This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
How does one woman declare herself to be a champion of women while dodging a question about the appropriateness of a president giving free rein to his lecherousness on the international stage?
Easy: by being Pia Cayetano.
Perhaps it’s naîveté, and we choose to believe that we as women have each other’s backs. But the alliance of the lit and woke, united by virtue of being XX-chromosomed, will always remain tenuous at best if women like Pia Cayetano insist on flying the flag of faux feminism.
The sad truth is that, despite believing that we all exist, being the female of the species, in tacit solidarity, a kind of assumed and unbreakable sisterhood of the shared uterus, women are not always each other’s natural allies. There are women who pretend to be: Look at me, I passed some bills in Congress! I care about women!
More often than not, however, they care as much as is politically expedient. They care as much as is convenient. They care as much as it takes to pretend to make a difference. They care as much as it takes to get re-elected.
They crave applause more than they crave change. And they profess to wanting to disrupting the status quo just so, but never to the point of dismantling the patriarchy.
Because they are part of the patriarchy. And they benefit from the patriarchy.
Pia Cayetano displays her cozy relationship with the patriarchy when she makes statements like this, as she did last year: “If you have guy barkadas—and I have a lot—in the Senate…in the back room… they’re just a bunch of boys. And I’m one of the boys. And they talk about their boy things and that’s how boys are.”
She seems prouder of the fact that she can hang out with the boys and accept and tolerate and even enjoy their boyish banter. She seems to think, yes, they respect me because I can make them feel I am one of them, I’ve shown them I know how to play the game in a man’s world.
Oh honey, sorry to break it to you, but that’s not championing women’s causes. That’s even not crusading for significant societal change. That’s accommodation, plain and simple.
You want to be lauded for knowing how to play the game in a man’s world, but either you’re playing a very long game or you aren’t playing very smart. Because the men seem to be playing you every single time.
Sure, sure, you supported the reproductive health bill and the divorce bill. But you know, those really are basic, fundamental human rights that any civilized, evolved and democratic society should not even have to fight for. Access to reproductive health care, including contraceptives and proper science-based education about family planning and sexually transmitted diseases should be given to everyone, especially the poor and the marginalized, who need it the most.
And allowing people to legally dissolve their marriages should they wish without losing their sanity or their savings or their standing in society is a sign of respect for human dignity. While marriage is a decision many couples make with every intention of staying together, not all marriages work out, and options should be made available to them to divorce within a legal but humane framework.
But my, how brave you are, championing the reproductive health bill and the divorce bill. “Look at my track record,” you say. “[It] speaks for itself.” And yet you seem to have lost your much vaunted “voice” when it comes to speaking out against the president as he routinely insults and demeans women, turning rape into a punchline you merrily laugh along with because, oh well, “that’s how boys are.”
Because, why should you comment when your “track record” speaks for itself?
And yet, when you’re asked a simple but direct question such as, what do you think about Duterte’s treatment of women? What can you say about him kissing an OFW in South Korea? You refuse to answer the question.
Because, you say, you’re not the president’s “spokesperson.”
Nobody asked you if you were, honey. No one asked you what your president was thinking when he decided he would kiss the OFW on the lips at a public event. You were asked what YOU thought about it, since you’re such a champion of women’s rights.
But instead you referred to your “track record.”
Well, I tried to listen to your track record and this is what it told me: you may have advocated for these bills, but you’ve done very little to fight for women’s safety. And that includes their safety from being maligned and insulted by a president who thinks it’s funny to do so. And who weaponizes slut-shaming in order to silence the women who dare to challenge him.
Your track record also told me much more. It told me that your brand of feminism isn’t sincere. Your brand of feminism pays lip service to women’s causes, but not at the expense of making men uncomfortable. Your brand of feminism isn’t based on conviction but convenience. Your brand of feminism is a kissing cousin of the status quo. Your brand of feminism coddles the patriarchy.
As Justine Musk, a Canadian author, stated, “The enemy of feminism isn’t men. It’s patriarchy and patriarchy is not men. It is a system, and women can support the system of patriarchy just as men can support the fight for gender equality.”
I know which side you’re on, Pia Cayetano. And it ain’t the right one.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
For comments and questions, e-mail [email protected].
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom
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