08 March 2018

to be a woman in 2018 Philippines

Lately, this opening line from Pablo Neruda's poetry echoes in my mind: 

"It so happens I am tired of being a man."

It's from a piece called "Walking Around" included in the Il Postino OST where famous people read his poetry. Samuel L. Jackson read this one. Powerful.

I echo this because, in this time and era, I share similar sentiments: 

It so happens that I am tired of being a woman. 

In a time when misogyny got an unexpected boost, in this patriarchal country where all closeted sexists suddenly outed themselves and spew vitriol after vitriol against women of all kinds, one gets bombarded by words words words from people who suddenly showed their true colors to you. I am getting tired of listening to them, reading their posts on social media, and being beside them. 

As an identifying feminist, I have been around this kind of misogyny all my life. It somehow contributed to my raison d'être, my reason for being. If only I can control it. If only I can fight it. In my own little way, I try. In anything and everything I do, I try to infuse feminism in my work. In some instances, it fails. But in most cases, it wins. 

However, little did I expect that it will take its toll on me one day. All because of one entity: the troll.

So many people now feel empowered anonymously by this information highway we call the internet. And another kind of animal is shitting all over it: the troll. I've been reading so many reports coming out of western media these days, talking about Russian troll farms that influenced American society the past two years. You know in some aspects, we're ahead of them for about a year or so, because I've already read so many reports about local troll farms since last year. Yes, we have our own.

Jim said it simply, and said it best:
"The internet is vicious!"
Indeed. I miss this show grabe.

Troll farms. Who would have predicted this kind of kalakaran today, no? I wonder what the communication theorists-psychs-social scientists would say about this. Hello, Marshall McLuhan, Stuart Hall, Stephen Covey, anyone? What do you think po? Hay naku. I don't think the inventors of the internet wanted their information superhighway to turn towards this direction. And neither did we passengers/passersby/digital motorists.

This is how I've been feeling lately: like a driver catching snags along the way, no thanks to unexpected potholes and bumps I find all over. Life's not smooth-sailing all the time anyway, but adding such potholes don't help the journey one bit -- especially if you're just doing your job along the way.

It is tiring. But I've met several advocates in Thailand last year who say the same thing -- and encouraged me to just go on. Write. Post. Think. Say. It's easier said than done sometimes, especially if you get threatened by an extended offline physical threat because of something you posted online. Yes, it has become this crazy.

Renewal: This is where I got it last year.
I was in Thailand for a lecture gig and attended
this Asia Pacific Feminist Forum by accident,
as an aside, since I was already there.
The best accidental decision I've done in years.
In this session, I was able to process many things
that have been bothering me. And I came home
renewed, and with hope again. Yes indeed,
the universe still conspires.
[September 2017 Chiang Mai, Thailand]

Look at me, extolling the virtues of social media as eliminating the traditional media gatekeepers in my lectures some 10 years ago, proudly stating to Asian neighbors in an Indonesian conference that Filipinos have a great knack at this thing called social media that we were declared the social media capital of the world 10 years ago. And 10 years hence, where are we now? Cultivating troll farms to destroy honest people and create lies. And in the middle of that, amplifying misogyny and anything anti-women. Woo-hoo progress.

How can you not be disheartened by that? We were already feeling major gains, and then we get back to a square one slump. It used to be, two steps forward and one step back. At least there's movement, no matter how slow. But today, it seems like it's one step forward and two steps back. Where are we headed if the path is this way?

I dread to answer that question right now. It's International Women's Day today, 2018. A far cry from 2008, of course, with all the technological and societal advancements. But we get a new kind of crying from all the anti-women online harassment and trolling and shit. Realizing this is indeed tiring.

So please, universe, fortify me more. FORTIFY US. In this day and age of fakery, let the genuine efforts shine. And please, deliver us from trolls. 

We women get our strengths and inspiration from fellow women.
Glad to have met one such woman who urged me to
NOT STOP WRITING. Rock on, ladies! And thanks.
[September 2017 Chiang Mai, Thailand]

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