COMMON thoughts about oppression against women picture a man who is physically and emotionally cruel to a woman. In reality, women also become punitive to other women and their femininity.
“Babae ka pa naman (You are a girl, you know).” This mere line that mothers, sisters, and close female friends whip out holds much meaning that ties women down to the ground.
With that mere line, some women become unproductive, are unable to express themselves, or are chained down by their gender role.
It happens when parents intervene in a daughter’s career and life choices, when they object to some of her choices and the mother justifies that “Babae ka pa naman (You have to remember that you are a girl).” It could have been other reasons, but by emphasizing her sex, parents cut their daughter’s ability to believe in herself and her capabilities.
I remembered a story of a friend’s acquaintance, a daughter who was quite gifted in Mathematics and Sciences and would have wanted to pursue Engineering in college. Her parents did not allow her to do so “because she is a girl. That is a job befitting a man.”
It happens when we tell a girl how to act like a girl. Close your legs when sitting, wear skirts sometimes, don’t eat too much in public, and other rules women made up for themselves to keep their femininity when in public.
These rules could have been laid down as a general etiquette for everyone about how to comport oneself in public – regardless of one’s gender. But women train girls to act accordingly “because she is a girl. Soon to be a woman.”
Was there even a supposed set of rules women should follow to continue to be a woman in the future? It makes womanhood look like a club with a list of rules to follow to retain one’s membership.
It happens when we scrutinize her life choices. When a man dates many girls, he gets away with it because “he’s a guy.” When a girl loses her virginity or gets impregnated, she gets resenting gazes from people who say that she shouldn’t act as such “because she’s a girl. She shouldn’t act like that.” The act might really be undesirable, but must her femininity really take the hit?
It happens when we scrutinize her civil status. Women diss other women who fail to marry or pressure young adult women to marry already, not even putting into consideration their readiness or desire to do so. They then come up with possible reasons – rational or sometimes outrageous ones – as to why she couldn’t find a man to pledge marriage to her.
Because of this pressure to marry, some marriages fail or women end up with unhappy families. Still, they put off with everything because if it goes public that her marriage failed, women will buzz about what she did to cause the failure of her marriage, thereby blaming her in the end.
Some instances even show that mothers and aunts force young adolescent girls to do housekeeping duties not because they need to learn but because they have to in order to be a good housewife. If they can’t clean, then they would not become a desirable bride because they could not satisfy their future husbands. Worse is that they are told that their future husbands might leave them if they can’t cook or clean properly.
It happens when we judge her in her ability to take care of a family. In dual earning families, women juggle the responsibilities of being a mother and an employee. When a child becomes delinquent, women point fingers at the mother and almost none at the father. The reason? They whip out the classic line “Mothers should be responsible for taking care of their families.”
This phenomenon of women’s discriminatory attitude towards womanhood came from the misogyny that men have that has been passed on in the community or the patriarchal family from generation to generation.
Femininity takes different forms. It’s not just in lipsticks, skirts, shy smiles, ability to cook – or your imagination of what a female should be.