Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holi Ki Hardik Shubhkamnaye

Holi Ki Hardik Shubhkamnaye

Monday, March 11, 2013

LifestyleBohol * Celebrating Women

Last Sunday's LifestyleBohol issue published a slightly shorter and not-very-coherent version of this article.  Sorry, I didn't have enough space.  This one is indubitably better so even if you've read it from the paper, it would do you good to read this.  If you haven't read the paper, just read this one and forget the paper!


“Why do we need to give womanhood special attention when it’s largely a biological assignment and not some praiseworthy achievement?”

A few people have asked me that and it’s really annoying.  Answering is such a chore especially if the ones asking are merely yapping for the sake of something to say and don’t seem like they’re looking to gain any information.  However, I maintain that every question thrown at you is a chance to share knowledge so I usually try my best.  Today, allow me give you all a comprehensive answer.

I shall begin with a very brief history lesson.  Women’s Day hasn’t always been on the 8th of March.  The first of its kind was celebrated on the 28th of February 1909 in the United States of America and it was a purely socialist political event that was purported to have been created to raise awareness on the advocacy to amend the U.S. constitution in favor of a union-wide recognition of women’s suffrage.  Other countries followed suit with different dates dedicated to various causes related to the proliferation of ideals regarding the elevation of women’s status in society.  Why it’s now largely celebrated on March 8 in several countries owes itself to an invitation from the United Nations General Assembly to proclaim the date as UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

Moving on…  While you can share the information I just gave you to other people and pretend you’re some sort of genius, it wouldn’t qualify as a proper historical overview.  I just snipped a couple of chunks from my information bank so it would do you well to read on it further if you want to pretend to be an authority on the subject the next time you’re in a conversation with the likes of me (with my socialist button turned on).  By the way, did you know that there is such a celebration called International Men’s Day, too?  Well, now you do.

Anyway, considering facts from history, it’s important to note that women have largely been second class in the past and even in the present.  It’s futile to blame Abrahamic notions of patriarchy to be the sole culprit of this problem because in a lot of Asian and African traditions, the degradation of the female as a citizen secondary to the male is also very prevalent.  Some cultures even view women as nothing more than properties and they don’t necessarily involve religion so let us remove our propensity to blame it.  What we should do is go further back to a time before religion and its supposed scriptures of authority were written.

My take on it is the theory that selfish men in the past simply had the upper hand.  While the women were busy taking care of the children and keeping the dens neat, men who had nothing better to do took it upon themselves to apply for co-authorship in the law writing department so they could slip in a few chauvinistic statements about how women are meant to be men’s subordinates.  Then again, there’s the theory of scriptural misinterpretation but, in any case, these destructive ideas have continued to live to the present time and I, having been surrounded by strong, powerful, intelligent and beautiful women all my life, simply cannot accept them.  Imagine having a very intelligent mother such as Liza Quirog whom you look up to and then here comes this book that tries to introduce absurd ideas such as of women being the weaker sex.  Come on!  Doesn’t that just make you kind of explode inside?

Let’s go back to the question I wrote at the beginning of this article.  Here’s my answer:  Womanhood, though largely a biological assignment, is also solely responsible for nine months of development before a human being is ready to be born into this world.  If you don’t agree that the ability to nurture a fetus inside the body is something worthy of honor and a lifelong celebration, you don’t deserve to live.  I really mean that.  When you celebrate your birthday, do you only celebrate your own existence without thinking of the womb that lovingly carried you while you were being physically constructed?  This is the reason why the International Women’s Day is synonymous to Mothers’ Day in Eastern Europe and Russia.  You didn't know that, did you?

