All it takes is three phrases to ruin a little girl’s view of herself. 

“Babae ka dapat ganito..” “Kababae mong tao bakit ganyan..” “Hindi yan pangbabae..” 

In a country like the Philippines, many women have encountered countless comments like these. These certain comments have led many to view themselves as somewhat lacking as a woman. The idea of not being a “proper” woman results in developing certain insecurities. What’s worse is that these destructive comments may come directly from someone we least expect – family. The very people who are supposed to act as our emotional support and safe haven while growing up may just be the people who will knock you down. 

For centuries, especially those of European culture, women have always been labeled and forced into a stereotype with certain expectations of how a woman should and shouldn’t act, wear, or say. They are often seen as weak, incapable of doing things, inferior to men, and cannot excel in men-dominated fields. Being emotional, kind, soft-spoken, and feminine – the classical Maria Clara – has always been the expectation.

The installation of these stereotypes begins at a young age. For instance, young girls are taught to dress modestly, talk quietly, and behave “appropriately” as a woman. They need to learn how to be caring, nurturing, patient, and kind to prepare for being a mother and creating a family. Of course, being nurturing, patient, and kind should also apply to boys as these are necessary traits of a decent member of society. But this mindset is instilled deeply, it is reflected in the toys advertised for girls. Many products revolve around dolls, cooking, and other household-type toy sets. Aside from these, girls are also expected to prefer “girly” colors from the get-go – such as pink, purple, and the likes. And when a girl likes something different from these, something “boyish” to be exact, she’s instantly labeled a tomboy. 

However, these stereotypes are not only instilled in young girls but also adult women. If women are still not married at the age of 30, people will pressure and judge them. The pressure results in a stigma around single women, instilling a thought that they will die alone and lonely. If they’ve had many partners in the past, people will immediately think of them as unloyal and disobedient. The thing is, society always has a lot to say about women. You gain a few pounds, “You need to lose weight.” You try something new, “That’s not for women. Leave it to the men.” You try to be independent, “You need a man. You’re not strong enough to live on your own.” People always act like women have this sort of responsibility to fit into their ideal image of a woman.

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