Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights’

pop goes the world: and a little child shall lead them

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today18 October 2012, Thursday

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A 14-year-old girl was shot in the head for wanting to go to school.

Something that our children take for granted and even complain about – an education – is to another child who does not have it a precious thing to fight for and die for.

Malala Yousafzai was shot last week by Taliban assassins because she defied a Taliban ban against female education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.

Also injured were her schoolmates Kainat Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan.

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one,” Malala has said before.

The young activist first came to public attention in 2009, in a documentary about the shutdown by the Taliban of the girls’ school she attended.

Her father operated one of the last girls’ schools in the area, and since then she and her family have been the target of Taliban ire.

The world erupted in indignation and anger after her shooting. Among the comments on Facebook were those of Curt Olsen – “Only a coward would shoot an unarmed child” – and Edward Clements – “She should be awarded the Nobel Prize for such bravery.”

Others pointed to the need to bring the Taliban to account for the human rights abuses they continue to perpetrate in the name of religion.

“A very brave girl,” Facebook commenter Andy Poljevka called her. “The world needs to rise up against this craziness.”

Sudhansu Jena lauded Malala’s courage: “No words to appreciate the ‘fight for right.’ The cowards who shot at her are highly condemnable.”

Roger Greatorex opined, “She could be the turning point in the struggle against the so-called ‘Taliban.’ How ironic that ‘Taliban’ means ‘students’ in Arabic.”

 Salt Lake Tribune editorial cartoon here.

The Pakistani government will pay for Malala’s treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in the United Kingdom, where she arrived last Monday for the removal of a bullet lodged in her brain.

Meanwhile, as Malala was being airlifted to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space to freefall down to earth, breaking his 24-mile fall with a parachute and, in a show of incredible skill, landing on his feet.

This, said some netizens, comparing the record-breaking skydive to the shooting of Malala, shows the difference between science and religion.

That is too simplistic a comparison. Islam condemns the murder of innocents. The Taliban are extremists and in no way represent the whole of the Islamic world. But what the two events do show are the triumph of science over religious fundamentalism, of curiosity and the quest for knowledge over intolerance and fanaticism, and of the human desire to explore new frontiers against the human need to cling to old traditions even when they are cruel and destructive.

Malala is the same age as my younger daughter, who is a high school sophomore, now taking her quarterly exams and preparing for the annual school play and cheerdance competition.

Halfway around the world, a girl who could have been her classmate and friend is on the Taliban hitlist for wanting and striving for what my daughter has, an education and a normal life, the chance to be what she can be, perhaps even a spacejumper like Baumgartner.

What is clear is that the abuse of women and children around the world must stop. Malala na ito. (This is at its worst.) This is a battle that must be waged, with constancy and vigilance, on the platform of public opinion so that people may be made aware and changes come about.

Activists denounce the attack on Malala. Image here. 

This is a fight, and those who care about the rights of women and children are all its defenders.

There are many cultural and political attitudes that were once thought to be ineradicable, such as apartheid and its policy of white supremacy in South Africa and totalitarian communism in Soviet Russia and East Germany. But both were slowly eliminated over time and through fervent struggle.

Religious intolerance will be harder to conquer. Hatred, one of its manifestations, will always lurk in a corner of the human heart.

The way to evolving into a better society that treats all its members with equality and respect is to prevent hatred and injustice from winning.

We need to be brave enough to keep on fighting for the rights of women and children, because if a child like Malala has the courage, then so must we.  *** 

Image of Malala here. Image of Felix’s record-breaking jump here.

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pop goes the world: whole lot of mansplainin’ goin’ on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  30 August 2012, Thursday

Whole Lot of Mansplainin’ Goin’ On

When will men get off telling women what’s best for them?

From celibate priests to overbearing lawmakers to some of the men in our own lives, women all over the world are subjected to the unsolicited pronouncements of those who believe they are the final arbiters on issues that affect women.

It’s called “mansplaining.”

As far as I can find out, the term has been around since at least 2010. A post of February that year by “Fannie” at says mansplaining is a result of “males possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life.”

