a feminist manifesto. with popcorn.

A couple years back, an engineer I knew sat me down at a table overlooking the racetrack where I worked at the time, ordered popcorn, and told me he was going to give me an “important talk”.

Advice of the unsolicited sort – actually, any kind of information – intrigues me.  So I watched the horses parade and waited for the popcorn.

The engineer spoke in a sympathetic manner, like he really wanted to help, like he knew what was best.

He told me that men found me “intimidating”.

“And that is why,” he said, “you have admirers but no serious suitors.”

“The popcorn needs more salt,” I replied.

“We talked about you,” he said,”and we all agreed you’re smart, good at what you do, and pretty. You could even be a real stunner if you lost a few pounds and were a few inches taller.”

“Popcorn’s better with butter. Hey, alliteration!”

He moved the bowl of popcorn away from me. “You’re too intellectual. Everyone is afraid that they won’t be able to hold up their end of a conversation with you.”

As if I were going to deconstruct Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast or debate the merits of the proposed Reproductive Health Bill over arroz caldo on a first date. I do have some social skills; that kind of thing is appropriate only on the second date. (Heh.)

Seriously, I’m a geek, not a genius. The engineer was much smarter than I am; he could calculate horseracing payoffs in his head in seconds while I can’t even divide six figures by two to come up with the live wagers.

“And you should lose weight,” he added. My fingers were curled around the edge of the popcorn bowl; he rapped them with a spoon.

I rubbed my knuckles and mused over what he said. What struck me most about our talk – other than that he kept taking away the popcorn and that the waiter never did come back with salt and butter – was his matter-of-fact assertion that because I was short, plump, and, worst of all, possessed of a functioning brain, no Filipino male would be attracted to me.

It was the most absurd drivel I had ever heard.

Yet it was an honest thing he said. Because that is the reality in this society, and that is how most Filipino men perceive women – as sex objects for whom youth, big breasts, and a tiny waist are assets while maturity, a mind, and an independent attitude are liabilities.

I once asked a male friend twenty years older than myself, who claimed to have slept with fifty different women, why and wherefore the Filipino male predilection for the young and immature. He shrugged. ”I don’t know. That’s the way it is.”

I put the same question to two of my graduate school classmates, both professional men in their mid-thirties. They looked at each other. “How do we explain it to her?” said one. They tried, but their reasoning made no sense to me. Finally they gave up. “Take our word for it. Ganoon talaga.”

That’s the way it is.

Apparently, to gain the attention of a man, I have to lose weight, wear high heels, dumb down my conversation, and fake my age.

Listen: I need no one else to define me or shape me or tell me who I am in this world or what to do or what to live for.

Contrarian that I am, feminist that I am, aktibistang taga-peyups that I am, I will always rebel against the chauvinistic norm of this society and instead of forking over my money to Doctora Belo for a liposuction, I will finish my graduate studies.

I will grow my brain instead of my breasts, and shrink my ignorance rather than my waist. And if I have to walk this world alone, then joyfully will I make the journey, for I would rather be free than a slave.

But if someone wishes to make the trek by my side, in free and complete acceptance of who I am and all that I may be, I might accept the company, for the road is long and it goes ever on.

He can bring popcorn and I butter and salt, and we will talk and he will not be intimidated by my references to obscure dead philosophers nor fazed by my ADD.

He will put the bowl of warm buttered salted popcorn in my arms, and feed himself and me as we walk in love and laughter till journey’s end.

taste more:

29 Comments on a feminist manifesto. with popcorn.

  1. JoniB
    4 July 2010 at 10:23 pm (3622 days ago)

    While I don’t know you, I am so proud of you! Very few women would take your stance because they are afraid of being without a man. You must keep true to yourself because no one else will be – no matter how hard they try. “Changing” for someone else NEVER works. It only causes misery and pain. I speak from 53 years of experience.

  2. JennyO
    4 July 2010 at 10:29 pm (3622 days ago)

    Hi, JoniB! Thanks! Yes, I tried changing for someone else, and ended up unhappy, my identity lost. It took a while to find myself again. I’ve learned my lesson. :) *hugs*

  3. Bea
    5 July 2010 at 4:19 am (3621 days ago)

    And this is why I think Filipino men are the worst of the lot. I like them as friends, truly. But I’m not interested in their affections. I don’t find them flattering; I find them insulting. Even the geeks.

    Here’s an example of a Pinoy geek talking about women:
    http://www.techie.com.ph/features/fhm-philippines-100-sexiest-the-10-girls-who-topped-the-list/page-2. Scroll down to Marian Rivera. They like their women pretty, regardless of how stupid the women are.

    Thank goodness my Dad is an exception. Hehe. And, to my ex boyfriend’s credit, he was also an exception. He liked his women with brainy.

  4. Bea
    5 July 2010 at 4:20 am (3621 days ago)

    LOL, typo. That was supposed to be “brains”, not “brainy”.

  5. cris (papavik)
    5 July 2010 at 4:50 am (3621 days ago)

    “He told me that men found me “intimidating”.”

    as much as men think with their, eeer, lower heads…women sometimes think the same way. i have many female friends tell me exactly the same thing about me (the you’re intimidating part) when they ask me if i ever had a boyfriend and my reply would be that none of my admirers really bothered to court me seriously.

    it it were me, i’d take it as a compliment, when being told i’m intimidating. i would just say “thanks!”, smile and start a conversation that would make their brains bleed…just for kicks, hehe…or just to find out if there is someone out there who would be my match, and who can keep up with me…much like gauntlet >:)

  6. JennyO
    5 July 2010 at 10:03 am (3621 days ago)

    Bea and Cris – agreed! Another male friend, a pragmatist Pinoy, confirms that most men do think with their lower heads. He said, “Don’t let any guy tell you any different. If he does, he’s a player.” XD

    The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator profile for NT (“intuitive-thinking”) males states that they prefer intellectually inferior females, and I’ve found that true of the several Filipino NT males I know. An ex who’s light-years ahead of me in smarts has chosen to walk his life’s journey with a younger woman who has read none of the books in his collection. I think she even threw them out. :) (I’m like, “N0o0o…!!!” and I leap in slow-motion, trying to catch the books before they hit the dumpster.)

    Perhaps guys think that women with brains have no room in their bodies for a heart? I’ve had mine broken countless times. All my exes went, “Kasi kaya mo.” (“Because you can bear it.”) And because all they see is the brain, they never appreciate the big heart that loves and cherishes and understands across time and space – till it’s too late and they’ve lost it.

    They are more protective of the less mature females they’ve chosen to be with (“She needs me more than you do because you can take care of yourself,” “She’ll kill herself if I leave her.”) Once I asked an ex, “What if I committed suicide because I couldn’t deal with the heartbreak?” He went, “But YOU’D never do that. You’re too strong and too smart for that.” WTF, right?

    Cris, this is prolly what your female friends know by instinct, and this is what the engineer and my two grad school classmates were trying to make me comprehend – most men just need to feel superior.

    To the men reading this: You’ll notice I qualify my statements by saying “MOST men”, not “ALL men”. Hindi ko nilalahat. There are wonderful, faithful, fantastic men out there. I am blessed to know some of them – and I can count them on the fingers of one hand. XD

  7. Mona
    5 July 2010 at 10:40 am (3621 days ago)

    You said it best. All we need is someone who accepts us for being who we are. And if they are with us with the intent to change us, but not grow with us, that’s not the kind of relationship we want to be in. We’d all like to be valued the right way, not as objects or playthings or possessions, but as fellow humans.

    I feel fortunate to be valued as friend, colleague, daughter, sister-in-law and significant other. Yes, there ARE men out there who are wonderful specimens of their gender. I value them highly. I honestly can’t speak the same way about the others who perpetuate the kind of thinking illustrated above.

    Thanks for saying your mind! Which is why we are such good friends.

  8. TAO
    5 July 2010 at 12:58 pm (3621 days ago)

    I’m certainly not a wonderful specimen of my gender but If I spend some time with some monkeys I might come out looking good. Anyway, that might be why I find the fixation with youth and looks the stupidest thing that males can come up with.

    Why follow the mass media and mass hysteria when you are deciding what is attractive? It should be normal that we all find something different to pique our interest. I find beauty in women who physically are apart from the pack. A larger nose or piercing eyes make someone unique and to me more attractive than the bimbo with a nose job.

    As for a mind who would want someone without one? Certainly there are people you will find to be incompatible intellectually since they hold opposite viewpoints but doesn’t one want to be a bit challenged? I don’t want to be with someone, friend or SO, who doesn’t understand when I use a multisyllabic word. Additionally I don’t really want to be a friend of someone who values vapidness.

    The writer of this blog is intelligent (despite her self-deprecation) and that in itself is an attractive trait to those who know what that truly means.

  9. JennyO
    5 July 2010 at 2:25 pm (3621 days ago)

    Mona, thanks! TAO, you’re one in a billion! :)

    I asked my 12-year old daughter to read this, more for the humor than anything, warning her, “You might not fully understand the topic being discussed.” After (speed) reading it, she said, “I understand it. Filipino men are generally sexist and they objectify women. Oh, and the popcorn joke, Mama, is NOT the point of this essay, even if you’re proud of it. It just ties the whole thing together.”

    I was flabbergasted by the depth of her comprehension, analysis, and maturity, and that she uses words like ‘sexist’ and ‘objectify’ in daily conversation. And she just turned 12 two weeks ago. If she’s this smart now, what more when she’s older?

    For her and all the wonderful intelligent women out there, be happy whatever road you choose to take in life. If you find a partner who is like TAO, that’s a blessing. But whatever happens, remember to keep your freedom, because your wings will need it to soar as high as they can take you.

  10. Bea
    5 July 2010 at 6:54 pm (3621 days ago)

    Re: your daughter.

    She’s going to be in the next generation of women intimidating men. But here’s a comforting thought…women like us also have standards. We don’t like settling for insecure monkeys…which is the kind of guy you just described.

  11. lady dandelion
    5 July 2010 at 7:27 pm (3621 days ago)

    I live in a country that sees itself as the most developed on earth when it comes to equality issues and still I recognize what you describe: women who believe in themselves, have independent minds and aren’t solely focused on being appreciated by men are still viewed as intimidating and get these bizarre unsolicited pieces of advice by “well-meaning” men. It is like saying “if you just were someone else I could like you”. Thanks for this spot-on and well written post!

  12. JennyO
    5 July 2010 at 11:21 pm (3621 days ago)

    Lady D, thank you! :)
    Bea, Ik read your comment and said: “Yay! I have a future intimidating men! That means I have a brain!” XD

  13. TAO
    6 July 2010 at 1:19 am (3621 days ago)

    I think Ik should remember you can only intimidate men who allow themselves to be intimidated. Depending on the man it doesn’t always require much of a brain to do that either.

    Jenny: I’m no blessing, btw. I’m more of a light, not so terrible, low overhead curse.

  14. pinoytransplant
    6 July 2010 at 1:42 am (3621 days ago)

    I do not refute any of your observations and opinions, and that’s coming from a male specie. Beauty is fleeting, and brain is more lasting, well, until Alzheimer’s hits.

    Bravo sister. Can you please pass the popcorn.

  15. JennyO
    6 July 2010 at 1:55 am (3621 days ago)

    “There are wonderful, faithful, fantastic men out there. I am blessed to know some of them – and I can count them on the fingers of one hand.”

    TAO and pinoytransplant, I thought of the both of you when I wrote those lines I quote above. Your comments reinforce my admiration of you. May your tribe increase! You have earned your popcorn, and more besides. :)

  16. Bea
    6 July 2010 at 11:15 pm (3620 days ago)

    Hehe, tell Ik she’ll also be breaking a lot of balls.

    The only ones that do shrivel up are those that are owned by men who aren’t worth it. Strong women deserve strong men (or strong women, haha) and strong men aren’t necessarily macho. Many of them are sensitive, practical, love good conversation. And rare. Or married. Or gay.

  17. JennyO
    7 July 2010 at 2:14 am (3620 days ago)

    Bea – I agree 1,000%! I’d be happy if all I could show for my life’s work were two daughters I’d raised to be ball-breakers – women unrestricted by the double standard because they reject it, women who will stand up for their rights and the rights of those weaker than themselves.

    I know strong people (both men and women) of the sort you described, and I am proud to know them. We strong women should settle for nothing less. No more compromises. No more pretending we’re slightly dumber than the person we’re with just to make them feel good. No more settling for second best.

  18. TAO
    7 July 2010 at 11:55 am (3619 days ago)

    OMG! I was reading Bea’s comments and laughing (in an appreciative way) and realized there was a web site to click on. What has flipped me out is I just want talking to Leigh Reyes about one of her web sites last week. Sorry, but the weird circle of coincidence just freaked me out.

  19. Bea
    7 July 2010 at 11:02 pm (3619 days ago)

    TAO, which website? Mine or the FHM link I sent? Hehehe.

  20. TAO
    8 July 2010 at 2:06 am (3619 days ago)

    Bea: Actually I’m not sure if it’s yours but you are all over it. The Otaku Fridge site is what I was discussing the other day. :)

  21. TAO
    8 July 2010 at 2:07 am (3619 days ago)

    Oh, and you’ll notice I side-stepped any mention of the FHM link. Ahem.

  22. JennyO
    8 July 2010 at 2:15 am (3619 days ago)

    WOW. THAT is a coincidence. “Otaku Fridge” is Bea’s! :)

  23. Bea
    8 July 2010 at 6:19 am (3618 days ago)

    Yep! The Fridge is actually my very first website. I hope the conversation about it was a good one. Hahahahaha!

  24. TAO
    8 July 2010 at 6:32 am (3618 days ago)

    Bea: The conversation was good but weird. I was talking about how I love this site where a woman reviews a wide variety of stuff. In other words I was impressed that you did what you do. LOL! Leigh is a big Anime fan so that’s why I pointed it out to her.

  25. Bea
    8 July 2010 at 7:08 am (3618 days ago)

    Wow. Thanks! :D

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