by Samantha Hamada
I was your typical sexist’s definition of a girl: weak and a cry baby. I was told that I dressed “like a girl”, ran “like a girl”, played “like a girl”, and spoke “like a girl”. It came to a point where I thought hearing the words ‘like a girl’ was an insult. However, I didn’t understand the mockery of it all. I was a girl, and I identified as a girl. It was puzzling as to why was I being scrutinized for something I had no control over.
I was very feminine in high school. I liked playing with my hair and putting on lip balms and face powders. I liked slathering my hands and arms with lotion that I always kept in my bag or locker. Little did they know I had a reason for everything, but was ultimately dismissed as being vain, immodest, or just plain girly.
Our school holds parent-teacher conferences at the end of every term. I was never really worried about the results. I thought I was a good enough student despite being extremely lazy (But, come on. Who wasn’t?). Instead of my class advisers reporting on my good grades and passable class demeanor, they were more concerned about why I was always combing my hair (despite being able to recite with ease) or why was I sporting what seemed to be a darker shade of pink on my lips.
It was as if whatever I put on me gave people reason to scoff at what I carried inside of me.
Women in leadership positions
This same view is applied to women who are participating and excelling in various fields.
It was taught that women cannot handle any position in decision making, public service, or combat. We have proven however how women have substantial participation in politics.
This was followed by a few more women leaders who have run and won in public office, inspiring other countries also to allow women to take the lead.
You would think that being it the year 2016, we’d have all those struggles behind us. However, the whole thing seems to be like a rigged game. No matter how much we try, or do not for that matter, women will always have the shorter end of the stick.
President Duterte once said in an interview that no one was going to listen to a female president because she was beautiful. He was of course referring to Vice President Leni Robredo who, despite having a law degree and passion to fight for social injustices, was withered down into three words: “beautiful, lady-like, and kind”.
It was both constricting and confusing. It was as if ever since time immemorial the society that was there to build everyone up, to encourage people to be anyone who they wanted to be and be comfortable in their own skin only worked for who it deemed worthy.
NO FAULT IN BEING A GIRL
Being a girl is also an acceptable excuse for people. “Oh, she’s emotional because she’s a girl”, “Don’t mind her, she’s just hormonal”, “That’s just how girls are”. “She can’t do it because she’s a girl”. It has always boiled down to the point where being a girl was something definable and limited.
Simone de Beauvoir claimed that one is not born, but rather becomes a woman, and that “social discrimination produces in women moral and intellectual effects so profound that they appear to be caused by nature”. Behavioral traits associated with women are not caused by anatomy or chromosomes. Rather, they are culturally learned or acquired.
In Filipino, the term “Kababae mong tao…” rings loudly for every young pinay growing up. It wasn’t even a complete sentence. It roughly translates to “You’re a girl so you better start acting like one”.
There are always expectations set, and there is always constraint in movement.
It’s either, a girl can’t be caught with her legs 3 inches apart, or be too loud when she speaks.
In elementary school, I also remember being shamed for being “extremely” emotional. People tiptoed around me like I was a ticking time bomb. “Toughen up!”, they’d tell me. “Stop crying!”, they’d shout. For anyone who grew up emotional, this obviously did not magically make you stop, but was the key word for you to produce more tears than ever.
Luckily for me, I got to escape the toxicity of it all. Despite having been stamped “GIRL” like part of a herd of cattle, I chose to leave my safety bubble.
Sheltered that I was, I chose to study in a university miles away from home. That decision changed it all for me. Albeit there being doubts on my part with countless tears at night, I realized that I wasn’t that weak girl everyone made me out to be. I was weak because I listened to them. I grew stronger the moment that I didn’t.
Twenty-three years of hearing the same words over and over again, sometimes directed at me, most of the time I hear it around me, I’ve understood and come to terms with one of the key ingredients in life: You shouldn’t let others define you, let words constrict you, and most of all, lose yourself in all those judgement.
I’ve transitioned immensely from being that little girl who thought that being like a girl meant something derogatory to the woman that I am today who has experienced so much from the world.
I’ve had the opportunity to explore the places far beyond where the waters meet our lands to realize how strong we were built, how creative we were made to think, and how beautiful being a woman truly is.
So, let me tell you now what it really is to be “like a girl”:
“You dress like a girl” means you wear your dignity and confidence. You express yourself in the humblest yet intrinsic way. People will look at you in and awe and see not what brand you’re wearing, what color, nor the cut, but they will see the allure of regality, and of what you can achieve.
“You speak like a girl” means you speak with eloquence and brilliance, with validity in your speech. You impart with the subtle parting of my lips meaningfulness, not hate. With every letter that rolls out of your tongue, you enunciate your thoughts that they may educate others, not tear them down.
“You move like a girl” means you let grace drip from your fingertips. With every step, you show your strength with how you carry your body, your soul. With your poise, you bewitch people, and with your elegance, you enchant them.
“You cry too much because you’re a girl” means with every tear, whether out of joy or melancholy, you care. You have every right to feel what you feel, to let out every drop to heal yourself and those around you. You express your innermost thoughts and desires and rage in the meekest way by being quietly enveloped in your thoughts as your wash your face of yesterday’s despair. You cry because you are human too.
“You think too much like a girl” means you are critical and creative. You analyze at the same time you let your ideas flow. You are a master of thinking of one thing to hundreds of things all at once without breaking a sweat. You are the maker of your path, the architect of your future.
“You are a girl” means you celebrate your femininity, your wit, and whatever else encompasses your character that only you so greatly possess.
Oppose to be the very kind that laughs at who we are. I implore you. Please continue to do it “like a girl”.
Sam finished a Bachelor of Arts degree in European Studies majoring in International Relations. She currently works for the Philippine Department of Tourism. She tries to find new ways she can live her life to the fullest. She has her head in the clouds but definitely has her feet planted firmly on the ground. Dancing, painting, and traveling are what make her the happiest in the world.