Growing up, I felt like I had no women role models. Everyone from the head of my church, decision-makers in the organizations I was in, influential teachers were all males. When I was a young active member of my church community, sometimes I would find myself hushed by older males, who would say, “You were only a girl, what do you know?”
And that first experience struck me to the core.
My father, religion studies teachers, neighbors, role models taught me that men and women are created equal. Yet, in practice never truly believed in it. One of the excuses they give is,“ We are equal, but we complement each other. That is why men and women have separate roles. Just like wives have to let their husbands lead and take care of the children while their husbands are off to work.”
I had always known that I am interested in many things, opinionated and strong-willed. At the same time, I was careful to let it show because I am aware of the gender restriction. My head used to ponder, "Would I be perceived as aggressive if I voice my opinion?" and it kept me from being proactive in meetings and gatherings. Hence, making me not realizing my full potential.
Since I was a young girl, I knew that I want to prioritize adventures and career advancement rather than being a stay-at-home mom. Unorthodox to most, since we were all taught what women are supposed to be. Hence, in class, I always nod to show my agreement with these teachings. In exams, I always wrote what was taught in class and my religion textbooks of what my teachers wanted me to write.
Little did I know, it leads to self-hatred about why I was not like other girls in my class. I never liked the color pink, nor I had tidy handwriting. I always laughed wholeheartedly, and to my mother's dismay, her daughter happens to love rough, daring sports.
I remembered asking God, “If that was how I was supposed to act, why am I created like this?”
The Distinction of Treatment between Man and Woman: An Experience
One of my anxieties in the past was the notion I kept hearing: that I will never grow up to be a "proper woman.” And now, that is exactly what happened - I never grow out of the career-oriented, energized, and adventurous stage. But the difference between a young Dev and this version is that I finally accept my true self. Sadly, this only happened years after being indoctrinated about the roles of women in family and society. I finally get it to my head to allow myself to do what the world claims as masculine things I was not supposed to do.
In my free time, I enjoy cooking, gardening, cleaning, sewing, and makeup. But, I also learned to embrace my aptitude for woodworking, going on an archeological expedition, politics, climbing trees, boxing, and playing fighting-PvE video games to destress. Instead of listing my hobbies and interests as “male-things” or “women-like habits,” I choose to label them as “The things Dev likes to do.”
Being a woman with short hair and tomboyish looks means I sometimes get mistaken for a man. And boy, I would be lying if I never enjoyed the male privilege. I was treated with more respect when I bought comic books looking like a man. People look at me in the eyes when I talk to them because I “radiated the charisma of a leader” in my male facade.
When my hair grew longer, wore feminine clothes, and rocked my makeup, I noticed the difference in how men treated me. Back then, I enjoyed weightlifting and swimming, hence, the broad shoulders and subtle muscular lines. Men would ask, “Are you not too muscly for a girl?” On first dates, I would often get comments like, “Why is your chest so flat? Are you a girl?”
On the other spectrum, some of my friends and relatives would ask, “Why cannot you keep a relationship? At this rate, you would never get married.” In my mind, I remember thinking - I dated because it was fun. Does it cross their minds that marriage might not be on my agenda?
The lack of female role models often makes me find myself feeling lonely. Back in the day, I wished someone could tell me, “Girls can have adventures, too”. Or maybe something along the lines of, “It is okay if family planning is not for you.”
What is Feminism According to the Tomboy Misfit
Feminism to me is to be seen and judged based on my ability, personality, and charms. I beg that the world should not change my identity to fit the "girl stereotypes".
At work, I wish to be respected based on my ability to work and paid based on my talent and hard work. Outside of work, I want to express myself as someone with unique individuality. That includes my tendency to wear what I want to wear, how I style my hair, what I choose to do in my free time. Simply put, if guys can get away with many things with the "boys-will-be-boys" card, why is it so hard to let women be just as free? Mind you that this is the reality women have to live in in 2021.
Historically speaking, we have come a long way. In university, I started noticing women in academia. I learned a lot from female CEOs that I befriended and women entrepreneurs. During my time studying classical studies, I watched slides of empowering women whose thinking was more advance than the people of their time. Have you ever heard of Queen Hatshepsut, whose history was close to being completely erased or known in Latin as damnatio memoriae? Her legacy is almost unknown to the modern world because she acted as a Pharaoh, a role typically held by an Egyptian male of royal blood. Pretty unfair considering that during her rulings, she left a legacy of improved trade and economy. Cleopatra was a ruler who used her intelligence and charisma to create alliances. Sappho, a female poet who unapologetically wrote down many inspirations that expresses desires between women.
The women from the history of antiquities and new acquaintances empowered me to be a confident woman. Seeing them defined their own roles in society, not being afraid to use path their ways even as it was not common in their times, were the help I needed to define myself. As a result, I manage to break free from the thinking that I need to fit all the checkboxes to qualify as a woman.
What is NOT Feminism According to the Tomboy Misfit
I need to emphasize that the word "feminism" does not mean that I want to rule over men. I simply want to be regarded as an equal.
It might sound sad, but I need to know that in the workplace, I can advance as far as my male counterpart does. That, I am entitled to receive the same wage as guys for the same workload. My simple wish is for the world to treat females AND people whose genders are part of the gender minority with equality in the workplace.
And please, give us the platform for more representation in politics and law. I am not saying this to elevate women to get high-paying jobs. We want to feel safe knowing that policymakers that enact laws regarding our genders can consider our points of view. It is tiring to have words put into our mouths by privileged, cis-gendered males that know nothing about what we have to go through as women.
Reassure me that we, as women, can be ourselves without having our interest boxed into, "You are x gender, which means you must like y." For instance, if a cis-gendered male becomes a chef or designer, the world would shower them with praises. If women do weightlifting or martial arts, suddenly the world raises its objection. When I was a little girl, this kind of restriction makes me hate being a woman. It is as if the world was mold to fit men's convenience, and there is no place for their female counterparts.
While we are on that topic, convince us, women, that we have the right to love who we want to love. Respect our conscious choice for the roles we play in our relationship with our partner - whether conventional or otherwise. An example, just because we are women, we can only love a strong, macho man with toxic masculinity traits. We have the right to love who we want, regardless of gender, religion, and gender roles, so long as we fit each other. Males can have more liberty in sex, but when women prefer one-night stands than settling in the comfort of a relationship, the woman is deemed "promiscuous."
To close this out, please see the double standards the world has assigned to us and understand that women are not just babymaking machines. We have our own needs, aspiration, and dreams. I hope to send out a message for fellow women to be confident in rocking their unique selves. You are entitled to celebrate your individuality and shoot for the stars. Together, we will make the sky is the limit for all females - current and future.