Listen up, boys. And girls - repeat after me.
My beauty is not for your enjoyment. I did not get up in the morning and make myself pretty so you can ogle me and fit me into your sexual fantasies. My make-up is not there so you can view me like centerfolds whose pages are stuck together from the output of your adolescent frustration.
The way I fixed my hair or sculpted my brows is not so you can judge me according to your standards and put me on a scale of attractiveness or virtue. I have my own, and I hold my own value as a woman.
My body is not for you to touch without my consent, no matter how much of it you see. I am not wearing a short skirt to attract you, or a low neckline to tempt you. My fitted shirt is not an invitation for your hands that have no right to my body. I am my own person, and though some of you may capture my heart, you'll never own me. So please don't act like you do.
Don't act like I'm made up for you, like I seek your valuation or your judgment because of how I dressed today. Don't tell me I deserved that catcall or snide remark just because you can't compliment a woman politely. If you are rejected, or turned down, it doesn't mean I deserve to be called a slut. A woman never deserves to be raped because of how much skin you see.
Dear man, you are not an animal with a jackhammer penis who must drill into orifices or else you'll die. You are a thinking, feeling creature with human logic, empathy, and emotions. You'd never rape your sister or your mother no matter how much of their body you see, so is it too much to expect the same courtesy for me?
Be insulted when you hear that a girl deserved to be assaulted because she was drunk or dressed provocatively. Be enraged when you're told a rapist couldn't help himself because the woman "asked for it." You know the difference between seduction and violation. You know the difference between loving me and forcing yourself on me.
Agreeing that by their actions women want to be violated means that you believe men have no judgment and will rape everything they see. Your mother raised you better than that. If you have doubts, try treating her similarly. Chances are she'll remind you how to treat a woman properly.
Believe it or not, we want to look pretty for ourselves. We make ourselves presentable for own confidence and self-worth. We accentuate our faces and our bodies to feel good and because we feel beautiful. You do not hold the key to our beauty. We do not base our beauty on how many men are staring at us. We do not feel prettier if we hear more rude comments on the street.
We appreciate a kind compliment such as, "You look nice," but do not care for comments on our body parts, necklines, or hem lengths. Imagine how it would feel if a man commented on how much of your rear end or your chest he can see. It's creepy and violating, isn't it?
We resent being told that we must look better, get our hair fixed, or lose weight so we can attract boys. Because we were raised as girls who were told these things, we promise to stop the cycle with our daughters. Let's stop praising our daughters only for their looks, outfits and accessories. Instead, let's comment on their skills and intelligence and ask them what exciting projects they're working on in school.
Let's tell our sons and daughters that the women on EDSA's billboards are not real, that they're airbrushed, nipped and tucked, chemically treated, or surgically altered. Let's tell them that a real woman is like their mommy, or auntie.
Real women have curves, and blemishes, and stretch marks, and body hair. Real women don't use skin whiteners. Real women are proud of what they see in the mirror in the morning. Real women want to be healthy, not skinny.
Most importantly - let's tell our children that real men love real women who aren't hopelessly chasing the unreachable goal of the thin, flawless, and ageless woman at whatever cost. Real women have wrinkles because they've lived. Real women aren't emaciated because they like to eat. And real men enjoy the company of real women, not that of mannequins who have invested so much in their looks that they've forgotten to think.
Maybe then we can raise a generation of men who value women as more than objects to present or reasons to gloat. Maybe men will choose women as partners for life, instead of just bearers of their children and keepers of their homes.
And maybe we can raise women to believe that they were born with beauty, and that it is a gift that does not decrease nor diminish depending on the number of people who agree. Maybe they'll feel pride in the first sight of their faces and bodies in the mirror instead of a desire to cover things up, to change their features, be thinner, lighter-skinned, brighter-eyed, and fuller-lipped.
How great would it be to look at our reflection and see everything that's right, instead of everything that's wrong? Maybe then our women will walk out into a world where they don't crave the approval of others, or have to judge their appearance against a fashion magazine. Maybe it could be a world where women will be able to say, "I am not pretty for your pleasure. I am beautiful for me, by me, and as me."
Shakira Andrea Sison is a Palanca Award-winning essayist. She currently works in finance and spends her non-working hours defying gender norms in subway trains. She is a veterinarian by education and was managing a retail corporation in Manila before relocating to New York in 2002. Her column appears on Thursdays. Follow her on Twitter: @shakirasison and onFacebook.com/sisonshakira.
This article was first published by Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.