As a Woman
By Amihan del Rosario-Tapan
This piece is about the double standards that plague society and force women to be small.
As a kid, I was called bossy. All the time. People would tell my mom, “Oh she’s a bossy one isn’t she?” or “Oh she’s sassy!”
As a kid, I wasn’t taken to any Eagles games, and I didn’t get to go to the Super Bowl parade. Instead, I was brought to musicals on Broadway. My brother is four years younger than me. He’s been to two Eagles games and went to the Super Bowl parade.
As a kid, I was told to sit like a lady. That meant that even though I had jeans on like my best friend Aidan because I was a girl, I couldn’t sit comfortably. I forced myself to learn how to sit uncomfortably, squeezing my knees together.
My dad grew up in Philly and is a hardcore sports fan. So I grew up admiring the Philadelphia Eagles, blindly loving the team. I jumped when Papa screamed touchdown and was upset when they lost. And I called the Dallas Cowboys “the Cowgirls” like him, my cousin, uncle, and aunt. I teased my elementary school crush by telling him he hit like a girl. Now, I can box.
November 8, 2016, was my tenth birthday. It was also a historic presidential election. The night of my birthday, before I went to bed, I told my mom that the only birthday gift that mattered was gonna arrive tomorrow morning when I wake up to the first female president of the United States.
America wasn’t ready. Hillary Clinton was perceived to be emotional and, therefore, weak. One Trump supporter said a woman couldn’t be a president because they had too many hormones and would start a war too quickly. Yet in America, every war has been started by a man. The phrase “be a leader, not a follower,” has been preached since I was little. But when I would advise people what to do in projects and organize who did what, I was bossy.
I was conditioned as a little girl to think that I was inferior to men. “You hit like a girl,” “Stop being such a little girl,” “You sound like a spoiled little girl,” or even “You’re such a pussy,” versus “You got some balls.” And so, men are told to man up, that crying makes them weak, so when Harry Styles wears a dress on the cover of Vogue, society says to “bring back manly men.” Double standards. Gender norms. They are breaking everyone.
As a tween, I was told to dress modestly.
As a kid, my grandma told me to be careful. She would tell me to always watch my surroundings, and specifically, the men surrounding me. I’ve never heard her tell my brother to watch his surroundings.
It is hard to function in society when you are seen as less because you are a woman. Having to live in a society where you are constantly looking over your shoulder makes it that much harder.
I found an online study from 2007 that showed 99 percent of women have experienced some kind of street harassment. Out of these women, 81 percent have been subjected to sexual comments. This violation of catcalling has been normalized in society. It is just something that happens.
As a tween, I was warned one day that a complete stranger would ask me to smile. That it was normal, and I should just ignore them.
And as a teen, I swipe through my Instagram Explore Page to see videos of women giving tips on what to do if they feel uncomfortable in an Uber. I save videos of fake phone calls of a random woman telling me she’ll meet me on the corner instead of outside her house. I train my eyes to never make contact with a man staring at me. And I know better than to ever let my guard down alone because anything can happen in a society built to benefit men.
White men are free to walk the streets as they please, go on late-night jogs without fear, and whistle at women with the peace of mind that they will get away with it. To them, there isn’t even anything to get away with. They don’t have to worry that they will be assaulted if they choose to travel the world alone. They have the privilege of street survival.
I stay up late because of how quiet it is. My mind moves at 60 mph, and being alone slows it down. Clears my mind. After four months of quarantine, in July, I went for a walk in the city, alone. At that moment, I decided that I was going to solo travel the world.
But as I kept on walking, I remembered how men’s eyes would travel down as I walked past them. The study of 2007 came back to me, and the fear crept in. And this is what it means to work harder because I am a woman. To have danger be my shadow, but to continue being despite it. Because one day I will see the world
I lay still. Staring off into space because I can’t even collect my thoughts. I don’t know what to say, think, or feel. I’m not sure if I should feel guilty. Can I be sad? I have a reason to feel this way. Should I not get mad? I can’t help but feel responsible. Why couldn’t you just be a little less threatening? Maybe things would’ve been different.
Amihan is a writer and artist from Harlem. She spends her free time creating art, singing and playing guitar. She’s written pieces on identity and societal change. Over quarantine, she’s been spending time with her family and puppy in her vacation home on a lake.