Friday, March 11, 2005

feminist without a vagina

“Babae, tangan mo ang kalahti ng kalangitan (Woman, you control half of the heavens).”

That was the only line I sang and it spoke volumes about my views on women’s rights and gender equality. I couldn’t put it more succinctly. I performed that with a leftist cultural group during the International Women’s Day Celebration years ago.

Accompanied by a violinist, two guitarists, and a congo player, I sang back-up vocals (we just repeated that line over and over again, in varying degrees of loudness) while a man with a booming voice recited a poem about women’s rights (or more specifically, on how we trample on them). Also on the stage were a handful of dancers (we called them ‘movers’) who physicalized our music and poetry.

We performed on a makeshift stage erected right in front of the Welcome Rotunda monument. Up there, I could see a small crowd of about two hundred women’s rights advocates in the audience (mostly from Gabriela and other progressive organizations), squinting in the harshness of the midday sun, but still enjoying our performance. That inspired me to do my best onstage.

This also brings to mind the two Vagina Monologue performances I was lucky to be part of. Nope, I didn’t do the “Reclaiming Cunt” monologue because, obviously, I don’t have a cunt to speak of. I’ll leave that to Harlene Bautista whose Tagalog version really brought the house down.

I was merely one of the back-up singers.

Once a year, New Voice Company celebrates V-Day, a special event that centers on women empowerment. The central piece of this celebration, of course, is the performance of Eve Ensler’s smash hit, The Vagina Monologues. Instead of just the usual three actors, New Voice invites around sixty women from different fields to perform the monologues and/or sing, dance, or deliver a speech onstage.

The first one was held at the Music Museum and the second, at the Folk Arts Theater. Although most of what I did was just sing back-up vocals, perform with the choir, do a group movement piece, and stage-manage in between, I felt so proud to be sharing the same stage with such powerful women as Cheche Lazaro (she even took a picture of Elnard, Oliver, and me while we were back-up singing for Monique Wilson and Celeste Legaspi’s “The Prayer”), Alya Honasan, the late Zenaida Amador (founder and erstwhile artistic director of Repertory Philippines), Baby Barredo, Tammy Monsod (a superb thespian; daughter of Winnie Monsod), Winnie Monsod, Cherry Gil (who was so engrossed with our warm-up exercise before the show that she stayed flat on the floor long after all of us had gone up), Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Mitch Valdez, Celeste Legaspi, Nannette Inventor, Monique Wilson, Cynthia Alexander, Grace Nono (I told her to use the microphone onstage but, in a moment of panic, she used my mic backstage which was off!), Rep. Lisa Masa, Roselle Nava, Regine Velasquez (who, having flown from the States, was catatonic when she arrived; when I told her to get ready, she sprang up and walked toward the edge of the wing, thinking that it was already her cue to sing), Rina Jimenez-David, Angel Aquino, Angelu de Leon, Sampaguita, Harlene Bautista, Belinda Panelo, and a host of theater actors, singers, writers, directors, and advocates of women’s rights.

What was I doing there even if I didn’t have, er, a vagina? I’m proud to say that I do not conform to your usual mold of a guy. I hate chauvinism and I despise machismo. I believe everyone, regardless of sex, is equal, therefore, in the eyes of the law, everyone should have equal rights.

For ages, this phallus-obsessed world had suppressed women, relegating them to the outskirts of mainstream society, regarding them as delicate, fragile, good-only-for-sex creatures who must not open their own doors but should open up their legs for men anytime. I say, it’s about time that we, men, realized that having a dick does not guarantee us special privileges, that women are also capable of doing anything men can do, sometimes, they can even do it better.

Having said this, I don’t blame other men for harboring Jurassic perspectives on gender and the role of women. We have been conditioned by eons of crooked thoughts and philosophies regarding male superiority, religion being the chief proponent of gender inequality. The feminine has been so demonized that we almost equate women with the “darker side” of humanity.

They are the Magdelenes, the Eves, and the Bathshebas whose only goal is to seduce men and sidetrack them from their noble, testosterone-heavy missions in life. Man, you’d have to be dumb not to notice the glaring patronization of women in the Bible. You can only name a few who admirably stood out—Mary the mother of Christ, Deborah the prophetess, Queen Esther, and Miriam the sister of Moses.

And that is just Christianity. We haven’t even talked about Islam and other world religions that ignore the power of women! Talk about obliteration of the sacred feminine.

But what I cannot stomach most of all is the resignation of most women about this issue. Some of them would rather choose to conform and admit that they are indeed inferior, that this is still “a man’s world.” Their only idea of womanhood is to play second fiddle to a man—any man. That is how much some women have ingrained this culture of inequality.

My ideal woman, therefore, is not your usual timidly demure, delicately virginal girl. My ideal woman is strong and bold. She knows what she wants and knows how to get there. She has her own mind and she does not wait for men to open doors for her, or to offer her their seats. She is willing to be on equal footing with a man in a relationship and not be subjugated by him. She understands her sexuality and is not afraid of it. Best of all, she does not conform to any of those societal shit that dictates what a woman should be.

Now that we’re celebrating International Women’s Day, I salute those brave women who have defiantly broken the mold and are struggling for a better, more egalitarian world. You do have the right to control half of the heavens.

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At 2:54 PM, Blogger weng said...

whoa! this is one helluva tribute to all of us 'virginals'! and coming from a man like you makes it more powerful. like i always say, men treat us to the extent we allow them to! =D

At 10:16 PM, Blogger sojourness said...

Excellent post! It's nice to know there are some vagina-less feminists out there, although I'm sure you are few.


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