When I was 8, a boy named Carl decided to make my life a daily hell by teasing me, snickering whenever I spoke up in class, and giving me a gentle shove every time he passed me in the corridor. One time his shove made me trip on my own shoes and I stumbled through the hallway. When I told my teacher about his constant harassment, she smiled and gave me a light pat on the shoulder, saying “He probably just likes you!” After the incident, I never again told an adult about something a boy did to me.
When I was 12, I was squished to the corner of the jeepney because the guy sitting next to me has his legs spread all over the seat. All the other passengers, who were all women, looked at him but no one even bothered to tell him. He was taking up too much space. Men take up too much space that we often forget that we also have our own. I even saw the lady across me carefully adjust the corner of her jacket since it was taking up more room than needed. We are raised like that: we are raised to sit with closed legs, to not talk or laugh too loudly, to take up as little space in the world as possible.
When I was 14, I was catcalled for the first time. I was walking home when some man whistled at me and honked his car. It sucked because I distinctly remember it making me feel nervous about my body for the first time. It felt so uncomfortable that it took me years to have the guts to wear shorts again. Later on, I found out that my male friends and acquaintances, even the ones I know would never catcall, are generally pretty forgiving towards men who catcall. But as they forgive I also forgive them, because if they truly understood what it feels like, they would never be so dismissive about it.
When I was 18, a guy I liked laughed at my use of the word, “feminism.” He said it made me different, made me unique. He said I always come off as too strong, too intimidating. A woman asking for a voice is like a child asking for a gun. I just wanted to be seen as a whole person and not just someone else’s daughter. I want to go a day without my validity being questioned but he simply said, “It’s not that easy. That’s not how things work.”
I always find it ironic how my life as a woman was shaped by the men around me. As a woman, I was taught to submit myself to men. But later on, I realized that people will always try to fuck someone over just to prove their own dominance. I always come back to the time when I was 8. We were at church and I asked my lola if God was a man or a woman so I could properly address my prayers. She just smiled and told me, “You can call God whatever you want, nak. Who said God isn’t a woman?”
Faye is a BA Communication Art student at the University of the Philippines Mindanao, majoring in Speech Communication. She is now on her fourth year and will graduate on June.