Editor | Jasmine Su
Contributing writers | Betty Pu, Rachel Hau
Photographer | Audrey Lim
“If you keep on doing this, you won’t be able to get married!” This is one of my mother’s favorite line whenever, being an unfilial kid, I refuse to do as she wishes.
She yelled this sentence repeatedly throughout my upbringing. She said it on the car when I relaxed my legs on the window pane, when I refused to wash the dishes, when I spilled soup all over my lap and made a mess while eating, when I spoke too loudly in the mall, and when we had trivial disagreements in the living room.
My lack of femininity has always been a joke that runs in the family. During dinners with my entire extended family, somehow it always ends up being a topic of conversation — my bleak prospect of getting married. Nán rén pó, a Chinese derogatory used to describe women with crude and unattractive manners, is amongst the top terms that my family uses to describe me. “Be a lady,” my favorite aunt would always whisper by my ears during meals. I can still hear her even as I type.
I never truly questioned all of this for the most of my life. As a female I ought to act in a certain way so I may appeal to men. It is so ingrained in my society that it at best annoys but never bothers me. As I grew older, my family also gradually stopped commenting on my lack of femininity. Then some day I realize perhaps I have grown closer to what they consider a “woman”. Somewhere along the line, I have stopped putting my legs on the window pane, stopped spilling food all over, and stopped speaking too loud in the mall because they are not attractive traits.
As a woman I was raised to evaluate myself based on how attractive I am to men. I may never truly believe that women’s value should be evaluated so, but late at night as I walk through the city, advertisements still feature campaigns like “impress your man, get a facial treatment”. I have grown used to this notion without believing it. So, how were you brought up as a woman?