuff it full of cotton and shame. I did not ask for this. I spent years restricting, punishing, starving, crucifying this body of mine, so that I may never have to walk down this bloodied path. You will never have children they bemoaned! You may never bleed again they whispered. You are too far gone they cried and pointed the finger and blamed. Shamed. Blamed. Who are you without a period? You are cannot call yourself a real woman. I am stigmatized either way. The giant scarlet letter smeared across my breast. Whether the red comes forth or not, I cannot win. I bleed now. Glory be I am a real live woman! Look at me! I celebrate in silence. No one can know. This painstaking journey of mine. I cringe and cry and loathe in silence. 32 years of age. A woman getting her period for the very second time.

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By Susan Barrows

This is womanhood, that I’ve been trying to ignore for 43 years. I never dreamed of my wedding, I never took dance lessons and I had a boy’s haircut (thanks, mom and dad) for many of my elementary school years. I’ve had a handful of close female friends, but usually have felt like an outsider around groups of women. They are always prettier. They always dress better. They know how to put on make up and use hair product. More importantly, they seem to care about that stuff and I can’t muster the energy to put into any of it. They know what to say to each other, whether it’s complaints about the men in their life or gossip about office mates. They have kids I never wanted. I hated having a period and breasts and was (regrettably now) thankful when running stole those. Unlike most women, I love my boyish body. My relationships have felt often reversed – as if I am the typical male character while my partners complain about my lack of emotion and affection.

Running and cycling made me feel strong, it made me feel like I didn’t need to be all those other things. I had an excuse to escape the unknown (to me) beauty of being a woman. Over the years I pushed to run faster and farther than the boys. Or at least keep up. Maybe somehow I was afraid femininity equated to weakness.

Now in my 40’s, I’m facing irreversible damage to my body from said running and lack of adequate nutrition. My denial of womanhood led me through physical and emotional rollercoasters and a string of relationships that I couldn’t accept. Why have I been ashamed of so many feminine traits?

As I get older it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore standard womanly traits. Wrinkles, fat accumulations in places I used to love feeling my boniness, questions about why I don’t have kids, looming menopause, hands that look more and more like my mother’s… But I’ve come into my own style and I’ve found a relationship that works so well for me that I don’t have to apologize for my lack of girly-ness. While I regret my patterns of destructive behaviors, I continue to try to change them by being grateful for my strengths and shifting my perception of weakness. I am proud to have built my own original version of myself despite often feeling inadequate. I still worry too much about keeping up with the boys but I’ve found how fun it is to stand out from them, too.

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By Courtney Wilton

This is womanhood…

The yearning to be grown up, to wear a bra and have my period, consumed me as a preteen and once it happened I never really thought anything of it as it came like clockwork every month along with the pimples and the cramps. I never realised that this meant I was healthy and functioning like a normal teenager despite living in a larger body. By the time I was an adult, womanhood to me encompassed wanting to be as small as possible and every single second was consumed with attempting this unachievable goal. It meant long long hours in the gym, countless minutes and hours spent dreaming and thinking about the food I possibly could never eat again and wishing and wishing I was just skinny as then I would be happy. Newsflash  – it wouldn’t ever make me happy and what would it take away from me – essentially the core of what it means to be a woman – my menstrual cycle and my fertility.

Whilst I was consumed with counting every calorie, running or using the gym to avoid feeling my emotions, my womanhood disappeared. At first I was kind of proud that I had achieved the unthinkable, by finally reaching my goal weight and body, my period went MIA and initially this was ok, not having to deal with cramps and mood swings was great and if I’m honest with myself I was proud that I had the willpower to cause this. This is what drove my ED for years, the sheer willpower and determination to have the power and control over what I ate – I was praised for this and also criticised but this only drove me further and further into the depths of ED hell.

I am ashamed that I ever felt like this now as, once again like my 11 year old self, I yearn for my period and hormones to come back so I can work towards what I truly want and what really is the epitome of my womanhood—a baby.

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