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Why Does Society Expect Women To Smile All The Time?

And 16 other things we're 'supposed to do' that are total BS.
PHOTO: giphy.com

From the moment we were born, women were made to accept that some characteristics were just part of who we were: that we like pink, that we prefer to play with dolls, that we’re neat, nice, kids who aren’t sweaty and grimy like the boys are. The older we got, the more gendered expectations were heaped upon us: that we should submit to men, that we should be nurturing and domesticated, that we should be prim and pretty to attract a partner—as if that were the be-all and end-all of our existence.

By virtue of us being born with a vagina, the world expected us to conform to these gendered norms. But these norms are just social constructs that exist in the context of male-dominated society; they are not biologically determined. A little girl could have her choice of any color in the rainbow as her favorite color, but did anyone care about her choice before putting her in every poufy pink contraption there is? No.

Below are some stereotypical female behaviors that have been hammered into women’s heads as truth since birth, but are really just that: stereotypes that can be broken. Stay woke, CGs.


1. Smile all the time.

“Smile naman diyan!” This is one of the most annoying things we hear on the reg from random men, uttered when we’re wearing a blank face or have a bit of a frown on. Here’s a revolutionary idea: Can’t women just smile when we feel like it, not when we’re clearly not in the mood? It shouldn’t be our job to lighten a man’s day by smiling; ordering us to smile is just another way men exert control over women without them being aware of it. 

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2. Be prim and proper.

Women get called out for being too loud, dishing a dirty joke, or sitting in any way other than with our legs crossed or pressed together, while men think nothing of booming like a megaphone, spewing filth with abandon, and manspreading their way into one whole side of a jeepney. Go figure. 

3. Be weak and delicate.

It’s nice that men want to help out, but women also have limbs and muscles and a brain with which to operate said limbs and muscles. When we’re struggling to carry a ton of shit, that help is totally welcome, but when it’s just an itty bitty shoulder bag, those boyfriends should hold off on offering to relieve us of that negligible weight. It doesn’t even go with their outfits. 

4. Be averse to physical, outdoorsy tasks.

Women grew up being encouraged to stay indoors with dolls and books instead of getting sweaty with the boys out in the sun. I remember once when I was seven, I was running around with my male classmates when my teacher grabbed me by the collar and sternly spat, “Babae ka pa naman.” Because of that experience, I became aware from an early age that there was a divide between men and women, one that we were expected not to cross. It’s sad when I remember it now; I wonder how much more physically active I would’ve become had I not let that teacher’s words get to me. (Although I’ve recently taken up strength training, so it’s really never too late to overturn these gendered beliefs!) 

5. Be modest and non-threatening.

We’re expected to be so “hiya” and unable to take a compliment when we’re given one, and to temper statements that might come off as threatening with “haha” or “sorry” lest we seem bitchy. But the idea that being bold equates to being bitchy when applied to women is just so wrong, when the same thing merely equates to being confident when applied to men. 

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6. Be nurturing and domesticated.

More often than not, women are expected to do the emotional labor in a household. It’s a duty that spills over into the workplace, with women being singled out to make coffee or plan birthday surprises over their male peers. Some of the most interesting women I know can barely clean up after themselves, let alone take care of an entire family, and I wouldn’t change a thing about them just so they could fit some outdated stereotype of the female as caregiver.


7. Be pretty and thin.

Women feel so much more pressure to look good than men do because we’re constantly bombarded by messages from society and the media that reduce a woman’s worth to her appearance. No wonder so many of us are plagued by body image issues; you would, too, if you were constantly told you were “too fat” or “too plain,” followed by ”Paano ka magkaka-boyfriend niyan?” 

8. Be neat, clean, and hairless.

We’re expected to have spotless, flawless, hair-free bodies, while men parade around brandishing scars and sprouting hair from every pore—and even have the nerve to comment on a woman’s slightly fuzzy upper lip. Nasaan ang hustisya?!

9. Be attractive, but not too attractive.

We’re expected to look good, but showing too much skin or wearing too much makeup is frowned upon because it might tempt men into thinking dirty thoughts. Heaven forbid they should be expected to control their boners, amirite? 

10. Just accept men’s attention, no matter how uncomfortable we are with it, because “boys will be boys.”

When men act sleazy around us, we’re supposed to suck it up and just live with it, or are even blamed for having attracted their attention by virtue of us being female and having a vagina in the first place (hello, rape culture!). How about we hold our men to a higher standard and teach them to, oh I don’t know, NOT BE RAPE-Y when they so much as see a woman on the street? 

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11. Be “pure.” (Or if we can’t be pure, just not talk about our sex lives.)

Men are glorified as sex gods when they rattle off their conquests, while women are condemned as sluts when they do the same. The result? Women end up unable to embrace or explore our sexuality to the same degree; i.e. we end up putting up with bad sex or no sex, and that’s just a shame because sex is awesome. 


12. Please more than be pleased in the bedroom.

Ever feel like men are more likely to assume that a blowjob is in order, while we’re lucky if one even offers to go down on us? You’re not imagining it—a study has found that women are giving more head than they’re getting from men. Another study has discovered that women make wild banshee noises in bed to pretend they’re reaching their peak—and consequently boost their partner’s ego. No wonder these numbers in Cosmo US’s Female Orgasm Survey came up: 95% of women surveyed claim that their partner orgasms most or every time during sex, compared to only 57% saying they themselves have orgasms most or every time during sex.

13. Treat our vagina and basically our entire reproductive system like some dirty, shameful secret.

Why aren’t people talking about vaginas as much as they talk about penises? Also, how silly is it that men go “Eww” when they so much as hear a girl say “May period ako,” when our menstrual cycle is the glorious process by which the propagation of human life is possible? Live with it, boys. You came out of a vagina yourself. 

14. Play a supporting role to men.  

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You see it at home where major decisions are deferred to the male. You see it at work where women are paid less than men or are passed over for leadership roles. You see it in social interactions where women sit as men’s rapt audience. You see it in romance where men are the chasers, and women, the chased. Ladies, don’t you want to be the lead act in your own lives? 

15. Get married and have kids.

A happily married life with kids and a white picket fence is a lovely dream—but it is not every woman’s dream. Some women choose to be childless, some women choose to devote their lives to other causes, some women realize they are gay and partner with a woman instead. All these choices are no less valid than the others. 

16. Be jealous of other women.

Women unknowingly pit themselves against each other in looks, in love, at work, and in social circles, which results in jealousy and cattiness all around. Granted, this behavior has a basis in evolution, as women had to lock down a partner who could very well pass his seed onto other potential baby mamas, but feminist psychology suggests that women have internalized being the recipients of the male gaze in a patriarchal society so much that we’ve grown to actually compete for it. Good news, though: We can simply choose to support each other instead of tearing each other down. GIRL GROUP HUG! 

17. Like pink.

Pink is great, but you know what else is great? Black. And white. And blue. And green. And fucking chartreuse, whatever that is. The choice is yours, babe. Go pick your own color, and we mean that in more ways than one.

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