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What is a woman?

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DECEMBER 05, 2022

Last week, we had an unexpected visitor to our campus. 

A woman on Sproul Plaza wrote offensive, chalked phrases all over our common area and decided to strike up political debates with students. She arrived to UC Berkeley to declare transgender women are not “allowed to be women.” 

This self-appointed gatekeeper of gender and sex called female-identifying students “b*tches” in a degrading way as people passed by. 

I worried about the younger women watching her waltz around our campus making statements like they are part of a global rulebook we must all follow. As a junior finally coming into my own path as a woman, I was compelled to step in with some other students. 

Despite this, she began discussing reproductive rights, and deciding who is and who isn’t a “proper woman.” 

Personally, I want to be able to own my own body. With election ballots still being counted as I type this, my body becomes government property if we have to give away the right to abort an embryo. As someone who has struggled to accept themselves, I now embrace my identity as a woman. But I still understand that we aren’t given as many rights in this country. 

Does it really matter what type of genitalia a woman possesses? Is that all she thinks we are as women, just vaginas, just birth machines? 

When she finally walked away from our campus grounds, I reflected on something about our community. 

For one, I decided we are a supportive group. Many people were debating her or filming her shouting cruel words to us while she stood on campus, and people threw water on the discriminatory and hateful words as she left. I discovered how grateful I am to not only be an Iranian woman, but also a woman who attends UC Berkeley. 

As someone who has watched their own mother treated as an object with a hijab and Q’uran in Iran, I have struggled to accept my own skin, struggled to accept that showing and having skin is a good thing. It is fun to feel sexy regardless of your race, gender, ethnicity, size, height and mental health. I’ve found, being Middle Eastern, that it isn’t just “one religion” that keeps women invisible and lacking basic human agency; it might be many of them. 

I’ve also struggled with anorexia for enough time to sense that having someone tell another they cannot fit into the gender category they want is like that expired voice in my head telling me to starve. Being mean to someone is just downright not okay, because you’re toying with someone’s life and health. At the end of the day, I’m grateful to have been born as a woman because women are amazing. But anyone can be a woman or a man or a nonbinary person regardless of what body parts they have. 

It is ridiculous and inhumane to police gender, and all that chalk should be washed away with water. Berkeley can be a safe space, and many people are so kind here. But there is still work to be done. There cannot be discrimination embedded in our roots. There cannot be room for inequality to slip in — but I’m not one who can turn the tables. No one alone is, after all. I think making people — whether they’re transgender or cisgender — feel welcome by removing all the exclusionary language and thoughts about gender that we were taught could go a long way. 

Truly, I don’t understand, emotionally or scientifically, the anti-transgender woman’s perspective. I don’t see her side. Her words and sentences make sense in the English language, but her reasoning did not. All she continued to say in response to arguments was, “You’re wrong. It’s science.” 

But that’s not really true — after all, science isn’t just a single book. New discoveries happen every year; people all around the world are constantly changing, constantly creating. 

I don’t know much about science, but I do know that anything is possible if we learn to accept each other. I personally think people who promote injustice are just jealous and have nowhere to put their jealousy. Instead, they juice it and pour it all over another person, who then learns to feel useless.

It’s for a person as an individual to determine who she/they/he loves and who she/they/he identifies as: There is no science, no religion, no word, no faith strong enough to prove that a woman who identifies as such is not a woman and not worthy of her body.

Contact Nadia Farjami at 


DECEMBER 05, 2022