Why study women?

I was about to give up on my master’s degree on women and development. Not entirely. I was visiting back and forth to UP, just so they would accept me again. For complicated technical reasons, I was not eligible to enroll this coming semester.

I pleaded, persuaded to give me a chance to process my documents. I was way passed the deadline.

It takes a lot of determination to pursue and continue higher studies. It’s always tempting to question the value of master’s degree and make a mental cost and benefit analysis. Do you really need it for your career or for your well-being?

How much more if you are taking women studies? There will be doubts along the way over your academic life choices.

Why study women? Why take women’s studies? These questions lead to a bigger question: Why should we take gender issues seriously? Is there a need at all?

Since the day I have studied women and development, I have heard these criticisms. There is no need to advocate for women empowerment and gender equality for the following reasons: The Philippines is a matriarchal society. Women have more jobs than men. Women “can” get jobs. Women are more educated. No one is stopping a girl to go to school. Women are already empowered.

I don’t want to go on detail and debunk these with statistics. What makes “truths” valid if they appeal to our realities. In a practical sense, maybe we need to examine our society by what is actually happening within our own neighborhood and our social circle.

Maybe it’s best to have a reality check through the following questions:

  • Do you think it’s not safe for a girl to walk alone at night?
  • If you are a parent, do you worry when your daughter is out late night?
  • Do you think there are places where women cannot travel all by herself?
  • Do you know a friend, loved one, or acquaintance who has experienced violence?
  • Do you receive cat calls?
  • Have you experienced being intimidated with a group of boys?
  • Do you find the need to constantly protect yourself? How often do you find the need to protect yourself?
  • Are you judged by your virginity or sex experience?
  • Are you judged by your relationship/s?
  • Do you think you are deprived of opportunities because you are a mother?
  • Have you ever experienced a stranger touching your body parts without your permission?
  • Do you get conscious when you wear short shorts?

If you have answered “yes” to more than two questions, then there exists a gender issue.

Unless every girl in this world feels safe, there remains a gender gap that needs to be addressed. Women are not totally free at all times. Some have enjoyed certain extents of freedom but there are always restrictions and limitations set by social norms.

A person with gender lens will tell you how facilities can be sensitive to the needs of women, that the comfort room should not be far from women and girls, that a breastfeeding station and daycare center at offices are needed so that women can enjoy working. And most importantly, a person with gender lens aims to change behavior in society. Through this, we want to reduce street harassment, catcalling, and teach the value of consent and body ownership.

So, why study women? Or why take women’s studies? Because we have to care for people, especially those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized. On my part, I specifically choose women because it is a vulnerable group whose angst, struggles are those I can validate with my day-to-day experience. Sure, there are many more specific, and marginalized groups but we find our own space to create change from where we are and from where we have stories.

19619401_10155293094777906_1331381075_o

Dear Overthinker

dscf0815Dear Overthinker,

I know you are tired. You are busy. You worry too much. Overthinking has become your hobby. When you are quiet or just having a break, you just cannot not think. You wonder, “How do I stop myself from thinking?” The only positive thing you get from overthinking is that you are able to validate that you are smart. Smart people make simple things complicated. Then, you will overthink about this and you will conclude you are not.

Your mind is like a forest. Your thoughts grow like wild trees with too many intertwining roots. They form too many branches that break, fall, and rejuvenate. Your seeds of thoughts are scattered everywhere. You are always panicking and you are always noisy in your head.  You worry today and I’m sure tomorrow you will worry again. Once you solve your problems today. You will have a new set of problems tomorrow. It never ends.

Reduce your fear of deadlines. Finish what is urgent, what is more important. Do not think too much on those deadlines that are set ten months later or ten years later. I know you have heard you only have 11 productive years.  But what does it mean to be productive? Is it by how much work you have done? Is it by the number of goals hit and miss? Or by the quality of life you have?

