Cambodia

From the freedom to dress to the freedom to choose one’s life

Jany Min

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

“It’s Ok to not know who you are, but now, start working on it so in the future you know exactly who you are”

I am no one. (Laughs). I often ask myself who I am? And I wonder even more why look up at me like I am such an idol! I tell myself that it is ok not to know who you are, but now, start working on it so in the future you know exactly who you are. So now I am still working on it. I don’t know who I am but I know that I like to entertain people and stare in movies. I started making videos 2 or 3 years ago already, but I kind of quit because my school has made me quit everything!

“I didn’t just told them, I showed them. And it took years”

When I was a child, I thought that growing up into a woman will be like a fairy tale with happy endings and all. But when I grew up I realized that it is just so hard, too hard! My parents put so much pressure on me that I even considered killing myself once… I thought I couldn’t make it, but then, when I grew up, I realized why my parents put so much pressure on me. At the age of 17 or 18 years old, when I started my acting career, they stopped putting pressure on me like they used to. I got kind of happier with my life but back then I thought it was really hard to be a woman because you had to be careful of everything: how to talk, how to appear… you have to think about everything. Every single step you take you have to think of it. But now my parents believe in me, they know what I have, they know what I can do so they have kind of loosened me up a little.

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I have my own style of dressing up. Sometimes I wear crop tops, shorts, I wear ripped jeans and they’d be like “why would you wear that? What will people think when you walk out there like that? You look so different from other girls your age!” And I always told them that it is ok to be different. I told my parents and they could not accept that. After a few years I stopped listening to them, I just kept on doing what I wanted, and wore what I wanted. My parents got upset a little! I go on my own way in life and eventually my parents accepted me for who I am. They realized that I struggled a lot. I got abused and harassed online for my way of dressing up… My parents are standing by my side now because they can see all that I have achieved in the past years and they are proud of me. But it took some times for them to accept me the way I am, I didn’t just talked to them, I showed them how to believe in me and accept me. And it took years.

The pressure they put on me it was about my clothing. I like to play around with how I dress up. They don’t get that. They have their own business at home so they’ll always be at home and they don’t go outside. They are not interested in exhibitions, fashion mode and so on. Me, I go out a lot to be aware of the latest fashion mode. They only stay in their environment, community, where people are all the same, so when something is different they don’t accept it. So I try to bring them with me everytime when I go out on big events. And I tell them “look, you see mom, it is ok to dress like that, it is ok”. So they kind of accept me for who I am now. Finally, because I’ve had a lot of interviews, I went on TV many times and I played in several movies, my parents can see how I behave in public, how I talk on TV or on videos and they start realizing that this girl is not a baby anymore.

“Why would I change myself for the people that gives me nothing? They just give me bullshit, so why would I change for them? 

During my first day working on the set of the movie Diamond Island, we quickly took some pictures because we had to hurry to get on set and “Action!”  The next day, I saw on my phone notifications that people where posting things and mentioning my name but I didn’t get to go check it out because I was busy working. When I was free I went on my Facebook and I just saw people going crazy all over that picture. Only one guy was mean. The other people that went crazy it was just to curse that guy for me. I didn’t do nothing but my fans they just know how I am, they are following me on my social media, they know how I am. They know how I dress like. They know what my job is, they know what I do in life so they kind of protected me from that guy. Because I didn’t write shit back to him, they protected me and said that “she is working she doesn’t wear like that in real life”, but …I mean even if I wear like this in real life I didn’t hurt anybody! If I just wear like that in my real life, what are you going to do? But you know, I don’t say shit back because I don’t see the advantages of that. I know that people know me, they know how I really am and it doesn’t bother them that much but I just bother that guy. I didn’t say anything but I just shared that picture and went back to work. But when I went back to work again, they just went crazy on different facebook pages, they were posting my picture, commenting on it. Some were ok with it, some were not. I read some comments and some made me cry, and other gave me so much energy to keep doing the thing I am doing. I am ok with it, I am cool.

