It’s already 2021, and yet, there’s still an expectation for girls to act like the iconic but problematic Maria Clara: prim, proper, quiet, demure, reserved, passive. She was forced upon Filipinas, since we were little girls, as the ideal picture of womanhood.
But we’re anything but passive, and even though times have changed (in some ways), it seems we’re still fighting and trying to break free from stereotypes enforced by this patriarchal world we live in. It’s quite exhausting, actually, but we should never stop educating people and fighting for a better (read: equal) world.
There are things we were told as little girls we’ll never forget—but as we grow older, angrier, and louder, they’re reminders that we can challenge them, too.
“Kababae mong tao.”
This is often paired with a lecture or a scolding for cursing, swearing, dyeing our hair, sitting with one leg up on the chair, having a messy room, laughing too loud—anything and everything that a woman is not supposed to do (so they say). As little girls, this was actually very harmful to hear because we taught ourselves to shrink in our skin and close our lips from the constant repetition of this phrase in our upbringing, even in situations that make us uncomfortable. On the other hand, how many times do we hear boys being given a free pass? “Ganyan talaga ang mga lalaki. Boys will be boys.”
“Magpalit ka nga, darating ang mga tito mo.”
We didn’t see what was wrong with this at first. We’ll change from our shorts and put on jeans. We’ll cover up our skin—but why? Little girls aren’t supposed to be sexualized. We were little girls, we were children, kids. This is the very beginning of victim-blaming. We shouldn’t have had to change for our titos and other male members in the family. Sila ang mag-adjust.
“Puwede ka na mag-asawa kapag...”
This ‘joke’ we often hear us usually in relation to a chore or a skill we wanted to learn and do when we’re older. Kapag marunong ka na mag-drive. Kapag marunong ka na magluto. Kapag marunong ka na maglaba. Why were the house chores or skills we wanted to learn related to marrying someone—as if we’re learning for our future husbands or partners, and not for ourselves? Cooking and driving and doing the laundry are basic skills—they’re not gender-based roles.
The country has definitely progressed from the way it has treated women, but these sayings have taken shelter in our little hearts and will live there forever—the only difference is, we’re not little anymore.
The beliefs remain stubborn, but so are we.