The thing called “Passion”

It’s Saturday. It is the time of the week when I have my “me-time”.  I woke up late and had coffee and watched makeup tutorial and vlogs. Then I started to worry  for my upcoming advocacy event but decided today should be all for myself. As an introvert, a time alone is  very sacred. So  I paused and made my month-long reflections.

Looking back, my dream job had always been to be Ms. Saigon in West End production. My  other  dream was to be a Disney princess. I wanted to be the character voice of empowered women like Princess Jasmine and Mulan. Obviously I am a fan of Lea Salonga. The funny thing is  I always thought that these childhood dreams can happen in my lifetime. Later on, I realized that these childhood dreams of becoming international (charot) were  beyond my reach, I had downsized my dream from a Broadway star to a media personality/ TV reporter. Eventually, I took speech communication in college because I thought this was a step to fulfill my dreams.

Fast forward, none of these bizarre dreams ever made to reality. I had experienced the uncertainty of a fresh graduate, the mid 20s’ quarter life crisis, and my gradual transformation to adulthood.  These have led me to where I am right now. I had experienced not just the quarter life crisis but existential crisis.

I did not become Ms. Saigon or a Disney Princess  but what was clear to me I wanted  have a  purposeful life.  If I had to un-filter my words, I wanted to do “something big.” This narcissism which is partly a mixture of self-love and self-loathing  is one reason why it took me years to think like an adult.

I may have never become a performer in Broadway  but I have found a stage  where I can move an audience, influence their values, change their opinions, and even appeal to their feelings, just like a theater actress. Like Mulan, I have become an advocate for women empowerment.  I am quite thankful that I have found a space where I can speak, share my principles, and fight for the rights of others.

Working in the development sector has provided me a platform to propose solutions on the issues faced by the vulnerable sector of the society, especially women. I get to advocate reproductive health, violence against women and other pressing issues faced by women and children.

When you read self-help books or  hear motivational speeches, they always tell  you that you should follow your passion.  But the question is: “What is your passion?”

For me, I discovered that singing is not my passion (hehe). I thought it was. Acting is not my passion. (Akala ko rin haha) Writing is not exactly my passion, just a tool for my real passion. My passion is to serve others: to think of ways on how we can help those who are vulnerable, neglected, and forgotten in the society.

jackie at Nov21

discussing policy issues on sexual abuse and exploitation of children

And my dream is no longer to be Ms. Saigon but to have a more caring society where everyone is treated with dignity  and respect and every place is a safe place for women and children so that there will never have to be a real life Ms. Saigon, an Asian 17-year old girl who was forced to prostitution and ended her life eventually.

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I remember when I was still working for a corporate, I tried to audition with a theater group, and eventually got accepted. I tried for three nights but I realized  I just could not balance my regular job with my so-called passion. Then, our preacher said to me. “God  will find a way to use your talent.” The next day I quit. And continued with my corporate job after a few years, I became interested with advocacy work.

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advocating reproductive health with local officials

How do you find passion? Passion from its original meaning is suffering. Find something that’s worth the suffering.  At the same time, it should be rewarding. I love singing but singing did not love me back (hehe)

You can never go wrong with helping others as a motivation. My generation is always fond of recognition and accomplishment as a yardstick of their personal worth. If you put helping others as an inspiration in what you do, you are no longer living for yourself but living for others.

JACKIE LDS2

While writing this reflection, I know there are many people out there who are thinking about  how to be productive and make meaningful lives.

Here  I am saying it’s okay to be idealistic and to set high standards for yourself or to keep principles. I became an advocate because I strongly believe in justice, compassion, equality, and empowerment.

We are the authors of our lives. It is up to us to make it interesting, worthwhile and meaningful.  Perhaps what I am trying to say there is a place for those who are idealistic and visionary. Go and find it.

 

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Learning

They say journals are good learning tools. I am documenting a few things I  have learned from the past few weeks.