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[Phnom Penh Post Article here. The women pushing limits of “sexy dress”]

It was painful. On the Phnom Penh Post, some people were coming really hard on me like “why is she dressing up like this? Like a slut?” My parents know about it, but I told you they are ok with me now, so they told me not to worry about that and just to keep doing my own thing. My parents they know me, they know how I should appear. I know how to dress for the temples, in the pagoda, I know how to dress for school, I know how to dress for work, or for a formal meeting. I know how I should appear. So it is ok for me because they always see me like that. They only see me on social media so they don’t know how I really am in real life. Because sometimes I chose to show them what I want. So they don’t really know me. I just put up some picture when I go to the beach, so I am wearing bikini, so what? Do they think I am wearing a bikini at school too! Why are you saying harsh things on me? Do you think I wear bikini to go to school too? When I go to school I wear my long black skirt, I know how I should dress up. So I just don’t give a shit about it. (laughs). Sometimes I just block people from commenting on my stuff but they keep on messaging me, I have like a hundred of requested messages that I haven’t opened  on my facebook, I just click on it and I’m like “oh my god this guy is trying to ruin my life” so I delete. I try to keep negativity away from my life, because I know my potential and I know what I can do in my life, and I can do a lot, and I bet everybody can do a lot, but sometimes that one small negativity can push people off their goal, so I try to keep it away from me. But it’s really frustrating, I swear to god!

This story changed a lot of things for me because I got a lot of interviews! (laughs). But I am still the same. You know, I haven’t started to dress like that when I started acting, I dressed up like that for years. It is my personality. And I didn’t hurt nobody so why would I change myself for the people that gives me nothing. They just give me bullshit, so why would I change for them?

“We are all human beings, whether we are boys or girls”

I think in Cambodia they are going too hard on girls. It is their rights to choose how they want to be seen. It is their rights. I mean you know people nowadays would be like “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but I know they do. Because sometimes I do it too and it is normal. But still, you should give women a little space to be themselves because at the end of the day, you are going to be you and she is going to be her, so why would you abuse her? Why wouldn’t you give her her own space to be her.

I used to think that women had to be in the kitchen, cooking, taking care of the kids. But as I grew up, I had the ambition that I could do anything. That I can go to work for a big company. I feel like now men and women are kind of equals. Girls can do as much as boys. So when I was young I thought, girls are going to cook, watch babies, stuff like that. When I grew up I knew that sometimes girls could do even a lot more, than guys.

We are all human beings, whether we are boys or girls. I mean, you have a brain, you have two hands, two legs. Why would guys be different? If you guys go to school together it depends on you guys – if you learn or not. If you learn you going to have a good job, if you put efforts into it you get promoted so it is the same, that’s what I think.

Sometimes I look at the guys and inside me I think, I can be better than them!

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You know I get interviewed a lot and also on my social media some girls come to me and they ask me questions, because sometimes men have been hard on them, they have the same story than me, so they ask me for advice. All I tell them is go see that guy and tell him that one day you’ll do a lot better than him. It’s up to you, if you put efforts in something, you can make it. If someone tries to harass you, just don’t give a damn about it. No need for negativity in your life. Be positive, stay focused on what you want. That is the real goal in life. You don’t want no one that comes from nowhere and just push you away from your goals.

For me, the biggest challenge has been bullying. You know being kind of big on social media it is not easy because people always keep their eyes on you, even when you go out, sometimes I can’t even have my personal life, because people always keep their eyes on you. It isn’t easy because not everyone will be ok with what you say or how you appear. They will have something to say about you. It is challenging for me, to stay where I want to stay.

Being a woman in Cambodia, one word I would say is “hard”! It is sooo hard. I feel that they will never accept girls for who they are. It’s really hard for people to accept us for who we really are in Cambodia. They always look at us in a negative way, because it is normal that when people look at someone else, they look for the mistake, they got to look for the mistake and talk about it, so it’s really hard. No matter how you appear, people are going to have something to say about you.

“Women are strong. We can do anything”

Most people would think that all the girls should follow the tradition, the culture, that’s what they think when they think of Cambodia, because it is Asia you know, so they have that mindset that Asians follow the traditional culture. And I think that if a woman goes big, then the government might be saying “oh you are banned from the filming production because you showed your skin too much” or something like that. So I think it’s not very encouraging.

I think that to improve women’s conditions, first things first, is EDUCATION. You need to get educated because you don’t want to appear just like a pretty face you know, you need a brain too. So if you’re like “oh I’m big, I’m pretty” but when you talk to people you don’t know how to talk, then that’s how they will define you. So first things first, get your education!

And second thing, just be yourself, because you know you are educated, so you know what you should do, how you should do it and how you should appear if you are educated.

The message I would have for the world would be: Let her be her! Girls should get educated, they should dress the way they want because as long as they didn’t hurt anybody, then, it is ok. Nobody got harmed so so why would you care? People have their right to live, so just let people be themselves!

But I’ve seen a lot of women who work in the government, I see sometimes they get even bigger than men, so why would you bully women or harass women in a certain type of way that would hurt her?

Women are strong and we can do anything, it depends on us, if you want something, you have to work on it, if you want to be strong you have to work on your strength. We can do a lot of things.

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