Women’s Monthal ways gets me thinking about the women whose lives affect me every day, and I don’t just mean the few women friendships I keep, the ones who have become my younger sisters, the relatives that I grew up with, the nanay who is at the heart of who I am, the teachers whose voices resonate in my head.
The Pinay “other”
I also mean the Pinays I know only through images: those on billboards all perfected by technology, selling everything from clothes to whiter armpits, kitchenware to new boobs. Those whose images dictate how women are defined and limited to certain roles. I mean the diverse set of women senators and government officials who rise to the occasion of the news; or if you’re Miriam Defensor-Santiago (who I am not at all related to), who will actually ask the more difficult questions and assess the more complex assertions.
There too, are the Pinays I am distanced from by class, but who define how I live every day precisely because of this difference. Of workers in factories and malls, of every manang who works the markets, each one who works the underground economy to survive. That woman who takes care of land and family, who takes on more than her husband does; the Overseas Filipina Worker who knows to take on the task of leaving home, if only so home might become better.
This year, a set of wishes for all of us Pinays, given the common conditions we suffer under, and taking cognizance of our differences.
May the Pinay have the right to reproductive health, one that allows her the best medical and maternal care, which is kind and compassionate, and which understands not just her medical needs, but also her financial limitations. May the Pinay, no matter her social class, learn to talk to doctors without feeling like she is merely one patient among many; may all Pinays feel that they are worthy of the best medical treatment there is, no matter their condition. May we find allies in our Pinay doctors who are not bogged down by conservatism and who can go beyond personal beliefs, towards treating the Pinay patient better despite the difference. May the Pinay’s life never be endangered again by the lack, not just of medical care, but also of medical kindness.
May the Pinay know her body better, may she learn about it without shame and embarrassment, without being told it is a sin. May she learn about her body in school, through teachers who are competent, and who plan biology and sex education lessons based on the needs of students. May our girls learn about their bodies and how it changes, what this means. May the Pinay know that she is in control of her body, that she decides where it goes and what it must and can do, that her body is hers, no matter who or how she loves, and what she believes in.
May the Pinay be educated better, about the roles she can play in nation, beyond the limitations that are dictated by systems that define her abilities relative to men. May schools know to treat their female students, not differently from the males, but distinctly as female, where they are given the capability to speak a little louder, to assert themselves a little stronger, to learn not to fear words that they are told is not theirs, words that will teach them to define themselves. May they be taught ambition and dreaming, as they are taught hard work and persistence and remembering.
May the Pinay know to see the fakery that surrounds her, one that is about being told that her body is imperfect, her hair is all wrong, her boobs too small, her nose pango, her armpits too dark. May she know that these images she is bombarded with are not really about her, as it is about a beauty industry that earns millions by making her insecure about how she looks.
May the Pinay realize that she is not less than the images of beauty on billboards and television, and in magazines, just because she looks different. She looks different because she is real, because she is not frozen in a frame, and not made-up for TV.
May the Pinay know to acknowledge her difference from other Pinays. May those who read this know that the act of reading is already a privilege, and that therein lies the injustice inherent in nation. May the educated Pinay stop believing that all it takes is hard work to achieve our dreams; may she acknowledge the truth of inequality, and know that the poorest Pinays are just as hard working as the rest of us.
May we know kindness for each other, not merely because we are women, and not based on a superficial notion of sisterhood, but because we are made from the same cloth of nation and fall back on the same history. May we know of the persistence and struggle of other women, so that we might be kind to ourselves, too. May knowledge of the economically disenfranchised Pinay push us to engage in the task of effecting real and fundamental change, the kind that is not just about being woman, but is about being human.