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.