Women we should be fighting for
I’ve never understood the logic of voting for a political figure just because she is a woman. What about her credentials, her platform, her history? Shouldn’t a female candidate be measured by the same standards applied to a male candidate? Should gender even matter in this particular area at all?
To me, voting based purely on gender is an example of a misplaced priority of contemporary feminism. And it’s hurting what is supposed to be the true ideal of feminism: that women have equal opportunities as men.
We see more of these examples everywhere. Women getting offended by male casting choices in movies. Women turning a deaf ear to facts that don’t agree with their agenda. Women falsely accusing other persons of rape, or haphazardly concluding harassment, or completely vilifying the other gender.
These examples illustrate what feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers argues as the three ways by which contemporary feminism is damaging the cause of women’s emancipation. One, feminism today has “a very dim view of men”; two, it overstates women’s victim status; and three, it holds on to the stance that men and women are the same.
Sommers goes on to say that these “undermine the credibility and effectiveness of feminism in general.”
Consequently, these also undermine the real work that is being done and ought to be done—for example, in the Congo, where thousands of women were brutally tortured and raped by soldiers, or in India, where sexual trafficking of women and children is rampant, or in Mali, where female genital mutilation persists at a high rate.
In the Philippines, women have a relatively better chance to enjoy our rights: We have the same rights as men to speak, to work, and to pursue our interests, among others. But there are still several areas where gender-based inequity is strongly felt.
One is in cases of domestic violence. There may be laws that aim to protect women from violence at home, but one in seven Filipino wives still suffer from physical abuse by their husbands, according to the Philippine Commission on Women.
What’s worse is that many of these women cannot afford to escape, not only because they are financially dependent on their spouses but also because they are held back by a prevailing notion that a wife should remain faithful to her husband, if only to keep the nuclear family intact.
I’ve seen this scenario especially in rural communities: A wife tries to distance herself from an abusive husband, and she is mired in scandal and disgrace. Recurring domestic violence in Philippine households is thus not only a legislative issue but also a cultural one.
Another area where gender inequity exists in the Philippines is in vulnerabilities in times of economic crises. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has reported that during economic hardships, women and girls are more likely to get pulled out of school and trade sex for subsistence.
This would help explain why so many Filipino women end up in sex trafficking and prostitution, an illegal trade in the country. Such vulnerabilities also lead to a myriad of other issues such as exposure to rape, violence, and sexually transmitted diseases.
These are the women we should be fighting for. It is deeply disappointing that their plight should be pushed aside and overlooked because what many “feminists” echo today are only the nonissues they find in their own spheres. This is how people have come to look down on the women’s movement as a cause that has died and is now nothing more than an itch on the fingers of keyboard warriors.
But feminism is not finished; it only needs refocusing. Feminism is not misandry, is not gender supremacy, is not a war against the other gender. Instead, it is a war against the gross inequities that are still causing real suffering to countless women. That’s where our fight is needed, much more than in obsessing over the femininity of a politician or the all-female remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.”
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