I was one rebellious kid.
At one point, I even went through a tomboy phase. I felt cool walking around like I owned the street. No — I felt powerful.
But many people were dismissive of my behaviours. They would say, “Stop acting like a boy!” followed by “As a girl, you should be coy and dainty…” or something along that line (It’s a rough translation from Vietnamese.)
I was even shamed by a teacher in front of my whole class for wearing a cap with a skull print on it, which was typically considered boyish; I was hurt and confused.
Even when I wasn’t having a tomboy haircut, they would try to tell me how to be a girl. As a result, I really thought that I had to be a certain way, for example knowing how to cook or act femininely, to be worthy of a man’s love, and to be a wife.
It didn’t help that, when I moved to the West, I was exposed to people openly preaching misogynistic red pill ideas or teaching the “elegant lady” practices (e.g. you have to be elegant to bag a man and enter “high society”, whatever that means.)
Meanwhile, me? I’m clumsy and I don’t really cook. I’m in a baggy t-shirt at home all the time. I’m not tidy. I don’t sit in a way that elongates my body or even know which knife is used for what.
But, guess what, it does not stand in the way of me being happy, being loved, and getting married to the most wonderful man I know. I realise that I’m a lovable woman, regardless of how I express myself (tomboy or feminine) or what skill I have. My womanhood is not defined by what people — especially men — think womanhood should be.
It angers me to recognise that, when they shamed me for being boyish, I wasn’t even acting like a boy. I was simply being fully myself, and they didn’t want me to be myself; they wanted me to be “a girl” — in my place.
A boy is allowed to be loud, comfortable, and relaxed, but not a girl. A boy is seen as a full human being with flaws, but a girl is a girl, expected to be perfect while being treated like a second-class citizen.
You see this in Asian families all the time. Boys are outside playing while girls are in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes. Boys can have their rooms messy while girls need to keep their space clean and, if not, they’re shamed.
You see this in books and films all the time. Male characters are portrayed as multidimensional while female characters are put on a pedestal or seen through the male gaze. As readers and viewers, women are expected to relate to stories with a male (White) lead like it’s the default while anything with a (minority) woman protagonist is considered a niche in which their existence needs to be justified. I’ve had enough.
If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve been told how to live your life and how to be yourself — don’t listen to them. You do you, and please trust that it will not be an obstacle to you finding happiness and a romantic partner if you want one. Only a misogynist demands a woman to be an “elegant lady”!
Actually, being yourself as a woman is a revolution in itself.
You’re showing the world that there’s no right way to be a woman.
All women are worthy of love, not because of their gender role, but for being the human you are. There’s so much work to do, but it can start from embracing and loving the hell out of yourself and calling your own shots.
To those who argue that men are also hurting, you’re right.
And that’s because of patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
A boy isn’t allowed to be emotional and weak because those traits are often associated with being a girl and being a girl is bad, remember? That’s misogyny, and it needs to change for both men and women.