‘The future is female’ is a statement that has the audacity of women who have for far too long been expected to anchor their existence on the patriarchy’s standards. It is a battlecry that rallies a warning for those who stand in the path to egalitarianism, and a challenge to those who blindly assert the belief that the future has already come. It is true that the feminist agenda has achieved considerable success over the years. In the 1900s, the suffragists earned the right to vote at last; allowing them to some degree shape their political destiny. The second wave of feminists waged the sex wars that finally instigated public discourse on previously taboo topics such as sexuality, reproductive rights and the like. Today, it is 2018 and feminism has reached its third wave. However, its success is water that one cannot see the bottom of and its ripples are that of a child struggling to keep its head above water rather than the magnanimous strokes of a ship steered towards its course with the utmost conviction of a steady hand. The United States, conventionally deemed as a pioneer in women’s rights, is still afflicted by the gender wage gap that yawns into further distance when race comes into play. China still bans on certain tertiary education courses, inheritably limiting a woman’s chance of upward mobility. India, due in part to its caste system, has Dalit women who toil day in and day out to scrape the equivalent of a mere dollar or two. If the future, as some people suggest, has already come – it becomes evident that the only thing female about it is its oppression.
The reasonable train of thought has tracks that lead to a conclusion. The idea that women, before attaining social and cultural equality, must first obtain equality of economic kind. Aside from how this notion puts the burden on the marginalized to aspire for their fundamental rights, it cheapens the inherent nature of the said rights. It asserts that the sole bargaining chip one has is one’s own economic status on the negotiation table, wherein the patriarchy’s rhetoric remains unchallenged and somewhat affirmed. Should we measure a woman’s worth by the span of her wallet? This, in no way, challenges the misogynistic discourse at its heart. This was the idea that the first wave feminists banked on. Partly due to a shortage of manpower during World War II, women were pressured into becoming factory workers. This was seen as a huge step forward in the 1940s. However, when the 1950s finally ushered in peace, the feminists agenda took two, confused steps backwards – and suddenly women were once more societally pressured to conform to traditional gender roles. The key factor that allows the patriarchy to turn a woman’s body into a cage of flesh and bone is not the absence or presence of a means to make one’s living exclusively, but rather the notion that society possesses the authority over a woman’s life – and that she should ideally be a puppet to dance if and when society plucks the strings.
To truly achieve the feminists agenda, especially in the realms of the third wave, the absolutist method or approach in mandating a woman’s way of life must not defeat its purpose. A semantic shift of woman from a caged bird to a cash cow should not be in order. If the feminist movements were to do that and become dictators themselves, they would be by definition, Machiavellian hypocrites. They would be no better than the French government that bans a woman to wear a hijab, no better than Nepalese villagers who banish menstruating girls into huts, no better than the Russian congress that forces women to accept their husbands’ battering on the first occurrence and no better than the Philippine government that forces a woman to continue her pregnancy, even if it already means the death of the unborn child and the eventual death of the mother.
What must be done instead is an expansion in the world’s vocabulary on what it means to be a woman, and better yet on what it means to have a good, fulfilled life when one is a woman. There should be a renovation of the intellectual’s worldview. Perhaps it is not the tapestry of womanhood that must be changed but rather it is the blindfold that needs to be removed from the common humanity. Perhaps a woman need not be born this way, and perhaps trans women can have their identities affirmed, respected and recognized in the social sphere. Perhaps the canvas of feminism need not be always white, but also black, yellow – and in the spirit of affirmative action against mainstream ideals of beauty – be unapologetically morena. Perhaps the definition of fulfillment need not be only on the aspect of having children but also be expanded to cater to the more professional and secular angles in the diamond that is a woman’s life. Perhaps femininity need not be equated with the weaknesses and paragons of the ideals; beauty queens for instance should not only be viewed as entertainers but also as legitimate ambassadors of advocacy or advocacies that need to be injected into the vein of public discourse. Perhaps pretty should not semantically shift towards pettiness. It is these social constructs that should be rewoven , and it is the blindness that these personal experiences are already innately political that must be removed.
For a woman to be truly free, she needs to first define what it means to be free and what freedom is, to her as an individual, in the micro-level. In this way, not one identity and merit shall be compromised in the macro-level. When even a woman’s footwear like restrictive stilettos becomes a symbol of oppression, women themselves must re-own and reclaim such as a weapon in their arsenal. The etymology of stiletto can be traced to Italy – not too far from the Roman Empire which was an undeniable site where human condition developed. In Italian, it means a thin and lethal dagger – which possesses the authority over life and death itself. It should be about perspective that the click of heels on a tiled floor need not be the sound of submission but rather the sound of a woman, who like her shoe, knows her power. And if the shoe doesn’t fit other ladies, well it wouldn’t make that much of a difference since women can slay without heels and can opt for shoes of their choice. It begins and ends with the premium on choice, and a woman’s choice should always wholly be her choice. For a woman cannot authentically be expected to write, decide and define her own stories and lives if the pen – which is ever so mightier than the sword – is not within the reach of her hands, manicured or not. The right to self-actualization, the means of subsistence, the clamor and grit of self-determination should not be bottlenecked in any way, shape or form by socially constructed definitions. The trading of colors for the same chains is a fashioned choice which should be ruled out.
