Persistence and Resistance
Feminism does not seek supremacy but fundamental equality, as Wollstonecraft quipped, “I do not wish (women) to have power over men; but over themselves”. Centuries have since passed from the writing of these aspirations, yet reality is still wanting. 
Apr 6, 20243 min read
Persistence and Resistance

Graphics: Michelle Berdonar

Sexism, the handmaid of patriarchy, is evident in our daily language. For instance, showing fear is equated to “walang bayag" as if courage is an exclusive trait of men. When a woman exhibits bravery, the phallic reference lingers as she is often described as "babae pero mas may bayag”. When a husband often shows consideration and respect for his wife, he risks being branded by his peers as “under the saya”. Boys are not supposed to show emotion, crying is unmanly, it is “binayot”. Aggression is equated as “nakalalaki ka” and the male privilege of getting away with misconduct only to be dismissed as “lalaki kasi”. Worse, when a man in power utters rape jokes, sexist, and misogynistic remarks, the masses were not appalled, he was rather applauded.  

These are everyday snapshots of the persistence of patriarchy. Feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe defined it as “the structural and ideological system that perpetuates the privileging of hegemonic masculinities”, a system wherein women have been historically and overwhelmingly oppressed and disadvantaged. Its impact seeps down and envelops the fabric of society, economy, and our consciousness; patriarchy perpetuates evils such as gender inequality, gender-based violence, and the objectification of women. To start with, the World Bank reported that gender inequality accounts for the loss of human capital wealth valued at USD 160 trillion globally; in developing countries, inequality in the economy costs women USD 9 trillion per year. 

On a positive note, the 2023 Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported the Philippines as the most gender-equal country in Asia placing 16th of 146 countries; a 3-notch improvement from its score last 2022. WEF’s Gender Gap Index (GGI) measures equality in terms of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The Philippines fared best in educational attainment, but least in political empowerment, showing the dominance of men in the political arena. 

However, gender-based violence is still a pervasive social problem. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2022 National Demographic and Health Survey revealed that 17.5% of aged 15-49 Filipino women have experienced physical, emotional, and sexual violence from their intimate partners. More so, as of 2021, there were 1,791 reported cases of rape, 8,399 on physical violence, and 1,505 on acts of lasciviousness. Nonetheless, these reported cases may not reflect the true numbers of actual victims due to fear, stigma, and utter helplessness where abuse is often shrouded in a culture of silence to prevent shame. 

Yet patriarchy does not only affect women but also harms boys and men who are forced to conform to its narrow standard of masculinity. In “The Man Box”, Heilman et al. (2017) elaborated that men face societal pressure to fit inside a box of how society expects a “real man” to behave which includes seven characteristics: self-sufficiency, acting tough, physical attractiveness, rigid masculine roles, heterosexuality and homophobia, hypersexuality, and aggression and control. Reportedly, the majority of men who adhere to the rules of this box have put their well-being and health at risk, cut intimate friendships, refused to seek help in times of need, experienced depression, and contemplated ending their lives. They were also more likely to have used violence against others or to have sexually harassed women. 

In 1792, the philosopher and founder of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft published “The Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, an important piece of literature in feminist thought. Wollstonecraft’s theory of equal rights postulates the necessary transformations in the relations between men and women where the former can no longer see the latter as weak, dependent, and objects to rule over. Feminism does not seek supremacy but fundamental equality, as Wollstonecraft quipped, “I do not wish (women) to have power over men; but over themselves”. Centuries have since passed from the writing of these aspirations, yet reality is still wanting. 

Confronting patriarchy is not a fight between sexes but against a supremacist ideology. Dismantling a system requires mutual aid in altogether rejecting its premises, values, norms, and idiosyncrasies. Resisting patriarchy is an imperative that does not require to do the impossible, but to extend our goodwill towards every other person and be circumspect of their rights as co-equals. 

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