Unapologetically Female - From Edition 1

Unapologetically Female - From Edition 1

“Other people will call me a rebel, but I just feel like I’m living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you’re a woman.” – Joan Jett

Living as a woman is complex. There I said it. It’s an identity that comes with a lot of socially ordained ideas, gender expectations, dichotomy and oppression. At birth we’re bombarded with what were supposed to be, what womanhood should look like. 

It’s hard not to become cynical. This article isn’t about that. It’s about me being asked a question.

What does it mean to be a woman?

It means so very many things. Too many to write down. Every woman has a story that knits us closer as a community and I’ll share what my experience as a woman has shown me.... 

I’ve felt the ever present hum of misogyny in every moment but I’ve also had the joy of experiencing the true flux of what being a woman means.

To me being a woman is being inherently adaptable and resilient. If you think about it we face unstoppable changes within ourselves. From puberty to menopause and if you choose to, motherhood. Our ability to accept and adapt to these fundamental changes in our very bodies made me think of how I’m slowly beginning to accept the personal changes in my own body and identity. This is the power and strength every woman is born with. Something I’ve needed to tap into.

I started a new battle two years ago, not only with my body but with my own identity as a woman. As a human.

I woke up one morning and couldn’t see properly. My vision was swirling and smudged. I thought it was one of my usual aural migraines but after a week I knew it wasn’t. A trip to the eye & ear where, of course, they thought it may have to do with “women's issues” (that’s an article for a different day) I was left waiting for answers and getting worse. My mobility was deteriorating. Nerve pain became a constant companion. The list goes on , I felt like I was falling apart. 

Every horsewoman leads a double life

We never know who we are outside of our jodhpurs and I’m incredibly lucky the lady who kept her horse in Freya’s barn was an incredible person and a doctor. She knew something wasn’t right so referred me for an MRI and my diagnosis was pretty quick after that.

I have a highly active form of Multiple Sclerosis. 

My world was a completely different place. It felt hostile at times. A simple trip to the shops was a mountain. I couldn't do the jobs I loved. Hell, I couldn’t even walk fast without saying hello to the floor.

But with my family, friends and Freya’s support I kept going.

Sometimes I felt I was only existing, one foot in front of the other, trying not to be a burden. I missed my independence.

I became somewhat self censored within my new label of a disabled woman. I felt like less, less woman, less human. I felt not only my body had become disabled but so had my voice. My identity.

I wasn’t the knowledgeable horsewoman, the mohawked feminist or the teacher I’d once been. Nobody asked for my advice anymore and I felt like I didn’t have the right to give it.

So who the hell was I?  Who am I?

I’m beginning to learn... No. I’m beginning to remember from my riot grrrl days, what I’d always rejected and fought against.


Labels aren’t identities. I still have an identity, my identity. It’s never changed. I’m still everything I used to be and so much more. 

Little by little I think I’m improving or at least my mind-set is. I have to think like this not because I’m into toxic positivity but because I’m a woman. I believe alongside our resilience and adaptability, lives endless optimism that things can get better for us not only as individuals but as a community. 

Just look at what we’re doing here and how much women have achieved despite adversity in the last 100 years.

Every woman is powerful in her own unique way. Shaped by her empathy, intuition and experience.

Being a woman is about being a human, not a stereotype, a label or a whispered ideal. Being a woman is being you.

Be unequivocally, unapologetically, unwaveringly, you.

Heather Lemmon Kiely

Heather Lemmon Kiely

I'm a Grade 2 Paradressage Rider. My heart horse is Freya, a ConnieX. We've been together since she was a foal. We're navigating disability together and hopefully we can share this journey with you!