The lifestyle of women, in very generalised terms, has changed dramatically in past decades as a result of the creation of new technologies. For some women, the creation of the dishwasher, fridge, and hoover have all dramatically reduced the amount of time required in the household undertaking chores. For some women, the installation of a hand pump for water access closer to their homes has reduced the amount of time required to go and collect water. In all cases, the creation of new technologies has changed previous definitions of “womanhood” through the change away from traditional roles.
According to the World Bank, in 1982 literacy rates in women over 15 stood at 61%, the same demographics literacy rate now stands at 83%. Again, the World Bank states, that although work still needs to be done to improve completion rates, “Globally, primary, and secondary school enrollment rates are getting closer to equal for girls and boys (90% male, 89% of female).” With more education and skills, comes more opportunities and this will, in turn, affect perceptions of “womanhood” as we begin to see women as more educated equals.
In the public sphere, we are now seeing more women as leaders and changemakers. This will explicitly confront those who hold the view that women are inferior to men and thus will push immediate change on the idea of the capabilities of women. For example, for the first time the European Central Bank, European Parliament, and European Commission are all simultaneously headed by women. In the near future, we may even see the election of Kamala Harris to the office of President of the United States.
Despite changes in the lifestyles and expectations of women, there is still much to be said for the continuation of the traditional celebration of coming into “womanhood.” Celebrated when a girl turns 15 and becomes a “woman”, The Quinceanera is still widely celebrated in Latin American culture. In Judaism there is a similar celebration for a girl at age 12 or 13, called a “Bat Mitzvah,” where they become a woman. In Japan such celebrations, called “Seijin Shiki,” occur for girls becoming women at age 20 and marks the newfound liberties of being able to drink, smoke, and drive.
It must be noted that “womanhood” is a vast, contested, and individual term and in short, no article would ever be able to cover the term in its full. But perhaps that is where the beauty in it lies. The idea of what “womanhood” consists of maintains cultures, religions, and languages that form our identities.
This year, the International Women’s day theme is #breakthebias. On their website, their mission statement is: “A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.” Challenging our negative implicit biases against women and internalized misogyny is incredibly important due to their insidious and often undiscovered nature. When we begin to do this we can once again widen our perceptions of “womanhood.”