Woman, speak up!


Sure, June is not the Women’s Month. But this time can be an equally appropriate more than ever when women should use their voice to speak up against misogyny. It has been prevalent even before when men leaders brandishing their macho style and setting women aside.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been labeled as misogynistic with his pronouncements even during the campaign season. Since the start of his term, the President has been caught on camera blabbering statements such as offering Filipino virgins to entice foreign tourists, shooting female rebels in their vaginas so they’d be rendered useless, and picking a new Ombudsman who is not a politician and not a woman.

This comment has raised eyebrows as the President seemed to take aim on women and obliterating them from their position, sometimes unofficially. Former New Zealand Prime Minister and United Nations Development Program Head Helen Clark in the documentary “My Year with Helen” said that you always get the best person for the job, and sometimes this person happens to be a woman.

In one of her talks, Clark even pushed that for women leaders to emerge, men have to be supportive every step of the way for this to reach full potential. A good gender balance, according to Clark makes governments more attuned to the needs of the people it serves and gets important issues to reach national agenda.

The funny or should we say, ironic thing about these misogynistic claims is the applause and cheering that the President receives from doing so. It’s like saying, the President is right; we support women being in the sidelines; it’s ok for young people to see their leader talk and act this way; we applaud actions that force women to take on positions initially only “reserved” for men.

Even the US President has his own share of the shady limelight with downgrading statements such as “there is nothing in the world like first-rate pussy” or taking on any woman he fancies and “grab them by the pussy.” These statements clearly label women only as individuals with something between their legs and not the talent to offer.

The protests in Washington following his anti-racist, anti-women, and economic inequality remarks were among the impetus for the establishment of the #MeToo movement which encouraged women to share their stories of sexual abuse and harassment.

The Philippines has its own #BabaeAko movement, instigated by a loose group of activists who have had enough of the President’s degrading statements against women. It is a social campaign introducing oneself and ending with one’s message for the President on his treatment of women.

The question is—Would we allow someone to tell women that her only place is at home, or that she couldn’t pursue her passions especially if these are in the arena previously dominated only by men? Would we let them live in a system that allows this kind of thinking to shape their future? Would we encourage them to see the misogyny as a norm?

Of course, we wouldn’t and we shouldn’t. Women have fought back systems that kept them in homes that did not recognise their economic contributions, withdrew opportunities for them to rise up in the organisation and get equal pay with their male peers, withheld them the chance to study and to vote, among other things. As parents and leaders, we teach our own children and our staff about empowerment, equal opportunities, a fair go. But are we genuinely living it and encouraging it?

Don’t get us wrong. This is not a tirade against the leaders mentioned, but more of their actions. We now have social media, an equalising platform to let women’s voices be heard. There is no better time than now to speak up, be counted, and hit back at people or systems putting women—sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts—down.

WATCH: Duterte creates controversy by kissing a woman on the lips

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