Growing up, I was always told how to act, how to smile, how to dress, and even how to sit. “Kababae mong tao, ganyan ang upo mo,” my mom would always say. I was brought up in a home where my opinions were invalid the second my dad refuted them; I was taught to act prim and proper, and to accept insults in reunion parties by just laughing it off. And I was told to keep my mouth shut whenever I had a different perspective.
It was not until high school that I learned to speak up for myself. Because I learned that we, too, have the right to participate in discourse.
Centuries worth of the feminist movement has given us the liberty to take our space in society. Women fought to the death in order to achieve the representation we enjoy now. But albeit representation matters, and that “women leaders” are needed for empowerment, it should be carried by the right representatives. Because representation is invalid if it is a product brought by selfish motive.
I’ve always looked up to Miriam Santiago. To me, she was this fearless and feisty senator. She stood firm in her principles and I was amazed because that, itself, was very rare. Decades of patriarchy normalized us to stay silent, further widening the divide between men and women. It shattered me when I learned that she was a known ally of the Marcoses, an infamous family who made the masses suffer, not only from extreme corruption, but from permanent scars brought by years of exploitation and tyranny.
There have been discussions regarding the extent of the feminist movement as it encompasses various advocacies including, but not limited to, the abolishment of violence against women, having equal rights and opportunities like that of men, and smashing the macho-feudal system in place that burdens the masses.
However, no matter how vast the concept is and no matter how complex it may seem, one thing’s for sure. Feminism is not women in court who abuse their powers by issuing baseless warrants that perpetrate crackdown on activists and the opposition; it is not women who support the actions of the semi-feudal and neocolonial state, led dominantly by power-hungry men. And it most certainly is not, women government officials and uniformed personnel who watch state-sponsored attacks happen to the vulnerable sectors in the society that involve their fellow women like the agri-fishery sector, the queer community, the urban poor, and the indigenous peoples.
A gender center that claims to be the “focal point in gender and development” but does the brazen move to invite women coming from the national police in webinars which talk about “women leaders in the midst of crisis” is a disgrace and a disservice to the women who championed our demoractic rights because the pandemic has unraveled a dark record of transgressions that involve these state machineries.
Sonya Gregorio and her son died at the mercy of a policeman who abused his gun. Fabel Pineda was gunned down after she was harassed by police officers yet the system favors the ruling patriarchy by dismissing charges and by downplaying the gravity of the situation. When political prisoner Reina Nasino visited the funeral home to mourn for her baby, the female armed forces stood by the unjust treatment given to a mother solemnly grieving the death of her child.
Being a woman police officer does not immediately equate you to being a “leader” much more, a feminist. Because when you help maintain a system that favors the interests of the ruling class as well as the macho-fascist government we have, and when you sit by and condone the misogynistic tendencies of the men in your ranks, then you should not consider yourself as an individual who bears the advocacies of the Filipino women. Because what we truly advocate for is the right to life and democracy. Streets that allow women to walk safely at night without the fear of being attacked; a workplace environment free from sexist remarks and harassment; a society that openly accepts the transgender community without prejudice, and a country that is not trampled on and controlled by individuals with high-caliber weapons and monopolized power.
Feminism is not having individualistic potential for it to be hailed as “empowerment”, it is having the capacity to help and liberate our fellow women; to share our platforms for the voices that are continuously being silenced. It entails the recognition of the social classes and it requires an understanding of the difference between forwarding individualistic interests and gains to that of really advocating for the masses’ calls. It is transcending beyond the comfort of our homes to extend aid to the much vulnerable like us.
If you ask me, feminism embodies the women who fearlessly mobilized and took the militant path, who organized kitchen relief amidst calamities, who fought for their right to land, who asserted subsidy for their families, who upheld the rights of the queer community, and who continue to advocate for their right to life and determination.
Because as long as the “women in power” are in cohorts with men who shamelessly speak for and not with us, patriarchy, gender-based violence, and misogyny will never end. For long as these women support the evil that perpetuates unjust killings, arbitrary arrests, and state intimidation and harassment, genuine representation will not be achieved. [P]
Photos from PNA, PCOO.gov.ph
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