What WOMAN Means To Me – Pt. 4 with Claire Mattingly

It’s that time again! I am so anxious for everyone to read this post, not just because it was authored by my sister, but also because Claire is a strong, empowering and amazing person. Claire is my younger sister, and she is truly what I hope to be like when I “grow up!” Enjoy!

To me, WOMAN does not refer to a single individual, nor simply myself, but a powerful patchwork, a sisterhood. This sisterhood is comprised of women who care for, listen to, and protect each other. My mom, my sisters, my friends, my guardians.

I am undoubtedly proud to be a woman, but society weighs on me because of it. I am constantly made aware of the lower position my gender affords me. I’m told, “you’re not like other girls, you’re cool,” and I’m expected to react to this attack on my sisterhood as if it’s a gift. I’m told, “don’t get so emotional,” when I’m simply expressing passion. I’m told, “not everything’s about feminism,” when I try to address blatant misogyny.

I’m told. I’m told. I’m told.

I don’t wish to tackle the patriarchy in this moment, but instead to honor the sisterhood. Because the best way to combat the above intrusions is to support each other as women. So often, we’re tempted to put one another down. It’s an impulse that stems from the societal teaching early on that other girls, and later, other women, are your competition. Competition for love, success, and happiness. As if it’s a zero-sum game. I reject that. We all need to reject that.

Women are my strength and inspiration. In my 21 years, I have seen how powerful we are together: The compassion, smarts, and joy we produce when we are in sync is, to put it lightly, kick ass. I want to take more time to nurture and appreciate that bond. I want to make a daily effort to hear each other, to defend each other, and to respect myself just as much. I hope you do too.

So to me, I will reiterate, woman means family.

-Claire Mattingly

What WOMAN Means To Me Series – Pt. 3 With Gissell Reyes

Gissell Reyes is another dear friend of mine, fellow woman warrior, future colleague and fellow sister! I am overwhelmed by her beautiful depiction of WOMAN….go ahead and indulge yourself in this amazing illustration of What WOMAN means to Gissell….

Defining your womanhood is unique to yourself. This is one woman’s perspective on what it means to be a woman. Using this word to define the manner in which we keep our relationships with your loved ones and friends, what you give of yourself to those relationships, and how you maintain your balance with both.

Being a WOMAN in today’s society means many things but these definitions belong to society.

 

My definition is my own, just as your definition is wholly your own. When I think of my womanhood, I think of the relationships I maintain and my role in these relationships. Beyond my biology, I am a woman because I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a partner to my boyfriend. All of these relationships have a specific meaning that makes it unique to my idea of a woman.

I am a daughter, different than a son because women are closer to their families. Traditionally, we stay closer to home even as we build our own separate families. There is a saying about this: a son is a son until he gains a wife but a daughter is a daughter all her life.

I am a sister. I am loyal and protective and the keeper of memories. Sisterhood comes from a bond that is soul deep. It is formed through the sharing of adventures and of secrets and of life. To be a sister means to give of yourself for the betterment and wellbeing of your sister. You share your soul with your sister. While your children are your heart walking in the world outside your body, your sister is a piece of you doing the same thing. This is the same for people you chose to share a sisterhood with, your close friends that sub in when you don’t have a sister or are apart from them.

I am a partner. To be a girlfriend or a partner or a wife as a woman means you share yourself with another person. It means that you take care of the other person with compassion and support. To be a woman in a relationship you walk a fine line. You give of yourself without losing yourself. It takes balance and self-awareness to be a woman in a healthy, thriving relationship.

In reality, it takes balance to be a woman in general. In today’s society, women are told how to look, how to act, how to feel, it is more important than ever to find balance and be confident in your own identity. For me, what woman means to me goes beyond the superficial. It is, at its core, about how I maintain my relationships, about what I put into them. It becomes a part of the identity I create for myself. The goals I have and the achievements I accomplish are defining characteristics of the kind of person, the kind of human being I want to be. But what I put into my relationships is what woman means woman.

-Gissell Reyes

What WOMAN Means to Me – Series Kickoff!

This is a start to an extensive and beautiful collaborative series about what WOMAN means, as the concept of female and woman is unique to each and every individual. We will be hearing from women and men from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, all colors, all cultures and backgrounds. So read on, and stay tuned!

Self-Awareness is such a crucial part of self-care, and self-love, as we can only truly find our self worth and state of happiness once we look at ourselves. We must ask ourselves questions that force us to delve deeper and peel back the layers to find awareness of our true beings; self-awareness helps us understand why and how we are important to the world…. because we are ALL so important, and so incredibly worthy! Self-awareness can start with some simple questions….

Who am I?

What makes me happy?

What do I appreciate about myself?

What do others appreciate about me?

What do I appreciate about others?

How do I perceive myself?

How do I perceive others?

What truly makes me happy?

What truly makes me proud?

So much of my identity is being a woman. My Mom and Dad raised three strong, independent, driven and compassionate women, and with that came a sense of pride! Within this world of oppression, inequality, gender norms and media manipulation it can be difficult to maintain that sense of pride, as others constantly try to tear it down. Therefore, I find that self-awareness towards what makes me a proud woman, and self-compassion within my pride of what being a woman encompasses, is truly self-care at its purest form! I am woman; this is what WOMAN means to me.

To kick off this series, I chose to incorporate a poem called “Where I am From”

WHERE I’M FROM

I am from American Girl, Disney Princesses, Hopscotch at recess and swimming in the summer.

I am from the outer banks of the concrete jungle, from the cozy suburbs, a neighborhood filled with privilege, the bustle of trains and gusts of wind; from squelching summers and freezing winters.

I am from the dandelion blowing in the spring air, the daisy and seashell in the sweet southern sun.

I am from a Christmas Eve’s watching White Christmas with Bing Crosby and strong women from the Irenes, Gorey Girls and Edwards.

I am from the anxiety-ridden tears, eating disorders and unconditional love for animals.

From being an “old soul” and overly sensitive.

I am from Methodist practicing Irish Catholics, from the shame brought upon by converting.

I’m from La Grange, IL, Irish and Italian Catholics, deep-dish pizza and bowls of popcorn and ice cream

From the time Kathie pulled her hamstring while doing the champagne splits the millennium being rung in with innocent cheer, sparkling grape juice and silly string and

Tess, and Claire brushing their teeth to NSYNC every morning before school despite the seven year age gap.

I am from underneath the Christmas tree, on the beaches of South Carolina, the strong trust of my parents, the intense bond with my sisters, the struggle of becoming a woman, the results of being a dancer, the middle child, the sensitive one, and most importantly the love and truth of family.

I am healthy, I am beautiful, I am recovered, I am in love, I am happy, I am strong, I am a WOMAN.