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[OPINION] #YesToRedLipstick: Echoing the thunder

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Oct 27, 2020 5:37 am

It seems necessary for the nation to remain frightened. The enemy is everywhere. — American historian and social thinker Howard Zinn

I never thought, until some nights ago, that putting on red lipstick would bring out the “man” in me.

That was exactly what I did last week. I posted the photograph on my Facebook account complete with eyeliner and a mild swipe of blush on my cheekbones. It was the reddest lipstick in the house, owned and paid for by my lovely wife.

Mind you, not because I had one too many beers that night. No. Truth to tell, I was rarin’ for a fight.

For the past few days, I had little by way of patience to calm me down. I was piqued, outraged, incensed to my very bones. State machismo is not something I take kindly to. More so if it targets women, even those I barely know.

As father of two lovely daughters, and hubby to my wife who is a novelist and journalist, I worry for their future. I have all the reason to fret about their safety today. Misogyny among powerful men is swiftly becoming the rule rather than the exception.

Misogyny among powerful men is swiftly becoming the rule rather than the exception.

Some may find this so-called trishaw of a problem too trifling compared to drug trafficking or the threat of terrorism and insurgency. But P19.1 billion funds going to the coffers of these misogynists makes you wonder: where are these funds going to if all they can do is red-tag women?

If what had happened to human rights activist Reina Mae Nasino is any indication of where this government is going with this, then we all have good reason to be concerned.

I believe women’s participation in government is crucial if misogyny and patriarchy in state affairs were to be nipped in the bud. Recent statistics, however, say that we have a long way to go before the number of women running for office reach “critical mass.”

The Philippine Commission for Women said, “While the country has made great strides in promoting and increasing women’s political participation, with two women having held the highest position in government as President of the Republic of the Philippines, the proportion of women in politics or public office is still yet to meet the 30 percent ‘critical mass,’ which scholars identify as the minimum percentage necessary for a minority group to be able to influence decision making. From 1998 to 2016, the percentage of women elected into public office ranged from 16.1 percent to 21.44 percent, reaching its peak in the 2016 elections. In the 2019 National and Local Elections, only 20.16 percent (8,782) of the candidates were female.”

Some women, after winning a post in government, turn into the very misogynists they initially purported to boot out of office. Why? If not fear, then greed.

The rather slow gait to freedom is blamed on patriarchal norms and values, including gender stereotypes, that is, women being thought of as weak, emotional and indecisive. A good majority of Filipinos, sadly feudal and largely patriarchal, still believe that these qualities do not make for good decision-making, let alone negotiations.

“At the same time, the ‘multiple burden’ experienced by most women, wherein they bear most of the responsibility for performing domestic duties while they engage in political, economic and social activities discourages women themselves from running for public office,” the commission said.

Allow me to add that some women, those feminists only by name, after winning a post in government, turn into the very misogynists they initially purported to boot out of office. The question of why remains largely inexplicable save for one overarching reason: if not fear, then greed.

I laud all women who go out of their way to deny patriarchy and misogyny any claim over their lives—celebrity or not makes no difference. The fight doesn’t begin and end in the wearing of red lipstick.

It begins where men must know their place, and women speaking on their own behalf and for their own benefit.

I, for one, can only fight for women's rights as only men of my wounded and damaged disposition can—a man raised within a sadistic patriarchy where a lot of painful unlearning had to be done.

Men’s voices should ring but as an echo of that thunder.