This picture is from a mobilization for International Women’s Day in the Philippines. The yellow sign says, “Fight (President) Aquino’s Oil Cartel Conspiracy!” and another sign says, “Decrease the Prices of Oil!” The women are hurling paint balls at the US embassy in this picture as a militant protest to the collusion of the US government, its corporations with the Philippine government. This action commemorates international actions for women’s rights but it also reflects the widespread problem of the rising costs of basic goods. This is an example of womanhood in the Philippines.
A recent article in Foreign Policy, entitle “Five Surprisingly Good Places to Be A Woman” lauds the Philippines as its first site to be surprised about when thinking about the good life for women. I read this article and was irritated by its confluence of the closing of the “gender gap” and a good life for women.
Here are three things that I’d urge you to think about a bit more:
1. Foreign Policy lists “educational attainment” and “health and survival” as top ranking statistics for women in the Philippines. But without a discussion on the hotly debated and often rejected Reproductive Health Bill (See Gabriela Women’s Party’s speech)? This bill that prioritizes education about women’s health and survival keeps getting knocked down.
The second paragraph in the Philippine feature states the obvious caveats that religious (and I’d argue, capitalist) patriarchy also puts the Philippines as the only country in the world who hasn’t legalized divorce or abortion or contraceptives. Yay, what a great place to be as a woman.
2. Being a woman in the Philippines can only be good if her father, son, daughter, bakla neighbor, etc. has a good life. The women in that above picture aren’t fighting for oil decrease for women. They are fighting for oil prices to decrease for everyone. The idea that women will have it good because they can read as fast as men is misleading. Yes, education is important. But so is food. If no one has access to basic goods or jobs, how can life be good for women if its not good for men?
How good is it to be a woman in a country where life isn’t good for any person?
I don’t think the only accurate measure of a having a good life for a woman is their ability to work in the same place as men. I think its better to measure women’s well-being in context of their people’s well-being.
3. The only thing I do agree with Foreign Policy about is that women in the Philippines have a good sense of their democratic and revolutionary potential. The picture above which includes one of my personal sheroes, Nanay Neri (in the purple shirt hurling a paint ball) who is a mass leader of women’s organizations from the urban poor sector, shows that women feel the need to act, militantly and without reserve, against the neoliberal retreats of the state. They don’t only feel the need to act. But they act. All the time. Every day. In new ways. That’s good. Really good.
Happy Women’s History Month!