A Woman’s Role in the Philippines

I have never met a brilliant Filipino man. I have met plenty who are nice, and reasonably smart, but never brilliant. As a collective they do not excel at anything that I have noticed, outside of sports. But there is one thing that almost every Filipino man I have met has in common – they treat women very poorly.

General attitudes towards women are stuck in a 20th century time warp, and the Philippines is worse off for it.

This may never change, but if it does it will require those in power to set a decent example. I think that we can all agree no matter what your political preferences are, the influence from the current administration on a range of human behaviour has been profoundly negative. This is as evident in the treatment of women as it is with the cheapening of human life.

For the record this is not a post in support of a feminist movement in the Philippines. It is a post in support of brilliance. The Philippines desperately needs its best people, and it is very clear that the current and all recent governments are not it. Empower the brilliance of any sex and the change will be massive…. My only prediction is that the men will not measure up. There is little brilliance there.

Throttling of Women’s Contribution

Even early in the election campaign it was clear that the glorification of Duterte as a leader was going to be a huge step backwards for the treatment of women in the Philippines. He has an old world view of a woman’s place in this world – but I guess you can say that he has an old world view of everything. 

Much has been made of his womanising ways. I don’t have a problem with this at all. If the women are willing then that is their business and it is not for anyone to judge.

What I do have a problem with is the open objectifying of women that gets in the way of what is an important contribution women have to make. The case of Leni Robredo being excluded from cabinet meetings because of her distracting legs alone highlights a major reason why the country will not progress.

If you want to admire her legs, fine. She has nice legs. But why say anything about it at all? You could dismiss this as a joke and hyperbole (the go to excuse when Duterte says something foolish), but when these personal opinions influence how the country is being run you have a serious problem.

This is just one additional area in which Duterte fails as a leader. He doesn’t inspire his people to be better – as many hoped that he would. It is quite the opposite. He enables deplorable human behaviour that will act an as anchor for the Philippines no matter what policy changes take place.

treatment of women in philippinesThe treatment of women may not get much air time in the media. Normalising murder, police corruption and character assassination of political opponents is what frequents the headlines. All of these issues are setting incredibly poor standards for the behavioural standards people accept from each other. Many do not see this, but the example does trickle down to all corners of society.

Limiting the allowable contribution from women further pushes the Philippines into the depths of negative progress. The men feel threatened by them and will have a hard time accepting that they can do a better job than they can. The male political leaders have a history of acting purely out of self-interest over decades. There have been a few women too (but Duterte lets them out of prison anyway). So I am not talking about individuals. I am talking about the weight of numbers in leadership positions that could lead to better outcomes for the country long term.

Domestic Smothering

This male/female dynamic is most evident in the typical domestic relationship in the Philippines. It is far more common for the men to be in charge and women are seen as possessions in relationships. The macho husband/boyfriend often forbidding their activities, and even their work if they feel threatened by it.

For example, a friend of mine’s mother who was very successful in her field. The husband demanded that she resign because he would not accept her earning more than he did. Talk about selfish and regressive thinking. Satisfying his ego directly hurt the kind of support that he and his wife could give to their seven (yes, seven!) daughters.

My friend was the oldest of the seven and was loaded with a burden of paying for her younger siblings college expenses. An expense which the parents could have covered, or at least helped with, if the mother was given permission to work.

If only to reinforce the stereotype of the deadbeat Filipino father he was also being unfaithful to the mother. So her freedom to do anything about this was also cut off because she didn’t earn an income. The man held the power in all respects at a direct cost to the family’s well being both financially and emotionally.

Adultery Laws

Speaking of being unfaithful, the one sided adultery laws seemingly from the dark ages remain in place. It is ok for men to step outside of marital boundaries, but women can be locked up (a warning for foreigners, married women are off limits! Ignore this and you have just painted a massive target on your forehead).adultery law philippines

Note: Read our Must See Documentaries for Foreigners if you have not already.

This double standard alone is degrading and demoralising to women in general. It is selectively enforced of course, like most other laws, and only acts as an excuse for a man to wield his power when it suits him. Without an option to divorce women are trapped, and further smothered from living a happy life.

Rape a Secondary Crime

While this post was in the draft stage the news broke that the crime of rape was to be removed from the proposed bill to reintroduce the death penalty.

Note: I am not for the death penalty in any way, especially in a country where a truly just verdict would be a fucking lottery, or something that you buy – read my thoughts here.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a rational person who would agree that rape is less of a crime than drugs, treason (disagreeing with Duterte?), and plunder. Is there really a worse act that someone can commit to another person? Perhaps torturing children is worse, but that’s about it.

Regardless of the merits of the bill, or the death penalty, the nation’s leaders are indirectly saying that rape isn’t that bad. I am sure they do not see it this way, but again they underestimate the importance of influence. They have sent a message to the country that is profoundly negative and enables the bar to be lowered that little bit further.

Reality Check for Men

Filipino women are better at most things; work ethic, problem solving, less egotistical in their thinking. These are all traits where the brightest women I have met would run rings around the brightest men. The Philippines will be better placed to bring about long term change if women were in charge.

So far we have witnessed the personality assassinations of VP Robredo, and De Lima, and people were very quick to jump on the bandwagon. Where the truth is with either of their activities over the last seven months I cannot say. What I can say is that I have heard nothing thrown their way that couldn’t easily be made up by a group of back room politicians who know how to cause a ruckus and want to protect their place at the top. Both Robredo and DeLima are easy targets – as the fabricated sex video clearly demonstrated.

Brilliance Above Sex

As always, the sample size that I base my opinions on is very small compared to the size of the country. Of the hundreds of people that I have gotten to know there are two, maybe three that I think are capable of making high level decisions, in the right spirit for the long term benefit of everyone. They are all of course women. If I had to rank everyone that I know using the same criteria then there would not be a man inside the top 50.

This says a lot about the younger generation that will run the country over the next 20-50 years. The boys club has to end if the country is to make progress. This is not something that will be handed to the women of the Philippines on a silver platter. They will have to fight for it.

The men will protect their place as the self-serving masters of the Philippines at all costs.

20th Century Problems

Before I become the target of any you don’t understand the Philippines culture comments I would like to point out that this situation is not anything new. Most developed countries around the world went through similar changes last century where women demanded equality. They are still fighting for equality in many areas today, so this is not an issue that is unique to the Philippines. They are just behind the times.

The world will demand change eventually, but the Philippines will hold on to their little isolated bubble of the world as long as possible where women are smothered, rather than empowered. Women will be objectified rather than celebrated. All of which will act as an anchor holding the country back from reaching its potential.

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