I am done with my fieldwork with a group of home-based women workers. They are highly skillful. They can create doormats, jewelry boxes, fashion accessories, and other crafts.

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If you have a group of women who are senior and who practically know more than what you know, what else can you possibly contribute? So what we did we made a series of workshop with topics on gender and personal development. It was also one way for us to get to know them more as part of our community immersion. We at least tried to be creative and resourceful.

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share your dreams with vision board

share your dreams with vision board

Lesson learned:

You do not have to “teach” so that others can learn.

We don’t develop people, people develop themselves (Julius Nyerere)

As cliché as this may sound but experience is the best teacher. There’s nothing like spending time with the community.

Skill/s gained:

How to think on your feet

What can be improved:

Let the hands do the work

Activities that keep your hands busy fosters better participation.

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We did a gender sensitive training for kids. Gender and sexuality for kids? It’s quite heavy and serious themes for children but there’s always a child-friendly way to do it. We had three main activities. First, we asked the kids to draw body parts of boys and girls. And they had a nice sketch of body parts. Second, we let them categorize photos of toys or items according to gender. Third, we asked all them to draw specific jobs like doctor, teacher. It all boils down on three points:The only difference between boys and girls is their body parts. Boys and girls can like the same things. Girls can do what boys can do.

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My group mates in Feminist Pedagogy

Skill/s gained: Patience! Haha

Kids are more challenging compared with adults because they show you that they’re bored or uninterested. There was one participant who did not want to do the drawing activity and when we asked him why, he just replied “

Tinatamad ako (I’m lazy)” That was brutally honest!

What can be improved:

On my end, I think what needs to be improved is time management. They have short attention span.

And have some extra kindness, fairness and friendliness

It helps to have one figure of authority

 

 

 

Jesus (Fill in the Blank) Women

Is Jesus sexist? I have often read that religion is misogynistic and oppressive.

I read a blog addressing to Christian women: feminism is not your friend. I also read a blog of a pastor, entitled Ten Women Christian Men Should Not Marry. The list included: The older woman, The Divorcee, The Feminist, The Gossiper/ Slanderer, the Immodest Dresser.  If I have to make my own list of Ten Men Christian Women Should Not Marry, one would be The Judgmental Guy.

It disappoints me that this is how they see women basing it on their Christian faith. It also saddens me that through these views on women, people who do not belong to Christian faith fail to appreciate the good news. Why?

Because this is not how I know Jesus

More than quoting and memorizing Bible verses, I think what is worth examining is how Jesus lived his life on earth and how he treated women.

Jesus was radical on how He treated women in His time. He showed importance to women in the time that they weren’t much of value. Author Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C.S. Lewis, wrote:

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another.

Jesus made women special and relevant. Jesus let women join his ministry and traveled with him as written in Luke 8:1-3. Also he first appeared to a woman after his resurrection.

Most important to note is that Jesus challenged laws and norms that were not in favor of women during his time. I have often heard this criticism that the conservative Christian beliefs encourage women to suffer in unhealthy marriages because of the Bible verses pertaining to marriage and divorce.  Matthew 19 states:

 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.

But if you read the entire chapter, you will understand that Jesus’ idea of marriage and divorce is intended for the protection of women. Women were disposable and dependent during his time. Men can leave their wives for any reason.  Jesus deviated this norm when he said to the Pharisees that men could leave their wives only on the grounds of adultery. (Matthew 19:9).

I was reading a book  Discover your Inner Beauty Queen , Godly Secrets to True Beauty. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to inspire women, I am bothered by the some degrading descriptions of women. On her book:

“When I first met Issa, her looks mirrored immoral lifestyle. Her tight clothes exposed her voluptuous curves. Her skirts, barely made it past her buttocks. Her hair hung seductively across her face. She exudes a lustful, almost indecent aura.”

