Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Weddings (and more!)

In our Theory Class, we read Lila Abu-Lughod’s article on pregnancy in relation to the Bedouin women’s experiences she observed in her research. It was an interesting read on how traditional and new ways of getting pregnant, and how technology changes the way we view women’s body. Or as my friend Ken said, it’s an encouragement for us women to use our uterus. Haha! Hers is a new way of writing with  gender perspective, an autobiographic ethnography.

I on one hand, had this topic that's  boggling me for quite some time. :)  Allow me to be self-indulgent and let me share my experience about weddings instead.  Coming from family headed by women (I grew up with my maternal grandmother and aunts), and later on nurtured by my aunt who has 4 boys, I had the experience of freedom to speak out my thoughts as well as compete with boys on running, climbing the santol and guava trees, aside from learning the expected ‘female’ roles of sewing and cooking (which I both sucked at!J).  Then after college, I worked with an organization that is prominently governed by women (AFRIM has 13 women and only one male staff!). 
As one observer said, Highly feminized NGO. :)

I worked under three Executive Directors who are into ‘gender issues’. Then I became more aware of issues--of women leaders who continue to struggle with their husbands who doesn’t like their inclusion to groups since it ‘hindered’ their ‘family obligation’ and of community members constant questioning of one’s lovelife and ‘settling down ideas.’

When you go to communities, you see women on their twenties (or even younger) are already mothers. Despite promotion of reproductive health and self-development, the idea of taking advantage of one’s fertility during twenties resonates with my aunts. The idea of ‘stability’ and ‘marriage’ continue to perpetuate. Sometimes, my aunts or even my cousins could not understand my decisions of further study and/or working at an NGO. You see, the idea of ‘settling down’ is having a regular job at the government, marrying at your 20s (to have a longer time to bond over your children?) and working your arse off until you retire. I tried to explain to them that I was not cut for that. Sometimes, it’s just hard to explain. Or I just stopped explaining.

There are four of us girls in the family. My sister is already married with 2 kids, my other cousin (older than me by a year) just got married last April and is now expecting a child. And this month, another cousin (two years younger than I) will be walking down the aisle. And again, the most dreaded question continues to arise, “So when are you getting married too?” You just can’t raise you eyebrows and explain about your unfulfilled dreams, unplanned trips and unstoppable thirst for learning. Further studies meant it would be hard for you to be on the “marriage market”, one of the relatives commented. Women pursuing higher studies will be at a disadvantage, a male friend commented. Women’s value ‘depreciates’ since it’s now difficult to find a man who can surpass your achievements and will be intimated by your intellect  while for men it would be inversely proportional. The higher the educational achievement for man, the more desirable he is for women. (say whuuut?!!)

And I died. I thought the discourse on gender equality and women empowerment is already on the mainstream. But traditional notion of how and what should be the women’s role permeates. The issue of ‘multiple burden’ for women was a part of the discussion during the 80s and continues until now. Feminism, after all is not solely about women but also making the men aware of the struggle. A successful woman leader I know told me her initial story of negotiating with her husband and children; of dividing the family time and household chores. No community woman leader can be successful without her family’s full support. It would be very difficult, constantly struggling with your ideals and be bonded within your home. The “marrying of the public and private self”, that is to become wholly woman.   

I remembered succinctly our forum on 2009 on “Women and Peacebuilding: Pushing Past the Margins”, highlighting the role of women in peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries in Asia such as Mindanao, Southern Thailand and Sri Lanka as based on the research conducted by Prof. Rufa Guiam. March 8, the International Women’s Day already made a long way for women’s rights advocacies. But the challenges and conflict dynamics continue to confront women.

Based on the Gender Equality Index of the World Economic Forum, our country has been ranked 6th in terms of countries with high gender rating as measured through the proportion of women in  decision-making positions. More often than not, we see women at the forefront of restoring normalcy, harmony, conflict prevention and transformation and in the promotion of gender fair structures in society, but seldom in the formal peace processes in Mindanao. For the past decades of formal negotiations (with the Moro Fronts and the National Democratic Front) while struggling for their respective right to self determination and ideology, only a few women were involved in the peace negotiating panels.  Thus, there is a need to uplift and recognize the role of women in both formal and informal peace processes.

It is resonating the call that women’s role are beyond the household.  Women can make change in the discourses of power, in the public level of political decision making. Women holding power not because they are just sisters, daughters or wives of the politician but because of their own merits. We need more women holding and wielding power for the betterment of women.  
“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” ― Anaïs Nin

PS. I really love weddings. It's magical; especially close friends asking you to be a part of their special day but I hate the when-are-you-planning-to-questions. As for the upcoming *wedding drama*, I'll just strut my booty and swear I won't join the  bouquet throwing part. I had enough of that bruhaha.. nyahaha  

Let me share this awesome quote:


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