As a girl, have you ever been told that you should never initiate the first move because men should do that? Or that you should not be too loud because it’s improper for you to do so? Personally, I’ve heard these lines countless of times. These are believed and practiced by majority of Filipino families and eventually became part of the tradition in the Filipino culture. As you can see, the Philippines is a conservative country and it affects the way Filipinos perceive women. Women are always expected to clean the house, take care of the family, and the list goes on. At present, there is a great dismay in women empowerment circles in our country. It seems like a week doesn’t pass when some government official and especially the President makes some appallingly misogynistic statement (Claudio, 2018). The rampant increase in the cases of women discrimination in the Philippines calls us to at least try to do the bare minimum by debunking these norms for it does not only hinder us to be progressive Filipinas but also tolerate harmful women stereotypes in the Philippines.
Most of us may not know but these roles are existing amidst our knowing. In the community, women are expected to be conservative. This is the so cold Maria Clara image which presents as a shy, demure, and modest woman. Filipinas generally strive to portray the Maria Clara image and frown on aggressive displays by women. An aggressive woman, which description includes one who is open and mixes freely with men, is considered sexually loose (Herrington, 2018). That’s why it’s a common trend for teenagers today when a girl has too many guy friends, people judge her for being a flirt and the like. Moreover, many read Maria Clara as the quintessential damsel-in- distress who needed a knight to save her. The reality was that she herself was raped by another Catholic priest. It presents an image of a women who is weak and is very dependent on men. In fact, Filipino women are neither weak nor passive. This is confirmed by many international economic indices that put the Philippines in the top tier of nations that have lessened the gender gap over the decades since studies on gender and development were started (Percullo, 2018). Generally, this belief is ultimately harmful for women since they are always expected to fit in with what society expects them to be. It puts them in a box that disallows them to be who they truly are since if they do so, they will be considered as a misfit in society.
Aside from the community, traditional female roles also exists at home. According to Perry Gamsby (2011) , a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife in Sydney, Western men are attracted to Philippine women for their attention to keep their family and marriage going. There is a stereotype out there that Asian women are subservient to their husbands. They treat him like a king and do everything for him, are great mothers, and loyal partners. Stereotypes, good or bad, have to come from somewhere and there is a lot of truth in that opening sentence. There is, however, a lot of ‘not so true’ in there also (Harvie, 2017). Women have traditionally been expected to be involved in nurturing tasks like education and service.According to the International Labor Organization, women are still expected to do most of the domestic chores despite their contribution for the country’s rapid economic development. The Filipino values – “women nurture, and their advantages are in housework,” compared with “men provide, and their place is in the labour market,” – lead to discrimination against those women who do want a career (Dacuycuy, 2017). Furthermore, women do not generally drink or eat alone. It would be dangerous for them to do so especially in a place where sexual harassment is prominent. This as well is particularly harmful since you hinder women from experiencing the extent of their potentials and are always expected to be accompanied or be at home. We all know that there is more to women than those.
Lastly, traditional female roles can be majorly observed in the Filipino dating culture. 98% of the time, it’s usually the man who makes the first move. Whether if it’s just introducing himself or asking them out for a date. That is how it is usually done in the traditional Filipino dating culture. Women usually just wait for the perfect timing until a man asks them out. Nowadays, most people in the Philippines still follow this tradition especially in the countryside and minor provinces (Rometic, 2018). The traditional Dalagang Filipina is shy and secretive about her real feelings for a suitor and denies it even though she is really in love with the man. I was taught at an early age that a real Dalagang Filipina knows the importance of playing hard to get. Our culture and traditions teach little girls how to behave in the face of romance: Say no first, and see how the guy reacts. If he stops pursuing you, then he’s not the one. If he does continue to woo you, then he is persistent, and therefore a good guy. If you can’t see the error in this, let me spell it out for you: Teaching this to young girls and boys connotes that no can sometimes mean maybe, maybe can mean no, yes can mean I don’t know, and so on. It blurs the true meaning of yes and no, and gives them the idea that honesty really has some loopholes. Boys are taught that rejections aren’t really rejections, but instead just an invitation to do more. No wonder rape culture is so ingrained in society–nobody knows what “no” means! (Amador, 2018). Further more, there are only two criteria to be called a Dalagang Filipina: That is to be a woman and be a Filipino. Conforming into a certain idea of a woman based on what society sees is right or good is not how things should be. If you want to experience traditional courtship, then go on. It’s harmful if you do not let women have the freedom to do so.
I’m not saying that traditional filipino female roles are entirely wrong because at least there are already some changes about it. Cultures and norms are good, but not all of them are moral and helpful. Some promote discrimination and misogynistic ideals. However, while there are women who are easily threatened and intimidated, it sparked conviction on women who can bravely stand up and fight those who threaten and intimidate them. By debunking these ideas, we pave way for progressive Filipina women. For instance, the late Miriam Defender Santiago who is a three-term senator, is a former regional trial court judge, immigration commissioner, agrarian reform secretary, and presidential candidate. She is the first Asian and Filipina elected judge of the International Criminal Court (“Meet the 10 most influential Filipinas’, 2015). Miriam Defensor is just one example of a Filipina who broke out of these norms. She disregarded the fact that she should just be at home doing chores, she disregarded that fact that women should be quiet and not challenge norms. I hope we all aspire to be like her someday. We’ve faced too much, it’s time for all of us to aspire to be progressive Filipinas; women who are strong, independent and whose contributions surpass the common household.
- Claudio, S. E. (2018, March 18). [OPINION] Misogyny is bad for all Filipinos. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/198445-why-misogyny-bad-for-filipinos
- Herrington, D. (n.d.). Profile of a Filipino. Retrieved from http://www.livinginthephilippines.com/culture-and-people/profile-of-a-filipino/1292-profile-of-a-filipino
- Peracullo, J. C. (2018). Maria Clara in the Twenty-First Century: The Uneasy Discourse between the Cult of the Virgin Mary and Filipino Women’s Lived Realities. Equinoxonline. Retrieved from journals.equinoxpub.com/index.php/RST/article/viewFile/35155/32048.
- Harvie, J. (2017, February 2). Filipina Wives. Retrieved from https://filipinawives.wordpress.com/
- Dacuycuy, C. B., & Dacuycuy, L. (2017, September 20). Gender roles hampering female career progress in Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.pids.gov.ph/pids-in-the-news/214
- Rometic. (2018, June 25). Filipino Dating Culture: How Dating is Done in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.trulyfilipina.com/blog/filipino-dating-culture
- Amador, B. (2018, May 29). Why I think traditional Filipino courtship is problematic. Retrieved from http://www.scoutmag.ph/opinion/think-traditional-filipino-courtship-problematic-scout-20180301
- News, A. (2015, March 7). Meet the 10 most influential Filipinas. Retrieved from https://news.abs-cbn.com/image/focus/03/07/15/meet-10-most-influential-filipinas-5