I do love a thoughtful reflection!
AB – LIM
“Sure, but what can I do about it?” is an unfortunate question I hear get asked more than I would care to count, coming mostly from my female friends and acquaintances. An unfortunate question because “Sure, but what I can do about it?” is not a question nor is it meant to be, but rather a conversation-ender that denotes hopelessness, and suggests what’s done is done and that it will always be done that way— a way of thinking that stems from generations and generations of reinforcement. It first starts with the creation of a sort of unspoken restriction in activities which made sports a “men’s thing” while women are left with the arts and culture, then comes following suit are the drinks, being labeled as for men’s and then some for women’s; whiskey, scotch and the like belonging to the former, and cosmopolitans, margaritas and the like falling under the latter category. Matters such as sports and drinks may be trivial, almost insignificant to the context of the issue, but what they stand for and what they are saying about society and the discrimination everyone is facing today speaks volumes. The segregation of men and women has been going on and on and on for all sorts of matters, which brings us to today where the separation between the two has become too wide that it has made women fearful of their supposed counterparts and have the need to have a can of pepper spray as a “back up plan” for when they go out. However, storing cans of pepper spray and covering ourselves with layers upon layers of clothing can only help up to a certain degree. Establishing equal opportunities for women in education and employment is what we should be seeking, and feminism is a way to find just that.
Feminism can be interpreted in many ways. One definition provided for by Merriam-Webster is that feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. But what it also is is a word that has gained somewhat unflattering associations over the years. To my surprise, when you type in “feminists” on Google, “feminists are stupid”, “feminists hate men” and “feminists are hypocrites” are among the top suggested searches. For all feminists have done and achieved for the greater good of men and women and everyone in between, the term is still a derogatory one to most and is treated with hostility. However, the treatment feminists receive comes from a misunderstanding of who and what they are. Feminists are identified as these over-the-top man-hating lesbians with double standards and who refuse to wear bras, and the concept of feminism as their excuse for their assaults and back handed slaps to men. It is easy to make these assumptions and generalizations from all the misrepresentation of feminists that the media is guilty of. To get a better appreciation for feminists, we must first acknowledge that what they are for is not the punishment of men and charity to women, but rather justice not in favor of one gender over the other, but for all.
One slaughter after another in a dark abattoir— a place that knows no fair dealing and sympathy, was the scene that Lino Brocka’s Shakespearean tragedy Insiang greeted our GENDERS class with; More than a foreshadowing of the fate of the film’s namesake, Insiang, but also a symbol of the situation of the women, particularly of the same economic and social standing during the 1970s. One minute chased another and it seemed the film was not leading to any happy endings any time soon, and the vulgar scenes made one wonder how accurate portrayals made by Brocka were. However, a story of a woman in Tondo as recalled in the article I Am Angry Because You Are Unjust: A Filipino Woman’s Awakening To Feminism written by Dr. Jeane Peracullo showed that Brocka’s Insiang was almost like a collection of the biographies and stories of the everyday lives of men and women residing in the slums, maybe even falling short to the true horrors of the Third World. Being financially unstable is just one of the struggles, being a woman is another. Insiang and Tonia proved that being a woman living in poverty during the 1970s was no easy feat; People, regardless of gender, are all possessed by a burning desire to live and freely, at that. However, living in poverty limits the opportunities and choices made available to be able to, and being a woman living in poverty further streamlines it. Women are often reduced to being objects, with everyone enforcing chastity and the value of remaining a virgin until they marry, as if their “worth” so to speak would lessen if they have been “opened” like canned goods. But, the hypocrisy is in the details, while instilling upon these virtues to the teenage girls, their mothers on the other hand are left with only prostitution and relying on the highest paying “John” as the means to survive another day.
However, the irony of it all really lies in that with all of these inequalities, women still are expected to be the homemakers and providers of their families and their extended relatives even, despite the constant male chauvinism that makes society always look at the one thing a woman who has done everything still has not. That combined with the thought that was always been lingering in the polluted air of their environment— that even the weakest man could do a much better job than the strongest woman.
Clothes, opportunities and jobs are not the only areas wherein there is an invisible line drawn to keep the women from a distance, but also in expression. Women are expected to endure everything that is coming their way, as if it has been “anticipated”. For so long, emotions— particularly when expressed by a woman, have been connected by many to irrational thinking. Outrage and anger has been something that has been treated with a certain malaise, but it is with these strong feelings that affect change and inspire passion. And if history is any indication, was it not Oskar Schindler’s outrage for the Nazi regime that saved generations of Jews? Moreover, as pointed out by Dr. Peracullo in her article, is it not through the expression of anger that the women of Tondo, and Insiang in Brocka’s Insiang, able to arrive at the conclusion that their being a woman was what the society had problems with? “It’s nothing personal,” they say. But, how can it be not?
So, the next time someone you know wonders, or maybe you would even wonder yourself, “Sure, but what can I do about it?” Let me tell you— not only are there plenty left to still be done, but you can do plenty.