MenagerieFeminism: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story
Feminism: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story
March 11, 2019
March 11, 2019

Feminism. Very few topics in contemporary culture bring up as diverse a reaction as this. From the academic to the political to the personal, it’s been discussed across different spectrums. From liberty explicitly female, to egalitarian ideals, how did we get where we are, and how do we move forward?



Go West

In an interview with The LaSallian, Professor Crisanto Regadio Jr., from the Behavioral Sciences department, explains that the feminist movement started out as an advocacy for the equality movement. He established that feminism is an ideology, a worldview, and a school of thought across social science disciplines.

What most would consider to be feminism can be thought of as having its roots in Western society. Then known as the Women’s Movement, the goal of its proponents can generally be thought of as laying within the political and legal sphere, with things such as women’s suffrage and the repealing of laws that repressed the discussion of certain topics, such as reproductive rights and sex education.

Even in this nascent stage, the women’s movement would be met with great opposition. Anti-suffragist organizations, comprised of men and women alike, attempted to retain the status quo. Going from Artour Aslanian’s paper, The Use of Rhetoric in Anti-Suffrage and Anti-Feminist Publications, one common argument cited reasons of religion or a conservative adherence to the status quo, that a woman’s right to vote was a threat to “the home, to God’s will, and to government stability.” Others still had socialist and anarchist reasons for being anti-suffrage, such as Emma Goldman, a political activist and writer, who cites suffrage as “distracting women with a marginal victory that belied the inherently unjust system underneath”, a claim prominently found in her books such as The Tragedy of Women’s Emancipation.

The back and forth between suffragists and anti-suffragists continued, each carrying nuanced perspectives that were either intensely political or personal, if not a combination of the two. Suffrage today still remains a contentious issue in global politics, with it being “won” on a case-by-case basis from country to country. Viewing the conversation yielded by the topic,  this seesawing of power dynamics is a recurrent theme in almost any debate on feminism—from reproductive health to sexual liberation, from queer rights to gender discrimination.


Imported goods

Most Filipinos may have a passing familiarity with feminism, but a general, cohesive definition is still hard to find due to the differences between Western culture and our local culture. Regadio highlights that since our country is still developing, our idea of feminism or of women is different from other nations.

Despite, or perhaps because of, our imitation of Western society, the patriarchal structures that ossified during the colonial times still live on today. “We lack representation in the policymaking body, and most of our government leaders are males who don’t advance the political agenda of women,” Regadio explained in Filipino. This brings to mind events such as the #BabaeAko movement, a mass demonstration calling out what they perceived as misogynist remarks made by President Duterte.

Despite the movement being discussed in certain online platforms, our concept of feminism is still developing. “So hindi pa tayo yung sa discourse na yan. Even in the academe, wala akong gaanong nababasa about [feminism],” Regadio explains.

(We are not in that level of discourse yet. Even in the academe, I’m not able to read much about feminism.)

Despite that, feminism has still become popular here among those who take an interest in socially progressive movements, especially those that highlight systemic inequalities or imbalances in power, or to use a term that is as beloved as it is maligned, “being woke”. And with it gaining more traction with younger generations, even corporations are starting to take note.

Halos lahat ng mga tao na nasa paligid may mga pretensions, tapos may mga self interest na kailangan nila i-serve,” says Regadio.

(Almost everyone around us has pretensions and self-interests that they need to serve.)

Some companies, both local and international, have taken advantage of the “woke” demographic by offering products that align with mass advocacies.

We see brands claim to support the struggles of women, but this support serves the self-interest of the company more than the people they are supposedly advocating for. “There are brands na ‘we support the struggle ng mga babae,’ but acting behind the pretense ay yung commercial interest nila,” Regadio explains. He goes on to say that as a community, we need to establish a  collective consciousness and organize ourselves to advance our struggle and to advance our ideas.

(Then, we have brands that claim to support the struggle of women. In reality, they are acting behind the pretense of their own commercial interest.)


A little birdie told me

Finally, let us look at where most of the discussion surrounding feminism actually occurs—online. In an environment where information moves at the speed of thought, anyone and everyone appropriates whatever labels they see to further their own aims, and feminism is no exception.

Ask various corners of the internet what feminism is and you’ll get a varied bouquet of answers such as gender equality, a deconstruction of conventionally held notions of gender, or other interpretations. The term has outgrown itself, encompassing ideas and goals that are seemingly jumbled together, if not self-contradictory. In the modern cycle of addictive posts and outrage, it can be easy to forget that every time that word is used, our interpretation of it may differ from others. But where does that leave us?

It may be best to start off simply, with an axiom that unifies almost all definitions of the word: people deserve equal treatment. Nothing more, nothing less. It seems simple, almost deceivingly so, and it is. But in the heat of it all, in the discourse of our politics and in the forging of convictions we hold dear, it is something that needs to be said—something that cannot be repeated enough.