I’d like to give the writer a benefit of the doubt for loosely using “seductive”, “lustful”, “indecent aura”, and “immoral” but I’d also like to reflect on what would Jesus do.  What would Jesus say? How would Jesus react if he met this woman?

In the life of Jesus, he had met a lot of women who were not well liked but he welcomed them with forgiveness, compassion and without prejudice. Remember the woman who was caught in adultery and everybody wanted to cast stone on her but Jesus only said to the woman “ ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”

Source: sharefaith.com

Source: sharefaith.com

Jesus accepted women who were considered outcasts in the community. Another example of a woman who initially received prejudice was the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume (Luke 7). Jesus was pleased by the gesture of this woman and told her that her had faith saved her.

He talked to a Samaritan woman. It was not appropriate for a Jew to talk to Samaritan woman (John 4:4-30, 39-42). His help extended to foreigners and that was not conventional during that time. Jesus also helped a Canaanite woman, another foreigner, in Matthew 15:22-28 by healing her daughter who was demon-possessed.

The greatest proof that Jesus has always been egalitarian, is written on Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

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As what President Jimmy Carter said you have an “ option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women.” We can cherry pick Bible verses to oppress women but I’d like to note that treating women with dignity and value is also Bible-sound.

A Message to All Women

You can also read: https://bible.org/article/christianity-best-thing-ever-happened-women

Wide Awake

One morning, I woke up and decided I wanted to pursue women’s studies. On that same morning, I browsed through the university’s website and grabbed the phone for inquiry. I was not expecting the college would still welcome my application for graduate studies. It was already on the mid of April, the deadline for application and evaluation of most colleges. Coincidentally UP changed its academic calendar which led to postponing the department’s deadline.I took it as a sign from heaven that it was meant for me.

Yes, it was impulsive. It did not take me days to decide whether I should spend four years of my life in grad school. A conversation with my cousin last Christmas just popped on my head. He gave me the idea: “Why not study about women?”

I don’t know how it began. I grew up in a loving household. My childhood was not memorable but it wasn’t traumatic as well. I have had a pretty normal life but I have always been interested on women issues. I bleed everytime I hear stories of women who are undervalued and mistreated in their social context. I  get inspired when I hear powerful message for women.  Sometimes my blog talks lightly about women empowerment. I have written essays online about women. I am much pleased that I echo sentiments of other women.IMG_20131008_191427 Even before I knew the word feminism, I have always had feminist inclination. When I was a young girl, I asked men why they did not allow their wives to work or continue their studies . I felt uncomfortable when people around me discussed how a woman’s clothing could invite disrespect and rape. I had been gender-sensitive. I could not enjoy my lunch while having a conversation filled with sexist remarks and victim-blaming mentality. IMG_20140430_182418 When I started studying women and development, I was able to validate my feelings and convictions towards the stereotype given to women. Sadly, at this day of age, gender ideology to be exact, breeds oppression. My professor said: ” There’s nothing wrong with gender ideology. It is our reality. But if you are going to use it to alienate, to discriminate,to eliminate, it becomes a problem.” Gender inequality is not a small problem but it is a global problem. It affects labor force, economy, commerce, health, and personal relationships. It affects the entire human race. We are losing a lot of human potential by excluding women in the marketplace, in policymaking, and in services.

As I continue with the course, I have read a lot of negative impressions about feminism. It seems that the western world has painted an unfavorable image of feminism. But closely examining theoretical frameworks and development approaches, feminism works best not only for women but also for men; not only for individuals but for the society as whole. It posts questions that our government, our society should have answered ages ago. There is discomfort in finding answers to these questions. People who are pessimistic about feminism fail to see that those who need this movement most are the marginalized women from the lower class and from the third world countries. Watch Emma Watson’s speech I am now on my second semester. I am not sure where my studies will take me but I must say, I am enjoying the process. I study primarily to feed my brain which my routinary lifestyle cannot provide. And I study to find a place where my ideals are met or challenged. I just want an egalitarian world where we can all use our talents and make choices for ourselves. Free~2

