Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgendered celebrity recently named Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, told Buzzfeed that "the hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear."
I've been female since I was conceived. I do spend a frustrating amount of time figuring out what to wear, but I heard Jenner's statement and I despaired. How is this trivial foolishness so readily accepted as courage and truth? Men and women are created in the image of God, and they are who they are because of who God made them, and not because of how they are perceived.
Because that is what Jenner is talking about: perception. That is what, I'm afraid, most people (liberal, conservative, and everything in between) think of when they think of what it means to be a man or to be a woman: whether we can make people believe that that's what we are, by how we dress, or how we act, or how we respond to them, or how we can make them feel.
But none of this is what makes a man a man, or a woman a woman.
I spent a long time making a list of things which are harder for women than Jenner's stated burden of figuring out which crotch-camouflaging outfit to buy with an endless wardrobe budget. I came up with a good many struggles which are actually innate to women (mostly having to do with fertility or lack of fertility), and a good many more that have to do with how society perceives us.
But ultimately, it doesn't matter. Many of the things on my list were things which make us suffer, but which also strengthen us, teach us about our worth, and which give us purpose and direction, or at very least something to offer up. Many of the things on my list were not really unique to women, but which men and women both struggle with, in various ways. All of them are things which will bring us closer to God, if we approach them the right way.
The one I kept going back to was #44 on my list: Being tired.
I'm tired. So tired. So tired of getting further and further away from the goal of just being free to be a human being.
Because I'm an optimist, I often feel like we're finally getting somewhere -- that maybe there is room in the world for women who are ready to deal with the inevitable sorrows of their life, to accept the crosses and contradictions of their sex, and to focus on getting to heaven and bringing their families with them. That maybe a working mom and a stay-at-home mom can be friends; maybe a thin woman and a fat woman can hang out; maybe a feminist and a traditionalist can laugh at the same joke. It feels, sometimes, like we're getting somewhere.
And then we hear, once again, that old, old, old old lie: It's all about the dress. It's all about the hair, and the lipstick, and the heels. That you can be a woman as long as you get the look right.
For many people, "the look" is not material things, like clothes, or hair, or jewelry. For many people, "the look" is a tone of voice, a skill, an attitude or a set of priorities, or a way of approaching the world. As I said before, many people think that who we are, man or women, is determined by how we act, or how we respond to other people, or how we can make other people feel. Many people -- men and women alike -- believe that if you create a certain impression of yourself to other people, then you are a "real man" or a "real women" . . . and if you can't or don't, then you're not.
Well, when I was a zygote, I was female. I was as feminine then as I am today at age 40. When I do something -- anything at all -- I do it as a woman. There is no such thing as me doing something like a man. I'm just me, doing things, and I'm a woman. I'm just me, feeling things. I'm just me, acting and thinking and feeling and behaving like me. And I am a woman.
It sounds stupid because it's stupidly simple; and it's so stupidly simple that most people don't want to hear it. This nutty "you are whatever you say you are" nonsense is just the ugly cousin of "you are whatever I say you are" which conservatives have been trying to push on women for millennia. Same song, different verse.
I don't pretend to know the answer when transgendered people are suffering, feeling like their identities and their bodies don't match up. I feel sorry for them. But I do know that who we are is who we are, and how other people perceive us has nothing to do with who we are.