“Para kang hindi babae”

Trans. (lit.) “It’s like you’re not a woman.” Also, “You’re not acting like a woman.”

Any time a girl or a woman behaves in a way that is commonly deemed, depending on the company, someone will tell her, “Para kang hindi babae a.” It’s a comment that is meant to shame women into getting back in line and behaving in a socially recognized feminine way.

This comment can come up in various situations, such as when a woman cusses, laughs too loudly, talks too loudly, walks like a man 1 sits “improperly” 2, and talks about vulgar topics, among others. These behaviors are typically associated with men, because men can say and do anything they want without being subjected to judgmental side-eyes. If women do these things, we’re immediately taken to task for being unladylike, indeed, “parang hindi babae.”

Many people view femininity in a very particular way. Mostly, people associate it with being mahinhin, which I think can be translated as refined, genteel, and having finesse 3. The main essence of being mahinhin is that we have to sit with our legs closed, titter delicately, speak in calm, delicate voices, and never ever cuss. Act contrary to that and we are branded as women who aren’t as feminine as we’re supposed to be.

There’s nothing wrong with being mahinhin, if that’s what you’re really like. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing to be. What’s terrible is that some people expect all women to behave that way. We don’t have to fit in a dainty box of femininity. Women are diverse, and we certainly don’t behave alike or have the same interests and habits. Some women are dainty and refined. Others are not. And if you’re “crass” and “vulgar” or a little rough around the edges for society’s liking, that’s their problem, and it doesn’t make you less of a woman.

  1. Whatever that means.
  2. That is to say, if she doesn’t have her legs closed.
  3. I had a teacher back in sophomore year high school who was constantly on my case for having no finesse whatsoever.