This is the Champion essay entry written by Ms. Annabelle Mae Tate McDonnell for the 2018 Women’s Month on-spot essay writing contest, hosted by the Department of English.
Annabelle Mae Tate McDonnell is a graduating Grade 12 Humanities and Social Sciences Student of La Salle Academy. Dabbling in campus journalism,debate and public speaking contests; this self-identified feminist has always fostered a need for intellectual growth and a deeper understanding of the world. For her, femininity should never be deemed as a mark of inferiority. She is also Miss Iligan 2018.
by Venice Angelic S. Cellan, Kiwalan National High School
“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay” is a remarkable quote by Simone de Beauvoir to awaken something that is very essential and that has been through nightmares so it will rise from its misery. A flower needs to be treated with sufficient care for it to bloom beautifully and stand toughly that even the strong wind cannot blow it away from its stem and the scorching heat of the sun will not dry it up. This refers to the people who have shaped history and the future and the women who have suffered injustice and inequality. Just like a flower that has been neglected until its petals slowly falls to the ground, women were discriminated based on their femininity. The problem of women’s place in the society has never been considered to be important because women are weaker than men and that women often have a harder time in achieving their goals in life. So, as time marches on, women clawed and fought their way to gain the much needed respect from the opposite sex. With this circumstance, they are no longer afraid to let their voice, which shouts for justice and equality, be heard and act to prove their worth and the importance of their existence not just in the society but also in the world. Like a rebirth of their existence and like a rebirth of a flower that blooms to aspire for freedom, the long struggle of women has developed women’s right movements and has created laws to protect the women against intersecting forms of discrimination.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement in 1937 in the Philippine Constitution was one of the first major occasions in which women grouped together politically. It was also one of the first women’s movements that protect the right for women to vote and run for office. The Women’s Suffrage Movement on gender equality came about with the women’s movements, increased numbers of women political representatives, increased numbers of educated women, greater specificity on women’s issues instituted under legislation, and the focused application of those laws. The Republic Act No. 9710, known as the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), which is mandated by the Philippine Government, is a comprehensive Women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate the discrimination against Filipino women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling, and especially promoting the rights of Filipino women. It conveys a framework of women’s rights based directly on the International Law. The MCW promotes women’s rights and protects women especially those belonging to the marginalized sectors in the society. According to the MCW, the marginalized sectors are defined as those who belong to the basic, disadvantaged, and vulnerable groups who are mostly living in poverty and have little or no access to land or other resources, basic, social and economic services such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, employment and livelihood opportunities, housing security, physical infrastructure and the justice system. Based on the MCW, the Philippine Government, as the primary duty-bearer, is tasked to refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights, to protect the women against discrimination from private corporations, entities and individuals, to promote and fulfill the rights of women in all spheres especially their rights to substantive equality and non-discrimination. It shall also establish mechanisms to promote the coherent and integrated implementation of the MCW at all levels. In its entirety, the Philippine Government shall fulfill these responsibilities through the development and implementation of laws, policies, regulatory instruments, administrative guidelines and other appropriate measures.
This year’s theme, “Woman/hood: Changing Tapestries for Change” and its sub-theme, “Changing Society Through Economic Partnership and Shared Responsibility: Towards Gender Equality” embodies the change for women to empower themselves to confidently engage with the appropriate institutions to ensure that they contribute to and avail of the development and changes of their function in the society. The process of making change work for women is needed in toughening the MCW at all aspects. It means applying and doing the action of making programs and services that aim to target strategic gender needs of women. The theme emphasizes that women should be active in fulfilling their roles in the society. On the other hand, men should respect and be cooperative to their female counterparts in their shared responsibilities in the society. Thus, women’s empowerment will make a change by letting women to meaningfully engage with other development stakeholders and do their part in the economic participation. Making this happen may involve making changes in the laws and reshaping the views and actions of individuals.
