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Notes on Womanhood

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Sarah Jane Barnett
June 2022
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After Sarah Jane Barnett had a hysterectomy in her forties, a comment by her doctor that she wouldnt be less of a woman prompted her to investigate what the concept of womanhood meant to her. Part memoir, part feminist manifesto, part coming-of-middle-age story, Notes on Womanhood is the result. Here, Barnett examines the devastation she inflicted on herself as a young woman, the invisibility she feels as her youth fades, the power of female friendship, the stories women learn about midlife and menopause, and how being the daughter of a transgender woman changed her ideas of womanhood. This book is a conversation with myself about my own womanhood, Barnett says. The act of looking showed me the stitches: Western societys beauty standards, the male gaze, a fear of aging, hair politics, care work, my grandmother, life stage transitions, orca whales and tramping. All the authors I read Darcey Steinke, Alok Vaid-Menon, Megan Jayne Crabbe, Maggie Nelson, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Judith Butler, Dorthe Nors, Prue Hyman, Barbara Brookes, Natalie Wynn, Ani Mikaere, Atul Gawande and many more explore ideas about gender, aging and society in a way that opened a door to the next idea. I kept on walking through those doors. The result is what I am calling my coming-of-middle-age story.