Press Release
March 9, 2020

MARCH 09, 2020

Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege.

A few days ago, an international survey by the Gender Social Norms Index (GNSI) reported some important - and shocking -- global statistics. Nearly 90% of men and women from all over the world hold some bias against women. Furthermore, according to the index, 50% believe that men make better political leaders, and over 40% feel that men make better business executives. 28% feel that it is justified for a man to beat up his wife.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in 2020.

Ang diskriminasyon laban sa mga kababaihan ay nakahabi na sa iba't ibang aspeto ng kanyang buhay. From our earliest memories, we are taught and told to negotiate a world that constantly tells us we are not enough. That unless we conform to its exacting standards, we have no value. It starts innocuously enough: pag batang babae, pinapasuot ng pink, the flouncier, the better. Binibilhan ng doll, or plantsa-plantsahan, o lutu-lutuan. Kung medyo mahilig sa sports, dinidiscourage, baka maging "tomboy", baka magkapeklat ang legs.

It continues when the little girl becomes an adolescent. Lose the baby fat, she is told. The thinner, the better. The sexier, the better. Wag masyadong mahiyain, baka walang manligaw. Dapat demure kumain, baka sabihing matakaw. Wag masyadong pasexy, baka sabihin "easy". Wag pabibo, baka sabihin bossy.

All these is a violence of its own - persistent, pernicious, day-to-day structural violence that creates the lens by which a woman views herself and is viewed by the world. THIS, in a nutshell, is why 90% of women and men hold some form of bias against women. Why, along with economic inequality, women stay in toxic relationships. Why women are paid less than men for the same jobs. Why rape victims are afraid to tell their stories. Why misogyny still remains a potent political tool of strongmen all over the world.

But there are things that can be done. Ways that we can fight back. Today I want to talk about three.

First, our stories matter.

The stories we tell our children matter. In schools and in homes, we need to tell stories of strong, courageous women. Ikwento natin sa ating mga kabataan ang kwento ni Nazaria Lagos, kilalang Florence Nightinggale ng Panay, na kumupkop at kumalinga sa mga katipunero sa kanyang bahay sa Duenas, Iloilo. O di kaya ang kwento ni Lorena Barros, aktibista, student lider at manunulat noong panahon ng Martial law, tinortyur ng mga pwersa ng pamahalaan habang buntis na naging dahilan ng kanyang pagkunan bago siya tuluyang pinatay. Or more recently, we tell them the story of Maria Ressa, journalist and truth-teller, unflinching in the face of various state-sponsored incursions.

Maybe we also tell the stories Filipinas who excel in their fields. In the field of science, there is Reinabelle Reyes, astrophysicist and data scientist, who proved Albert Einstein's theory of relativity correct in a scale larger than our own solar system. Sino sa atin ang di nakakakilala kay Hidilyn Diaz, weightlifter and airwoman, and the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal of any color?

Little girls need to be told they can be anything they want to be. To quote Elizabeth Warren, that they can "dream big and fight hard."

Second, the small and invisible things matter.

Inequality persists because we allow the small things to go unquestioned, and the invisible to stay invisible.

Pag pumunta tayo mall, bakit ang baby changing station, nasa ladies' room at wala sa men's room? Dahil ba ang tungkulin ng pagpapalit ng diaper ng sanggol ay automatic na sa nanay? Is care work automatically women's work? Bakit pag punta sa toy stores, may girls' toy section and may boys' toy section, at ang mga science sets, mga sports games, nandun sa boy's section, habang ang mga kulay pink at mga manika at bahay-bahayan ay nasa girl's toys?

When little boys roughhouse each other, or hurt other people, we excuse their behavior and say "boys will be boys". Girls, we hold to a different standard. Kaya walang "girls will be girls," hindi ba?

Third, what we tell our boys matter.

Creating a gender-equal world isn't just talking to girls. It's also talking to boys. Dear men, sa pakikibaka para sa karapatan naming mga kababaihan, kasama kayo. You are part of the struggle for women's rights and gender equality - an important part of the struggle.

To our men, we need you to unlearn "boy's talk" - whether in locker rooms where sexist jokes are exchanged, or in board rooms where big decisions are made. We need you to unlearn the idea that domestic work is women's work and we need you, today, to not only put that toilet seat down, but to change that diaper, wash that dirty plate, sweep that dusty floor, AND TAKE THAT PATERNITY LEAVE. Care work should be shared work. Lastly, we need you -- the men we love, the men we choose -- to unlearn your sense of ownership over us just because of our relationships with you. This includes the clothes that we put on our bodies and all the other choices we make everyday. We are your partners, and we are your equals.

And to all of us, let us raise little boys who do not need to unlearn these things, and who will grow up without the weight of social expectations of what a man should be. As policymakers, we legislators can craft policies that will institutionalize mechanisms towards gender equality, but as parents, as a community, our work is larger. We must come together to raise kind little boys and strong little girls. We must come together to tell women they are worthy, men they are understood, and everybody of all genders that they are accepted. We must come together to craft a fairer, more gender-equal world for all.


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