Renew your passion of the things you once love. As you grow old, you realize passion is just a feeling. But if it is a feeling that excites you and boosts your energy, you just have to keep it going. It’s the kind of feeling that lets you live in bubbles, walk in clouds that all you see are rainbows and cotton candies. It’s a feeling of grandeur in the most mundane moments.

When you work, think of it as a passion project or a personal hobby. Through this mindset, it lightens your workload and brightens your day. Have this in mind so that you will never think of the hours you spend or the energy you give. All kinds of job can be exhausting.  Find a purpose and accept the little sacrifices you make to get it.

But remember to unwind. Entertain yourself with whatever you have. Watch a Youtube video that can make you laugh. Go to a movie house. Read a book that feeds your soul Have cold drinks to calm you. Eat well. These little things can keep you sane.

You glorify busyness and you commend those who can multitask. But you, my friend, know your weakness.  You will think too much over a single task and you will think much more over many tasks. Take one step at a time. Make your own system of doing things.  This is how you fight the impulse of your brain to think big. Don’t let anxiety rule over you.

List down everything you will do.  This is a little trick you can do to organize your thoughts and to prevent your brain from wandering.

Take note that life is not a race. It just has many phases.  And you have to  deal with each life phase with your own pace. Be patient yourself. You just can’t force a flower to bloom if it is not  yet its season.

Focus on what you have control. Always remind yourself that you have no control on what people will think of you.

Hope for beautiful things in the future. You, as an overthinker, are fond of predicting the future. You think of 100 possible scenarios of a single action. You always have a Plan B. That’s a good girl scout trait. But don’t waste too much of your brain cells on trying to resolve imagined fears. You just  have to be flexible with whatever life  throws at you.  As you constantly ask yourself,   “What if I  fail?”  This should be your default answer, “So what?”

Know you limits. Listen to your body. Sleep when your body asks for it, even if your mind tells you not to. Don’t say “yes” to every opportunity. Rank your priorities accordingly.

Never forget the people who love you. Send a message. Make your presence felt even if they are  miles away. Overthinking will take them away from your thoughts.

Even if things don’t work out as planned, even if you miscalculate risks, life will always compensate you with new wisdom and renewed strength.

And even if you will not be the best or have the best, you are still living a life worth living.

Feminist Lens: What dreams are made of

I’m not the right person to talk about goal setting. I am just good at dreaming. I personally advocate to make your own dreams, follow your heart’s desire.

Dreams don’t only talk about the future but they also talk about our existing values, our interests, and our priorities.

I read an anecdote of a mother having a conversation with her son. Her son wrote in his homework that he wanted to be the driver of a train. The teacher corrected her son’s homework. She wrote : “To be a manager of the train station.”

Should the teacher correct the little boy’s dream? What if being a train operator is what the little boy really wanted to be?

I have heard many stories on how parents would like their children to be doctors, nurses, lawyers and how students struggle to finish a degree they don’t like.

If ever I become a mother, I will not insist my dreams to be my children’s dreams. They will be what they want to be.

This leaves me with a thought that we are not entitled to impose what people should aspire for. When people tell me what I should be and what I should want to have, I silently respond:
“Who are you to tell me what I should be?” “What do you know about my dreams.”

If I am not happy receiving unsolicited advice on how I should live my life, why should I do the same to others?

17425066_1478977972135711_7161015927487568673_n

A month ago, I facilitated a short activity for a group of women in the community. In our activity Buuin Natin Ang Ating Mga Pangarap, we ask each woman to make a vision board. The group was composed of full-time mothers living in Brgy. UP Campus. They cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers and put them all together in a cartolina. Some dreamed of having a business, owning a landline, and serving good food for their family. I take it as a sign of hope that somehow they have aspirations that will eventually make them entrepreneurs in their community. As expected, everyone mentioned having a good life for their family.

If you belong to the first wave of feminists, you would preach that you have the choice to work outside home. Do not let yourself be confined to the four corners of your home. You can be so much more than be a mother and a wife.

