The F word


THERE are many reasons to love the F word really, though it’s the kind of thing that’s thrown one’s way like it’s a judgment, or a truth one should have an amount of shame about. Because really, you’re all that? You’re angry and grim and determined, you’ve got your fist up about everything, right?

Too, how can the barely-clad Beyonce on stage gyrating to her hit songs, and Emma Watson in a suit delivering a speech as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, stand for the same thing? How can you be that at all at a time when we have equality and women can do everything they want, be everything they want to be? Who needs it at all?

That the question is asked at all of course is already proof of why we need it, especially when Time Magazine would like to ban it altogether. Feminist.

Yup, I can see you cringing.

Whitened and faked
Time Magazine included the word “feminist” for its poll on words to ban in 2015, purportedly because of how it’s been used by most every celebrity as a mere label for whatever publicity it might gain them. Women of the world, of course, did not think it funny.

I tend to think that it’s only easy to imagine feminist to be nothing but a label especially when one isn’t in a place like third world Philippines, where no mainstream celebrity uses the word feminist, and no one is even close to speaking out about women’s rights and equality.

Because, oh no, our celebrity women are too embroiled in the enterprise of product endorsement and advertising, which is the most effective way to gag them – if they are thinking at all about the repercussions on their fans and viewers of all this selling that they do.

And no, this is not to say that our Pinay celebrities should say no to all endorsements – that would be to oppress them too, and who’s to say they must not earn from this industry that believes celebrities to be credible product endorsers? I say just keep from selling whitening and fakery shall we?

Because there is no good to come of out of making our young girls believe that the only way to succeed is if they are whiter than their morena complexions, with hair blacker and straighter than what they’ve been given. And when it’s celebrities that they look up to who are selling whitening – celebrities by the way who are white to begin with – imagine how much larger that image of whitening becomes, and how much more dangerous.

Also how much sadder it is for our little girls, who will grow up being insecure about how they look. Because they cannot look like the dolls they see on TV and billboards. Because no one looks like those Pinays really, whitened and faked and manufactured as those are.

It’s worse than growing up with a blonde, blue-eyed Barbie doll on tiptoe and with big boobs. At least one outgrows dolls.

Real women dolls
There have been countless efforts for the Barbie doll to diversify how it looks, but one doll has actually put into question what was always wrong with Barbie – and no, it’s not just the white skin and blonde hair.

It is everything else: the unbelievably tiny waistline and legs, the feet on tiptoe (because she’s always in heels), the big boobs, the made-up face. The fact that she can’t even stand on her own, can’t do much with her legs or arms. Barbie was always nothing but pretty, was always just about what she was wearing because well, she couldn’t – still can’t do much else.

But Lammily is here, and how wonderful for little girls everywhere – including the Philippines. She’s shorter, has real body proportions, has got thicker dark brown hair, and a waistline that doesn’t put Scarlet O’Hara to shame. Her face is devoid of make-up and her doll comes with the stickers that allow her to have acne marks and scars, even stretch marks for her legs and belly.

Because she’s not on tiptoe, she also doesn’t need to always be in high heels, and can stand on her own. Because she’s got limbs that move and fold, she can also pretty much do everything imaginable, from running to gymnastics, surfing to just you know, good ol’ sitting down.

Designed and developed by Nickolay Lamm, and crowdfunded via a Kickstarter campaign, one can’t help but imagine what kind of childhood one would have had if Lammily were already around then. Also: whether or not it would have affected the kind of beauty industry we have in the present in third world Philippines, that puts such a premium on Pinays looking like Barbie dolls because you know, now technology can promise that.

Without the F word
Certainly it wouldn’t be a world without the F word. For the struggles of women in relation to the beauty industries across the world is not all that feminism is about. But it is one of the more pervasive industries that make us believe that how we look is more important than what we can do. It’s also one of those oppressive institutions that so few talk about – especially in the Philippines, when too few celebrities have actually spoken out against it, and no female politician has taken a stand against the fakery it sells.

That is of course symptomatic of the many things we cannot talk about as Pinays in this country, lest we be labeled as grim and determined daughters of Gabriela Silang. In truth, no one owns the label feminist, and to me it should and can be defined and redefined given the diversity of women’s struggles. But also first we must learn how to use it without cringing, without smirking, and unapologetically, too, because we know that it is important.

On TV, I happened upon some sports analyst who was talking about today’s Manny Pacquiao and Chris Algieri fight. He said that he thinks Pacquiao will knock out Algieri in the first four rounds because Algieri’s punches are powerpuff. “Powerpuff girls,” he explains. “Parang babae kung sumuntok.”

I wanted to put on my boxing gloves and punch him myself. I love the word feminist, but that other F word sure often comes in handy in male chauvinist Philippines.


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  1. If I understood your point right, you seem to be saying that a large part of being a feminist is going against an understanding that women should be viewed not on the basis of their appearance but rather on the basis of their abilities. Sadly, you argued, this is not how Philippine society views women and that currently children are being socialized to feel inferior because they don’t look like their Barbie dolls. I have to agree that this emphasis diminishes children and women in the end. It will exacerbate the already pronounced low-self esteem of many of the girls as they interact with society that tells them day in and day out “Be Barbie”. So they sculpt and contort their bodies to be someone else. Right now the message everyone is getting is that be someone else because who you are is not enough. To girls trying to establish their identity, this emphasis is injurious to their psyche or anyone else’s psyche for that matter. But, I would venture to say that this Barbie thing is a universal phenomenon. In fact plastic surgery is big business especially in the western world. They too don’t like how they look. The bad news is that people will always assess base on appearance. It doesn’t help when celebrity people accentuate the problem by not speaking against the trend. However, the Philippine society is more advanced in terms of women having leadership position. We already have two women presidents. Mothers control the purse in the home. Most men in the Philippines do not have problem women as bosses. I have been working for more than thirty years and in all those years, I have had two men and seven women bosses. If I may add there is an emphasis on feminism that needs to be looked at. For instance society must have zero tolerance on domestic violence. Further women should have equal pay as men doing they same job and having the same qualification. Furthermore feminism should address sexual harassment in the work place. Thanks to an insightful piece.

  2. Powerpuff….. the Pacquiao-Algieri fight proved that Algieri really is a powerpuff puncher. Not enough power for a knockout punch. Good footwork, though, that Algieri.

  3. There are many feminists in Pilipinas, many females who want the younger Pinays to be better-“armed” for the future. These would be teachers.