Chalk Exclusive: Syd Hartha on Speaking Up and Taking Her Power Back
It was September 12th of last year when up-and-coming musician Syd Hartha broke her silence. With one Facebook post chronicling her horrific experience of abuse in the hands of her estranged father, Syd, at the age of 17, lit her own torch as she joined what seemed like an endless battle waged by women against an unjust society where victims are blamed, muffled, and ignored. And, it goes without saying that she succeeded in achieving the one thing that those preyed upon shouldn't even beg for in the first place: to be heard. Syd realizes, "Kung hindi ako ang magsasalita, sino pa ba? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan?"
Growing up in an all-female household, Syd attributes her strong sense of womanhood to her mother who raised her and her four younger sisters all on her own. During her formative years, Syd also went to an all-girls school which made for a comfortable environment where she could freely express herself. “Walang magsasabi sa amin na, ‘Babae ka kaya dapat ganito ka.’”
It was when she entered her teenage years and met male peers when her bubble was burst. “Doon ko nakita kung gaano kaiba kasama ang mga lalaki kaysa sa babae.” Syd struggled in terms of being her “raw” self and faced a “fear of unacceptance.” Besides navigating a whole new heterogenic world, being exposed to the the harsh side of social media also affected her self-image. From narrow beauty standards to offensive remarks targeting women, the internet further fueled her insecurities.
As much as these factors took their toll on Syd personally, she also recognized how these societal pressures burdened her fellow women. “As a woman who had experiences where I felt I had to be silenced, na it would be better if I kept it all to myself, alam ko kung gaano siya kabigat dalhin araw-araw.” And with this insight came the birth of her song “Ayaw,” an anthemic battlecry that emphasizes consent and how we are the only ones who have power over our bodies and choices.
As a teenager who had a traumatic young adolescent life, of course, it did not come easy for Syd to pen such a revolting track. “It took a lot of courage to write and even release, kasi meron pang takot,” she confesses. Yes, there was the presence of fear, and there’s no denying it. But, as the miracle of a warrior that she is, Syd did not let the fear stop her from doing something that’s bigger than herself. “I knew that standing up for myself is standing up for all the women around me.”
The silver lining for Syd is knowing that there’s a whole community of women, whether she personally knows them or not, who will always back her up. “Aside from music, I connect with other women through sharing stories. Naririnig namin ‘yung iba’t ibang struggles ng pagiging babae at kung paano namin hinarap ‘yun.” The thing about struggling is that we’re never alone in it – it’s universal. It’s common for women to be catcalled, for example. “Kapag lumalabas ako ng bahay, lagi kong pineprepare ‘yung sarili ko mentally,” she relates, a scenario that we all know too well.
Another point of discussion is victim-blaming which she heavily tackles in “Ayaw.” In the chorus, she croons, “Ako pa raw ang may pakana. Epekto raw ng serbesa.” Syd explains these lyrics by saying how many forms of harassment take place when alcohol is present. “Usually, ang sinasabi ng tao, ‘Ayan nagpapakalasing ka kasi!’ ‘Bakit hinayaan mong malasing ka?’” But Syd wants to point out that it’s neither the fault of the alcohol nor the victim. Furthermore, she asks, “Dahil ba ‘yun sa kanya? Dahil ba ‘yun sa suot niya o sa kilos niya? O dahil lang sa utak mo?”
Six months after speaking up, life goes on for Syd, and so does her fight for her generation of females and the ones to come. All hope is not lost, especially when more young people such as her are ready to take their stand. “To all the girls like me, when you feel like you have to be silenced in certain situations, know that meron at merong makakaintindi sa ‘yo,” Syd calls out. “Meron kang boses at laging merong makiking sa’yo.” Her tender yet exceptionally empowering existence is enough proof of that.
Photographed by Iya Forbes
Story Produced by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Video Produced by Deiniel Cuvin
Video Shot by Sam Aniciete and Play It Forward
Video Edited by Play It Forward