Whatever you are, you are woman.

In the first look the meaning of the phrase seems clear, but it's hard to get. I wonder why the writer didn't say, "whatever you are, you are a woman.

Could you plaese help me to understand it's meaning?

The main text is here:

I carried the books to my room and read through the night. I loved the fiery pages of Mary Wollstonecraft, but there was a single line written by John Stuart Mill that, when I read it, moved the world: “It is a subject on which nothing final can be known.” The subject Mill had in mind was the nature of women. Mill claimed that women have been coaxed, cajoled, shoved and squashed into a series of feminine contortions for so many centuries, that it is now quite impossible to define their natural abilities or aspirations. Blood rushed to my brain; I felt an animating surge of adrenaline, of possibility, of a frontier being pushed outward. Of the nature of women, nothing final can be known. Never had I found such comfort in a void, in the black absence of knowledge. It seemed to say: whatever you are, you are woman.

  • I think some of your questions aren't really about learning English (you're trying to interpret what the author means). Try asking these questions at literature.stackexchange.com.
    – user3395
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:14
  • 1
    Peace, Note that duplicate questions are considered a no-no on the Stack Exchange. Read through the Tour and Help Center (every exchange has a "What topics can I ask about here?" page) of both places, and figure out the best place to ask. @userr2684291 - I'm not sure I agree with your assessment. Is this a question about "how to interpret a specific scene, quote, theme, plot point, etc. in a work of literature?" Not really; it's about the meaning of a single sentence extracted from a novel's paragraph.
    – J.R.
    Jun 14, 2018 at 14:04
  • @ J.R. I apologise. I didn't know that. I prefer I ask the question here.So I deleted it at literature.stackexchange.com.
    – Peace
    Jun 14, 2018 at 14:10
  • I am not going to give an answer because I do not see that there is one. Whatever meaning the author intended, the reader will have to intuit it. Whatever you are, you are woman is contradictory on its face. If what you are is unknown, then it cannot be known that you are a woman. And you are woman is either ungrammatical or a statement that women are not individuals. Novelists and poets are allowed to say things that each reader can interpret in his or her own way. Jun 15, 2018 at 0:19
  • @J.R. "How to interpret a specific ... quote ... in a work of literature" – yes, that's it. Thank you for finding the pertinent "rule". Just look at the accepted answer here; it's impossible to answer this without inserting one's own opinion or something. Also take a look at Jeff Morrow's comment.
    – user3395
    Jun 24, 2018 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


It is converting woman into a proper noun (I think)

Imagine the sentence "whatever you are, you are Julie". This makes sense.

It is raising the importance of woman above the humdrum everyday into something special. A woman can be a million things but she is still a Woman, still a member of that special group.

I presume you are discussing this: https://www.tolstoytherapy.com/2018/05/educated-by-tara-westover-and-how.html

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