In Malaysia, girls who are deemed unladylike or have interests and passions that are considered "masculine" often get put down
Slurs like "tomboy", "iron lady", and "queen control" are used on girls from a young age when they don't fit a certain mold.
Pantene is breaking that mold with their #WanitaBesi campaign, and turning the negative statement into a positive perception.
Watch how they are using the language of haters against them in their latest video:
In collaboration with Pantene, we spoke to 12 Malaysian women to find out the meanest thing people said about them, and how they owned it:
1. "A best friend called me 'Thunder Thighs' because I was athletic"
"A best friend of mine used to call me 'Thunder Thighs'. I was a competitive badminton player in high school and weight lifting was part of the training regiment. I felt big and bulky and super self-conscious at first. But after I found a good pair of jeans, I didn't care anymore. Hahah. And those thunder thighs landed me a university scholarship. So, yeah - they kicked ass."
- Colleen, 38.
2. "They said girls should be soft-spoken and would call me 'mulut murai'"
"People often say that girls need to be soft-spoken, which is difficult for someone who is naturally loud and talkative like me. I remember in Standard 2 there were a few classmates who kept taunting me as 'mulut murai'.
I felt like I didn't fit in with the rest of the class, just because I was very outspoken. No 8-year-old wants to feel left out. But my class teacher defended me, and ended up coaching me to represent the school for various public speaking and storytelling competitions.
Now I manage content and talent of Fly FM, where part of my job is to coach announcers to go on-air. What was a 'bad trait' ended up being my best trait ;)"
- Shiva, 26.
3. "A girl got me sent to the school counselor because she was scared of my drawings and said I was crazy"
"Back in Primary School, a girl in my class kept calling me 'crazy'. One time I went down to go rehat with my friends, and the girl took my sketching book. She got scared of my drawings and showed them to the school counselor. After that I was sent to the counseling room because they were worried too.
But it didn't really make me feel sad or anything because I AM CRAZY and my friends are just as crazy as me. Now that I'm older, I'm making money out of my artworks and even got my paintings displayed at an art event. Joke's on her cause I'm out here doing the things I love."
- Sarah, 22.
4. "A male friend said I look more like a guy than he does"
"I took a photo of my outfit - ripped knee jeans, white shirt, a pair of Wakai, and a blazer, then I posted the photo onto my Insta Story. A guy friend then replied to my story saying “You look more like a guy than I do”.
Of course, I felt insulted and hurt. You see, I’m not your average type of girl that is confident in wearing a dress, spaghetti straps or even skirts. I don’t like wearing make-up and I dislike putting on lipsticks. I feel most comfortable, confident, and secure when I’m in my t-shirt and pants. I mean, of course, I wish that I can be confident in wearing more ladylike outfits but at the moment, that’s not who I am. I’m still a girl, a female, a daughter, a lady, and a woman, who just doesn’t like wearing ladylike outfits."
- Maxine, 21.
5. "My mum used to associate my body figure with 'The Hulk' because girls don't look good with muscles"
"My mum used to associate my body figure with “The Hulk”. She would always ask me why I lift to make my body look so masculine. She feels that girl don't look good with muscles. I felt weird at first, thinking, as a girl, are we supposed to look physically weak?
I started to workout 4 years ago and strength training was by far my favourite. That’s where my body turned from skinny fat to masculine. After I’ve discovered how strength training can build muscles and gain enormous strength, I’m thrilled with how I can carry more groceries, shift heavy boxes around, or as simple as pulling out the bed and change bedsheets for my mum.
And that strength eventually allowed me to carry a backpack weighing 15kg and hand carry 10kg throughout my working holiday journey in New Zealand. Now back in the workplace, I can carry production equipment effortlessly."
-Shin Ling, 26.
6. "Girls called me pendatang asing tanpa izin because I had wavy hair"
"The mean girls called me "PATI," short for pendatang asing tanpa izin (illegal immigrant). They would tease me for having wavy hair and called it a "horse tail." They even bullied me for having curved eyelashes and said I was the epitome of ugly.
It made me feel bad about my looks back then, but now that I'm older, I'm confident with my appearance. I think I look fab just the way I am. And they're the ones spending all their money on perms and fake lashes!"
