Being A Woman In Singapore
When we think of a strong woman, we often envision a beautiful, successful career woman who juggles motherhood and work effortlessly.
While this model of womanhood is wonderful, solely subscribing to one ideal ignores the varied and diverse experiences of womanhood in Singapore today.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate Singaporean women from all walks of life by asking them what being a woman means to them.
1. Chevonne Cheng, 25
Editor of ZULA
Being a woman is when you realise how big you can be, yet how small you are in this world. You don’t rely on inspiration or feelings to get you moving, but on discipline, choices, and goals.
You know your self-worth without putting others down and are happy to help both men and women succeed. You also know how to say no, let go, and pick yourself up again.
More importantly, you recognise confidence is not “I am going to be nice so they’ll like me”, but “I am going to be nice anyway even if they don’t”.
2. Png Sim Phuy, 30
Onsite Senior Analyst for Lazada
To me, being a modern woman gives me the power to shape the future of equality—be it in the workplace, family or relationships.
We are usually blessed with compassion, emotion, endurance (during pregnancy especially), understanding and love. We shouldn’t be restricted to the traditional ideas of what women should or should not do. #feminismispower
3. Jasmine Sokko, 23
Traditionally, bands are fronted by female singers, and men do the back end music production work. Often, I get dismissed as just a singer-songwriter, and my music-production credits are defused by my being a woman.
I’m tired of having to explain myself, simply because people aren’t used to the idea of a woman being in charge. Being a woman should mean we are afforded the same opportunities and recognition for our work as men.
So this one goes out to all the girls who have to push through to be taken seriously by people; the girls who teach themselves the skills they need to step up in whatever profession they aspire to thrive in; the girls who won’t take compliments like, “You’re good, for a girl” because they are good, regardless of their gender.
4. Norah Lea, 24
Photography, film and performance artist and activist
If there’s anything I’ve come to understand about womanhood as a transgender woman, is that we have to constantly navigate our own autonomy within existing structures that may not necessarily serve us.
Being a woman means to constantly reclaim our own power and to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.
On a lighter note, being a woman is also a lot of fun! Sometimes, womanhood feels like being part of a secret club. It’s comforting when you tell another girl your experience and they say, “Girlll, I know right”.
5. Manorama Singh, 26
Business Excellence Manager for SPRING Singapore
Being a woman is to be a human being and recognising the complexity that comes with being one. Women (and men) are far more dynamic than a single characteristic.
To me, womanhood is about acknowledging I will differ from other women and that it’s completely fine. Celebrate uniqueness, and take responsibility for what you want from life.
6. Chan Heng Chee, 75
Ambassador-at-Large with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, chairman of the National Arts Council and a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights
Adapted from the book Madonnas and Mavericks: Power Women In Singapore by Loretta Chen
I think for women to do well, they should not be angry. I was a feminine female and I was not angry, which is very important.
I had too many other fights in politics so I did not think to fight my gender. I remained quite authentic to myself. If you bang the table, it doesn’t come across so well.
Although, now that I am older, I can make ‘angry women’s comments’ and people don’t mind it so much. They think it comes with age.
7. Tong Jia Han, 25
World Literature postgraduate at Warwick University, co-author of The Phantom Of Oxley Castle
To be a woman is to have the gift of connecting people together. That softness we have isn’t a liability, it’s one of our greatest strengths—it allows us to withstand suffering without hardening our hearts to others.
8. Fitz Anugerah, 25
Emcee and part-time yogi
Being a woman means being able to recognise the strengths that come with womanhood—the strength of your heart, mind, and body.
We need to remember that with our collective strength, the women of the world can achieve almost anything and everything.
You create the reality that you want for yourself. That way, everyone will see what it means to be a woman.
9. Amanda Wee, 33
Health Informatics postgraduate student at Auckland University of Technology
It is tempting to list a set of characteristics women should have, like how they’re nurturing or strong in their softness. Equally tempting is it to talk about having periods, a ‘universal’ experience of womanhood because not all women experience periods.
But as a transgender woman, I see being a woman through the lens of group identification: to be a woman is to identify with my sisters all over the world, in shared, overlapping experiences and expressions of femininity we convey in our own unique ways.
10. Germaine Tan, 19
What it means to be a woman is that we sometimes have to work twice as hard for the things we want.
But it also means that we have grown to become twice as strong and more ready than ever to stand up for ourselves.
11. Charlotte Hand, 24
English postgraduate at Nanyang Technological University
To be a female is to have two X chromosomes, to be a woman is how you choose to live with that. As a woman, we’ve been socialised to think we have to act in a certain manner or look a certain way.
So every day, I’m trying to un-socialise myself to give me more freedom and creative space of who I can be as a person. It’s easier said than done, but I’m getting a little better at it each day.
12. Jasmine Hu, 49
Management Committee Member of Empowering Single Parents Network (ESPN)
In today’s complex and less than perfect world where discrimination, sexism, racism, still exist, being a woman can be difficult.
Being a woman is the recognition of the ‘weaknesses’ ascribed to us, and knowing that we are humanely strong and adaptable in the heart, mind, and body.
We should not let weaknesses envelop us, instead, we should strive to adapt and overcome this uphill battle.
13. Tiara Robyn Chew, 26
PR consultant for W communications, letterist
What it means to be a woman is difficult to pin down but I feel it’s about being unafraid to figure out my own life and direction.
I don’t need someone to tell me what kind of job I can or cannot do, how I should dress or what makeup I wear, whether I ought to get tattoos and piercings or not.
I carve my own path and through it all, I stay true to myself.
International Women’s Day
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, a call to ‘motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive’.
While we commemorate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women today, it’s apparent from 2018’s theme that the push for gender equality cannot be achieved by women alone.
For a society where both men and women have equal rights and opportunities, both men and women need to join in the conversation and recognise how feminism isn’t about man-hating.
Rather, feminism is about working together to create a world where there is freedom to choose, and have no one bat an eyelid when you do things which go against your assigned gender.