by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, Prose Editor

When I was a child, I would write my stories imagining myself as a man. Somehow, I found it hard to see myself as a woman, when I did not know what being a woman meant. I, like every girl my age, had been taught to think that a man is independent and strong. He is capable and wise. He is indestructible and necessary. I wanted my characters to possess the qualities of a man. I wanted myself to possess the qualities of a man, but how can a woman, designed to be subordinate to a man, be ever able to contain these traits?

I was made to wear skirts and dresses, wedges by the age of seven, no matter how
uncomfortable they felt on me. As I grew older, the skirts and sleeves had to be longer, the blouses tighter. I was told I had to learn to wear higher heels. I had to wear a bra to hide my nipples and define my breasts. I could not risk being seen as a distraction to men, but I still had to be attractive enough to get their attention. When I could not pique their interest, I thought it made me less of the girl that I am. Was I not beautiful? Perhaps not. I went on trading dresses for pants, blouses for loose shirts, heels for sneakers. Boys’ clothes felt so much more comfortable than those of the girls. Being a boy felt so much more comfortable than being a girl.

I became the teenage girl whose sexuality puzzled everyone. I started to look like a boy, but my preferences remained the same. I was attracted to men, just as I was expected to. Not long after, my fascination toward the strong personalities of the male grew into a hopeless pursuit of their validation. The clothing I used to despise became my costume, hoping this time around, I could be pretty enough for men. I used the methods only a woman can, slowly dragging my self-respect to the ground as I reach for their approval.

To my younger self, I would write you as many apologies as I could for the rest of my life. You were never meant to become any man’s toy. You were never meant to believe that you were inferior to the male. You did not have to imagine yourself as a man just so you’d feel invincible. Being a woman may be the most difficult task you would ever be given, but it will also be the most fulfilling, when you realize that being a woman is so much more than what you were taught to think. Women thrive in spite of the discrimination; we fight against the stereotypes that cage us. We were not created for the male gaze; we were not made to seek validation from the opposite sex. We were made to create and conquer, to breathe life anew, to hold the universe in our palms and keep its heart beating.

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