The women in our lives usually form who we are. Most often, it’s our moms or grandmothers. Various female authorities come in like our teachers and aunts. They are often well-meaning in passing down things they have learned. But some of the things they have learned are a reflection of an older generation where the misogynist and sexist beliefs we are trying to defeat now were thought of as the norm.
Some archaic ideals slip through the cracks, even when they mean well. As we grow older and with the rise of more feminist discussions, the more we realize that typical things we are told to do and believe in as kids actually damage us more. Here’s a list of a few of them and how we can rise above them for our sake and that of the next generation.
“There was one time in early college when my mom said that it might help if I toned down my smarts a little to attract a guy, but I think the look I gave her in response has ensured she’s never mentioned it again. At that time I still wasn’t confident in my looks, and as far as I was concerned the only real asset I had was my brains. If I ‘toned those down,’ then what else did I have going for me?”—Kam, 32
“[Whenever someone in my family asks] ‘May boyfriend ka na ba?’ that you start getting the moment you come of age. It makes me feel like I’m only interesting if I have a man in my life. It’s like there are only two ways it can go about: 1) I say no and suddenly [they say] sayang naman ako, and 2) I say yes and now I have to open up about my life and my marriage plans. There’s so much more to [a] girl than marriage plans. I feel like they inherently think that we need to be in a relationship to be happy.”—Belle, 22
“When we were kids, my mom would ask us to clean the house, teach us how to cook, sew, and make that awful cross stitch thingies. I obliged because I thought it was character building, which is fine and I appreciate that. But when we talk about my future, she would say ‘Remember the housekeeping I taught you before? You should brush up on those if you want to keep your future husband happy. And it’s something you may want to teach your kids too.’ I’m good with the kids part but why do I have to impress my future husband with my cleaning skills? It would have been a nice ‘reminder’ if it weren’t for the ‘keep your future husband happy’ part.”—Feliz, 29
“One time when I was around like 18 or 19, I was on my way home from Glorietta and I was really tired. In the van on the way home, I drifted on and off and at some point, the guy next to me started feeling me up. I immediately flinched and he dropped his hand and he didn’t say a word. I was on alert the rest of the ride but I couldn’t say anything. When I told my mum, she was beside herself but with me. She said I shouldn’t have been sleeping, that I should have yelled at him despite telling her that I was scared, that my fear and silence meant that I ‘liked’ it To be honest, I told her I could ID him and that I knew the street where he got off but she was like ‘Ano naman mapapala nun?'”—Claire, 23
“My mom and the high school I went to were obsessed with clothing me, as if my body needed to be kept, to be hidden away until unraveled. By whom, I never got to ask. I’d be scolded for the slightest fold in my sleeves or an inch less of my socks. I was taught that baring skin was offensive. Now that I believed otherwise, throwing hints of my non-existent cleavage may be liberating. But years of conditioning has bleached my psyche, always reminding me that my body is a thing tied to propriety. It sucks, TBH.”—Chryssa, 23
“My grandmother always told me that I needed to act like a proper lady, otherwise I’d never get anywhere in life. I couldn’t talk about my opinions, or my feelings at the risk of being seen as emotional. But why would girls being emotional be a bad thing, right? I’m human, and what I feel is valid.”—Blanche, 21
“There was a time in pre-school when my teacher was discussing about careers. We were asked what we wanted to be and I replied with two professions. ‘I’ll be a doctor or an engineer one day.’ They said that these professions were solely for men. ‘Doctors are for guys, Hannah. You can be the nurse.’ and ‘Engineering is a guy’s course.’ Even as I got older, some women still feel that way. I wanted to learn manual driving and they told me, ‘Just go for an automatic. It’s meant to be for ladies. It’ll be easier for you.'”—Hannah, 25
“I think one of the worst ones was when an elderly lady neighbor told me girls shouldn’t ride bikes. She may have told me something about looking lady like and/or virginity but I don’t fully remember. I just remember being weirded out. I rode the bike anyway.”—Donna, 24
“My grandmother once asked if my drink is for women when she saw me pouring myself some liquor my dad brought for his party. She has been reprimanding me for years not to wear boy’s clothes and cut my hair short, even when I would reason I do so for daily comfort. But when she asked me that (loud enough for my titas to hear), I knew she was investigating on my sexuality.”—Elaine, 26
“Being told that I should dress more like a girl, [that I shouldn’t have] boy’s toys and how they use ‘tomboy’ as an insult.”—Jane, 24
“My parents told me a lot of things while I was growing up which affected how I look at some things now. For example, my mother always told us to be neat and tidy because it was unbecoming of a woman. Another was when she urged us to learn how to cook because we needed to create good dishes for our future families. Looking back, it strikes me as odd because it would mean that men won’t do it? It’s unfair, and quite biased.”—Gabe, 22
“Older women (not my mom) in general would [tell me] that when marrying [someone], it’s important to be submissive to the future husband (to serve him, etc.) This has really been ingrained in our culture and our religious beliefs—but in reality we don’t necessarily have to be fully submissive, we just have to have mutual respect for the relationship to work.”—Mae, 33
Art by Lara Intong
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