WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: The pain of being a woman

OSM prioress Sr. Mary John Mananzan was in town last week to grace alumni events. She expressed her availability for downtime to sit down and talk about what is probably her favorite subject: women and spirituality.

It was an intimate gathering that converged Thursday morning at Villa Margarita for Sr. Mary John's talk upon the invitation of the two Indays – Inday Irene Santiago and Inday Ma. Lourdes Arcenas. The invitation was on very short notice and many who signified interest could not move their schedule around to make the time for it. The regret conveyed through text messages in reply to my relay invitation was almost palpable. St. Scho after all is the leading authority in women studies and Sr. Mary John, in particular, is known to be the driving dynamo behind the advocacy.

Call it drinking at the fount, but every now and then we women need to tune in to women talks if only to be reminded to anticipate pain. A woman's life is a potential quagmire of painful experiences. Sooner or later, those of us who fight against this systemic bias that renders us sacrificial lambs have to confront what exactly we got going against us. A realistic appraisal is supposed to empower us, allowing us to celebrate our little victories
against the odds. Then, too, when we lay down the comparisons, we come to celebrate our sisterhood in the tribe of women.

Sometimes, though, even those who come out blasting with both barrels grow worldweary, too. Like, Sr. Mary John is not confident at all that Nicole has a fighting chance at winning her case against the Americans she accused of rape.

I've been asking people what they think and somebody has yet to tell me Nicole's going to win this one. I ask those who sustain the pickets and the demonstrations for Nicole. I ask the peanut vendor. I ask my colleagues. I ask lawyers. They all say the same thing. The men would win this one, they say. It's quite an extension of two weeks back when the people I asked all told me that the man would win – the Pacman, that is. Man wins. Hmm-mmm.

From someone looking in, like all those Americans who protested how I disparaged in a previous article Smith's newfound Filipino-advised "spirituality", it should seem strange that the homeground does not at all lend to confidence for Nicole. They really think Nicole has the home advantage, which, considering the writers' obvious ignorance of colonial mentality and the Filipino culture, is quite understandable. After all, we are a tribal people and, wrong or right, a tribal people protects its own. It would seem out of character then how we seem so ready to give up on Nicole's case, anticipating her pain, when the tribal response should be to fight back.

Or maybe it's not really out of character. Our laws, under which the Subic rape case is tried, is an American instrument haphazardly made to adapt to our needs. Like all hand-me-downs, they'd be more likely to fit the purposes of the original owner. If our laws have spirit, that spirit must be American. Now, it would have been another thing were we to try this case under the spirits of the tribal laws.

In centuries past, before our cultures became so desecrated by male patriarchal ways, women in many tribes held the secrets to mediating for spirits to bring down justice upon the head of the unjust. I'm talking about hiwit, usog, barang, kulam. Take your pick. One worked just as well as the other, or so I've been told. Maybe we ought to take up studies on these again before those carpetbaggers register the intellectual property rights to the technology of our ancestors. If the ill-mannered visitors had their way yet again, we will all end up dispossessed and in an undignified heap on the sidewalk.

Oh, right- I'm feeling particularly vicious today. It's the pain of being woman. You bet I'm gonna scream all I want.(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao Universitywhere she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected]. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)

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