- Mulen, 30.
7. "My school friends said I was adopted by my parents because my skin is dark"
"My school friends said my parents adopted me because my skin is dark. I used to go home in tears because of it. But my mum would always tell me that I am beautiful and perfect in every way because God made me and He never makes mistakes. Now I'm confident in my looks and love my skin tone just the way it is. It makes me unique!"
- Nicole, 28.
8. "People said I was 'too manly' because I was the military marching commander at my school"
"When I was in school, I was my uniformed unit's military marching commander. Having to spend many afternoons under the sun I became really dark, very rigid, and loud. On top of that, I prefer having short hair so lots of people have deemed me 'too manly'. Many times, comments were passed that I'm not girly enough and boys will not find me attractive.
Fast forward many years now, men still feel intimidated by my style because I still rock a short crop. But I guess what surprises people is that I work in the world's most girly industry - BEAUTY PAGEANTS. Yeah, women can be more than just one thing. ;)"
- Karalyn, 30.
9. "They said I had no substance in college and that I was 'easy' because a lot of my friends are guys"
"When I was in college, many people said I had no substance and that was 'easy' because a lot of my friends are guys. It did hurt but I ended up becoming the student committee president and scoring 2A's for my A-Levels. As for my guy friends, well, they're still my guy friends. ¯_(ツ)_/¯"
- May, 25.
10. "Friends called me 'generous' for giving all the good-looking, skinny genes to my brother"
"My friends called me "generous" for giving all the good-looking, skinny genes to my younger brother. They'd also tell me "JV if you lost some weight here and here (pointing to certain parts of my body), you'd be so pretty!"
It made me feel really horrible about myself as I've always grown up in this size. At one point in secondary school I felt really uncomfortable eating in front of people I ended up having gastritis.
Today I've come to terms with how I look! As long as I eat well and sneak in some exercise here and there, I don't let comments like that get to me anymore. Being fully confident about myself is still a work in progress, but I'll get there!"
- Jia Vern, 23.
11. "I was repeatedly told that I would fail in life"
"I was repeatedly told that I would fail in life because I was REALLY bad at Math throughout my schooling years. Even at the age of 27, I still struggle with basic arithmetic like 2 x 0... I kinda think I have dyscalculia.
When I was younger, I was terrified. I genuinely believed that if I didn't figure out my issue with numbers, I'd be a failure. The fact that I hate Math with a burning passion didn't help either. I still have PTSD thinking about situations where I had to calculate things.
Eventually I realised that complex Math is not exactly useful in daily life unless that's your passion and you want to major in Mathematics. So, I made a career out of my passion (writing) and also realised that not acing Math does not mean that I'm dumb. Feels good to know that."
- Nandini, 27.
12. "People call me lansi because I don't smile enough"
"People said I was lansi because apparently I don't smile enough, especially to strangers. They also made fun of me for getting good grades and being close to my lecturers. My classmates would taunt me by calling me 'top student' and always say sarcastic things like ‘Ya la, you top student ma...’
My feelings were hurt. But I still continued getting good grades, graduated with a high CGPA, received an award for Best in Integrated Marketing Strategy, and got a scholarship to further my studies overseas. As for the smiling thing, I always smile at the people I like, so if people complain I don't smile, it's because I don't like them."
- Junnie, 23.
To the strong Malaysian women, the #WanitaBesi, we salute you!
Did you know that twice as many girls drop out of sports than boys by the age of 14? Their decisions are affected by peer pressure, parents, social stigma and other factors.
Why is a woman's attractiveness based on her "femininity"? Pantene is fighting back against the stigma that girls have to conform to what society wants them to be, and encouraging them to pursue their interests, whether or not they're "ladylike."
Because strong is beautiful.
With the #WanitaBesi campaign, Pantene is empowering every Iron Girl out there to take back the meaning of all those mean words!
Do what makes you happy, put your hair through the toughest possible tests of heat, sweat, paint and dirt - because no matter what it goes through - the Pantene Pro-V can nourish and protect it.
Shining on the outside, stronger on the inside.
Find out more about Pantene's 'Strong is Beautiful' campaign here!