(This is my article that the Philippine Daily Inquirer published in their Young Blood column on June 19, 2003. I hope I don’t sound too feminist here because really, I am not in that extreme. I’m just exasperated with women who view themselves as mere extensions of the men in their lives, nothing more)
It occurred to me only recently that a good number of people honestly believe all women in this age are out to “sell” themselves to men. But I think these people make little sense.
For starters, there is the popular idea that women dress well and strive to look good for the sake of men. It is believed unthinkingly that the only reason a woman would prefer to look at least half-decent is simply to put herself on “sale” in the “market” of men. I have even heard one guy declare that women dress up because it serves one purpose: flirting. It is like saying that in choosing which dress to put on, a woman’s uppermost concern is how the male specie would react to it, regardless of whether she personally likes it or not. It is the same as saying that without the “approval” of the opposite sex, a woman is a total failure. It is as if women go through their daily routines with a sign on their backs reading: “Heck, buy me and take me home. I am for sale.”
Why is it that even some women say they are here to “sell” themselves? Perhaps it is because they are convinced everyone is in a chase, and the game ends once a man finally takes notice, starts a courtship, and in due course gets to “buy” her. Then once the game is done, women can stop taking care of themselves and be content being baduy and losyang.
Does having a relationship with a man mean that the woman can opt to be pabaya since she is no longer in the “market”? Any broad-minded would disagree. For why can’t a woman do something for herself and herself alone?
I know women do not live to “sell” themselves or whatever “goods” they might have. Rather, they are here to prove themselves, to explore their strengths and thereby improve gracefully over time.
A woman should do something not because some other entity impels her to do it but because her heart is set on doing it. For instance, a ballerina performs on stage not to elicit appreciation and applause from the men but to show everyone in the audience, both female and male, that she is more than flesh and bone but above all else, an artist. A female athlete strives to win not to impress the opposite sex but because as a woman, she gets a deep sense of fulfillment from her efforts. In the same way, a woman who dresses well, walks with poise and speaks with quality should do so not because she wants to sell herself to the eager customers but because she wants to prove that in a male-dominated society she can be their equal or even better.
Of course, there is a big gap between how a woman should be and how some of them actually are. Some of us actually give women a bad name by deliberately behaving indecently. There are those who quite literally put themselves on sale, believing that doing so is their solitary function in life. I have seen some women go to the extent of trading their respectability for the pleasure of having male company. There are females who choose to wear black thongs with flimsy white pants, while traipsing the walkways of universities or even hearing Sunday Mass, strutting their stuff before a wide eyed world. Isn’t this a vulgar invitation to the males?
Call me old-fashioned, but I think I have better things to do than to bare a lot of skin. Well, these women can always offer excuses but whether the male audience is buying them remains a big question. Any ordinary male perception would simply conclude that the female is showcasing herself in a way that invites some unseemly reactions.
But this type of women, who go beyond the bounds of propriety, are a tiny minority. So it is unfair to regard women as objects of trade. They are more than cost-effective merchandise. Men cannot buy them and consequently own them. Anything that is for sale eventually leads to ownership by the buyer. If this were the case with women, then they are no better than the next Playboy issue or some fancy sports car that any man would love to own and brag about.
There are times when women are better off listening to themselves than listening to everything that men have to say. An overprotective boyfriend is not worth keeping if he destroys his girlfriend’s individuality. A possessive husband is worth leaving when he wants to turn his wife into a miserable marionette. In such cases, women are better off living out their own dreams. In fact, they would be better off trying to please themselves first. It may be a cliché, but it is true that a woman should not need a man to complete her; rather a woman needs a man to complement her.
Still, there is some truth to the supposition that women try to look good to attract men. It would be hypocrisy for women to say that they don’t welcome male attention. The way a woman carries herself reflects her personality. In our society and age, a personable appearance is a necessity. But women should do something not just because they want to draw the attention of men. A woman should do something because she wants it for herself, because it’s her way of gaining authentic self-esteem and completion.
A woman should know her strengths, and selling herself is not one of them.