By Jewyz Ann Bunyi
“If I had a hammer, I’d smash the patriarchy.”
Easier said than done, but not impossible. We may have progressed as a society with legislations safeguarding women’s rights and gay rights, but the scars never healed; they still sting. Male superiority in conventions, interpretations, standards, and opinions continues to live, emerging from the four corners of our homes. We started young with gendered toys, colors stuck within the binary, and feminine qualities viewed as “weaknesses.”
Being boxed in these heteronormative views, power dynamics between docility and dominance, and outdated philosophies roots way back. And patriarchy’s rotten fruits should have been long smashed before reaching its budding possibilities of progression and inclusivity.
Roots and fruits
Prior to Spanish colonialism, indigenous Filipino women had the same rights and benefits as men, from educational opportunities and common properties to inheritance rights and production resources. Women also had positions of authority as males in the political and ecclesiastical spheres.
When the Spaniards infused their ideas of feudalism into the country, women transitioned from a strong, esteemed match of men to an object of subjugation. She turned into a “new” Filipina who was conditioned to be “her father’s meek daughter, her husband’s faithful subject, the Church’s obedient servant.” Virginity became a deal breaker in relationships, serving as a gift to her husband (sometimes, to a friar too). She was also a slave who bearly earned anything.
AlJust like how a typical patriarchal household is orchestrated, women are caged to attain these constructed roles when most women don’t even want to be all of them. These even have their own customary standards, as if it’s a recipe for baking the ideal a perfect woman.
Colonialism became more systematized as the Americans utilized education and the market. As a result, the traditional self-reliant Filipino families turned into nuclear families dependent on male wage workers who profited from the world capitalist market. Women are separated from their true selves with an apron and feather duster as their uniform.
Consequently, women are more pressured to build a family in order to survive because, as they say, “babae ka lang.” Society stigmatizes empowered independent women by mocking their appearance that doesn’t fall within the standards, and pinpointing their shortcomings and flaws. Yet, their achievements and contributions remain untold. And if she’s a single mother, she is demonized and called names by those who have no knowledge of her life due to how the Church pictured her to be an embodiment of the Virgin Mary.
Colonialism, feudalism, and capitalism created a triangular cage for class division and women’s isolation in labor, whether at home or in public spaces, and the question of whether patriarchy is truly dead goes on.
“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘till death do us part.”
We’ve heard about this pact between people uniting in matrimony. At a young age, my idea of marriage was peppered with glittered realities and rose-tinted ideologies. Problems under the roof are indeed hidden under the roof. Because of their vows, everything must be intact, for better, for worse.
Cliché teleseryes show us the typical perfect family portrayed by a husband, wife, and children. The plot thickens when a third party, typically a woman, enters the scene. In most cases, the wife stays, justifying the betrayal through their vows and children to make the suffering worth it. Outside the black screens, infidelity persists, and women are put to blame for overused reasons like not taking care of themselves, some people are more attractive than them, or simply because they are not enough in all aspects. The doer of infidelity gets a free pass since their macho bravado is something no one can say no to.
Aside from cheating, we’ve also seen specific plots, like if a woman chooses to leave a toxic marriage or relationship and be a woman of her own, she is viewed by the supporting characters as a selfish anti-hero who can’t tolerate “hardships.”
Roman Catholicism ingrained discipline, fear, and compliance in every Filipino’s consciousness. The woman is conditioned to be submissive and acceptant of her fate as a loving, devoted partner, even though her purportedly other half doesn’t behave as such. As depicted in films, a woman who stands up for her spouse is romanticized as she bears the weight of psychological and physical trauma, locked by Church vows, aspiration of a perfect family, and society-imposed qualities.
Infidelity, abuse, violence, coercion, and harassment are not considered “for better, for worse.”. A further reflection of how the country has institutionalized and entrenched sexism and patriarchy is that the divorce law is still a pending discussion. Everyone involved in the household, regardless of gender, should be treated with dignity and compassion. It’s not a home if it’s tainted with lies and cries in order to be called a perfect one.
“Boys don’t cry!”
“Kung umiyak ka naman para kang ‘di lalaki!”
“Lalaki s’ya at malalagpasan nya mga problema niya.”
We’ve heard earsore comments like these, and sadly, these are all normalized as we grow up. Men are expected to be ironclad warriors with a stern and manly stance. If they act all sensitive, jelly, and wishy-washy, they are condemned for who they are. They are labeled with ridiculous names and shunned as though they have a contagious disease. In the end, being cool and rude is a man’s alter ego to fit in, the stepping stone for male friendships built on loyalty and coolness that lacks substance.
Patriarchy may have women as its primary suspect, but it hurts men too. A country that aspires egalitarianism but cultivates impunity only for those who have the macho bravado facade. “Locker-room talks” among politicians are a common occurrence in dominating politics and also the society.
Former senator Manny Pacquiao, a well-known boxer, labeled same-sex union couples “worse than animals.” Of course, the man of the hour in subjects regarding toxic masculinity, former president Rodrigo Duterte once confessed that he was gay but was eventually “cured.” Political patronage gives them protection from their own insulting statements.
Mental health in the country also remains an undermined topic. The stigma stems from Filipinos becoming unaware of its presence. Amidst the country’s perpetuated machismo culture, men are expected to put on a mask to disguise their inner battles and keep their cool.
At the end of it all, this toxic man-made phenomenon falls under the shoulders of one’s parents, specifically the mother. She may have lived her life being an obedient daughter, a devoted partner, a loving wife, and a caring mother; but she still bears all hatred single-handedly when all backfires.
She’s the light of the house, and she’s responsible for everything, from the dirty dishes and unwashed clothes to imparting mindsets and teachings to the children. And because of how society has conditioned her — she is blamed when she challenges the patriarchy.