Opinion: Don’t tell me (or any other woman) to calm down

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“Calm down,” “Relax,” “Jai yen yen,” “Don’t be angry,” or however you choose to say it to women – just stop.

All my life, I’ve been told so many times to “calm down” when all I was trying to do was just explaining, speaking up for myself, express my needs, and/or what I wanted.

Every time a straight man tells me to calm down, I always have this question in my head, “would I have been told to calm down if I were a man, saying exactly the things I’ve just said to him?”

It’s not common to see women in general, not just Thailand, be outspoken and actually debate or discuss stuff with you. The media, social media still try to feed you the image that a woman must be a good mother, have babies, and be a good supporter to her partner. 

There is this Thai proverb that goes something like, “men are the two front legs of the elephant, and women are the two back legs of the elephant” meaning that men will lead, and women will support. This saying is so old and backward yet it is something that Prayut used as a reference when he gave a speech on International Women’s Day this month. (admittedly when I saw the news I had to double-check the year of when he said it. It’s just so old I didn’t think anyone would still use it!)

I don’t want to be at the back supporting a man. Why can’t we both walk together, equally on the same line? And why does that make me “aggressive” just because I don’t want to stand back?

I am a woman and yes, by the normal society standards, apparently, I am “strong.”

Even when I was invited to be a guest columnist for this publication, the editor said he would like to have a strong female voice on this platform.

The problem is I don’t think that anything I do is alienating. I don’t think it’s anything special that I have opinions.

I don’t think it’s “aggressive” or “strong” to disagree with a man.

So when I get told to “relax” when I’m just having a conversation, conversing back to my male conversation partner, it always puzzles me. But why are you telling me to calm down when I’m just having a conversation with you, I don’t understand?

When you see a woman leader, who is fierce, knows what she wants, and manages her team well. What do we call her? “Bossy?“

Imagine the said boss, with the same qualities, but a man – he would be called “a good leader”.

We are so used to the image that women have to be sweet, motherly, conforming, and not confrontational. Here is the news that is going to shock some of you… Women can be whatever and however, we want.

And confrontation is not all that I am. I don’t have to be one or the other. Women don’t have to be either good leaders or motherly. We can be both.

Up to this point, you’re probably thinking I sound “angry” in this article, right? But I’m just explaining, though? I’m not even mad. Just because I am confrontational, outspoken, or “strong”, doesn’t mean I am mad. I am simply just having a conversation with you.

What a privilege to be born as a man. This is why we still need to have International Women’s Day, not to look down on any men, not to create any more inequality between men and women, but to acknowledge that women are still not treated as equal.

To all men, if you’re still reading my article, read the previous sentence again.

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