I am twenty-one years old. This means I am, legally, in all countries, an adult. I can vote, drink, and drive, though not necessarily at the same time. I am expected to know how to act in a way appropriate to my age and responsibilities, although current society has been pretty lax with that requirement.
To be honest, I still feel seventeen a lot of the time–not quite sure what I’m doing, where I’m going, or what I’m going to do when I get there. The world feels a lot like a show I haven’t been given the script to and am improvising as I go along. For the most part, though, I’m managing, shifting from role to role–daughter, “sister,” friend, student, employee, band-member, writer, etcetera.–if not with ease, then at least without causing a total catastrophe. But one role that has always confounded me has been the role of girl. Woman. Female. Person I can manage, but woman…woman is a different ball game.
My MRS professor, Ms. Ting, explained that in research, there are two kinds of definitions: dictionary, or circular; and operational, or functional. The first defines based on what the object is, the second the characteristics the object has, or what the object does. According to the dictionary, a woman is “an adult human female.” Female means “of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.” I get that definition–it would be impossible for me not to, considering I went through the agony of puberty which, to be honest, wasn’t all that “agonizing” (just awkward). It’s the operational definition that I don’t get.
What characteristics am I supposed to have?
What am I supposed to do?
What does it mean to be a woman?
(Stay tuned for Part 3)