How to Become a Woman

Illustrations by Iris Gottlieb

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How to Become a Woman

by Gregory Samantha Rosenthal
Southern Cultures, Vol. 26, No. 3: The Women’s Issue

“Womanhood—how people experience being women—is an expansive historical category that includes more than just women.”

Greta lingered just outside the downward-slanting entrance of the old warehouse on the edge of downtown Roanoke. A few decades earlier, this building was home to a restaurant equipment supply company, but by 1976 deindustrialization and suburbanization had taken hold and this part of downtown was largely abandoned after sundown, except for a cast of moonlit party people, underground economy workers, and gay lovers on the prowl. Greta and her friend probably looked a bit “country” in comparison. They had driven all the way up from Martinsville, a small city fifty miles to the south, right on the North Carolina line. “The music was booming outside,” Greta recalls. She turned to her friend and remarked, “Ooh, this is going to be cute.” Then, they entered the building.