Happy International Women’s Day, sisters and brothers! Although in the Philippines the celebration is for the entire month of March, today we celebrate with the rest of the world.
About 30 years ago, Women’s Day was quite a “lonely” occasion, with just a few women’s groups celebrating amid the general public indifference. But since many years ago, public awareness of the observance seems to have exploded.
For one thing, government bodies, led by the Commission on Women, “bought into” the observance and launched a national campaign with an official theme and celebrations down to the local level. Even more important is the involvement of the private commercial sector, with media and advertisers riding on the theme of women empowerment.
Today, we celebrate women, even if, as some have pointed out, men don’t seem to need a separate occasion for their empowerment with their power so entrenched in society and in most people’s consciousness.
But sisters, we’ll take whatever crumbs officialdom will throw our way. As time moves on, I’m sure the crumbs will grow into slices and then entire loaves! As a poem says: women want both bread and roses, poetry and power, and with will and commitment, we’ll get all we want and deserve!
Motherhood was very much in evidence during the recent awards season in the United States. On the red carpets of the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and other awards shows, celebrities in all stages of pregnancy proudly showed off their baby bumps. Time was when a pregnant woman, especially one in the late stages of impending motherhood, and especially a celebrity, would be forced to go into hiding, only emerging when she had a babe in her arms.
Today, mothers-to-be are found everywhere, even in the most glamorous show biz events. And indeed the expectant stars were stunning in their outfits, some of which seemed to be designed especially to highlight the bump. During my time, clothes for pregnant women seemed to be designed and structured mainly to hide the growing belly (as if that was possible). In the process, makers of maternity dresses also seemed determined to turn moms-to-be into little babies, with pastel dresses and loads of ribbons, lace, darts and puff sleeves(!). Rare was the maternity outfit appropriate for business affairs or in sober colors.
But today, pregnancy no longer seems to be a woman’s “dirty” secret. Recently, a younger friend of mine (the daughter of an “old” friend, actually) posted on FB a photo of her in her last months of pregnancy, on a beach while wearing a bikini! I was stewing in envy, remembering the days when I still had a bikini figure but felt too shy to walk around with my bulging belly. No, younger mothers are not increasingly shameless—just more open and honest about their bodies, and if a baby bump disconcerts you, then it’s time you grew up!
Even more important, Philippine society has finally woken up to the realities of motherhood, beyond the sugar-coated encomiums professing love for mothers but neglecting their very real and urgent needs.
Just two days ago, the Senate approved on third reading a proposed bill increasing the number of days of paid maternity leave. The bill, authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, would increase the number of leave days from 60 to 120 days, with an additional 30 days for solo working mothers. A similar bill, filed by Diwa party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Villar, was passed by the House recently.
Hontiveros said that the last time the number of leave days for new mothers was raised was 25 years ago, and this “new generation” bill “seeks to respond to the pre- and post-natal health needs of different working women” as well as the “everyday realities” faced by families in today’s stress-filled environment.
But it was a male senator, Ralph Recto, who had the perfect closing statement. Urging early signing of the measure, he said that the bill was “past its due date” and “should have been delivered a long time ago.”
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