Growing up, a few of my female friends wished they were born male. As you can guess, they were all alpha females constrained by custom, culture and convention, compelled to calibrate their dreams, desires and aspirations.
I was an alpha from birth but I didn’t know it and I wasn’t aware of it for a long time. I just knew I was always a bit much for everyone. You see, I am descended from a long line of alpha females and born into a household of mostly alpha females.
This was our norm. Women spoke their minds. Women stood up for themselves. Women lifted heavy loads. Women made decisions on their own. Women led battalions to war. And won.
So, unlike my alpha female friends, I never harbored the wish to have been born a man. I didn’t see any reason why I would not want to be a woman. And I didn’t see anything extraordinarily wonderful about being a man.
Like everyone else, I grew up with rules but they were never gendered. In our home, we had one moral code — regardless of gender.
While my parents did subscribe to some traditional ideas about the roles of men and women, I can’t say they were rigidly bound by these ideas. And we were never boxed into these roles.
Still, early on, I could tell that life was harder for a woman.
We may come from diverse backgrounds but more than likely, all of us grew up learning how to watch our backs in ways our brothers were never taught. We all grew up hearing the same lecture — in order to stay safe, we need to look and act a certain way.
Because should we show a bit more skin than usual, laugh a bit louder than acceptable, speak a bit more candid than required, we’d expose ourselves to danger.
We all got this memo. The dangers of attracting too much attention — if we dressed provocatively, acted inappropriately or spoke too much. But were our brothers ever given this memo? No.
On the contrary, they were encouraged to carve their identities freely — to speak their minds, to assert their views, to pursue their ambitions, to dress with confidence, to act with certainty, to sow their oats.
But from the day we were born, we were put in a straitjacket — to look and act a certain way — to be acceptable, to be admired, to be safe.
It didn’t matter whether or not our parents believed or practiced gender parity at home because they knew the moment we stepped out; a different set of rules would prevail. And it would not be just and equitable.
So, in order to survive and thrive, our parents taught us the rules. And we dutifully listened and complied. And when we became parents, we performed the same sacred duty and taught our daughters the same rules.
Did it ever occur to us to do something else? Other than follow the rules? Or pass them on? Did it ever occur to us to change the rules?
*Excerpts from a speech given at the 49th Anniversary of Federacion Internacional de Abogadas Cebu, Inc. (Fida Cebu)
February 04, 2023
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