Visual metaphors

Seriously, could we stop it with the visual metaphors for ejaculation in commercials? This McDonald’s ad is one such example, and another is a local Wendy’s ad shown in branches of the food chain, in which a sprinkler spewed water as a woman wearing a Wendy costume approached a guy.

All grown-up

This article on Interaksyon caught my eye:

It’s been months since actress Ryza Cenon graced the cover of FHM, but sadly, nothing seems to have happened to her career, leaving the Kapuso star baffled and disappointed.

Apparently, her main beef is that she’s back to playing pa-tweetums or cutesy, young roles, as she’s primarily seeking to go for “heavy drama or sexy role talaga.”

It’s a phenomenon that seems to occur in showbiz around the world. At some point in their careers, young actresses are expected to bare it all on a men’s magazine cover to announce that they have either attained legal age, that they are undergoing a shift in their image, and that they’re ready to head in a new direction, careerwise.

I have no issues as to whether an actress wants to disrobe for a magazine, if that’s what she really feels that she wants and needs to do and not just because she’s complying with her manager’s idea–her life, her choice and all that. What I find particularly interesting is that how some see disrobing as a way to announce that they are ready for meaty roles. All I think it says is that you have no qualms about baring your body. Perhaps it’s because I just think that you can win substantial roles by, oh, I don’t know, prove that you have the aptitude for acting.

Of course, the actress isn’t the only person to criticize in such a situation. We can also look at how limited people’s views are as to the roles an actress can play in movies or TV. TV writers can be pretty lazy, redoing the same stereotypes and tropes over and over again, and being limited to the same kinds of characters, only with different names, which in turn limits actresses’ choices of roles.

More than 100 pounds

I just finished reading a lot of the comments on an article entitled “For My Mother, Who Runs,” reposted on Jezebel. It breaks my heart to read about how so many women are made to feel bad about themselves, and at the same time, it makes me angry that we’re made to feel about ourselves in the first place.

I don’t know the statistics for eating disorders here in the Philippines or if it’s an issue that is already being talked about. All I know is that a lot of women I encounter engage in disordered eating to some degree. One has a habit of skipping breakfast and lunch in favor of coffee. Some regularly go for juice cleanses. Another one passes on rice and eats a small cupful of the available dish. A great many women fret if they go over 100 pounds. I used to know some women who would only have two crackers and a half cup of tuna for lunch.

Some actually consider these efforts a test of willpower, dedication, and discipline, or a worthwhile sacrifice.


I feel fortunate that my immediate family is made up of women who are mostly fine with themselves and how they look. My mother does have her insecurities about her size, shape, and skin color, but whatever negativity she feels about her appearance, she doesn’t transmit that to us. The most she’s ever said about my appearance is, “Ang payat-payat mo talaga” when I was 11, and in recent years, “Ang daya ng katawan mo. Minsan mukha kang malaki, minsan ang payat mong tignan.

My sisters don’t appear to have any major issues with their looks either. There’s the occasional disparaging remark about wayward flab or messy hair, and sometimes we’ll laugh about how much food we put away and how we really need to work out. But as far as I know, none of them have developed an eating disorder. I may be the one with the most extreme case of poor body image. For about a month in 2006, I used a diet pill, and for about a couple of weeks that same year, I drank one of those so-called slimming teas that are actually laxatives. I was not happy with how they made my body feel, which was why I stopped taking them.

The worst comments about my appearance came mostly from men. A classmate in college told me I was pretty, except I was fat. A guy I was chatting with online asked me how much I weighed and I answered honestly, and when I did, he said, “Ang taba mo pala,” then immediately logged off. A random kid in a McDonald’s shouted gleefully at me, “Taba! Taba!” And my father most recently told me, with a distinctly disgusted look on his face, “Ang taba-taba mo na. Nagtitimbang ka ba?

I can’t pretend that negative comments about my size don’t sting. After all, I don’t tell other people what they should look like. So what makes them feel like they have the right to tell me what I should look like?

Sunshine Cruz files charges against Cesar Montano

Today, actress Sunshine Cruz has filed charges against her estranged husband, actor Cesar Montano, for sexual assault and physical abuse. But that’s not the only issue here. Another issue is the inevitable judgmental and, frankly, ignorant comments from so many people, and a number of them have cropped up already. Basically, they include the following:

1. Assuming Sunshine Cruz is making it all up…
2. …because she’s no longer as popular as she used to be and could do with some extra publicity.
3. Saying that it can’t be rape because they’re still married even though they’re separated.
4. Saying that it can’t be rape if Cesar didn’t hold a gun or a knife to Sunshine’s head.
5. Saying that Sunshine is “laspag” anyway and a mother already so she can’t be raped.
6. Saying that she has bared her body on camera numerous times already, as if that means anything.

Among many other disgusting comments. Furthermore, The Philippine Star reported the news with the headline “Sunshine cries rape, files raps vs Cesar,” which makes her sound hysterical, instead of using more objective phrasing.

