Man, I feel like a Woman

It was the day before International Women's Day and the Shania Twain song was bouncing around in her head, despite her having only been awake for 20 minutes. It was a funny, twangy kind of tune and she couldn't really remember the lyrics beyond the opening, doop doop guitar riff and the chorus of, “Man, I feel like a woman.” There was a country twang to it if she recalled correctly and she thought perhaps Shania Twain had long har and a hat. Oh shit, she thought. I hope I haven't been going around looking like Shania. It was unlikely of course for many reasons but because her hair had grown ridiculously long during the lockdown and because she had worn a fedora hat for many years, she had a sudden worry. Had she looked like she was trying to be a country pop star?

The thought disturbed her. As did the song in its own way because when it was first released, many years ago though she couldn't recall exactly how many, what it was to be a woman was fairly straightforward. You had simply been born a girl and then grown into an adult version of girl known as woman. Apparently however, it wasn't that simple and the modern definitions of woman were up for discussion and derision. The woman sitting at her keyboard couldn't get the song out of her head. A bit like a Kylie song years ago that had got stuck. “I just can't get you out of my head. La La La.” Enough already she thought. This was her head some days.

It was unlikely that Shania would have been allowed to release such a song now she thought. There would be a backlash and the threat of cancellation if the definition wasn't broad enough and wide enough and indeed kind enough, to include men who wanted to be women. Men who defined as women. It was called self identification and although she hadn't said it publicly yet, she really did think it was a dangerous Trojan horse for men's right's groups.

A bit heavy duty first thing but she needed to be clear in herself about what her issue was with the changing landscape of what it was to be a woman. She had watched the debates unfold over the course of two decades. One of her friends, a journalist, had been embroiled in rows about self identification since the start and had faced an unbelievable amount of hostility because she believed in the biological reality of being a woman and had argued that men simply couldn't change sex. The woman agreed with this. Yet surely there must be something more.

The difficulty came in the nuance. Or rather, the lack of nuance. Simply defining and therefore ignoring the structurally inequalities seemed to mean that lots of men who now identified as women were in top positions that women didn't ordinarily reach. Woman of the year in various magazines had been given to women who were once men. Women who wanted women only spaces were accused of being bigots and it had become so extreme that rape crisis centres were closed down because victims of rape did not want to live with men who were in transition. It was all so very surreal and though she wished no one any harm, she was more concerned with the material reality of women's day to day lives across the globe than she was about the right to identify as women by men who were struggling with their own masculinity. Was that unkind? She didn't think so.

It bothered the woman that she was in any way excluding anyone from living their best life. She was a kind woman and of course, if the world was a cute and cuddly place where everyone could safely be a fur baby and wear what they wanted, parading and prancing and displaying their pronouns, that would be great. However, the world was not that place and women and girls seemed increasingly unsafe.

She wondered what her friends thought of it all. She knew some were at the forefront of fighting for the rights of trans people to identify and access areas as they saw fit. Others were vehemently opposed and had been barred from spaces and places for having what were defined as 'gender critical ' views. Others didn't have a clue about any of it and were surprised that it was even a 'thing.'

The women herself still wasn't sure about where she stood on the whole issue. Almost 30 years previously, she'd just graduated and had a teaching placement in a Hackney secondary school. Young, fit and full of enthusiasm, she had introduced the first International Women's Day event. A day of celebration of what it was to be a woman. Looking back, she couldn't quite recall what that had entailed but she knew she had been able to talk to children about her pride at being a woman and to call attention to the continued imbalances between the social and economic lives of women. She doubted that it would be that straightforward now. It would be a quagmire of definitions and divisiveness and it saddened her deeply that girls nowadays didn't seem to have the space to be proud to be on the way to woman hood. She had her suspicions about why and put social media, prolific pornography and a lack of political commitment down as the three top reasons for their distress.

She sighed. That really is a lot first thing she thought. She decided that she would play the Shania song in full whilst she started the day properly. Perhaps it would throw some light on what it was to be a woman. At the very least, music would get the legs moving and she could spend the day feeling the pride and privilege of being a woman who loved women. It was a good life and she planned to embrace it fully.