In celebration of Women’s Month this March, Chalk.ph is launching the #KababaeMongTao campaign to help raise awareness and emphasize on the severity of sexism in the country. With the help of Grrrl Gang Manila, a group that aims to serve as a safe space for girls to talk about issues that affect their lives and a catalyst for collective action and activism, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of this issue that has plagued us as early as we can remember.
For generations, Maria Clara, a fictional figure lifted from the beloved novels of Jose Rizal, stood as the ideal representation of what a Filipino woman should be—conservative, demure, prim, and proper. Pair the image of Maria Clara with a patriarchal society, and you can expect every woman to be shoved into falling into this passive mould. And though her name had once become a stereotype that may have been embraced by our culture in the past, the formula no longer works in this world.
We have taken leaps and bounds to empower women throughout history, and we continuously prove that we deserve the same opportunities and power that men do. Yet, after all that has been said and done, we still experience sexism and misogyny deeply-rooted not only in the culture of our own homeland but as well as society in general. It’s a sad fact but we all know our very own Gabriela Silang did not fight in a battlefield nor did Melchora Aquino demonstrate the impact that women have in a revolution only to have womankind be discriminated and be told to sit down or return to the kitchen generations after.
"If you have ever been called out or shamed for dressing in an unlikely way, not knowing how to cook, or even drinking alcohol, then you are among the general female population being pushed into the 'ideal' mould of a woman."
In most households, Filipino women and growing girls have experienced discrimination from relatives and friends without ever realizing it. In fact, you’d be surprised at the things other Filipino women have been reprimanded for. If you, as a woman, have ever been called out or shamed for dressing in an unlikely way, not knowing how to cook, or even drinking alcohol, then you are among the general female population being pushed into the “ideal” mould of a woman. This has got to stop, and it's time we fight back.
According to Grrrl Gang Manila, on an individual level, sexist comments that start with "Kababae mong tao..." can shape the way women and girls see themselves–it can affect self-esteem, body-image, self-confidence, and limit our individual capacities and put undue caps on things we do, what we can achieve, and even who we can become. "Stereotyping women as is has a tendency to plant seeds of self-doubt or propagate a culture of victim mentality instead of empowerment," explained the group.
On a societal scale, sexist statements reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate beliefs, structures, and systems that discriminate and undermine women. Rape culture and victim-blaming, for example, are dominant in the Philippines. Both ideas place the burden of preventing sexual harassment on women (because they did not conform with behavior deemed appropriate for women) instead of holding men accountable for their actions.
When asked where such discriminating statements come from, Grrrrl Gang Manila answered, "(This sexist state of mind) is largely cultural, rooted in history and propelled by societal norms. Sexism stems from the fact that we lived in a patriarchal society which enforces social norms and gender roles that privilege men." When women act in ways that don't line up with people's beliefs about gender-appropriate behavior, they experience various forms of discrimination.
However, we refuse to believe that we as a people can continue to progress while tolerating this mindset. It's time for us to stand up for ourselves and womankind and address sexism by starting with our family, friends, and social network. Women empowerment is a vital cause we cannot advocate on our own; it's time that we help society walk with us to a more progressive world by helping them understand our struggles.
What's your #KababaeMongTao story? Share it by using our official hashtag, and make a stand for us women and young girls in the Philippines and around the world!
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