Dear Asian Youth,
The world is not made for women—from the gender wage gap to sexual assault statistics, women have a significantly harder time than males of the same demographic, education level, and social status. Not only do women face these inequalities, but they are also subject to harassment for the same roles they have been forced into playing.
Women are often stereotyped as shallow and exclusively caring about appearances. In the media, they are often depicted shopping or spending large amounts of money on things like makeup. At the same time, young girls are taught to be “feminine” and wear things like dresses and makeup. We teach them to be primarily pretty—traits like intelligence and athleticism come second. It’s no wonder we care so much about appearances. While consistently telling girls “you’re beautiful” seems like it would solve this problem, it can actually be counterproductive as it reinforces the argument that they are valued for their looks. It is not every woman’s job to be beautiful, and more focus should be given to things like character or accomplishments. If we want women to stop caring about things we deem shallow, we need to first stop determining their value based on these same old-fashioned factors.
Along with appearance, a woman’s body is often the subject of scrutiny. Various, often conflicting, body standards are placed on them, and we are constantly bombarded with the idea that thin is good, thin is healthy. As a result, women can feel guilty for eating. Yet, how many times have you heard a guy claim “I like a girl who can eat?” Many people complain of women “stealing” bites of someone else’s food at the restaurant table after claiming they aren’t hungry. Initially, this may just seem like an irritating habit, but there is more to this small action that meets the eye. Women are taught that they need to be thin to be beautiful and are subject to the beauty standards of the day. We default to something like a salad despite how hungry we are when ordering food. Once we realize what we really wanted were some fries, we will reach for those fries. In the same way, we are mocked both for adhering to the principles determined by the people who simultaneously mock us for not adhering to them.
Finally, women are often made fun of for requiring a friend’s company to do something as basic as going to the bathroom. However, with the high incidence of sexual assault, women are also taught that they shouldn’t be alone, that they should go places with a friend or family member to avoid getting assaulted; they are pushed towards co-dependency. Women shouldn’t have to alter their behavior to be granted basic human respect. When we teach this to girls, we are enforcing rape culture—we are teaching them that someone less cautious will get assaulted in their place, rather than teaching people shouldn’t get assaulted in the first place. But at the same time, it is undeniable that it is significantly more dangerous for a woman to be alone. Apparently, requiring a friend to accompany you is illogical, yet also absolutely necessary, and women get hate for doing either of those things. There’s no way to win.
It is unlikely that these stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our society will go away any time soon. Ultimately, if something makes you happy, just do it. You won’t please everyone, but there really is no need to appease people who don’t matter in your life. If anybody needs to be discontent as a result of your actions, it shouldn’t be you.
Cover Photo Source: The AOI