I say F-uck quite freely, so it’s not what I’m talking about. The “F” that I rarely care to discuss is F-eminism.
Obviously, this month has served a whole lot of more pressing issues at hand, but we are also closing women’s month, after all. So this is to celebrate the female energies of the world all around.
For somebody who would passionately jump behind every rally for a good cause, I long ago found it curious how I never took any interest on feminist issues. Sure, I have this newly divorced neighbor who was chatting it up with me and when he found out that I was living alone and his first verbal response after his initial facial reaction was an underhandedly disagreeable and condescending “Well… it’s a free a country…” I wanted to smack him in the eyeballs, but it doesn’t take me anywhere beyond that immediate defense reaction. I’d be happier to roll my own eyes and move on.
In any case, I’m alone because I’ve wanted to learn to tend to a home on my own, especially if I’d want to have a family one day; not because I think “I don’t need a man.” In my late twenties, when I was at the peak of keeping busy and achieving all my big dreams one after another, I surprised many close friends in saying that I’m okay to be a housewife and just be home taking care of kids. I go on power hikes with a female best friend not to prove that women are as strong as men (we’ve found that we’re stronger than a handful of them, actually, but who’s keeping track… 😏), but I go because the views and the fairytale waterfalls at the end of the trails are pretty dreamy. I haven’t been wearing bras in a year not to prove a point (or two, hah), but because I discovered bra straps have caused my back pains for years. I have the sexual appetite of a teenage boy but true romance and connection is still my foreplay and I’d still want to be pursued. I grow the hair in my armpits and legs not as a statement of freedom (“Free the Fur!” my cousins call it) from society’s gender standards but because if I eventually fulfill my dream of living in the wild one day, I don’t want my chimp friends to think I’m this weirdo who can’t grow hair.
My point is, my interest in doing things in the name of today’s feminism is zilch.
I’ve decided that this lack of interest has a lot to do with my being a Filipina.
Someone I used to know who is so involved with political issues and speaks up for gay rights and women’s rights told me that, in the United States, gays are even better off than women and have more rights and freedom. I was shocked. I didn’t know if I could believe it. This reaction is not to say that I think gays don’t deserve anything better or equal, but American women seem to be so independent, it’s hard to believe that they are in any way oppressed. I guess what I see as an outsider is so much of their overcompensation for whatever is lacking.
I suddenly developed this grainy picture of the world in my head and figured just how different my reality must look from the others.
As a Filipina, to say we are a matriarchal society is an understatement to the world. Grandmothers get the last say from the running of the household to who gets the small scrap of melt-in-your-mouth milkfish belly at the dinner table (she does). We are a devout Catholic country whose adoration of the Mother Mary nearly equates the worship of Jesus Christ her son. The Taglish idiom “under the saya” is so commonly used and accepted as an inescapable truth for generations of Filipino men crouching and bowing at the hemline of their mistresses and we forget just how unique it is to our marriage culture.
In our creation myth, si Malakas at si Maganda (Strong and Beautiful; First Man and First Woman) both come out of the bamboo trunk at the exact same time. None of that taking-from-the-rib business. And if we were an insecure lot, Filipinas would have already bristled at the shallowness of “pretty” as a definition when the men get to be “strong”; but we have been just fine with this. We are more than happy to be the beautiful maidens, at your service. You can go wander off and chop wood and scratch those rocks together for fire, thank you very much. Be home by six.
Yes, there are serious cases to tackle such as rape and harassment, longer maternity leaves in the corporate field and, for other countries, the right to equal pay. I even think that society needs to take into serious consideration the menstrual cycles of women in relation to their productivity. But is it right to label all these as feminist issues or are they issues in developing humanity in general and in upgrading the system?
To say that these are merely feminist concerns divides humanity into two parts – the men and the women. And to address something to score points for the “feminist” camp says that we are in a simple contest match and women need to score goals to keep up and feel deserving of participating in the game of society as much as men do.