It’s hard to counter sexism, ignorance, and closed-mindedness. Nevertheless, I’ll just say the following:

1. Rape is when you force sex on someone. It doesn’t have to involve weapons of any kind.
2. Marital rape is a very real thing. People think that women are obligated to have sex with their husbands. This is untrue. A spouse can decline to have sex if he or she does not want it, and his or her spouse should then respect this decision. Choosing to ignore the unwilling spouse’s wishes and subsequently forcing him or her to have sex is marital rape.
3. Whether a woman is a virgin, a mother, old, has been in sexy films, or whatever has no bearing on whether she should be considered to have been raped. Anybody can be a rape victim, and your background and experiences don’t exempt you from being considered one.
4. Rape–all kinds of rape–is a very serious matter, and if a person claims to have been raped, this should not be considered an attention-seeking tactic. It takes a lot of effort and courage to admit to having been raped, knowing that people will question you and even blame you for being the victim, and that you will be subjected to scorn and humiliation because that is how rape victims are treated, well, everywhere, unfortunately.

“Para kang hindi babae”

Trans. (lit.) “It’s like you’re not a woman.” Also, “You’re not acting like a woman.”

Any time a girl or a woman behaves in a way that is commonly deemed, depending on the company, someone will tell her, “Para kang hindi babae a.” It’s a comment that is meant to shame women into getting back in line and behaving in a socially recognized feminine way.

This comment can come up in various situations, such as when a woman cusses, laughs too loudly, talks too loudly, walks like a man [ref]Whatever that means.[/ref] sits “improperly” [ref]That is to say, if she doesn’t have her legs closed.[/ref], and talks about vulgar topics, among others. These behaviors are typically associated with men, because men can say and do anything they want without being subjected to judgmental side-eyes. If women do these things, we’re immediately taken to task for being unladylike, indeed, “parang hindi babae.”

Many people view femininity in a very particular way. Mostly, people associate it with being mahinhin, which I think can be translated as refined, genteel, and having finesse [ref]I had a teacher back in sophomore year high school who was constantly on my case for having no finesse whatsoever.[/ref]. The main essence of being mahinhin is that we have to sit with our legs closed, titter delicately, speak in calm, delicate voices, and never ever cuss. Act contrary to that and we are branded as women who aren’t as feminine as we’re supposed to be.

There’s nothing wrong with being mahinhin, if that’s what you’re really like. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing to be. What’s terrible is that some people expect all women to behave that way. We don’t have to fit in a dainty box of femininity. Women are diverse, and we certainly don’t behave alike or have the same interests and habits. Some women are dainty and refined. Others are not. And if you’re “crass” and “vulgar” or a little rough around the edges for society’s liking, that’s their problem, and it doesn’t make you less of a woman.

Girls and math according to The Children’s Place

In the U.S., an outcry arose when this shirt came out.

The Children's Place sexist shirt

And with good reason. It’s trying to reinforce the idea that young girls are only interested in, well, shopping, music, and dancing, and that they’re bad at math. Various products in the U.S. have already been criticized and pulled for making this ridiculous suggestion. Fortunately, The Children’s Place listened and pulled this shirt from their stores. I’m quite pleased that here in the Philippines, girls aren’t faced with this stereotype; anyone who’s awesome at math, be they boys or girls, are generally admired. It’s not a skill that people associate solely with guys. Interestingly, a lot of the girls I went to school with throughout my life were great at math.

The white armpit conspiracy

I’m going to use the word “armpit” here instead of the more delicate “underarm,” because it’s a fucking pit. As a matter of fact, I even think it should be “shoulder pit.” “Deltoid pit.” Something like that.

Anyway, I was around 10 or 11 years old when I realized that something was seriously wrong with my armpits. I had entered puberty at a fairly early age, so my mother introduced me to Nature’s Touch Tawas to help me curb my armpit sweating and stinking. And then I started seeing ads for Splash deodorants. Those ads made me question the wisdom of using Nature’s Touch Tawas: “Ugh, tawas, that’s so old-fashioned. These deodorants are the ones I should be using!” “Oh, that one comes in a pretty pink bottle, I should get that.”

Aside from that, the ads also made me doubt the quality of my armpits, given that armpits in commercials are often silky smooth and crease-free, plus their skin often looks like a mere extension of a fleshy upper arm. This caused me to cease wearing sleeveless tops so as to avoid subjecting the world to my imperfect, crease-filled armpits.

