No to misogynists: What we women can do
A much-needed shot in the arm (not the vaccine) was received by yours truly when John Dexter Canda’s “Letter of apology” appeared in this newspaper’s Young Blood column last Tuesday. Here was a millennial apologizing for voting for a man, when it was never his intention to drag this country into shambles. It was a beautifully written apology, obviously evidence-based, and I hope that he represents the thinking of the majority of the youth of the Philippines, particularly those of voting age. We cannot have a repeat of what happened in the last presidential election.
But now I want to know what the perspective is of another sector, arguably the most important sector—the Filipino women. It is a particularly relevant issue at this time, the whole month of March having been proclaimed by President Cory Aquino in 1988 to be Women’s Role In History Month, with March 8 declared by law to be National Women’s Day. What do they think of the man whom Canda is sorry he voted for? And can they be as vocal about it as Canda is?
Let me make my little contribution to the discussion as to what has happened to women in the almost five years since the man has been elected. First, let’s look at what hard-based evidence there is. There is the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, which has been published annually since 2006, but we’re interested in what has happened, if anything, since 2016. This report attempts to measure the gap between men and women in four areas: health and survival, educational attainment, economic participation and outlook, and political empowerment.
Now, Reader, one thing that the Philippines can be proud of is its record on gender equality, at least compared to other countries. In 2006, for example, we came in 6th out of 115 countries—meaning to say, the gender gap was relatively small. But let’s go to the issue at hand. In 2016, the Philippines ranked 7th out of 144 countries. Come 2020, we slid to 16th place. For 10 years, we held on pretty well, losing only one rank, and then for the next four years, we lost 11 places.
One could argue that the indicators being measured move very slowly, or perhaps that maybe other countries just did better than us in the past four years. I can accept that, with the little nagging question coming up: Why were we such slowpokes? And then we are back to the man, and how he has affected the pace of advancement of women.
That’s the only data-based evidence I came across. But now let’s look at the man’s speeches and actions toward women during his incumbency, and in this age of information and communication technology, where every little word or action is recorded, you have a damning picture of a man who thinks of women as lower class, or that deserve less equal treatment than men, or just objectifies them.
Let’s talk about his remarks in the past four or five years. The worst in my opinion is when he talked to the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy and made what his spokesperson called “mischievous” remarks about rape. A joke? About rape? To the military? In a commencement address?
There are other rape remarks—he seems fixated on rape: Remember his comments about the Australian missionary who was raped? How tasteless is that? Or shooting the enemy not to kill, but rather in the vagina because then they would be useless?
As if that were not bad enough, his remarks about women not belonging in the political arena strongly recall to mind what the dictator Marcos said, referring to Cory Aquino, that women belonged in the bedroom. The man is in a time warp. He is an anachronism.
The worst of all, though, is his ability to make up any story that he wants about the women he fears or hates the most. Look at the untruths he has spread about Leni Robredo, Leila de Lima, Meilou Sereno, and Maria Ressa—untruths that his underlings took as gospel, and fight to present as gospel.
I know. Women have complained bitterly about this treatment. We’ve talked the talk. Now we have an opportunity to walk the walk. Will we take it?
Or for the longer term: Are we Filipino women content to accept those who lie, cheat, are misogynists, anachronisms, and who cheapen their office and their country with their bad manners and worse conduct—as our leaders? NO? Then start working on next year’s elections.
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