I come from a line of strong women. Growing up, I have been taught the values that I carry today – and I somehow see myself as a feminist and a strong advocate for women. However, I cannot help but notice some inconsistencies. A number of my conservations with the women in my family involve men, courtship, getting married, and the like. I was taught early on that I should not be the one to go after men. If ever someone courts me, it should not be me exerting more effort in the relationship. I should just simply let myself be courted. This is what the Spanish taught us, according to my Kas 1. (Side note: Did you know that the Pre-hispanic Filipina was treated as an equal among men? They could take on leadership positions in the barangay, inherit their parents’ wealth as long as they are the eldest, and their husbands may even take on their last names!) My mother also taught me to work hard in order to obtain a stable job and be self-sufficient without a husband. Or once married, I can have my own savings and I will have no need to ask my husband, ideally the breadwinner of the family, for money. I have noticed some contradictions here. If we truly want equality among men and women, why is it taboo for women to go out and court the men who caught their eyes, just as the men who go after women who caught theirs? Though that is the case, there is also a need for the woman to be independent and strong – one who does not need a man in order to survive. This line of thinking makes me question what kind of feminist I truly am.
As the eldest daughter with only one younger brother as a sibling, I definitely had moments in which I accused my parents of being sexist because of the privileges that my brother has compared to mine. But as time passed, I realized that there is some sort of social contract between males and females. My brother and I, for example, enjoy completely different privileges, and are given different obligations. Since “he’s the boy, and I’m the girl” (a reasoning that my mother always uses), he is asked to help with heavy duty work around the house – especially (and stereotypically), with lifting things. The tasks they give me are relatively easy compared to his, and I get more time to relax at home. However, my brother is given more freedom when he wants to go out – while they are more protective over me. There are also some privileges have been left pending for me until my brother enters college next year. Personally, I enjoy not being asked to do many things at home. But I want to be given more freedom when I want to be with my friends. I like gentlemen, but I want to be able to do things on my own without a man’s help. There are just too many contradictions.
So what do I think of the Filipina today? We definitely have more liberty to express ourselves and to do the same things as men – but even with these rights before the law, we still cannot stop some people from thinking that we are an inferior gender. Is there really equality among genders in our society today? No, I believe not. Women and men are different, and they will remain different until the end of time. They should ideally be equal with their rights, but we cannot force them to be equal with their skills. There are some things that only women are capable of, and some things that only men are capable of. But for some people who see us as inferiors only because of ignorant reasoning – the women will continue to fight to be seen on the same ground as men. The older generation seems to always say that the times have changed, that the women of today are more aggressive in more ways than one. However, I believe that they are using the wrong word to describe us. I think that the Filipina today is more empowered. We know what we want, and we do what we can to make it happen. Women of the 21st century, not just Filipinas, have more power in making decisions. Our hesitance and fear about speaking up has decreased drastically – and that is the 21st century lady. Independent, strong, and recognized in society. Just like the Filipina in pre-Hispanic times.
What more in the future? Perhaps history will repeat itself.