“More women need to question the root cause of their being unequal with men”
The past few days, actor Robin Padilla has been in the news regarding the breakdown of his daughter, Kylie Padilla’s marriage to Aljur Abrenica allegedly due to a third party on the part of Aljur. Robin was reported to have told his daughter that she’s still lucky because at least her husband is a “real man.”
In succeeding reports, Padilla has been quoted to have advised Aljur to just convert to the Muslim religion. People interpreted the “advice” as a way for his son-in-law to legally have more than one wife, a practice that is accepted among Muslims. Robin himself converted to Islam a few years back and netizens were quick to say, “alam na!” referring to the reason for his conversion since Padilla is a known womanizer.
Padilla’s remarks reek of sexism. Obviously for the actor, men having affairs outside of marriage is acceptable, even desirable. This is his measure of what a “real man” is. But what if the tables were turned and it was the woman who had an affair? Would Robin also say that the husband is lucky because at least, his daughter is a “real woman”? Or would he shut up in shame because a woman having another partner can never be acceptable? Also, does it follow that for Padilla, men who do not have affairs are not real men? If so, what are they?
On Twitter, Padilla was promptly bashed left and right for his statements. As a feminist, I felt some reassurance from people’s reactions. It seems that not a few in social media now understand that in a monogamous relationship, cheating is cheating no matter who does it.
Still, the kind of conservative perspective that Padilla has remains prevalent in many communities in the country and in many parts of the developing world. Women remain second-class citizens and “properties” of men. We still often encounter women themselves saying, “babae lang ako,” “ginamit ako ng asawa ko,” to mean they had sex, even, “ganyan talaga ang mga lalaki, hindi makuntento sa isa lang” when husbands are discovered to have cheated on wives. Yes, women believe these because they were socialized into accepting that they are lesser persons than men.
Thus, the need for feminist education and discourse remains urgent. More women need to question the root cause of their being unequal with men. It will be good for women to understand and realize that their experience of marginalization, even abuse and violence, is a shared experience with many other women – that they are not alone, and that the abuse is systemic. This is how patriarchy works and the Filipino culture was and is, patriarchal.
Culture can, and does change. But because patriarchy is very well entrenched in our societal systems and structures including family, education, media, government, and most especially religion, change is very slow to come. After all, we are dealing with mindsets and trying to create a counter culture that is based on human rights.
This brings me to a conversation I recently had with a few feminist friends. For so long, whenever we would see each other at events, we would promise each other that we would get together. The pandemic happened and it was only recently that the four of us were able to sit down (still physically distanced) and really talk.
They are my friends from those days when we would passionately discuss women’s issues for hours on end. Sometimes with matching banging of tables to stress points we felt strongly about, but always, we would emerge united. It was not unusual for us to argue and “fight,” and ask, “so, ano kakainin natin?” in the end.
We found ourselves reminiscing a lot about our shared experiences. These feminist discussions very rarely happen now. There are very few spaces. Again, we found ourselves discussing the challenges we have faced and are facing now. Again, we question many things as we used to during those heady days of feminism. And again, through our individual experiences now, we feel that feminists are under attack and the attacks have become more vicious than before.
We are called names when we try to protect our few women’s spaces. We are told to not say things, not use certain words and terminologies because otherwise, we will not be politically correct. In effect, we are being silenced.
Since we have been working in different but interfacing fields, we examined our options given the contexts we operate in. We discussed Philippine politics, friends that we miss, challenges in the international development world, and how resources for the work we do are being co-opted by big multinationals, the local NGO scene that has very significantly changed, and our activism and whether how we do things remain relevant. Eventually, we all agreed that the feminist struggle is both the same, as in the issues faced by community women and different, because of “developments” at the national and international milieu.
We emerged convinced more than ever that our safe space needs to expand. We want to be able to say what we want in the spirit of learning and not be labeled or silenced.
Our get-together was fun, but also quite emotional. We realized how limited our space is and vowed to create more feminist spaces for others, especially community, and young women, and for ourselves.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook