Interest in Women

I really don’t know how my interest in women studies started. I don’t have enough drama in life to fuel sentiments against gender stereotype. I come from a loving household. People don’t describe me as an activist. I have nothing against men.

It is perhaps my vulnerability that shaped my ways of thinking. I may not experience the pain of motherhood, forced marriage, abusive relationship but I know how it feels to be an outcast, to be treated unfairly, to feel less. I do not like to describe these feelings in details because this is not a competition of who experience worst in life. What matters most is that through our small life experiences, we can empathize, reflect on other people’s experiences.

When I was in college, I learned to appreciate feminist material. My subject Theater 100 made me appreciate women’s theater. It was probably the first time I learned that there was such a thing as women’s theater. My group was assigned to perform For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntzoke Shange. I also prefer feminist material for my monologues, such as those taken from RAW, Cause I’m a Woman

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Then, a jerk/s came along in my life. Just like all epic heartbroken stories, I kept reminding myself that I didn’t need to have a relationship to gauge my worth as a person. I then wrote essays for women. I told myself “I will work hard and rely on nobody but myself.”

Things have changed in my life and I realize we all rely on a system of dependency. I need others and others need me. I also learned that from the same university who taught me self-reliance. I am currently in my second year on women studies. I may have changed some of my ideas in relationship and marriage into something what people may consider ‘less feminist’ but I have developed a better understanding on human conditions. And if I meet a young girl who gets rejected, I can honestly say to her, “Heal your wounds with new learning.”

At present, I immersed myself into the community of women in the informal economy. These women have needs and wants different from my peers. It is wonderful to see the world with multiple lenses and to reflect on life with other people’s wisdom.

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In Buddhism, there’s what we call nirvana. It is the highest state that someone can attain, or a state of enlightenment. I believe I am getting closer to nirvana. For me, nirvana is a place where you embrace everything that defines you. If asked, why I am interested in pursuing women studies, my reply: I come to a stage of my life where I learn to embrace everything that defines me. And I can’t deny that being a woman is a large portion of who I am.

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Jesus (Fill in the Blank) Women

Photo from http://celebrationpublications.org/blog/patmarrin/13/09/1486
Photo from http://celebrationpublications.org/blog/patmarrin/13/09/1486

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

To my hypothetical daughter

tala with wingsTo my hypothetical daughter,

I have loved you even before you were born.

I want you to know that you are perfectly made, and whatever you will gain in life  will just be an add-on to who you are and what you have. Whether you will have an eyeliner, a jewel, a sash or a medal,  they do not set the price of who you are.

While it is my duty to protect you, it is also my responsibility to introduce you to the real world. I will let you chase butterflies even if they leave you with cuts and bruises. If you need to get dirty to feel the earth, you will always have my permission. Don’t worry if you trip or fall. Mama had always been clumsy and she survived.

I will not force you to read books but every night I will read stories to you. Maybe I might read some fairy tales to you but I don’t want you to dream of a knight and shining armor. I want you to be a queen in your own kingdom. I want you to lead the universe without a crown and scepter. And if you want romance, you can always avail it. You can find romance in sappy movies, in strings and verses, in sunset and sunrise. You don’t need to kiss a frog to find it.

I want you to know that the popular girl in campus is not your competitor. She is your sister. And the girl begging for a piece of bread is also your sister. I want you to know that sisterhood is beyond blood ties, spaces, and races. Understand that every girl struggles with life the way you do. Never see someone’s achievement as a threat to you. Sisters rejoice in each other’s victories and lift those who are falling. If you are starting to feel worthless, convert envy into batteries of inspiration. People value you not based on who you defeat and which place you conquer but how you treat others. Kill your enemies with kindness.

I don’t want you to be obsessed with magazine covers. I will probably buy you some to let you know that the front cover is a product of art and creativity. Do not think of your body parts as mere objects but as  extension of your innate abilities. I don’t want you to dream of becoming a cover girl because your mama cannot assure you that you will win the genetic lottery. Instead, dream of legs that can take you to faraway lands, dream of eyes that can see the future, dream of breasts that can feed, dream of lips that can convey power, and dream of a body that can work for God’s glory.

One day, you will spot blood stain in your skirt. As you will earn pimples, you will be more familiar with the sound of catcalls. Mama will not stop you from meeting boys, the way your grandma hasn’t. But I’ll tell you there are much more interesting things in this world than boys such as travel, culture, trekking, spirits, fashion, martial arts, and a lot more.

As you grow old, some things will be more expensive such as confidence, love, and pride but do not be deceived by what  the TV tells you. Do not save your money for these things. You cannot buy confidence with toothpaste. You cannot buy love with a box of chocolates.

If you make mistakes, do not think of yourself less. No one can break you. You are a rubber band. You will bounce back, no matter how hard life will stretch you. Mama will always remind you that “Everything will be fine. And it’s okay not to be okay.”

I want you to work hard, not for me, but for yourself and for what you believe in.

If one day, you decide to get married, my first question would be, “Are you serious?”

I will not ask for a grandchild. If you are happy in what you do, you fulfill your mama’s dream.

If you want to be a teacher, a pastry chef, an engineer, a farmer, a soldier, a cosplayer, a mother or whatever fictional character you can think of, I will help you become one.

I will give you wings when you want to fly. I will give you a microphone whenever you think your voice is too small.

Your life begins with me but it does not have to end with me. I want to share you with the world so that they can see how wonderful God made you.

Remember, you are a happiness machine.

You will be what you want to be.

And even before you realize what you can be, you are already enough.

“ Dahil ang totoong nagmamahal ay mapagpalaya”

Love and light,

Your hypothetical mother