Rebecca Solnit, award-winning author of 15 non-fiction books, in an article posted last August 20 at calls it “the problem with men explaining things,” that “billions of women must be out there…being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”

It’s not solely a male thing, she said, because “…people of both genders pop up…to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories…”

However, Solnit added, “…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is in my experience, gendered.”

In the United States, just to provide one example out of a great many, Republican congressman Todd Akin recently said that women could not become pregnant in the case of “legitimate rape,” saying that their bodies “shut down” to prevent it. Apart from displaying an abysmal ignorance of basic science, this also shows a male-oriented notion that there are cases when rape – by its very definition an act of force – isn’t a crime.

I won’t even mention any local examples. Just open any newspaper on any day and read for yourself the abundance of conspiracy theories (that the RH Bill is a ploy to sell more contraceptive medicines and devices and prevent the poor from reproducing, etc.) and blanket pronouncements (such as that a secular world will promote all sorts of immorality, as if our present society isn’t already rife with it).

I wonder why some men believe they know what’s best for women, despite not having a vagina, uterus, nor a menstrual period. It’s what Solnit calls “men’s unsupported overconfidence” and the “archipelago of arrogance.”

Therefore there are some men who deride outspoken, opinionated women as “feminists”, like it’s a bad thing. How? Because feminism rejects patriarchal hegemony? Because feminists think for themselves? Because feminists see through the mansplaining and have decided to take their lives back?

Our society is still patriarchal; protection for women is inadequate and slow in coming. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262) was passed. The Magna Carta for Women (RA 9710) wasn’t enacted until 2009, only three short years ago, after being delayed for seven years.

All women’s and minority groups’ rights are hard-fought. The struggle for reproductive rights is no exception. We now see the usual pattern in such matters playing out – the conservatives and reactionaries are up in arms, kicking and screaming against any change to their status quo, while the progressives are out there making themselves heard and felt.

But as in the issues of slavery and votes for women, in time we will get to a better place. Women nowadays recognize when they are being mansplained to, when they are being condescended to instead of being engaged in genuine dialogue coming from respect and love.

True manhood lies not in having as many children or wives and mistresses as one can, nor in control and aggressiveness, but in respecting other people and acknowledging their right to live their lives in the manner they wish, and in caring properly for the people one is responsible for.

I am grateful for the men in my life who are not mansplainers, who see me as an equal, as a fellow human being – friends, relatives, university professors, colleagues. First among them is my late father, who told me when I was a teenager, “Do not allow yourself to be limited by the double standard.” I asked, “What is the double standard?” He said, “You’ll find out,” and sure enough I did, and duly rejected it as unfair and demeaning.

Because beyond gender, we are all human. And it takes all humankind working together to make a world that is kinder, one that is egalitarian, just, and free.  *** 

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pop goes the world: lost in the land of prejudice

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 13 January 2011, Thursday

Lost in the Land of Prejudice

In this supposedly modern day and age it is appalling to realize just how deeply embedded prejudices and stereotypes are in Philippine culture.

I was offended by the insensitively-written copy for an advertisement for Wayfinder GPS that appeared in another daily newspaper last January 7. The text sprawled across half the page and read: “Men would rather get lost than ask for directions. Women, well, they get lost even if they ask. Good thing GPS is finally here.” It was accompanied by an illustration of the symbols for male and female, snarled together in a tangled knot.

In a blog post I wrote on the topic, I said, “Whatever ad agency wrote this sexist copy should be slapped upside the head, and the client too, for having approved it. There are all kinds of wrong here.

“This copy is sexist. It reinforces negative male-female stereotypes and the double standard. It sets back women’s rights in the Philippines. It is galactically stupid.

“This copy makes women sound so dumb that they can’t read a map or follow instructions.  Let me tell you, my eldest daughter was born with a GPS system in her head. She never gets lost. She can take one look at a map and have it memorized. Bring her to any place just once, like a mall, and she can find her way around it the next time and direct you to any store there. She is so good, men ask her for directions.