Save a Damsel in Distress

“Why does every princess need to have a prince? It’s the same old story but I’m just not convinced. Why keep on assuming men will save the day? I can be the hero and do it in my own way”

I got these lines from a parody of Disney’s Frozen. It speaks so much on how I feel towards the stereotype given to female protagonists in film, TV, music, cartoons and other forms of entertainment. What bothers me is that most of the time these platforms target young girls. I am a big fan of  arts and entertainment but wouldn’t it be nice if  ‘entertainment value’  speak for both entertainment and value? Pop songs are most of the time love songs and hyper-sexualized. Disney history has been creating female protagonists who have passive roles. I believe in Cinderella’s song: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” My problem is that Cinderella did not have a big ambition. To marry a prince is a dream but not a real goal that can be cultivated by talent and hard work. I just want to hear stories  that empower girls to make use of their own ability without giving up who they are. Though I do not disregard that finding the right man and following your dreams have some value in life, message of celebrating individuality, independence, and family should be given of greater emphasis. These themes reflect what we need in our society.

Frozen

I’m glad that we now have female characters in fiction and entertainment who represent real girls. Disney reinvents  their female characters that fit to our generation. And I’ll never get tired of using Frozen as an example. I love this animated film not only for the songs, and the feel-good Disney vibes, but also of its practical values.

In a world where fashion models are being looked up by most young girls, we need female characters who have flaws. Isn’t it frustrating to observe lot of fashion models trying to perfect their posture, and struggling refinement and glamour? Good thing, Anna of Frozen is clumsy, bubbly, playful. In comparison with classic Disney princesses whose happiness depend on a prince, Elsa strives to be on her own and be herself. Neither Elsa nor Anna is demure or soft-spoken.  Hence, (I appeal), let the girls be themselves, and blossom in their own pace and in their own way.

Also, how many animated films tell a story about sisters? This theme resonates to most of us, and that true love is nothing fancy or out of reach. True love is a hard concept to teach if it is defined by what most movies tell us. As corny as this may sound, but true love should be basic. I have a lot of sisters and we most probably have siblings or members of the family who have been with us since birth. Frozen has made the concept of true love more accessible to everyone.

elphaba

Photo Source: Broadway.com

Wicked
Another good example of a female fictional character is Elphaba from the musical play and novel, Wicked. When I was a small girl, I dreamed of becoming a princess. But lately I wanted to be a witch. I am a fan of Wicked. I have their songs in my play list, read the novel, watch the play on web and on real life. I like Wicked because it celebrates individuality. In reality, sometimes we are defined by our color, and other exterior features. Elphaba, the wicked witch of the West is not a typical protagonist of the story. From the title itself, she is  known wicked. She represents the minority. She goes for the unpopular belief of fighting the rights of the Animals. Alas, a female character has emerged from the male-dominated world, witchcraft. ( There seems to be a bias towards wizards and bias against witch. Major characters as witches are villains while the boy with a broomstick is adorable and not necessarily wicked). Like Frozen, the set of characters in the play are female-dominated.

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I am hoping for more films, plays, cartoons and stories  that feature women as heroes. Just like Frozen and Wicked, I hope they reach mainstream success so that more girls will receive the message of empowerment.

The best way to save a damsel in distress is  not to call for a prince but the best way is to teach her to save herself from distress. Show her true colors and be her own happiness machine. Let the storm range on and let her defy gravity. Let it go!

Define Woman

“You are a woman. Skin and bones. Veins and nerves. Hair and sweat.
You are not made of metaphors. Not apologies. Not excuses. ” – Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay, known for spoken word poetry, wrote a beautiful piece about women. Her poem, The Type, gives a new insight on how women should see themselves.  She wrote in Huffington Post: “Media attention has been paid to what it means to ‘be a woman,’ but often the conversation focuses on what it means to be a woman in relation to others…I believe these relationships are important. I also think it is possible to define ourselves solely as individuals, without comparisons or relationships.”

