The term woman is usually reserved for an adult, with the term girl being the usual term for a female child or adolescent. However, the term woman is also sometimes used
to identify a female human, regardless of age, as in phrases such as "Women's rights". Women are typically capable of giving birth, though older women who have gone
through menopause and some intersex women cannot.
The symbol for the planet Venus is the sign also used in biology for the female sex. It is a stylized representation of the goddess Venus's hand-mirror or an abstract symbol
for the goddess: a circle with a small equilateral cross underneath. The Venus symbol also represented femininity, and in ancient alchemy stood for copper. Alchemists
constructed the symbol from a circle (representing spirit) above an equilateral cross.
The word woman can be used generally, to mean any female human, or specifically, to mean an adult female human as contrasted with girl. It was only around the beginning
of the 16th century that it came to mean specifically a female child. The term girl is sometimes used colloquially to refer to a young or unmarried woman, however during the
early 1970s feminists challenged such use because the use of the word to refer to a fully grown woman may cause offence. In particular, previously common terms such as
office girl are no longer widely used. Conversely, in certain cultures which link family honor with female virginity, the word girl is still used to refer to a never-married woman;
in this sense it is used in a fashion roughly analogous to the obsolete English maid or maiden. Referring to an unmarried female human as a woman may, in such a culture,
imply that she is sexually experienced, which would be an insult to her family.
In terms of biology, the female sex organs are involved in the reproductive system, whereas the secondary sex characteristics are involved in nurturing children or, in some
cultures, attracting a mate. The ovaries, in addition to their regulatory function producing hormones, produce female gametes called eggs which, when fertilized by male
gametes (sperm), form new genetic individuals. The uterus is an organ with tissue to protect and nurture the developing fetus and muscle to expel it when giving birth. The
vagina is used in copulation and birthing (although the word vagina is often colloquially and incorrectly used for the vulva or external female genitalia, which also includes the
labia, the clitoris, and the female urethra). The breast evolved from the sweat gland to produce milk, a nutritious secretion that is the most distinctive characteristic of
mammals, along with live birth. In mature women, the breast is generally more prominent than in most other mammals; this prominence, not necessary for milk production,
is probably at least partially the result of sexual selection.
Biological factors are not sufficient determinants of which gender a person identifies with. Intersex individuals, who have mixed physical and/or genetic features, may use
other criteria in making a clear determination. According to a study done at Brown University, 1.7 percent births are of intersex babies. At that rate, if 300,000 babies were
born, 5,100 would have varying degrees of intersexual development. However, at birth, these babies were assigned a gender based on their genitalia. In some cases even if a
child had XX chromosomes, if they were born with a penis, they were raised as a male.
During early fetal development, embryos of both sexes appear gender-neutral. As in cases without two sexes, such as species that reproduce asexually, the gender-neutral
appearance is closer to female than to male. A fetus develops into a male if it is exposed to testosterone (typically because the fetus has a Y chromosome from the father).
Otherwise, the fetus develops into a female, typically when the fetus has an X chromosome from the father, but also when the father contributed neither an X nor Y
chromosome. Later at puberty, estrogen feminizes a young woman, giving her adult sexual characteristics.
In many prehistoric cultures, women assumed a particular cultural role. In gatherer-hunter societies, women were generally the gatherers of plant foods, small animal foods
and fish, while men hunted meat from large animals.
In more recent history, the gender roles of women have changed greatly. Traditionally, middle class women were involved in domestic tasks emphasizing child care. For
poorer women, especially working class women, although this often remained an ideal,[specify] economic necessity compelled them to seek employment outside the home.
The occupations that were available to them were, however, lower in pay than those available to men.
Although a greater number of women are seeking higher education, salaries are often less than those of men. CBS News claims that in the United States women who are
ages 30 to 44 and hold a university degree make only 62 percent of what similarly qualified men do, a lower rate than in all but three of the 19 countries for which numbers
are available. Some Western nations with greater inequity in pay are Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland.
We being proud be woman!