I’ve been listening to this song non-stop this week. The hook has me hooked and thinking about space — the types of spaces I choose to inhabit, the types of spaces I stumble on and most of all how I take up space.
As a Filipinx American womxn, I’ve been taught to minimize the amount of space I take up. Institutions and groups I have been a part of (schools, churches, peer circles, relatives) have used lots of tactics to keep me silent. I’ve been socialized to not to speak my mind because speaking up (especially to elders, which I agree with to an extent) is disrespectful. I’ve learned to hear “you make me uncomfortable” when folks immediately shut me down or tell me “you talk too much” when I speak up.
As a womxn, I’ve had to learn to smile even when I’m angry or upset because this society dictates that falling apart and crying are signs of weakness. I’ve learned to say sorry when I bump into people even in New York, where it’s common for folks to not acknowledge each other’s existence. I’ve learned to keep my cool and internalize my anger when mxn decide it’s okay to interrupt and talk over me.
I’ve learned that to survive in society I need to be likeable. I need to take up space in a way that makes others comfortable. Otherwise, I’m out of line. Otherwise, I’m too American or not Asian enough or not Filipinx enough. Otherwise, I’m an annoying b*tch.
This past week, I’ve been reading Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. In her essay, “Not Here to Make Friends,” she writes about Amy, one of the main characters in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I have yet to read the book but have watched the movie and the movie’s message is clear: Amy is a psychopath who goes to great lengths to ensure that her cheating husband is forced to be with her forever. She is portrayed as greatly unlikeable. Roxanne Gay goes on to write:
This is what is so rarely said about unlikeable women in fiction — that they aren’t pretending, that they won’t or can’t pretend to be someone they are not. They have neither the energy for it nor the desire. They don’t have the willingness of a May Welland to play the part demanded of her. In Gone Girl, Amy talks about the temptation of being the woman a man wants, but ultimately she doesn’t give in to the temptation to be ‘the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.’ Unlikeable women refuse to give in to that temptation. They are, instead, themselves. They accept the consequences of their choices, and those consequences become stories worth reading.”
I strive to live authentically on a daily basis– to be completely me: the good and the not so great. I care little for power, fame and fortune if to have those things means that I have to force myself to fit boxes dictated by society. Screw likeability if that means I can’t openly fall apart once in awhile. Screw likeability if that means being silent and complicit in the deaths and deportations of millions of people. Screw likeability if that means having to minimize the amount of space I take up.
I take up space for the divine and myself and not for the benefit of mxn. I take up space because my parents did not leave their home country only to be mistreated by racist, sexist and ageist assholes. I take up space to make sure the world knows there are Filipinx American womxn who are not afraid to speak their minds.
I take up space with an unconventional haircut and a growing confidence that love matters more than money. I take up space with all my emotions: my happiness, my frustration and my anger. I take up space by speaking up when I see someone being mistreated for their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. I take up space unapologetically.