She looks old.
She looks fat.
She looks too dark these days.
You should smile often.
You should get married.
You should wear clothes your age.
These are what women (and men too!) have been suffering. These are called social pressures and expectations. The society expects women (and sometimes men too!) to behave and act and to speak, to dress in a certain way.
Recently, I was mocked by a former colleague on social media. He wrote, “[your] face looks very old”. To be honest, I was enraged. So I penned back to him raising my strong voice I feel the need to tackle “age shaming culture” by a Cambodian man. He is not the only man who feels the entitlement to shame women on their age.
I am 41 years old this year and I love my body tenderly, much more than I was 10 or even 20 years ago. I have never felt young and energetic like before. I have contributed so much to the society. I take the risk to become a female contemporary poet in an obsessed traditional literary community. I have published 6 titles of books. I have written short stories and they have been asked for translation into various languages. I give countless talks and workshops. I am able to mobilise forces to organise literature festival while many people even afraid just to use the word “festival”. I have never been active before. At 41, I feel I am me, Phina, who is happy with my life.
So, I wonder why people could only see me as a 41-year-old woman. I also wonder how can they expect my face to look young? I age gracefully. I embrace my age. I grow old with gained wisdom. Can’t people see that besides being a 41-year-old woman, I am a good, active, and critical citizen of Cambodia whom many girls and young women are looking up to me?
I would like people to know that when I speak up for myself, I do speak for other women so that they don’t suffer from age shaming, fat shaming, skin shaming, hair shaming, slut-shaming, victim-blaming and everything shaming culture. So that we are free from being judged and free to take a positive breath and be free to be energetic and continue to work for the best interest of ourself and others. Let’s allow our brain to think something useful rather than just age, skin, body type, or hair.
It is very unfortunate thing for the country to have a population who believe that they are too young in their earlier 20s and too old when they are in 30s. I wonder how much does your life can contribute to the society when you have this mindset? Why do we care much about age anyway?