International Women’s Day is being marked today under a pall of foreboding, shock and rage, with recent events seeming to underscore that Filipino women, who were once touted as among the most educated, outspoken and economically liberated in Asia, are in fact under siege by unlikely forces.
Misogynistic statements have been made in official government events. Consider how women officials have been and are being treated in this administration.
In an official phone call, Vice President Leni Robredo was told not to attend Cabinet meetings anymore, having been effectively ousted from Malacañang’s inner circle.
Convicted drug felons were allowed to testify in Congress against Sen. Leila de Lima at proceedings presided over by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre no less, preparatory to her arrest and detention for alleged trade in illegal drugs.
During the same House inquiry, then Representative Roque and some of his colleagues took the most unseemly delight in questioning De Lima’s ex-lover on their affair, purportedly in aid of legislation.
Meanwhile, the threat of impeachment is hanging over the heads of not only Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno but also Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. And from abroad, United Nations rapporteur for human rights Agnes Callamard has been the subject of unflattering remarks.
In contrast and elsewhere in the world, women are ascendant. Consider the Pussyhat rallies, the massive women’s protest march in January last year right after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Wearing knitted pink hats that alluded to their gender, millions of women marched to advocate policies on human rights, women’s rights, healthcare, racial equality, gay rights and reproductive rights. The march united genders, ethnicities and generations to protest Trump’s macho posturing and political bankruptcy.
In Hollywood, women are finally taking control of the narrative. The #MeToo movement has at last exposed the dark monster lurking beneath all that glitter and glamour, and revealed pernicious and institutionalized sexual harassment.
The recent mass shooting in the Florida campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also united the community behind one student, Emma Gonzalez, who aired the most searing indictment of the people responsible for the death of 17 young people.
“We call BS!” Gonzalez said, calling out those in their gilded seats in the US legislature, the companies behind the National Rifle Association, the NRA itself, and others who have continuously denigrated and resisted gun control that could have prevented yet another school massacre.
In these parts, the peasant-based alliance Gabriela and women’s organizations maintain the fight against the misogyny that animates officialdom.
On the local entertainment scene, actress Angel Locsin advised “Pilipinas Got Talent” contestants clad in skimpy outfits to resist being “objectified” and to “show us your talent and not your bodies.”
For her well-spoken concern, Locsin had to tangle with bashers on social media who called her out for “slut-shaming” the Playgirls. Her noteworthy reply: “There’s no such thing as slut or non-slut. There are only women.”
And yes, there should be reason to mark this day despite the dark clouds overhead. Filipino women-whether in high office or in the grassroots, whether in the cross hairs of macho power or in low-key arenas-remain our best hope for better times ahead.
Steadfast and unyielding, they choose to stand strong and unbowed in the face of the storm of fake news, false charges, threats, and intimidation.
Women are leading the charge against forces that would keep us silent and complicit. They do all women-and like-minded men-proud.