“That’s just the way it is,” was what my mother had told me when I complained to her about how hard it is to be a working woman, how differently you were treated because of your gender. “That’s just the way it is,” was what she said again when my brother asked why it was easier for men in a working environment.
Now I know my mother meant no harm at all, but it was disheartening to hear her say something like that. “That’s just the way it is” – but it shouldn’t be, right? Why should it be a norm for gender to denote how a person should be treated? It shouldn’t be – and yet, it is.
In the context of my country – Singapore – there is still an air of traditionalism that exists with the older generation. Of course, with the younger ones, there is a ripple of unease, an undercurrent of realization and understanding that has already begun to cause waves of change and conversation and movement – but it is not enough, not just yet. In order for us to truly keep marching towards change, we have to unlearn everything that we’ve been taught from youth.
We have to open our eyes and learn how to recognize sexist behaviour. Of course, I know that this is easier said than done – I myself still struggle to remember that not everything, especially the actions of men, is my fault. Recognizing sexist behaviour – whether it is full-blown misogyny or micro-aggressions – takes time to develop, but once we’ve done so, then that is when the scales will be tipped – that is when we’ll finally reject the way we’ve been treated for so long.
Because it irks me – the idea that yes, this is just the way it is and that women should swallow it and continue on. Because that isn’t just telling us to grit our teeth and bear the sexism, that’s telling us that things should not change. That things are fine just the way they are – which is not true.
Change won’t come unless we step up and recognize sexist behaviour for what it is. We can’t just let these things slide – small or “normal” as they seem, accepting them will just encourage a way of thinking in our society that’s already prevalent. That doesn’t mean we should go out there and start condemning every action of the opposite gender as sexist, however, we have to really learn how to pull sexist behaviour from what is considered as the norm. Meaning, it will take a lot of time, effort and determination.
I believe that we can do it, though. I believe that bit by bit, women will soon start to learn that everything isn’t their fault, that we are allowed to be angry, to speak up, to be heard. That our voices shouldn’t just be lost among the crowd – that we deserve just as much of a platform of speech as men do.
So to all my fellow women reading this: Learn. Grow. Help each other. Pull each other up. We have to learn how to work together to unlearn the way we’ve been conditioned to think for hundreds of years. And to the men who are reading this – please, be our ally. Help us speak up and be heard, because “that’s just the way it is”, should not be the norm.
Author: Isabel Cruz
Author Bio: Isabel was born in the Philippines but raised in Singapore. She now has two places that she considers home. Isabel is a 20-year-old writer and poet who believes that stories are one of the strongest things on earth; she wants to be able to weave ones so beautiful she could inspire generations. Her work as been featured on “Yes, Poetry” and “Harness Magazine.” You can find more of her words on her Instagram and her blog.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @Isabel.dcruz