Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion -

om­mon 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 com- port 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.

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