The good outcomes in giving importance in women’s empowerment in changing their role in the society come in many ways. First, entire nations, communities, businesses, and individuals will benefit with the implementation of programs and services that adopt the conceptions of women’s empowerment. Empowerment of women is a necessity for the very development of the society since it enhances both the quality and quantity of human resource development. Investing in women has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency, and economic growth. Targeting gender equality and women’s rights is also smart economics. Women are the key agents of change and when women and men are equal, economies will grow faster; less people will remain in poverty and the overall well-being of people increases. Harnessing women’s potential as economic actors, leaders and consumers results in a higher level of industrialization in all levels. Secondly, women bring a different perspective. They are more sensitive to environmental degradation and have concerns and ideas for change. With women empowered to play a full part in the decision making at all levels, environmental sustainability will be achieved and economic growth rates will be sustained. Lastly, women’s empowerment lies in its ability to bring in gender equality in the society and mend the gap between men and women. Women’s empowerment brings an equilibrium in the society that is highly dominated by men. It allows women to redistribute gender roles and to organize in order to promote leadership and partnership. Women’s empowerment does not only mean to earn a living and improve the society but is also an opportunity to challenge many gender stereotypes and discrimination, to aim for an equitable society, and to improve the voice and the participation of political and basic social spheres. Moreover, women empowerment helps the women to get rid of the social violence and atrocities against them. It helps them to be aware of their surroundings and the society in which they live will make them the participating members of the society and will help them fight for their rights.
In conclusion, it is possible to say that for one and a half century of its existence, the women’s movement on gender equality has become a phenomenon in the social sphere. Women’s empowerment is a belief that women should be treated the same as men not because women are better than men but because women are also human beings and they have the same rights as men in any society, in any time period. It gives the equal status of women and men which creates a frictionless environment for women. Women are highly responsible for the continuation of life in this planet. They have played a great role and we cannot imagine success without them. As observed, there is always a woman behind a man’s success and without thinking, man cannot be productive and be inspired to raise a family that is productive, and become the responsible citizen in building the nation. Men and women should realize their respective goals and strive to complement each other to improve life.
*This essay is the 2nd runner up entry for the On-Spot-Essay Writing Contest 2018 hosted by the English Department of CASS in celebration of the Women’s Month*
Venice Angelic S. Cellan is a graduate from the Technical Vocational Livelihood Strand from Kiwalan National High School. She was able to garner the award as The Journalist Of the Year and she is a Gawad Kalumbayan awardee. From her high school years, she had always joined literary contests and she always had a dream to be an aspiring writer someday. She is now taking up the course- Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies at the Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology.
The College of Arts and Social Sciences celebrating its 35th Founding Anniversary launched DisCASSion, a series of lectures that will run until the month of April.
One of the lecture series was a whole day engagement with Dr. Asadullah, a visiting professor from the University of Malaya on the helm. In the morning he met with the faculty members of the CASS and had a roundtable discussion on “Coaching faculty members and senior/graduate students on reviewing research literature and publication in Scopus-ISI-indexed.” He generously gave research tips to the faculty to make their research more attractive to the Scopus-ISI-indexed publications.
In the afternoon, Dr. Asadullah did a lecture at the CED Amphitheater, attended by students and faculty of the institute. He interweaves the three concepts: Islam, Women and Development. As a professor of development economics, he said that “poverty is a common problem, its gender blind.” However, poverty for women does not necessarily begin with looking at the deprivation of income, but equates to deprivation of dignity and freedom.
At the start of his lecture, Dr. Asadullah sounded provoking in his presentation of data about negative correlations between women and Islam. Muslim countries tend to deprive the status of their women in terms of access in the labor market, politics and social participation. His numerical data stirred strong reactions from the listeners. It then became clear that it is not the faith (Islam) that is in question, but these patterns of women deprivation across Muslim countries do not go hand in hand with Islam. The problem is not Islam, but the structural factors that surround these countries. In Middle Eastern countries, Islamic values are often overshadowed by the “resource curse” and Arab autocracies and therefore producing a negative correlation between women and Islam.
Asadullah stressed that oil production in the Middle East has reduced female political influence since it is men who controls and dictates the production. He said that it is the Muslim countries that have problems with women’s well being/development and not Islam. He stressed that most of these countries whose status of women is poor, are in strict adherence to their social customs and norms that determine what to be and what to do in life and which ultimately violates the notion of freedom. Closing his lecture, Asadullah asserted that to change the lives of women is to empower them; giving them a chance to raise their voice and express their choices.
In the open forum, a question was raised asking which aspect should women be empowered. Dr. Asadullah strongly pronounced that it should be empowerment for women in politics. He said that with political power, women can correct and make room to empower their status in all other dimensions. Indeed, there were a lot of learning that the participants were able to take home after listening to Dr. Asadullah’s lecture. As MSU-IIT steps into world recognition as a leading university, Dr. Asadullah’s visit has put the institute into the right track.