Our best kept secret
THE dawn of the 21st century marks the rise of the feminist movement worldwide. Women’s rights are Human rights. It readily follows that a person’s dignity is also a woman’s dignity. Therefore, the dichotomy between masculinity and femininity is not a dichotomy of right and dignity but a dichotomy of individuality and role in society. The fullness of expression of an acting person lies in the optimum generation of his or her individuality. If our century has been marked by a growing concern for contemporary feminism, it is surely because of the absence of true respect for women and their role in a fast growing technological and contemporary society.
In the Philippines for the past 6 election years -- from 1998 to 2013 -- there have always been more men than women participating and winning the elections, according to data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec). In 1998, there were 17,512 government seats available. Of the 63,531 candidates who ran that year, only 14.3% were women. Have things changed since then? In 2013, the percentage of women candidates rose to 17.82%. This means over 36,000 men gunned for seats, while only less than 8,000 women did. Although there is improvement, such figures reveal blunt truths about gender and governance in the Philippines.
“It might be said that this trend is a reaction to the lack of respect accorded each woman.” Therefore, to appreciate the genius of women, St. John Paul II acknowledged the Beijing Conference (1995) Action from EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT and PEACE, “(as a means) to provide an auspicious occasion for heightening awareness of the many contributions made by women to the life of whole societies and nations.” The anthropological truth regarded the human person applies to both the masculine and feminine who find full realization in his/her own sexuality.
The Philippines is known for its very liberal and progressive Constitution that was formulated during the euphoria of People Power Revolution in 1986. Gender equality is a key element of this Charter and as enshrined in Article II Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, “the State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.” Women’s right to vote was granted in 1937. The Constitution of 1935 stipulated that the right of suffrage would be extended to women, only if 300,000 women voted in its favor during a national plebiscite.
This consolidated the emerging women’s movement and “…brought to the fore the activism of such women as Concepcion Felix de Calderon who formed the Asociacion Feminista Filipina in June 1905, Rosa Sevilla de Alvero and a young Trinidad Almeda, Miss Constancia Poblete, founder of Liga Femenina de la Paz, Pura Villanueva Kalaw and Paz Mendoza Guazon, Pilar Hidalgo Lim, President of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs and Josefa Llanes Escoda, president of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines” (Ugnayan ng Kababaihan sa Pulitika, 1998).
But despite all of these advancements, there are still numerous obstacles for women to partake a bigger role and impact in politics. “Leadership is still conceptualized in terms of male strength. Social definitions of role still pervade the society with women are pictured as supportive of the “leader-husband” and whose main tasks are to entertain constituents (socialization and diplomacy) and provide charity work (social welfare or even dole-outs). The double-burden challenge also contributes to the “glass ceiling” in politics. Wives are supposed to take care of the next generations of the political family. The “old boys” nature of political relations and transactions also put the role of women in the margins. This reduces the access to resources and decision-making thus diminishes their political clout” (Mylene Hega, 2003).
Said Theodore Roosevelt, “I believe in the rights of the women just as much as I do in those of men and, indeed, a little more ... She can do the best work in her home if she has healthy outside interests and occupations in addition. On the contrary, political duties and privileges will have an educational influence upon women from which their homes and the children will greatly benefit.” The majority of women will always be homemakers in spite of woman suffrage. As an old Hindu proverb says, “A hundred men make an encampment. One woman makes a home.” Yet in the words of John Bright, “Yes, yes, it is all very well, but one just law is worth a million soup kitchens”.
“Surely, the duties of the home, especially in these times of labor saving devices and new discoveries, are not so rigorous as to prevent the most domestic of women from leaving her fireside once every three years or so to record her vote! … Women will become more satisfactory friends and helpmates of men when they have learned self-reliance by depending on themselves, self-protection by protecting themselves, self-reverence and self-control and the courage of their convictions by freely and openly sharing on equal terms with men in the responsibilities of the government” (Trinidad Legarda).
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