This International Women’s Day, Stop Hurting Women and Start Being Kind
Top image: Zachary Tang/Rice Media

Thank you for not asking when I am getting married. You know it hurts when you jokingly comment you don’t wish to see me applying for an HDB flat alone at 35 and call me picky when I tell you my refusal to settle with someone who can’t see and bring out the best of me for the rest of my life.

Thank you for not giving up your seat. You know I am pretending to look at my phone like everyone else to distract myself from my period pain that’s fatiguing my body and the non-stopping worry that I might have stained my pants.

Thank you for not asking men how they balance work and family—you know they can’t.

Thank you for not allowing me to take last minute leave so I wouldn’t lose my day of salary. You know how helpless it is when school turns my child away for a slight cough, there is a long queue at the paediatric clinic, and no one is willing to take over my responsibility.

Thank you for not showing hostility towards my sexuality. You know it’s always a regret for me not having to hold, hug, and kiss her publicly and I’ve to let her go because there isn’t a space for same-sex marriage where we live.

Thank you for not telling me I am not fundable because I am too old as a woman to be culturable when I founded my own company at the age of 46. You know lists like “30 under 30” are incorrect since age isn’t the best marker to define our success and decide when dreams should be pursued.

Thank you for not increasing the price of sanitary pads and tampons. You know men receive higher pay in this country for serving in the army. Women in this country are not entitled to such financial entitlements even though bleeding is part of a biological process to prepare women to give birth to men who will eventually serve this country.

Thank you for not abusing me. You know you can always let me go back to my family when you no longer love me.

Thank you for not staring, whispering among yourself or commenting on how bad I am in discipline when my child is making weird noises and screaming uncontrollably in public. You know you shouldn’t even judge when you don’t understand what’s a meltdown.

Thank you for not punishing abusers because some said they deserve a chance to be re-educated. You know Justice should start wearing earplugs on top of being blindfolded.  

Thank you for not asking me to be more feminine, remove my glasses, put on makeup and wear a dress. You know it’s awkward and uncomfortable to hide one’s authenticity for the mere reason of avoiding open humiliation and criticism.

Thank you for not gaslighting women into thinking they are too sensitive and making a drama out of everything. You know this is a form of silent violence.   

Thank you for not producing clothes with inclusive sizes. You know it’s puzzling why local fashion brands wouldn’t have anything more than an XL and a separate domain known as “plus-size fashion” needs to be set up.

Thank you for not asking me to leave my job when I became pregnant. You know my great-grandmother carried bricks and rocks for the Japanese while she was pregnant with my granduncle during World War II; my grandmother single-handedly raised six children when my grandfather passed away unexpectedly in an asthma attack, and my mother worked right up to the week I was born. I believe I am not any weaker than the generations of women before me and the generations of women after me, will not be weaker than me.

Thank you for not censoring materials on homosexuality, racism, and sexism. You know I want to teach my children that not everything can be defined although our society tries hard (sometimes too hard) to define everything.

Thank you for not asking why I never dine alone at the hawker centre. You know it’s challenging for someone on crutches to take their food to the table and tray return after eating. The wheelchair is not helping with the manoeuvre too as there’s never enough space between seats. 

Thank you for not punishing me for being who I am. You know it’s not a given that everyone must identify with their designated sex at birth. Stop calling me names when I present myself as a woman to you.   

Thank you for not being confused about my child having two mothers rather than a father and a mother. You know even Disney can tell us family is where “nobody gets left behind or forgotten”, not the member that’s making up the unit.

Thank you for not believing asking for help is a sign of being weak. You know it just means that you need help and nothing more.

Thank you for adding real pockets on my jeggings. You know it’s myopic to assume all women carry handbags.

Thank you for not remarking “I am too pretty to be smart”. You know the brain and skin are two different organs and you shouldn’t compare apples to oranges.  

Thank you for not thinking catcalling is a form of compliment. You know that will turn you into an instant predator.

Thank you for not asking me to leave my family. You know some kinships are toxic and there’s only so much I can do under the name of filial piety if everyone else don’t appreciate it.