But the improvement of our voice and participation should not, should never, neglect who we truly are and how we are built in these feminine bodies. And it should not be forgotten that any improvement made for us is an improvement for all, both women and men, because men will never be separate from us. No man has ever sprouted and landed in this world riding a solo rocket sperm. Once standing upright and thinking, he may be the one who instinctively makes the decision to go out and pursue something over and over again, but we are the ones who make a home for the project underway and clear the time and space for the nurturing the new product delivered out into the world.
Equality in Differences
In this insightful book “The Art of Loving” by Eric Fromm, he points out the difference of “equality” and “sameness.” The fight of modern feminism demands that women get a fair say and should be treated just the same as men in a democratic society. But this doesn’t mean to say that to achieve that we must all act like men, wear their clothes, do the same work they do, think the same way they do and adjust all our natural instincts to deserve a seat at the round table.
This is a sad and misguided attempt for sameness, not equality.
I was looking up issues of feminism online and found this devastating quote from a French feminist Simone de Beauvoir who apparently wrote about being a housewife:
“A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism…the [housewife’s] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable…. [W]oman’s work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a ‘career’ for woman.”
And here, by American writer Betty Friedan:
“All this seems terribly remote from the easy life of the American suburban housewife. But is not her house in reality a comfortable concentration camp?… The work they do does not require adult capabilities; it is endless, monotonous, unrewarding. American women are not, of course, being readied for mass extermination, but they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit.”
My golly gulays, what horrible perspectives on the magical gift of being a woman!
If people and animals, men and women, the banana trees and the coconut trees were all to compete and strive to be all the same and simply mimic each other’s behavior and abilities, what new things would ever come out of the world? There wouldn’t even be colors and we’d all be cold and grey! We’d look like military rows of sharpened Mongol pencils. We’d be polished pans stacked up on one another. We’d be bees without even our own unique buzz. You get what I’m saying.
If this is what we are trying to do – trying to be, literally, men ourselves – what is the need then for any concept of equality? What is there, then, to be added or subtracted or mixed and balanced?
The Divine Feminine
With this drastic misunderstanding, the world has long been now tipping over with an overproduction and reverence of masculinity. We have become a world obsessed with power, control, leadership, conquest, pursuit, forward direction – these are the moulds of masculine energy.
The world is now in serious deprivation of the tenderness of the divine feminine. The divine feminine, on the other end of the scale, is about openness, harmony, devotion, surrender, receptivity, abundance, cycles, repetition, nurturance.
These are why we are great homemakers. This is why we have named the soil from which things grow “Mother” Earth. We can stay absolutely still in one place and have beauty thrive in our hands. We feel no need to chase after things because we are able to grow life in the very center of our being – our wombs. We must not allow ourselves to forget our true gift simply because we want a vote in masculine affairs.
Governance in countries all around the world is built on a millennia of masculinity. And instead of shifting the system with our own gifts – with our femininity – we have told ourselves and one another that all we want and need is to be allowed to wear a suit to work, too.
We talk about equal rights, equal pay, equal treatment, equal standards, and in this process of obsessing over these flat and equal-ended goals, we have found ourselves camping out by the fire ourselves and abandoning our side of the wilderness where you go to pause and smell flowers.
If we want an uncovering of feminism to happen, if we want to restore a sense of balance in the world, we must find the play of energy within ourselves and how we present our different mix into society. It doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man. Both energies reside in each and all of us, and balancing the world begins with balancing ourselves.
Once in a while, let yourself choose tenderness over rigidity, agreeability over the right to an opinion, compassion over dogma, peace over outspokenness, acceptance over drive, understanding over doubt, amiability over strategy, flexibility over direction, affection over cleverness and, maybe even, emotions over intellect.
This world full of disparity, divorce, debates, wars and divided nations is a mere reflection of our own inner conflicts. To address these conflicts, we must find union within ourselves first, and learn the constant marrying of the lover with the thinker, the country with the conqueror, the soil with the seed, the ambition with the toiling, the sureness of the soldier with the fluidity of our collective and changing hopes – the masculine and the feminine in a perpetual dance of contrast, pushing and pulling, making love and giving birth to new things.