For the Other Half of the Sky

Front cover for the 45rpm vinyl single Woman by John Lennon. The photograph was taken by Jack Mitchell

 
 

Woman is a song written and performed by John Lennon from his 1980 album Double Fantasy. Lennon wrote it as an ode to his wife Yoko Ono, and to all women. The track begins with Lennon whispering, “For the other half of the sky …”, a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb (“women hold up half the sky”), once used by Mao Zedong.

This song was chosen by Lennon to be the second single released from the Double Fantasy album, and it was the first Lennon single issued after his death on 8 December 1980. The B-side of the single is Ono’s song Beautiful Boy.

 
 

 
 

In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine on 5 December 1980, Lennon said that Woman was a “grown-up version” of his song Girl (which was, by the way, the last complete song recorded for Rubber Soul) . On 5 June 1981, Geffen re-released Woman as a single as part of their Back to Back Hits series, with the B-side “(Just Like) Starting Over“. In 1965, Lennon’s then-songwriting partner and fellow Beatle band mate, Paul McCartney, had written a different song entitled Woman for Peter & Gordon using a pseudonym. Thus, both Lennon and McCartney have individual credit for writing different charting songs with the same title.

Not Born, but Rather Became

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex

 
 

Simone de Beauvoir as a little child

 
 

Simone de Beauvoir’s formulation distinguishes sex from gender and suggests that gender is an aspect of identity gradually acquired. The distinction between sex and gender has been crucial to the long-standing feminist effort to debunk the claim that anatomy is destiny; sex is understood to be the invariant, anatomically distinct, and factic aspects of the female body, whereas gender is the cultural meaning and form that that body acquires, the variable modes of that body’s acculturation.