Posts Tagged ‘gogirls’

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.

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elizabeth gilbert: eat, pray, love

This is another of those books that I didn’t get when it first came out in 2006. I’ve always been kontra-pelo when it comes to trends – going against the flow – and I’m suspicious of whatever’s been declared a “best-seller”.  Who gets to say what’s hot or not?

But, seeing nothing else of interest at the bookstore, I picked up a paperback copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, and Love, without any expectations, and just settled in for a succession of letters forming words and coherent thoughts to imprint themselves on my retinas.

I was surprised that it was good.

There have been many accounts of both men and women – usually Westerners, the Americans and the British – going on journeys to exotic places to “find themselves” or achieve spiritual enlightenment. I find it hard to relate to such stories, though I enjoy reading them for the “travelogue” part. It isn’t in the Filipino culture to spend sums of money on travel for such esoteric reasons. We’re too busy trying to survive.

But that’s what makes multi-cultural interactions interesting. People are a product of their culture. It seems that it’s the Western orientation to go looking for something undefinable, something missing, something they will recognize only when they see or experience it.

Writer Liz Gilbert’s account of her own journey brings it down to a personal level, and the honesty of her story shines true. A failed marriage and a shattered relationship pushes her to put her life on hold for a year as she travels to Italy to learn the language and eat her way across the country; to India to meditate for several months in an ashram; and to Indonesia to make friends, influence people, and find love and happiness.

On a technical level, it is well-written. The net of words that Gilbert weaves is taut and shimmering; it is a pleasure to be caught up in it. From a communication perspective, it’s a look at both intra-personal and inter-personal communication practice, with a hefty dollop of intercultural insights.

On a deeper level, it is an intriguing story of how one woman manages the conflicts in her life in her own way and finds healing. It’s the tale of a Gogirl, empowered, confident, and happy.

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gogirl: eartha kitt

This year’s Christmas was cause for celebration, yet many fans mourned upon learning that one of showbiz’s most enduring performers, Miss Eartha Kitt, died on that day at 81 of colon cancer.

Born in poverty in South Carolina, she was the daughter of a white father, a cotton farmer, and a black-Cherokee mother. As a mixed-race child during the first few decades of the century, she endured racism, neglect, and rejection.

For a while she attended the New York School of Performing Arts, but dropped out to take various odd jobs. In the mid-40s, she auditioned for the Katharine Dunham dance troupe and earned a place, performing in the Broadway production “Bal Negre” as one of the San Souci singers.

Orson Welles once called Eartha “The most exciting woman in the world.” She spent much of her life single. She married Bill McDonald in 1960 but divorced him after the birth of their daughter Kitt.

Her experiences with the troupe led to other opportunities in dance, singing, and acting.

As “Catwoman” from 1967-68 in the “Batman” television series, replacing Julie Newmar, she filled out the prescribed catsuit with her svelte 35-23-35 (inches) figure, making her one of the sexiest villains to purr her way around the small screen.

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Eartha as “Catwoman” in the “Batman” episode “Dressed to Kill”

She traveled the world and learned to perform in more than ten languages. She performed exclusively overseas after her anti-Vietnam War activism led to her investigation by the FBI and the CIA.

Upon returning to the US, she was cast in many Broadway roles. In 2000, she was tapped to be the voice of the villainess “Yzma” in Disney’s cartoon “The Emperor’s New Groove”, bringing her more fans from the younger generation.

She was also a published author who wrote three autobiographies and, in 2001, Rejuvenate, a guide to staying physically fit.

In her six-decade career, she was still performing well into her late 70s, and maintained the curvaceous figure that made her famous.

Her life was a celebration of beauty, joy, and art. While she wasn’t always happy, she made the most of what she had to carve out her own niche in the world that no one else can fill. There are many lessons to be learned from her life – of strength, perseverance, and endurance. She makes our list as a certified Gogirl, an icon of feminism, grace, and style.

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The incomparable Eartha Kitt.

17 January 1927 – 25 December 2008.

Personal footnote:

Eartha’s deep back bends remind me of the ones which made our very own Pilita Corrales, “Asia’s Queen of Song”, famous as a performer.

Eartha…

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Eartha’s images from various points in her career (from all over the ‘Net).

…and Pilita.

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Pilita on a concert program from 1973 (wolfgangsvault.com)

My father, who was a fascinating raconteur, often told a story of taking me with him to work one day at the ABS-CBN broadcast network studio where he was a newscaster and we ran into Pilita. I must have been all of four years old. Upon seeing her, my dad said, I immediately went into a backbend, holding an imaginary microphone to my lips. The good-natured Cebuana songstress laughed.

I don’t know if this story is true. This was told, after all, by the man who assured me in all seriousness that on days when the sun is shining at the same time it’s raining, somewhere in the world it’s a gorilla’s birthday. Go figure.

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gogirl: madeleine albright

Madeleine Albright. Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

She is a professor at Georgetown University, holder of a PhD in Public Law and Government from Columbia University, former US ambassador to the United Nations, and the first US female Secretary of State. For years, in the Clinton administration, she charted US foreign policy, brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace, and saw the crumbling of Communism.

She is also a mother – of three daughters – and was a wife – her husband left her for another woman. As a divorcee, she overcame the pain of rejection and separation and went on to carve a successful career in her chosen field.

She tells her story in her own words in her autobiography, Madame Secretary (2003). One may disagree with her politics, but one cannot deny her intelligence, fortitude, and perseverance.

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bettany hughes: helen of troy

A masterwork by a brilliant Oxford-educated historian, Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore deals with Helen of Troy as a historical and literary figure. Very well-researched, it is scholarly without being boring; erudite without being pompous; interesting without being pretentious.

The book is flooded with facts, and the deluge will leave you breathless under the waves of words, but once you sink into the Late Bronze Age world that Bettany reveals to us, you will float away to a place and time alien to our own, but still a part of it.

Helen may have been a cultic goddess worshipped in trees and other forms of nature; she may have been a version of Aphrodite; she may have been an aristocrat during the days when matriarchy ruled, when the feminine was venerated and revered over the masculine; or she may have been a mixture of all these.

What matters is that she was an empowered female figure, whose personality was magnetic, whose beauty was iconic, whose story became legendary, and today stands for the strength of the feminine, which is in all of us women, if we but claim our right to it.

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