Woman 101 | Inquirer Opinion

Woman 101

Let’s admit it: if there is one thing that every girl experienced growing up, no matter who or where they’re raised, it’s the harrowing pressure of having to live charmingly, appealingly, prettily—simply because you are a woman.

Once you are born with a back made to bend and lips made to smile, it will feel like an obligation—and though it weighs down on your bones, you will accept it, simply because that is how it’s always been, and always will be.

You are sat down for a talk every time you go out about the importance of covering yourself up. You are told that you must look the best you can all the time because God forbid a woman looks the slightest bit of a mess. You are dress-coded, berated for the slightest hint of bra strap, and told that you must not distract the boys with your bare shoulders. You are told to take down pictures on social media because it is too revealing. You are told that the natural occurrences that go with growing up—stretch marks, eyebags, body hair—are ugly and that even if these things are supposed to happen, you should be able to manage to conquer nature itself. You are expected to ignore every cat call you encounter on the street and take it as a compliment. You are given unrealistic standards to live up to every day, and yet, you spend all the time you have trying to fit in.

Growing up, though we know it’s unreasonable, we often find ourselves ready and almost desperate to eliminate any female competition. It is not said outright, of course not, but it is concerning how much we rejoice in another’s failings, and even with people we love, there is always a deep, pervasive itch in your bones that begs to be scratched: these people, these girls, these women, are all yours, of course. They have given you their stories. They have sewed themselves into the patchwork of your lives. You would kill and die for them, and they would do the same.


You love them. You care for them.

And because beauty is the currency in this world, and most especially to a woman whose worth is based on how your face came out when you were born, you also, inexplicably, want to be them. There is a quiet desire to take what is theirs and turn it into something that’s yours too, because there’s something so magnetically beautiful about who they are as people.

If you’ll allow me to say, then I would definitely tell you that there is a certain violence to being a woman. It is a constant battle, fighting against the urge to turn away from the blood in the water. There is always going to be violence when survival hinges on value, and the scale for value only increases with every step forward another woman makes. Perhaps the panic is warranted, in its own sick way. Every time a woman does something exceptional, the standards can only go higher and higher, and when we think it can’t possibly go higher than that, it goes higher still.

It’s tiring to keep climbing, but it’s a climb we endure.


The impossibility of existence begins because women are born to please. We are exhausted to the bone, but we keep climbing. The perfect woman is an ideal. She does not exist. We all know that, but every day we work toward that.

One of us should at least be close to it. After all, who better to attempt the impossible than a woman?


The perfect woman is a flurry of paradoxes. She—the hypothetical she—is expected to be sexy but virginal; chaste but sexually knowledgeable; enough of a temper to be feisty, but not enough to actually challenge your authority; of course, she must be beautiful, because possession is only good when it looks good; she shouldn’t dare break any glass ceilings; she must be the perfect prize to dangle on your arm, but they must be untouched in any other way. Otherwise, they’re sluts. Otherwise, they’re whores. Otherwise, they are not women, but animals, thrown out into the street. Used goods is the term they use. A woman who has been overused and has, therefore, lost all of their value. “Don’t be like other girls,” they warn, but what is wrong with being like the other girls? What is so wrong about not standing out once you’ve been born into your skin?

A woman can be many things, of course. In fact, it is encouraged. But most of all, we must be likable. It sounds simple enough. As a woman, however, that’s a superhuman feat.

We are shown, time and time again, that there is only a future for exceptional women. That it is only the women who make the grades or get the guy or turn everything they touch into gold who are allowed to be left alone, and even when they succeed in these things, their every heartbeat is controversial, their existence a cause for debate.

You are a woman, so you must earn your right to be left alone. That is one thing whispered to you, over and over again: women are not allowed to simply exist. They must speak loud enough to be heard or not at all. The fact that the price we pay to breathe is so high hasn’t made sense for years and years; still, from generation to generation, we somehow find the will to speak.

And to be able to speak at all—to be able to resist—to be alive as a woman, still fighting to take up space where we’re told to withdraw, isn’t that already impressive enough in itself?


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Trisha Matabalan, 21, is a student at De La Salle University. She is still figuring out the formula to live her life in the best way possible.

TAGS: woman

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