I was supposed to end the activity with the women by saying, “Have a dream outside home, outside family. Have a dream that you can call yours, not your husband’s dream, not your parents’ dream, not you family’s dream. “

But I just couldn’t remember if I really said it. Maybe I did not say it at all because deep down I questioned my position to encourage women to aim a little higher and “dream for yourself.” I had some introspection. Maybe these things are easy to say because I am young, single, childless, and middleclass.

I have enjoyed my single life and perhaps my motivation of the things I do is to reach self-actualization. Like other millennials, I constantly question my purpose in life. Sometimes, I subconsciously equate purpose with profession, paycheck, or any validation from the society. And again my formula is about me and my dreams.

But for some people, family is a strong motivation to keep a job, to get a promotion, to start a business, to take risks, to keep your momentum and zest in life. I rationalize this by saying,
“You make the most of your ability when you know that there are people around you who depend on you, like a captain of the ship, like a pilot, like a CEO.” For me, that is a form of empowerment. When you are able to produce milk for your child, when all the members of the house are well-fed, when you ensure accessibility and availability of resources not only for your family survival but for the development of their capacities, motherhood becomes a serious endeavor that requires management skills, with targets and deliverables.

If we ask most mothers what they dream of, the answers will always be about family. Should we as feminists, dream of enhancing and strengthening our personal relationships? Should it be part of our agenda to make better mothers and wives in the world?

Without being too theoretical, feminism wants women to be their best version of themselves and that covers many facets of a woman’s life

The purpose of the vision board activity is not to promote a new set of values but to find commonality in our dreams as a women’s organization. Because within these similarities, we draw strength from one another to reach great heights.

From a Ted Talk quote:

“Coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you.” – Lisa Bu

Why should we deprive ourselves from the joy of dreaming? Whether it’s small or big,for work or better life, whether it comes from a selfless notion of motherhood,  a dream is a reminder that we can be so much more than what we are today.

Life Hacks: How to avoid being “Burara”

“Burara” is a Filipino word used to describe a person who is careless with his or her things.

I had a lot of moments looking for my eyeglasses, an official receipt and a deposit slip. When I was younger I’d asked my older brother to look for my lost things at home and he would ask me to pay him.

Prevention is better than cure and it applies on how you get things done. Just be organized, as what they say.

the-cost-of-clutter-clipart-8sqOvP-clipart

The struggle to be organized is real if you are burara like me. Slowly, I have tried to be organized. I have managed to combat my burara tendencies with a few tricks.

These tricks are very useful for those who are forgetful and constantly absent-minded.

Take a photo of important files, notes, announcement and others

The purpose why cameras are built on mobile phones is not only for selfies, foodporn,
Instagram, and Facebook. Use a camera phone to document not only life’s important events, but  other things you need to remember such as your enrollment form, your tax certificate, contact details of VIP, your course syllabus, announcements, advisory, schedule, and other documents that you will find useful in the future. Think of your phone as an instant notebook and planner when you don’t have a pen and paper. Papers are disposable but your phone is the one thing you will never leave behind. I also take a photo when  I’m trying to be familiar with a new place. I take a photo of landmarks as I travel.

Always have soft copies of your documents

You should  have a soft copies of your files such as your live birth, passport, ID,  ticket, research paper, letters. Scan or take a photo. If you have poor organizational skills, keeping back-up files will prevent you from painstakingly finding and arranging files. The best thing about soft copies is that you can always use the search button of your PC. Instead of manually looking for a file, let the mouse do it for you.

To be more secure, send soft copies to your own email  address. Remember someone might snatch your mobile phone and your laptop might crash down.

Use stickers as markers for your black objects

Stickers are not only cute things but they are small organizers. It’s hard to find gadgets inside a large black bag.

17101521_10154911435637906_1592972074_o

Use rubber band for your earphones, charger and other cable wires

17092840_10154911436337906_1152347309_o

Bring some paper clips in your wallet

A paper clip is a time-saver. When you are submitting documents for school, employment, and business, it helps to have a paper clip so that your paper requirements do not get messed up.

