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Featured Post: Thea Castaneda of GENDERS A56

Because a nuanced reflection is a key ingredient to a real feminist work, bravo!

On the Movie Insiang

When we first watched the film, I was hit by a sudden wave of déjà vu. I was pretty sure I had already watched the film, but had no recollection of the story or the circumstances in which I might have previously watched it. With this in mind, I tried to pay a lot of attention to the details in the movie, hoping that I’d remember it before the end. I only realised I’d already watched it when I saw Dado get killed though, so I ended up watching almost the whole movie paying attention to details.

There were a lot of things I didn’t like (as our professor may have noticed by the fact that my paper had a lot of scribbles on the bottom about Insiang, her mother, and the women in the film and their portrayal) but some changes that happened in the progression of the film helped greatly lessen those feelings. That doesn’t mean I was able to be rid of them though. I was still mostly displeased with the film, and the reason for this lies mostly in what I find key in it: perception.

With regards to the article on feminism, the double bind, and the situation of women in the poor communities of the urban side of the Philippines, I think Insiang was a sad but accurate portrayal of the sad reality of women’s places in those areas. Despite what many would say (especially those who subscribe to the brand of feminism that puts forth the argument that women should use their sex as a weapon in order to gain advantages over men), I don’t believe the film was a particularly uplifting feminist statement.

Although Insiang was able to extract what she wanted out of Dado and gained her revenge on both him and Bebot, the fact this was simply a means to an end that was still highly focused on her disempowerment by men makes it a sad ending, at least for me. Insiang was more broken by the end of the film rather than empowered, and her relationship with her mother was also strained. The women in the film were not even able to reap the benefits of “putting the men in their place” as deserving from their actions. There was no great change in how they were viewed either. In retrospect, the burst of strength and willpower on Insiang’s part only really served to disadvantage the women more. I mean, how positive will it look if a man is slain in a woman’s household, and with all the stories surrounding them? Where will Insiang go, when she had been dependent on almost EVERYONE around her? Her act of rebellion felt very weak in that it had hardly any long-term benefits for her, and only weakened her position with the rest of the community.

The reason why I find this movie static (from an attempted feminist point of view) for the characters is because nothing changed in how they were viewed, or how they might have viewed each other in the film. The article “I Am Angry” stresses the importance of perception – from the woman’s perspective and of those around her – when it comes to a woman’s life and freedom. The perception of women remains largely unchanged and I believe highly negative throughout the whole film, save for a few moments here and there. One may argue that the audience may have changed their views on Insiang after her change in behaviour, but I am also a part of the audience and I don’t quite think so. Looking back at the film, I found Insiang to be so dependent – on Bebot, to get her out of the miserable household, on Dado, to extract revenge on Bebot and to hurt those who may have hurt her (including her mother, although that may have been an unconscious motive), and even on her mother, to get her revenge on Dado and then to restore what she lost in herself by the end of the film, although her mother didn’t give her the emotional reconciliation she might have hoped. I think, regardless of how bold her moves were, in the end, she was still so weak. And that kind of view I have of her is what really made me displeased with the film, although it really was a good one.

Going back to the point on perspective, the article, “I Am Angry” points out that those expectations of women had always been a certain way, and especially perpetuated in poor communities, such as the study area in the article and in the movie Insiang. These expectations show how women are viewed, how they are perceived, and ultimately affect the treatment and the kinds of opportunities that these women receive throughout their lifetime in the communities. The article mentions the view of women as simply bodies – not as people to be respected but simply bodies with which one is free to do almost at will. This leads women to be objectified, much as Insiang was throughout most of the film, and throughout the duration of her relationship with Bebot.

This kind of burden of expectation and the limiting of external movement and opportunity creates constraints for personal growth for the woman, and in this, her behaviour becomes affected. This can explain Insiang’s behaviour throughout much of the film, where she is often reserved and silent, until she is ‘broken’ by the experience of rape. The article points out that women can be awakened to a better worldview, but that the awakening must occur for the female consciousness to develop. This led to her changes in behaviour for the rest of the film.

Another view that particularly restricts women, especially in these communities, is the “paradox of domesticity” brought to light by the article. This is a cultural perspective that has developed and perpetuated itself over time and has only recently been truly challenged by societies all over the world. However, those areas which may not be as ‘wired’ as the rest of the world still experience the full effects of this paradox, and feel the constraints of this double bind. This is a focus on the idea that “when you do, you’re damned, and when you don’t you’re damned” – and this is very much evident in the paradox of domesticity. When you completely acquiesce with this view and accustom yourself to it, you become a ‘slave’ to the social construct, and a prisoner of patriarchy. When you do not, you become an antagonist to the peace of the domestic life, and are a ‘rebel’ with hard morals.

Women are both empowered as an essential element in the personal and family life of an individual, but also very limited with regards to their placement within the rest of society. This situation, with other cultural perceptions, shows an embedded character consciousness in women. This necessitates a struggle for liberation as women, as the article mentions (see: awakening), but the struggle remains quite fruitless in the communities in the movie and the article. The women remain defined by this view, and are still limited. Each situation faced by these women remains a paradox and the women are still “stuck”.

The article also describes three ways of coping with oppression and pain. I do believe that despite the difference in the three ways to cope (invitation, remembering, and recollection), there would still be a limitation and a similarity in the three and their effects on the women involved.

I imagine that if Insiang’s mother and friends (or just the women in the community) were more accepting and understanding of Insiang’s situation instead of jumping to conclusions, they may have been able to prevent the domestic abuse and the general violence that occurred in the film. If Insiang had instead attempted to take the “remembering” track and tried to accept and deal with the situation differently, the outcome may still have been a repetition of the events in the film because she did take it in and use it to her advantage. However, it was only at the end that it showed that she didn’t truly accept it, as the “remembering” track prescribes. If she did, then the question remains what the outcome may have been. With that, I believe the movie did follow the recollection track, although not exactly. It was probably the closest estimate to this though.

All in all, I believe that perception plays a heavy part in the progression of feminism in the Philippines, as evidenced by the ideas and concrete examples put forth by the article and the movie. The importance of feminism cannot be denied, and the movement must continue because stronger women making a push for it may allow for expansion and inclusion of national interest with women and then other oppressed groups. For Filipinas, it shall be a good way to enable them to get out of oppression and the poor situations they are in (mostly those in the communities in the article and film). However, these are all reliant on the effects of feminism in changing everyone’s perceptions, and then actions, towards women.

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