When I was in primary six, I remembered my science teacher once said to me:
“A, you belong in the kitchen. You’re good at neither studies nor sports. Why not just wait for someone to marry you and be an obedient wife?”
Even at such a young age, I still remember what she said, word for word. And I remembered how much I wanted to prove her wrong.
Why did she single me out? Why didn’t she say the same thing to the boys?
Men are the leaders of the family. They are the breadwinners; they are the providers.
Most Malaysians grew up in households where their father assumes the role of the head of the family.
If the father was out of the picture, the eldest son would take the lead.
Even at weddings, the father gives away the bride. When a child is born, the child will take after the father’s name and the father’s ethnicity.
The man governs over everything; from the head of the country to the head of a family.
The role of men as the decision-maker is so deeply rooted in society, it makes it difficult for us to accept it when women take over those roles.
When women are the more successful breadwinners, it puts the father’s role as the second-in-command or the “supporter”.
So, this begs the question…
Are Malaysian men intimidated by a confident woman?
I asked this question to a male friend one night, and he answered: “Yes, for sure.”
When asked why, he said, “Confident women make me uneasy. You just feel small in front of them, you know?”
I poised the same question to my brother.
He replied, “Even if she accepts me for who I am, she will still be the better one in the relationship. Thus, it hurts my ego as a man.”
Why don’t you rise up to her standards then?
“Levelling up doesn’t change much of the relationship dynamic. I will always be reminded that her basic grade and pay was bigger and better than mine.”
Pete (not his real name) think that confident women in the workforce would be a blessing. She will know what to do. Instead of being a boss, she would be a leader. As such, he would not feel intimidated by a confident woman leading the company or team.
And yet when asked the same question relationship-wise, he shook his head, saying that confident women will always be taking the lead.
In his words: “It will always be her decision. Then where does my opinion stand?”
Why is it okay for women to be confident at work but not at home?
Malaysian women with big ambitions and great careers can be found all around us – Datin Vivy Yusof, Datuk Nicol Ann David, Ivy Josiah, Dr. Mazlan Othman, Dr. Nur Amalina Che Bakri and more.
These are amongst the most inspirational women in the country. They inspire girls throughout the country, that we can be just as successful as them.
However, a successful career doesn’t guarantee a romantic relationship.
As Brenda put it, “Men see us as a challenge to their ego.”
Brenda is a teacher-slash-businesswoman who is married to an insurance agent.
“Men are uncomfortable with confident women who seem too overpowering,” she observed.
Being “overpowering” or using iron-fisted methods often give others no choice but to follow her decisions, and her decisions only.
When asked about whether her husband is supportive of her career, she said:
“Yes, he supports everything I do. In fact, he lets me decide whatever I want to do, and he is there for me on my journey.”
Are all men alike in this mindset?
Corey (not his real name), disagrees that all men are intimidated by confident women.
“Confident women are attractive to me. They have a firm attitude, and it’s actually sexy,” he confessed.
When I asked him to explain why he feels attracted to them, he stopped to think about it.
“However, we do feel challenged. So, I guess, YES! We are a little intimidated by them.”
Men always say they want a smart, fun and ambitious woman, but upon meeting one, hesitation takes place.
In the movie “Always Be My Maybe”, Sasha is an independent celebrity chef who was dating Marcus, a singer in an unsuccessful band and who was still living with his dad.
He knew she was a celebrity, and he didn’t mind until they attended a red-carpet event, where Sasha introduced him as “just a regular guy.” This led Marcus to think that he was there just to carry her purse.
Her next phrase, “Don’t shame me for going after things,” got me thinking, when dating a confident woman, do men really just feel like glorified purse holders?
Brendan, on the other hand, has a different idea.
“A confident woman is rare. Her mentality is inspiring. I like the fact that she pursues her own beliefs and dares to ask questions.”
He added that a woman’s confident radiance the most when she is willing to show concern or effort even while expressing her true self.
“In the workplace, a confident woman who is able to deliver results without letting gender stereotypes, emotions or interpersonal relationships get in the way of her goals is truly amazing.”
The 27-year-old architect added, “With proper self-management, self-awareness, social awareness and relationship management, she is like a femme fatale, attracting men by her own aura of charm.”
Some men still consider independence and success attractive.
Duliph, a retired lecturer who is also a Sikh, believes that “A confident woman signals success.”
Adding that this isn’t a simple yes-or-no question, he stated, “Sikhi states that women are not inferior because they give birth to men.”
“I am a disciple and a teacher too. I educate all genders to be the best. It instils confidence in them.”
Dating a successful woman is like an Alpha dating an Alpha.
Thus, it all depends on how men perceive it.
Men might perceive confident women to be dominant or the “Alpha”, but sometimes an Alpha female wants to be dependent on a man to make her feel safe, loved and cared for.
“I may be an Alpha female looking for an Alpha male, but am willing to turn into a Beta female once I find my Alpha male,” confided successful chef Eddilyn Lim in this NST article.
While most Malaysian men agree that they find the lack of confidence to be in a relationship with confident women, this does not mean all Malaysian men think alike.
Both men and women can have inferiority complexes. Conquer yourself and you will conquer the world.
Although confident women seem like they are the dominant one when you approach them, for some women, they just want to find an Alpha to be a Beta to.
I believe that confident women are still women at heart.
We want to be loved, be treated like a princess and be protected by our bright and shining armour.
We may have put on a brave face all day, that might be the last thing we want to do when we are at home.
We want to be vulnerable too, with our emotions and problems.
After all, the only reason why we have to be so tough is because it’s a Man’s world.
Until the world starts respecting soft feminine power as much as hard masculine power, women who want to get ahead will need to keep exuding such confidence to be successful in their careers.
So Malaysian men, I say, get on your horses and make the first move. You might be surprised by what these women can bring you.
For more stories like this, read: My Wife Is a ‘Queen Controller’, but I Am OK With It and Here’s What It Takes To Survive in a Man’s World: Stories of Malaysian Women.