True enough, women are often defined and valued based on their relationships. This explains how we make labels, ”The Good Wife,” “The Mistress,” “The Other Woman”. For every stage in a woman’s life, her identity is always associated with her relationships. When a woman reaches her mid 20s, people wonder why she does not have a boyfriend. When a woman is at her 40s, people think she is missing a large chunk of her life if she is not married (even if she has a house, career, business, nieces, parties, and friends). When a woman is married, people expect her to have children. Ask a beauty queen, a husband, and a wife on what is the essence of being a woman? They will answer: “It is childbearing or child-rearing ” But how about a woman who cannot bear a child or a woman who remains single by choice or by act of nature?

I have high regard for women who strive to be the best daughter, best girlfriend, best wife, and best mother.  All these roles should be part of our aspiration in life. Our relationships shape our lives and build our character but there is something more than what a relationship has to offer. Yet culture tells us that it should define us.

Society depicts that women should naturally maintain relationship. Hence, when a relationship fails, a woman needs to justify herself. When a married woman is caught having an affair with another man, she is immediately guilty of adultery. But when a married man is caught having an affair with another woman, he is not yet guilty of any extramarital crime. Philippine law states that he is only guilty of concubinage if his affair is under scandalous circumstances. I said to my friend: “So what do we do then? Should we protest? Protest  that we can also have  extramarital affair and not have an automatic crime of adultery like men do, unless we do something scandalous?

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Define Woman

But how do you define a woman? Is it by length of time she spent on the bathroom? If she knows how to use an eyeliner, then maybe she can call herself a real woman. Two straight men told me that I should know how to apply makeup. It’s an unexpected irony to think that girls are more vocal about grooming and style. My inner self tells me that I shouldn’t groom myself because I am only pleasing the eyes of men (more than my eyes….you don’t get to see yourself as much as the people around you) And when I aim to please the eyes of men, I allow my relationship with others to define me. I allow culture to define me.  I allow society to define me. That for me is a form of oppression.

We all have a shared picture of an ideal woman while we don’t have a concrete picture of what an ideal man should be. Yes, he should be a provider but we can disagree that he does not have to know how to drive,  how to fix electric wires, how to repair a faucet, and how to play basketball. He can be tough yet he can be soft spoken.

I’m afraid I am mistakenly placed in a woman’s body. Apparently, I don’t cook and I’m not domesticated. I am not caring and even if ants love to bite me, I don’t think I’m sweet. I honestly feel I am less of  a woman. But I’m hoping someday I will raise my own family and epitomize a conventional woman. At the same time, it is within my understanding that life has many possibilities. I’m afraid to disappoint but I’m more afraid of losing myself in the course of finding and keeping people who can make me happy.

Before this post exceeds more than 1000 word count as this might lead to random ramblings on  being a woman, in a gist what I like to say to women:

It is probably a mistake to fall in love with the wrong person, to get pregnant without marriage and preparation, to have a sex video and find out later it is publicized, to raise a child who turns out to be a black sheep, to provide and serve less for a family who needs your commitment. But you can forgive yourself.

It is okay to submit  to the people you love and care for but it can be very devastating to build yourself based on your relationships with them. For when a relationship is broken, you question your worth as a woman. We need affirmation from the ties we bind. But even without them, we can find happiness and be complete.

i am no bird

As much as I like skirts and flowers, I don’t like to identify myself as a woman. The word ‘woman’ itself is in relation to a man, wo- “man.” I’m not a woman, not a girl, not a lady. I’m just a plain human being who happens to have menstrual period and who happens to like the boys. I am independent from the many variables that make a woman.

“Let the statues crumble.
You have always been the place.

You are a woman who can build it yourself.
You were born to build.”

-Sarah Kay

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