The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”.
I am a feminist. That doesn’t mean I hate men. I believe in the equality of everyone’s human rights. (Even gays. I’m looking at you, religious bigots. And the non-religious ones too.) Not that I am saying that I always follow and never judge anyone out of hand (I can, at the worst of moral times, be a judgmental asshole too), but that is what I believe.
Women in the Philippines, compared to their contemporaries in South East Asian countries, fare better in terms of equality with men in business and in the family setting. Feminism however is still a concept unaccepted by many, as some view feminists as unreasonable, uptight, men-hating women. The recently and heatedly discussed fiasco of the RH Bill debate in the Philippine Senate showed how some viewed the rights of women to getting access to proper medical care and contraceptives. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, a group of older men who have never experienced having a wife and children tried to rally every catholic into disagreeing with the bill, which will help give women reproductive health care and teach them about family planning. One male senator against the bill, who is rumored to have once bullied a sexy actress into signing an agreement freeing from accountability his brother and friends of her rape which led to her committing suicide, plagiarized content and tried to misinform the public in his speech, then passed an unfair cyber-crime law targeting those who say anything against him on the internet.
In patriarchal society Philippines, the deplorable culture of mildly blaming, to the shaming victims of rape and sexual harassment has been a regular aftermath of rape reports, with common comments such as, “she shouldn’t have worn figure hugging clothes” to, “she shouldn’t have allowed herself to get that drunk” to, “she was flirting with them before!”
Remember this: the fault of an abuse never lies on the abused but only on the abuser. God gave us all free will: the rapist chose to rape, the harasser chose to violate. When someone is not in the capacity of saying yes it also means she does not have the capacity of saying no.
The Subic rape case was one of the most covered cases of the first decade of the 21st century. The alleged rape of a woman inside a moving van by a US Marine while two of his companions cheered him on, afterwards dumping her on the pier drunk with her pants worn inside out and a condom hanging out of her underwear took the country by storm. The ensuing trial was constantly talked about and commented on, with theories that the woman who cried rape was trying to extort money from the soldiers. After the case moved up to the Supreme court after an appeal against the regional trial court’s decision of “guilty”, the defendant recanted her statement, saying she is not sure that she was raped, and fired her lawyer.
However long ago the Spanish colonial era was, at the back of people’s minds it is still thought that it is a woman’s responsibility to take care of herself at all times, as befits a morally upright “Maria Clara”. A woman is called a whore if she isn’t careful that she is taken advantage of, even in the presence of friends. She can’t drink too many shots even when people she trusts is doing their best to convince her that she should. She shouldn’t wear clothes that are seen as too sexy, or else she has nothing but herself to blame if someone is tempted too much into violating her human rights.
A professor in psychology once told my class that the world will never see a day when the equality of men and women is the societal norm. Men have always subjugated women, and it will be that way for the years and generations to come.
Not all abuse is severe. Small abuse can be devastating when the idea of reacting negatively to it makes one feel like it’s something that people will consider petty, leaving the abused feeling powerless and the abuser gleefully held unaccountable. I once has a boss in a company I’m applying at tell me I’m really sexy. When I replied that I’m not comfortable with him saying that, he became defensive and told me he had been joking, then acted like I’m waaay over reacting. Needless to say, I was never called for a second interview. And I didn’t want one.**
I am a woman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I’m fierce, girl!) There are qualities in men that I like and admire (ergo my Gravatar picture with the Photoshopped mustache), and I believe in not generalizing. But remembering that not all men are the same can sometimes be difficult when several strangers grope you on the same day and you’re but a flawed human being.
Being asked, “Maybe you were wearing something sexy, so they harassed you?” is demoralizing.
The best argument for feminism is not actually pushing for women’s rights, but seeing the need for human equality. As someone once quoted someone else to me: “Why would [someone] think that we’re different? We both crap and our shits stink the same.”
*And yes, I have to admit that I started this post a few days earlier in anger when I did get sexually harassed several times in a single day. And to those who just thought of what I was possibly wearing that day, go fuck yourself.
**I’m not narrating this to insinuate that I’m sexy, I am insinuating that he was a total maniac.