Thank you for not getting offended at my abortion. You know allowing me to have control over my body is just as important as allowing me to become a mother.

Thank you for not telling me “It’s ok I don’t have to be perfect”. You know no one can or needs to be a moralist; let alone pretend to be one.

Thank you for not asking why I am engaged in a man’s job. You know grammatical gender is a morphological requirement to maintain sentence agreement. It doesn’t literally mean that only men can be a police officer when we say policeman.

Thank you for not being angry when I friend-zone you or decline to give my number. You know you are being called a “gentleman” for a reason so live up to your title.

Thank you for not discussing cars, soccer, and wine with women. You know women don’t go around bragging about what they know, that’s why men don’t know there are women who know about cars, soccer, and wine.

Thank you for not devaluing stay-home mothers and thinking they don’t contribute to society. You know they are free labour, and a different story would be told on the front page of our news if we don’t pay our foreign domestic help.

Thank you for not thinking it’s ok for me not to have children. You know being a mother is a choice and we can still be functional human beings without children. 

Thank you for not calling me fat. You know conformity is not the best indicator of beauty, sexy, and worse, one’s health.

Thank you for not letting me know it’s ok to pamper myself. You know life doesn’t always give a break to those who deserve it, so everyone should learn to love themselves.

Thank you for not sexualising us and seeing us as objects. You know it just shows that men failed to be educated.

Thank you for not crediting women who have changed history. You know the Matilda Effect is solid evidence of women being erased constantly and systematically in history.

Thank you for not realising the physical, emotional, and monetary uncertainties I undergo to get myself pregnant. You know it’s true when they say the IVF journey is a lonely one.

Thank you for not pressing your body against mine on public transport. You know you have been part of a universal problem that no authority has managed to solve.

Thank you for not asking for permission before hugging me or my children. I hope you know there’s something called “boundaries”.

Thank you for not encouraging me to report an abuser. You know not knowing when a nightmare will end is what makes it a nightmare.

Thank you for not thinking depression is weak-minded. You know it’s okay not to feel ok even when you are at the highest point of your life.

Thank you for not saying “women should keep quiet and stay home”. 

Thank you for not appreciating me saying “I don’t know what I want to do in life and wish to explore my options”. 

Thank you for not weighing me at the clinic. You know many medical interventions can be carried out without the number that won’t define our health entirely.

Thank you for not laughing at my hair. You know our shampoo brands have a secret fetish for using long, straight, dark hair on Asian girls in their ads and it’s time someone reports it.

Thank you for not selling bleaching cream on the internet. You know it’s what goes under our skin that matters more.

Thank you for not hating women and giving us a space to be who we want to be. You know hate is like contamination, it gets into everything and makes it worse.

Thank you for not making your ungrateful comments on social media. You know life is already congested with words; we don’t need more words at the expense of others to overcome the congestion.

Thank you for not organising woman leadership, mentoring, and empowerment talks on 8 March. You know I’ll never be able to pay a premium to attend those and it’s showing empathy, giving non-judgmental advice, supporting decisions that women have made for themselves that are truly helping women.

Thank you for not laughing at my child for not having a father. You know my child has a father. He has chosen not to be present.

Thank you for not hosting panel sessions with female leaders telling me their success stories. You know their successes have nothing to do with the brutal and inconvenient struggles that many other women are facing today and telling their stories won’t change anything.

Thank you for not calling women who voice out concerns of other women a feminist. You know some of the “you know” mentioned here are women crying secretly at night and thinking what’s the point of celebrating 8 March when the past is the present since nothing drastic has been changed.

Thank you for not knowing there are 52 “thank you” in this letter symbolising 52 weeks in a year. It’s idealistic to think about women’s welfare and rights every single day. Perhaps we can start thinking of ways that foster real change once a week, instead?

Thank you for not understanding my sarcasm in this open letter. You know thank you does not always define the appreciation we show when something is done right, it could also be a reminder of something that hasn’t been done enough.

Stop hurting women. Start being kind. Happy International Women’s Day.

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