If your Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds weren’t any indication, today, March 8, is International Women’s Day—and women from all over the world are joining gatherings and protests, declaring their love and respect for women they admire, and celebrating being female, no matter their religion, race, or culture. Just a few days ago at the 90th Academy Awards, Frances McDormand asked every female nominee in the audience to rise, a poignant acknowledgment of the artistic power and influence of every uterus-possessing human being there. But the women in our everyday lives aren’t necessarily Oscar nominees. They’re the women who have been there for us in different ways, whether it’s our mother, sisters, girlfriend/fiancée/wife, female friends, even strangers. How exactly can you show them that they are loved and that they matter?
Society, undeniably patriarchal as it is, has glimmers of hope in the form of male allies like you—men who truly appreciate the role that women play in their lives and in terms of global progress. The reason feminism remains a massive cause is because millions of women still haven’t gotten what they deserved, whether that means equal pay, respect for their bodies and their consent, or opportunities to take larger positions of leadership (i.e., politics, corporations, even small-time organizations). Bottomline? It’s still extremely difficult to be a woman. Silver lining? We can all work together to make it easier.
The women in your family, for one, deserve special attention because they are your flesh and blood. But they remain entrapped in the primarily father-centered norms of a Filipino family. It’s vital that we allow them to have a say in huge family decisions. Support their professional and personal aspirations, whether realistic or a little bit crazy, because the world looks down on women enough as it is. Love and protect them with everything in your power not simply because you are related to them, but because they fundamentally deserve to be.
The women in your romantic life are a different story. Whether you’re dating (they come and go) or committed (only one woman comes to mind), we cannot stress enough the importance of creating a safe space for them. When on dates, make sure a woman feels that she’s allowed to set the parameters for physical or emotional intimacy. When arguing with a girlfriend or spouse, resolve not to resort to emotionally or physically abusive behaviors. Never restrict them from expressing themselves, whether it’s their makeup, the clothes they wear, or the books and music they enjoy.
Your female friends, we’re telling you, will give you the best love advice you’re ever gonna get. They understand what women crave for and what they repel—so listen, and listen well. When they call you out for normalizing behaviors that are anti-feminist (i.e., making women uncomfortable at the club, slut-shaming other women), listen even better. Because like men, women should be allowed to be open about their sexual desires or have multiple partners and not be called a whore. Let’s try and disassociate from statements like “babae pa naman” or “kababae mong tao.” As a man, your power to influence other men to respect other women is (sadly) stronger than ours. Even casually calling out a medyo bastos friend—a simple “Uy, tama na ‘yan” after an inappropriate remark will send your message across—helps a ton.
How about the women you encounter in public: during your commute, while walking down the street, at the mall, or in a bar? What about these strangers? Should you encounter someone struggling—a drunk girl with no ride home, a woman being groped and is too terrified to tell the predator to stop—help her out. Bring us home safely. Shout expletives at the offending manyak if you have to. In certain situations, ladies can only do so much. Men play a very, very crucial role in making the world a safer place for every woman. (Remember the two male bikers who found the unconscious body of Brock Turner’s rape victim?)
A final request: When you hear the word ‘feminism,’ don’t feel alienated or antagonized. Feminism, at its truest, most proper form, does not call for women to be above men in any way. Feminism simply means a desire to afford women the same opportunities and privileges that men currently enjoy. Remove the dangerous bra-burning, head-shaving stereotype that might still be lingering in your mind. Because men and women can be feminists. And we hope that you’ll join in the fight for equality, not only today, but for the rest of your life.