Nevertheless, she persisted.
Towards the end of 2017, the #MeToo movement stormed several social media platforms, as people made a resounding stand against sexual harassment, after The New York Times exposed the deeply rooted oppression towards women behind the glamour and glory of Hollywood. The movement continues to make ripples on women empowerment, including Filipino women who are now learning to break the silence on the toxicity of harassment, double standards, and burden that comes with the phrase "kababaeng mong tao."
As Filipino women continue to speak up, we have witnessed significant events in our society because people are starting to listen to the plight of women. In 2016, Quezon City approved city ordinance 2501 or the City Gender and Development code that reinforces the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710). The ordinance was created in order to hold people accountable for discriminatory acts toward all women, including women who identify as part of the LGBT+ community. The local government has proven itself to be effective in the implementation of the ordinance, following a catcalling complaint in the city late last year, which involved two Quezon City Police District officers. A woman shared her experience on social media, seeking advice and support on addressing the incident legally through a formal complaint. After pursuing the investigation, the officers were relieved of their duty and charged appropriately for their lewd behavior.
Social media has served as a platform to shed light on important issues women face on a daily basis, enabling people to retrospect and think critically. In turn, we learn to reevaluate the ideologies subjugated by our culture that we still haven't parted from because of tradition. When we hear the phrase "kababae mong tao," it is often paired by a lengthy scolding of taming our tongue from swearing, keeping our legs crossed, and tidying up every nook and cranny of the house. There is no leeway for women to let their hair down in our culture, in stark contrast to how boys can usually get away with being crude or grimy, simply because "ganyan talaga ang mga lalaki." Although this is not to say that men and women consciously limit themselves to these double standards, it is highly possible that our decisions and actions have been influenced by them because of its repetition in our upbringing. While we have a deep appreciation for our culture and traditions, it's time that we acknowledge how these double standards are harmful to our growth as individuals, particularly children and teens. We teach women to shrink themselves in shame whenever they fail to meet what is expected of them, while we teach men to evade accountability whenever they do something wrong. We have several traditions worth keeping and words of wisdom worth saying, but there is no harm in revisiting the ideas that are condensed in the phrases we preach.
The need to assess the double standards in our culture become more apparent as we inspect how our society responds to certain issues, especially if it involves personalities on famous television programs. Recently, certain TV personalities' rampant victim-blaming on their respective programs, including news anchors, morning show hosts, and variety show hosts, have sparked discourse online. Victim-blaming is a degrading act where we persecute the victims of sexual abuse, harassment, and crime, instead of holding perpetuators accountable for their wrongdoings. Most of the offensive remarks involve victim-blaming women who have a troubled past with prostitution, rape, and sexual abuse, making light of the struggles that these women continuously have to overcome. With the influence these personalities have, dominating primetime slots of programs we consume every day, majority of our population can easily be convinced that their misconduct is acceptable, or worst, proper. Its unfathomable how women have to shout twice as loud as men, when in truth, we are equipped with the same liberties, protected by the same rights, and held accountable by the same law.
Still, we are a work in progress. Looking at the big picture, we can easily see how our society has gradually made progress in terms of how we treat women, despite the grey areas that continue to surface. We have yet to provide Filipinos the proper education on sexual consent, sexual orientation and gender identity, and issues on discrimination by integrating gender studies in our curriculum. Similarly, the improvement of local governance, in terms of ensuring that women's rights are protected, is a promising indicator that this may develop on a national scale. Slowly, we are beginning to realize that empowering women also means empowering men and society as a whole. As we celebrate Women's Month this March, it's time for women to look in the mirror and remind ourselves that the empowered woman we aspire to be everyday already resides within us. Society has a lot of keeping up to do, nevertheless, we persist.