Those ads were brazen enough to tell women that their non-smooth, slightly-darker-than-their-skin-tone armpits were bad. Over the years, they’ve gotten a lot worse. One ad showed a girl going on dates with different guys, all of them telling her that they find dark underarms to be the biggest turn-off in a girl. One Rexona radio ad from 2003 or 2004, I think, ended with the speakers squealing about how one of them may get a boyfriend soon because she has achieved the Holy Grail of armpits. [ref]As we all know, like a dog show judge evaluating the conformation of a dog, prospective mates first ask you to raise your arms to verify if your armpits are indeed like finest porcelain. Are you intelligent, well traveled, accomplished, and are an overall nice person with less-than-satisfactory armpits? Good luck finding a boyfriend. Your life is over.[/ref]

The expectation for women to have smooth and white armpits is highly problematic in different ways. For one thing, it makes women feel bad about the natural state of our armpits, making us think that what we have must be horrible because they’re not as perfect as the ones in commercials. And so an insecurity is born, and it’s not just deodorants that promise to give us perfect armpits. We have creams for that as well as a whole bunch of costly treatments.

As a result, it has led to many other people expecting women to have TV commercial-perfect armpits. The moment they see a somewhat normal-looking armpit, people gasp in horror and comment, “Ay, ang itim naman ng kili-kili niya.” Like they already forgot what a regular armpit looks like.

Deodorant commercials are also problematic because they encourage women to change their looks and features to be more attractive to men. “Hey, your pits are ugly, and that’s why men don’t like you. Roll some of this on and you’ll be raking in all teh menz!” This feeds the common perception that women only like to dress up, wear makeup and nail polish, and be generally pretty just to attract men and to meet their approval. [ref] There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be “pretty,” of course, but just do it for yourself, not for an audience, and certainly not because men will like it. Do it because you want to and you like it.[/ref]

The global quest to make women feel bad about themselves is legendary, spawning entire industries and publications. Deodorants shouldn’t have to be part of this quest because they’re supposed to be useful, not something to enhance beauty. Women already feel bad about having sweating, stinking armpits. [ref] Especially given the crazy misconception that women don’t sweat or excrete any bodily fluids.[/ref] We don’t need to be told that our armpits are ugly and that making them smooth and pretty is our priority if we want to land a man. [ref] As if landing a man is all that women want out of life.[/ref]

The ugly duckling yet again

So this is a movie that is currently happening here.

Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo movie poster

“Because you don’t conform to socially accepted beauty ideals,” says the world.

For all I know, this could be the most awesome rom-com the Philippines has ever produced. But according to its Wikipedia page, “It tells the story of a brainy ugly duckling girl and on how she turns into someone who’s worth loving.”

Well that’s disappointing. Was she initially not worth loving because her looks conform to that which society typically considers ugly? When is the world going to stop associating giant frizzy hair and thick eyebrows with ugliness? I don’t see what those two physical traits have to do with whether a person is worth loving or not.

Now if “turning into someone who’s worth loving” involves the female character becoming more confident about herself and being unapologetic about who she is, and keeps rocking her original look, then I’m on board with this movie. But I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.


I think the discussion about women’s rights and empowerment here in the Philippines centers mainly around women from disadvantaged communities. Okay, what I said doesn’t sound right, because the issues that affect one sector of women also affect the rest, but we don’t all have the same backgrounds and experiences, and that means that we also encounter different issues.

For example, a lot of women’s groups focus on providing training and education for women from disadvantaged communities to help empower them and realize that they can take an active role in building a community and contributing to society. I love that. No complaints from me here.

What I WILL complain about is that women from the middle class and even higher may not recognize that they themselves are not fully empowered yet. We can be blinded from that, given that we feel empowered already. After all, we can drive, we can come and go as we please, we’re making our own living, we’re paying for the bills, and saving up or paying for a home.

Despite all that, we’re still living with some commonly held beliefs and misconceptions about various aspects. Which one of us hasn’t apologized for speaking up or making a critical comment? Which one of us hasn’t whispered about other women for gaining weight or not looking their best? Which one of us hasn’t ribbed other women about not getting married yet? Or told others to get a move on because they’re getting too old to conceive? Which one of us hasn’t criticized our own looks in front of other people, especially little girls, who will hear what we’re saying about ourselves and think that it’s normal to be unhappy with the way we look?

These behaviors are very common, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right. And even women from all social classes and sectors are prone to them.

Unlearning and learning

When I was in sixth grade, I wrote my term paper on women’s rights. I didn’t have a framework for my paper, but it did discuss women’s suffrage, how women are treated in the Islamic world, and even briefly mentioned female genital mutilation. I really thought I was hot shit at the time, writing about something so serious and important.

Turns out I knew nothing at all about women’s issues. There are so many facets to it that it’s always fun to learn about new perspectives, particularly that oppression comes in many forms and not just in women being prevented from voting, going to school, or driving, although those are definitely major concerns.

However, oppression also manifests in attitudes and behaviors that seem pretty ordinary. Criticizing women for what they wear. Blaming women when something bad happens to them. Making women feel that they will never be good enough and that they should always be validated by others. And that’s just to mention a few.

Their ordinariness is what makes them particularly dangerous.

I started this blog to try and make sense of how we women are treated in society, the boxes that we are expected to fit into, how we’re conditioned to become what we are, and how we transform into what we are expected to be. Hopefully, I will be able to unlearn and learn many things about myself, society, and feminism itself in the process.