Chances are, you know of a girl who has proudly crowned herself as “one of the boys.” And, you probably found nothing wrong with it. On the flip side, you might be living under a rock (a really beautiful and peaceful rock, for that matter), and know of no girl who have used “like a boy” as a positive descriptor of herself. If the latter is the case, then I’d like to introduce you to myself.
Years before the growing acceptance of the feminist movement in the Philippines (ehem — the spreading of woke memes in Facebook, I mean), I was already marching around, in my naiveté, claiming to be a feminist. And to me, a feminist had one job: To refuse oppression. Clearly, the overwhelming sexism in the country was out of a seven-year-old girl’s hands. But, I tried to change it anyway. My foolproof plan was to be “one of the boys” — this way, I’d escape the glass ceiling. I made sure that I could fend for myself as a woman. Therefore, there was no oppression — at least not in my world.
Where it all started
My version of feminism started at home, where I turned down every stereotypical task for a woman. I stayed away from the kitchen as much as possible. But, had anything needed lifting, I rushed with my muscular little arms to help out. My baby brother never needed to carry the gallons of water and sacks of rice delivered to our doorstep, because I was enough. At least, I convinced myself to be.
The pseudo-feminism extended to the public arena eventually. I gave up my spot in jeepneys and hung off its metal bars. But more than that, I let the thought of conquering the man world affect how I first decided on my career path. I filled out my college applications with Computer Science as my desired course — even when I’ve always wanted to be a writer — just because there were not as much females as males excelling in the course back then.
Lo and behold, I was the poster child for tomboy — whether it be in terms of appetite, alcohol tolerance, the way I sat, or the way I felt (read: unfelt). With this, “one of the boys” was how I described myself for the longest time. And I prided myself for it. I felt like, through rejecting gender norms and striving to act as a man, I was empowering the female species. Today, I find that terribly wrong.
If you’re in your 20s right now, you’d probably stumbled upon the #LikeAGirl video campaign by Always, as I did in 2014. But in case you didn’t, here’s a recap: Several girls and boys of various ages were called into the studio. These girls and boys were tasked to show the cameras how to do things “like a girl” (i.e. how to run like a girl, how to fight like a girl, and how to throw like a girl). Unsurprisingly, most of them tried to look more fragile and afraid while doing things “like a girl.” Meanwhile, the young girls notably showed grace and strength in every task — running as fast as they could, punching as strong as they could, and throwing as far as they could. I significantly remember how this campaign changed my mind about being a woman.
Looking back, I was blessed enough to grow up in a household that empowered my femininity. As a child, I ran around barefoot and climbed trees recklessly — much to the dismay of my anxious mother — and my parents only ever called me “adventurous.” Never “a boy.” On the other hand, I adored dolls. I was also a frustrated ballerina. But my parents never made me choose between wanting to be a fierce warrior princess or a love-crazed mermaid. I was who I wanted to be at any time I chose to be. But I was never not a girl.
Honestly, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I stopped priding myself in being a girl. I do remember, though, that I abhorred certain downsides about my sex. My parents were stricter with me than with me brother. No walking alone at night. No drinking with boys. And absolutely, no going out of the house without a pre-approved chaperone.
I hated all these rules, and I broke them because I felt I didn’t need them. After all, I was “one of the boys.”
Thankfully, age and maturity came into the picture. Unfortunately, they came after I faced several consequences in disobeying my parents. In the real world, female travellers do need to take precautions during trips. But, those rules don’t need to hinder us from enjoying travel. And, those don’t limit us from where and how we want to explore the world.
I’ve learned to embrace my identity as a traveller beyond the biological limitations of my sex. For example, I no longer reject help from men as much, because I’ve realised that me being physically weaker doesn’t mean I’m inferior.
How a girl travels
From the sound of this article’s name, you might have expected a piece on how a girl should travel. Well, then here’s a little insight on my own ways: when I arrive at the airport way too early, which is practically always, I like spraying sample designer perfumes on myself. When I’m at an unfamiliar place, I ask for directions a lot, because I suck at navigation. When I get lost in a crowd, I cry mercilessly. Oh, and I intentionally underpack, because I plan on thrift shopping at my destination anyway.
None of the examples I stated dictate my femininity, but this is how I am sure that I travel like a girl. Here’s the thing: I travel like a girl, because I travel like myself. I no longer feel pressured to be like a boy, because I can conquer the world either way. I am a girl traveller — an adventurous and fearless one at that — and I am proud to be one.