Of course, it's not just motherhood that we celebrate a woman for.  Her creative energy can be channeled into other great things as well.  If not a mainstream career, which is usually the case, an example of a noble path that comes naturally to most women is Peace-building.  I was listening to a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk by Iraqi-American writer and peace advocate, Zainab Salbi, a few days ago and something she said struck me really deeply.  I don't remember the exact words but it gave me the realization that while angry men are largely the perpetrators of war, women are largely responsible for the healing process of communities ravaged by it.  They are also usually the ones keeping hope alive amid the sounds of gunfire and bombs and the threat of losing those you love.  Though, like Zainab, I don't understand why women are not given a more substantial representation on the tables of peace negotiations when they are clearly the ones with the lesser propensity to resort to violence.  Now, do you have the nerve to tell me that women don't deserve to be celebrated?

Here’s another question that occasionally pops up when on the subject of women and gender equality in general:  “Why do a lot of people blabber about women’s rights and women empowerment when women and men already have the same rights?”

First of all, women and men have the same rights.  Period.  The concern is whether such rights are recognized or not.  It’s no secret that some countries still consider women second class to this day.  Did you know that women aren’t allowed to teach or drive in some countries?  Heck, even women’s education remains an issue in certain societies that preserve archaic traditions.  Take Afghanistan, for instance, where women risk death just by their desire to have an education.

Now, let’s say equal rights recognition is present in most of the world’s sovereign states.  Take the Philippines as an example.  Women and men are supposed to be legally equal around here.  But are they really?  Does the law protect our women as much as it’s actually obliged to?  Are all wife-beating husbands jailed?  Are women’s reproductive rights respected, without question, by our citizens?  I could write parallel questions until blisters begin forming on the tips of my fingers and the answer will be the same:  A resounding “NO!”

To answer the question as to why we advocate women empowerment, visualize the situation of females all over the country.  Recall as many articles and items on local news channels about domestic abuse and rape.  People, particularly in marginalized areas, think that just because the men are usually the bread-winners they have earned the right to be dominators and sole bearers of a voice in the family.  Women, on the other hand, are usually viewed as nothing more than baby ovens, housekeepers and sex objects.  No, not objects of desire; just sex!

In a lot of societies, marginalized or otherwise—even ones perceived as highly civilized like the U.S.A., a lot of women still need help for them to realize that the archaic notions of sexism and chauvinism are not okay.  The idea that tolerance to these things is the only recourse needs to be lifted from their consciousness so they can be empowered to stand up for themselves.  This is more than a mere character problem for backward-thinking men; this is largely a social problem.  Some people think it’s normal to degrade women and give them ill treatment because it’s been happening since time immemorial.  It’s not normal.  It’s criminal!

Consider the things I’ve mentioned above and try to examine inwardly if you could dare to ask those questions.  There are perfectly good reasons why we continue to blabber as loud as we can about women’s rights and empowerment.  We owe it to the socialists and advocates in the not-so-distant past that brought mainstream attention to the millennia-long struggle to alleviate women’s oppression and degradation.

Today, advocates of equality such as I take the month of March as a perfect opportunity to be as loud about women’s issues as possible.  And while marching on the streets and shouting is one way some people go about it, evolved thinking has afforded us many other ways.  I, for one, believe that a voice full of Love and Compassion is louder than a voice full of anger.

Employing a parallel principle, the women of Bohol have rallied local female artists to speak through their creativity and, last Wednesday, on the 6th of this month, an art exhibit called Baji: Babay’ng Buhat was launched at the local branch of the National Museum to display their work.  In essence, the exhibit aims to reach out to the public and help raise awareness on the issues women continue to face to this day.  It’s open until the end of March and I hope you could find time to go and allow the artworks to speak to you.

This is the third annual art exhibit opened for the purpose and I really hope this goes on for many more years.  Realistically speaking, I know it’s extremely difficult to change people’s negative outlooks especially if they’ve grown up and aged with them.  This isn’t all going to be fixed in a decade, a score, or even in my lifetime and I accept that.  However, I’m optimistic about our cause and I know that slowly, but surely, we will make a difference.  And as long as there is injustice done to women, things like the Baji art exhibit will never fail to be of use.


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