From girlhood to rulehood
Being born a girl is a wonderful thing, and there's nothing I love more than being a woman. What I don't love is being a woman in a world where the lives of women are governed by rules.
While boys go from boyhood to manhood, women go from girlhood to rule-hood. The moment our bodies change ever so slightly and our faces begin to lose their childlike roundness, the restrictions come rapid fire. It's as if we'd suddenly go astray if we're not bombarded with these reminders.
No more games, no more sports, no more eating. No more boy playmates, roughhousing, or loud voices. Put your legs together. Walk in a straight line. Cover your chest. Watch that your nipples don't show through your shirt. Don't wear short skirts. Don't get drunk. Don't be alone at night. Don't dress provocatively because you're going to get raped.
Even if you don't have breasts, let's get you a training bra. Even before you need it, let's make you practice how to wear this stifling elastic you'll wear for the rest of your life. Wear good underwear, but don't have a visible panty line. Shave your legs. Don't shave your legs. Shave your armpits. Don't ever reveal that you have your period or that you have to defecate. Don't ever, ever fart.
You're a woman now
Don't wear horizontal stripes because they make you look fat. Don't get fat. Don't eat too much, too fast, or too eagerly. Don't ask for seconds. Fix your hair. Keep it long. Moisturize your face. Wear makeup. Get a manicure. You're a woman now. Act like one.
Don't have too much fun. Don't laugh too loud. Don't play too rough. Don't ride a bike. Don't speak too assertively. Lower your voice. Boys don't like it when you're bigger, faster, or smarter. Don't argue. Just let them win. Nobody likes an angry woman.
Don't be so tall or you won't be able to find a husband. Don't be so good at sports, or math, or school in general. You'll intimidate the men. They like to be better. They like to bring home the bacon.
Protect your body. Don't let any boy come close. Before you know it, you'd have been touched, and you will be damaged goods. Save your virginity for your husband. Anything less makes you inferior in his eyes.
Don't be the breadwinner as this emasculates your husband. Even if you make enough, don't ever bring it up. Don't talk to him like an equal, pretend he's always the boss. Make him believe he's making the final decision. A man is the head of the home. Don't let him be called "under the saya (henpecked)."
Focus on your family
Don't go out with your friends because those days are over. You should only focus on motherhood and keeping the home. Don't question your husband's whereabouts. Don't ask about his expenses. Don't question his decisions.
Act demurely, and always be a beacon of class. Your husband's honor depends on how you speak and act. Don't entertain male friends. Don't stay out late at night. Report to your husband your every location and each person you're with. When you get home, act like you didn't have fun.
Don't ask for sex, because that's the domain of the man. He might feel bad not being able to please you, or he might get scared you'll seek it elsewhere. Pretend you don't know that there is better sex out there. Pretend you don't need the orgasm everyone else is talking about. It's not important, tell them. You just want to "make love."
Stand by your man. Whenever there's a rumor about another woman, demonize her and absolve him. Say he's just being a man. When he loses his temper and hurts you, blame yourself for being such a nag. Never break face in front of your children. At all times maintain strength, poise, and pride. Oh, and if you feel helpless, just always pray at night.
No rules for boys
The only rule for boys is to have fun. Play all kinds of sports, do well in school, and be whatever you want to be. Have all your fun before settling down. Meet and sleep with as many girls as possible. When you're married, have your fun but just don't get caught. If you're caught, don't ever admit it. If you want to keep two or more women, keep them away from each other. Provide for the needs of your second family if you can.
After all, women don't understand men. Women should just worry about their families. Women should understand the force of a man's desire. Men are exempted from the virtues they require of women. It's always the other woman's fault if they're able to seduce your man.
Who makes these rules anyway? They're not written in stone. Why are there so many rules meant to protect the honor of girls by controlling them, but no rules for the boys who dishonor them? Why are there so many rules women have to follow so they don't reflect poorly on their men? Why can't men protect their own honor by controlling their own actions? Why can't they instill the same values of gentleness, grace, and class on their sons?
Imagine being a woman without rules
As if women don't already go through their days reminded of their place by the dirty looks and cat calls. As if we need more rules to accompany comments about a woman's virtue. As if gossip doesn't revolve around whether a woman has gotten fat, thin, has been left by her husband, or is fooling around. As if women don't impose these rules on one another, or pass them from mother to daughter, from sister to sister, and even from friend to friend.
Why is it that our intelligence, attractiveness, desirability, honor, and virtue are measured against a yardstick held by men? Be pretty so a boy will like you. Be desirable so a man will marry you. Be pure so a man will not reject you. Be perfect so a man will keep you. Dress modestly or a man will rape you.
What would it be like if women existed as they are, and lived according to their own standards and their own rules? We work as hard and pay as many bills. Why don't we get to do what we want? Is it because men are raised to do whatever they want and someone has to carry their burden?
What if we reclaimed our womanhood by making our own rules? What if we redefined womanhood according to our own standards and how we want to live our lives? What if we told girls they could be whatever they want to be? What if they could speak and laugh and play as loud and as roughly as they want? What if we didn't define their femininity according to a boy's appreciation of it? What if we never threatened them with the prospect of ending up single, as if that would be the end of their lives?
Maybe then girls could remain as fearless as they are when they are children. They might become women who do not defer to men to determine if they are beautiful or desirable, or if they are fit to become a wife. Maybe we won't pit ourselves against each other in a contest of attractiveness or ability to secure a man. Maybe then we could stop imposing rules on each other that are only designed to stifle our lives. – Rappler.com