“A resounding boo to the ad agency that wrote this and the client that approved it. I am a woman and I will not buy this brand of GPS. There’s always Garmin, which already has dealers in the Philippines.”

Digital media professor and PhD candidate Bea Lapa agreed. “If we want to talk sexist…It’s always my male friends that get lost, even when we give them directions. It gets really frustrating, noh. In fact, I usually draw on Google maps. They still get lost! They can’t read maps. Even when you highlight the maps and encircle the landmarks. May drawing na nga noh! The icons are so freakin’ obvious.

“I read a map once and I always remember where it is already. Whoever wrote that copy can’t get his facts right. And by the way, it’s women who actually have buying power. Next are gay men. (Never underestimate the power of the gay community. They have destroyed famous brands.) Studies have already supported these.”

Another comment my blog post received was this one from “Max’s Mom”: “Hi, I totally agree with you. When I read the ad in the paper a few days ago, I was so upset that something so inaccurate, offensive to women and completely un-funny could still make it to print here in the Philippines.

“I’ve found out that the local dealer of Wayfinder is responsible for this — ie, he was the copywriter. I think the last laugh will be on him though as I’ve forwarded the ad to Vodafone (Wayfinder makers) and the Ironman organization and they were just as upset as you and I.

“They have informed me that their attorneys will be drafting a letter to this guy soon (they’ll furnish me with a copy). [The] local Wayfinder dealer may be shocked that a woman he thought couldn’t find her way (even if she asked) could send an email to his parent company.”

Way to go, Max’s Mom! I applaud her pro-active stance and am grateful that she shared her reply with me. I had also emailed both Mycom-Digiserv (of Ironman GPS, which was mentioned in the ad) and Vodafone UK, introducing myself as an MST columnist and inviting their comments for publication here, but I have not received a reply from either as of presstime.

It’s reassuring to know that Ironman and Vodafone were also dismayed by the ad copy, which, apparently, was a one-man production by the dealer and published without their approval and knowledge.

It appears that the person who wrote this ad meant for it to be humorous, but it didn’t come across as funny. Instead of enticing potential customers like myself to try a new product, had the opposite effect – it antagonized some members of a substantial segment (women motorists and car owners) of its potential target market. For me, it resulted in my looking up the other brands locally available so I could support those instead, just because this particular ad annoyed me.

As consumers we need to be more discerning. As the ones who shell out the pesos, we can choose which to support among the many product brands available. With people becoming increasingly savvy about fair trade practices, eco-manufacturing, and other positive marketing practices, why allow corporations that harbor prejudices to profit?

A prejudice is “a prejudgment, an assumption made about someone or something before having adequate knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy…[it is a] preconceived judgment toward a people or a person because of race, social class, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.” A stereotype is “a generalization of existing characteristics that reduce complexity.”

Saying women can’t find their way around even when they ask reinforces a negative stereotype about women. It’s an irrational judgment about half of the entire human race, an assumption based on sex-based notions that run counter to facts.

Not only is sexism rampant in the Philippines, racism is too. The other morning I was listening to former vice-president Noli de Castro on radio and regretted doing so after hearing him make derogatory comments against Africans.

He was discussing a news item about several Africans who had enticed Filipinas into becoming drug couriers for a syndicate. Instead of confining himself to commenting on these individuals’ criminal activities, he wondered how Filipinas could fall in love with such men, hauling out the hoary old misconceptions that they have strong body odor and are not good-looking, among other things.

It is fortunate for the Philippines that this bigot did not become president.

Any form of discrimination within a society, whether it be sexism against women and the LGBT community; racism against fellow Filipino Muslims and those of Chinese, Indian, and African heritage; prejudice against the disabled and atheists and those who are just different, is counter-productive, and must actively be debunked and resisted.

International Space Station commander Scott Kelly’s statement on the recent shooting of his sister-in-law, Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, is an eloquent appeal to reject intolerance: “We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not.

“These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

“We’re better than this. We must do better.” ***

Screenshot of Garmin GPS here. Commander Kelly’s image here.

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