Rock-climbing: Am I breaking stereotypes?

Me doing rock-climbing.

Sometimes, our fears and worries are imaginary. Often, we cannot help it. They just pop out in our head, making us scared to do what we want to do. Us, people with insecurities, constantly struggling to muster up courage and boost our confidence. And even if the fears are proven unnecessary for one time, we will tend to have them again next times.

When I wanted to do this “rock-climbing” and posted it to my IG story saying I wanted to try but was scared of people’s judgment, a friend replied asking if it was strange here for women to do it. Gosh, of course not; as my reply to her, it was just me, I was insecure and not confident. “What if people look at me saying ‘Look at that girl wearing hijab doing rock-climbing?'” To be honest, I felt bad and sorry as I was having such thoughts, because truth is, they might not think it that way; i.e. I was the one thinking bad of them, thinking they’d have bad thoughts of me. But those feelings were there, and it’s kinda complicated to explain. Worried, scared. I wasn’t afraid of the height or falling. But maybe I was worried people would laugh at me if I fell. Often times, to push aside this kind of thoughts or feelings, I tell myself, “Who are you? What makes you think you are special? You are not. They do not care about you. So just do it.” And so I did.

Me doing rock-climbing.

I also told my friends that I wanted to do rock-climbing but was worried about what people might say or think. One of them said, “Which is why you have to do it. Break the stereotype.” Thank you😊, but really, I didn’t do it to break any stereotypes. I didn’t do it to make people think that women with hijab are allowed to do it (because I have never been prohibited to do so, it’s just some people in our society that consider it inappropriate). I didn’t do it because some people think women aren’t supposed to do it. None of that. I did it because I loved it and I wanted to. I’d wanted to do it since I was a kid. I didn’t get to do it when I was in high schools or before now. So I was just happy that I could finally do it-for myself, it makes me truly happy.

To be honest, this thing about men and women, what they must or not do, etc, I didn’t really apprehend it before growing up. I remember when I was a kid I could do whatever I wanted. My parents let me play with both boys and girls. They let me make and play with baby dolls from banana’s trunk, they let me craft my own wooden sword and ‘fight’ with it, they let me play cooking and trading, they let me make fake ‘pistols’ from little bamboo and used the flowers of rose apples as bullets, they let me use ‘make-up’ and make other ‘decorations’ on my cousins and sister to play groom and bride (LoL), they let me climb trees, play marbles and kites, etc. They have never stopped me from doing it just “because I was a girl”. Sometimes my Mom also bought me shorts that, maybe, were meant for boys. And I remember in high school I wore my Dad’s batik to school because I didn’t have Batik of my own 🙊🙈 But it was fine. But maybe I was privileged enough to be poor so we didn’t really care about what a woman or a man must do like “the rich” (?) I mean, even though Mom doesn’t work in an office, she works in the farm and helps my Dad earn money so we can survive. There was nothing like “Women aren’t supposed to be working” or stuff. So yes, when people told me stuff about liberating women, that we must let women work, study, etc, I was confused. That was because I lived in my own bubble where women could do what they wanted – well, at least some stuff. And I realized that not everyone is as lucky as I am, nor as privileged (to be poor) as I was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against feminism. Fact is, I am thankful for it. I might have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished – studying, working, traveling, etc – because of the fights feminists have put up against patriarchy. However, if some people claiming to be feminists force women “to be like them”, to do what they don’t want to, then for me, they are kinda the same as the patriarchists, no? As much as I don’tlike to be dictated by men, I don’t like to be dictated by other women either.

Me about to do rock-climbing during a campus event.

Asking women to be smart sometimes feels kinda similar to telling them that they were stupid, as if they were not smart, at least not enough. One party tells women to stay home and have children. Another party tells them to go out and do whatever they want with their body yet still condemn them when they decide to have babies. Jeez, it’s tiring and not really liberating. Educate us kindly, but don’t force us to be like you.

Back to my ‘climbing’ hobby. Not sure if I have said it elsewhere, but I love such challenges. I love high places. It’s because when I am trying to get to the top, for a certain time I forget about the world: it’s just me and my goal, I can focus on reaching my goal without worrying about other stuff (probably because I want to be safe, because I don’t want some people to be sad when I am injured or dead). And the best part is knowing or proving that what I worried about or feared does not happen. So I did climb the ‘rock’. Because, why else? We’ll never know till we try, right? And as people say, it’s more likely that we regret the things we didn’t do than the things we did. I know I am glad I did it. Nobody said a thing about it. (Though as some of you are reading this, you might shake your head wondering how I could do that or write this. Don’t worry, I understand. I’m not judging you. I am shaking my head as well.) Well, I posted in IG story saying to tell my Mom but not my Dad about rock-climbing. In case you wonder why, that’s because when my Dad is worried, he tends to be upset. My Mom will be worried, but she’s cool. I know they love me and maybe sometimes grow to be a bit overprotective. I understand. They almost lost me whe I was a baby. I was a sickly child, at the verge of dying. They had tried their best to get me cured but I remained sick. They couldn’t stand watching me in pain, and my Dad kinda told God that he was okay if He wanted to take me back to Him and that it might be better for me than being in pain. Miraculously, I healed. Maybe that’s why.

Anyway, I am not asking you to do rock-climbing. I am not asking you to go traveling. I am not asking you to write long captions. None. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. But if you ever want to do it, you know you can always give it a try. I ask of you nothing but be happy. Know what makes you happy 🙂

Special thanks to my two Malaysian friends for being there when I hesitated to do it. It means a lot. It takes patience to deal with an insecure person like me. Not everyone can keep motivating us (because it can be exhausting and our fears are often irrational). But truly, what we need is an assurance that it will be okay. And better to know that, even when it turns to be not okay, we are not alone. Thank you 😊🙇‍♀️😊

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