And when you need to separate your paper bills, receipts in your wallet, paperclips can be very useful.

Lesson learned: No matter how small you are, you can make a difference. Just like a paper clip. Small, simple but make great things possible. harhar

The Space Between Us

There’s  a difference between loving from afar and loving too close.
They say proximity measures affection and relationships are defined by intimacy and commitment

When you are too near, you can hear the person’s breathing next to you.
Even the sounds that are not of interest, they catch your ears
like how someone snores and that repetitive surprise fart
that is intimacy. that is live performance

When you are miles apart, you define intimacy
by private messages and phone conversations
they are always private and people will always think you have a quiet time with your boo
but in your head, it has an overflowing passion, as perfect as a sonnet

Sometimes some things are beautiful from afar.
I can invent our life together in photoshop, in wonderland
I can’t see pimples nor trace the rough edges of your face.
They are replaced by a flat screen and a smooth surface.

back-to-back-1

But as I make a reality check, it is mundane, just like one of the stories

When I pat you on the back, I am patting a pillow or a pet
when my hand is reaching for your hand, it is reaching for a phone or a mouse
when I crack a joke, I can’t hear you laugh
the decibels of your laughter, and the stretch of your lips
are replaced by three letters, LOL
Going to a cinema meant going to a website
Your voice over the phone sounds like the best customer service
Your mass weight and body mass are shrunk into text, jpegs, and emoticons

back-to-back-2

You can spend hours staring at the camera, but there is nothing more awkward than staring at someone face to face
I miss the awkwardness
which leads to losing a taxi ride, forgetting our itinerary, losing our cash.
Sometimes I feel like gadgets are living things too, I cuddle them to sleep.

Face to face, silence is a beautiful and meaningful pause.
It is an opportunity to take a deep breath for the arms to extend or the fingers to lock
and for my eyes to find your eyes
There’s a space between us
and between us is a black hole where all the warm hugs, teardrops, and long gazes, are trapped
And the airwaves can only send   “hahaha” and “hehehe”

back-to-back

Happy Hearts Day to all girlfriends and boyfriends in long distance  relationships! 😀

Photos taken in Sky Ranch, Tagaytay

Dear Cebu

Dear Cebu,

When I think of you, I think of seaweeds, and receding beach line,

I think of boho and YOLO

pool
but you are such a city that never takes a nap.
You don’t have an insomia yet but please have a lunch break and rest when you can
The streets are never bare
that I cannot sing “On My Own” or think about about my lover across the sea
For it takes a lot of time and presence of mind just to cross the streets.

I thought I was beautiful in Cebu
because everyday there was always a man offering me a motor ride.
But then I found out it was not a free ride at all

Even the driver’s most dashing smile comes with a price
That’s when the moment I learn I shouldn’t depend on any man for a car or a ride
Sometimes it’s better to walk alone
than to pay 40 pesos just to be home.

lights
Cebu, you are like my first love and last love.
too familiar and ignored that I buried in my 2-gigabite memory
Like last love, everybody tells me they want to grow old with you
they build a house for retirement, they build a home, they make love, they make choices

kamayanseafood
You are mixed. You are flavored. you are the home of my taste buds
I like how you take my hands and let them explore the flavors of the sea.
I thought I wanted to be a mermaid because I had no fear of depths
But when I met you I wouldn’t want to be mermaid ever
I will trade my fins and be human again
because the I am always a pescetarian, who cannot swim for her life

You are not too quiet. You are not too noisy
You are funny. You are friendly
You care. You smile.
You excite me
But just like any other city, you become predictable, commercial

You may mean business
but t it will be my pleasure to meet you in odd circumstance
in serendipity, in suit and tie, in slippers and loose jeans

and unlike other cities of the world, you welcome transients to stay forever

Sincerely,

The woman who fell in love with a Cebuano

Previous Older Entries

Follow Jackie Belo on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: