Privileges **

** (noun) a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people — as defined by Google

a book without women is often said to be about humanity but a book with women in the foreground is a woman’s book. — Rebecca Solnit

images

 

In an ideal world, we would all have the same privileges irrespective of race, gender or social class.

But it is not an ideal world. Privileges (even by definition) are conferred based on what you are, not what you have done or what you can do.

Men have certain privileges by virtue of the fact that they have a Y-chromosome and a penis; while women do not.

Recently, I can’t help but wonder if these privileges are conferred only on certain types of men while excluding others. Maybe privileges are conferred not on the basis of anatomy but about society’s perception about your person-hood (specifically, male-hood or female-hood).

I have come across the blog of a man who is a self-described introvert, pessimist, mediocre, 30-year-old virgin. Dateless and bothered about it, he took it upon himself to start a blog chronicling his (mis)adventures — I find his voice articulate, engaging, somewhat depressing, but a great read anyway.

He reminds me of G, actually. I wonder if G would have ended up sounding like him if G had not met me — the love of his life (or so I think):)

 

Whoever Declared March as Women’s Month, I Wonder

“You asked me to explain myself. I just wonder what needs to be explained. Let me be very clear. Look into your own heart. I swear to you, mine’s no different. You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your bread? So do I. You want some means of self expression? Some way of satisfying your own personal ambitions? So do I. You want a voice in the government in which you live? So do I. What is there to explain?”

(Quoted from the movie, Iron Jawed Angels; spoken by Hilary Swank who played the role of militant suffragette, Alice Paul.)

A scene from the 2004 movie starring Hilary Swank. Image from proyouththpages.com

A scene from the 2004 movie starring Hilary Swank. Image from proyouththpages.com

***

The thing is … Alice Paul, many would disagree with you; and debate that there is much difference between the hearts and souls of men and women. For example, the fact that Ms. Universe 1994 Ms. Sushmita Sen was asked the inane question: “What is the essence of being a woman?” illustrates this fact. Nobody would dare to ask a man: “What is the essence of being a man?”  with the express intention of expecting the guy to answer that his main purpose in life is to produce and take care of the next generation of human beings.

Alice Paul, 1885-1977, a militant feminist in the tradition of Andrea Dworkin. She got imprisoned numerous times and worked her ass off so that women in her country could get the vote. I think she was kinda pretty, almost as pretty as Justin Trudeau. The difference between Justin and Alice is that Justin has Sophie; while Alice's lovelife was so private we do not even know about it.

Alice Paul, 1885-1977, a militant feminist in the tradition of Andrea Dworkin. She got imprisoned numerous times and worked her ass off so that women in her country could get the vote. I think she was kinda pretty, almost as pretty as Justin Trudeau. The difference between Justin and Alice is that Justin has Sophie; while Alice’s lovelife was so private we do not even know about it. Image from biography.com.

I suddenly remember you, Alice, because last March 8 was Women’s Day and I think just this week, we were celebrating Mother’s Day.

I do not want to malign motherhood, Alice — an institution without which, I wouldn’t exist. But the thing is, people have ennobled being a mother to such an extent that not being one or not wanting to be one raises the spectre of “aberration” towards someone.

I am sure a lot of our sisters are ambivalent about motherhood — even those who are mothers themselves. Of course they would never dare to tell their children (or even other people) of this ambivalence; that would be like taboo or sacrilege.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when fatherhood is also elevated in the same pantheon of “nobility” as motherhood. When a guy can be asked: “What is the essence of being a man?” and for us to expect him to answer that being a man is all about being a father.

That is when I will truly believe that the struggle of feminism has succeeded.

***

Justin and Barry -- my favorite feminists. It doesn't hurt that they also look good enough to eat. Image from news.yahoo.com

Justin and Barry — my favorite feminists. It doesn’t hurt that they also look good enough to eat. Image from news.yahoo.com

And because it is Women’s Month, I would like to have the privilege to objectify men.

Hence …

What can girls love more than guys who just scream “eye candy” — like Justin and Barry over here. Some have speculated on the budding bromance between these two world leaders😉

***

Reading Lists:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/10/the-budding-bromance-between-president-obama-and-canadas-justin-trudeau-in-11-great-pictures/?tid=sm_fb

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/03/heartbreak-dating-exhausted-medical-resident.html

http://www.vox.com/2014/12/15/7371737/rape-culture-definition

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/13/9523879/playboy-nudity-no

http://www.vox.com/2016/2/4/10877038/hitchhiking-woman-dangerous

Female Genital Mutilation More Widespread Than Previously Thought, UNICEF Says

 

How To Fake an Orgasm (or Orgasms, plural)

(Ana’s POV)

Image from strongafrocentricmindsets.blogspot.com

Image from strongafrocentricmindsets.blogspot.com

Meg Ryan gave you a general idea. And her performance should have earned her an Oscar if the Academy were all females.

Faking an orgasm is just like any other worthy endeavor. One has to perform it with sincerity to pull it off.

First, one has to know what an orgasm feels like to be able to fake one.

And yes, I have had it, thank you very much. A lot of girls haven’t though. Or they may be unsure, confused if they have had it or not. Believe me, girls, you will know. No ifs or buts about it.

Orgasms are like that perfect pair of strappy high-heeled shoes, they defy explanation. They fit your feet like a dream; they make you feel sexy and they don’t give you calluses afterwards. I haven’t found the perfect high heels yet. But I am optimistic that I will find one. Eventually.

Image from thefishybowl.wordpress.com

Image from thefishybowl.wordpress.com

So orgasms. Second of all, it’s not really about the penis-in-vagina. (Sorry lesbian friends; I can only talk  about the heterosexual perspective.) A girl can have an orgasm while washing dishes (although it is not advisable because one can drop a perfect piece of china and that would be a lousy day); or while watching Chris Pratt save the universe in a movie. One can have an orgasm in the shower (make sure you are using a bath mat so you won’t slip) or even in the library (the Reserve Section is a nice place because there are few people around; just make sure to tone down your vocalistic emissions). Still, the best place to have an orgasm is one’s bed preferably with someone you are madly in lust with. Please take note that one does not have to be in love to have the big O. Though, sex with a loved one belongs (in my opinion) in a different category of orgasms; or even a different category of sex.

I haven’t faked one with Christian (not that I know of). That would just entail too much work; requiring energy that I do not have inclination to expend. Besides, he knows me like the back of his hand so faking it with him will be like deceiving myself.

Image from mirror.co.uk

Image from mirror.co.uk

It is best to fake orgasms with a stranger or a new lover. However, a warning: faking it in the beginning of a relationship may doom that relationship even before it has started. If you can’t be honest with a man you are having sex with, what is the point of staying with him in the long term? Oh yeah, there is also money, power, security (emotional or otherwise) or self-deception. I get that girls — we gotta do what we gotta do. But then, don’t expect orgasms.

On a positive note, we don’t need orgasms  to live a meaningful life.

But it sure will be a life that is lot less fun:)

The OFW Life

Dear Auntie J,

Yes now I understand.

Now I get it, the things you had to go through, which my mother (your sister) thought so little of:

Image from plantingrice.com

Image from plantingrice.com… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

Image: screengrab from youtube.com

… the language barriers, a wall so vast and deep because it is not only about words but more about history, culture and  things left unsaid …

al hajar mountains

… adjusting to a different climate whether too hot or too cold, looking  for your Goldilocks-zone and never quite finding it …

Image from gmanetwork.com

Image from gmanetwork.com

… having plenty of material stuff but not having enough, because “enough” meant having someone you love share all that plenty-ness with; unfortunately the ones you love are oceans of miles away …

… worrying and wondering about a distant land you left behind and dealing with the constant question “Did I  do the right thing?”  Leaving was a matter of survival, but still you have your doubts …

…. the feeling that your life is on hold. Because you are neither here nor there. You are not a tourist, but you are not a “resident” either.

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

I get it now. I get the allure of wanting to acquire citizenship in a foreign country to get a sense of belonging. Because eventually you feel that your own will not welcome you with open arms. Or the open arms are a sham, was only extended to demand something from you.

I get it now. Why you felt I was wasting my life back home. You see: I still think of it as home. I wonder, after all these years, how you think of it.

Image from minibalita.com

Image from minibalita.com

I get it now. The balikbayan boxes, the infrequent calls,  the seemingly superficial mails (because it really is hard to put into words this feeling of displacement, of  having betrayed something or having been let down, of not knowing who to talk to or how to talk about the deepest fears of your heart, of crying and feeling stupid because, hey, you have all this money, so why the tears?)

I get it now. And I am wondering whether to feel happy for us. Or sorry.

It is masochism, I know … but loving something frequently is.

And I know I love the land of my birth. Leaving was a pain. The pain was (is) palpable, and mostly felt in the wee silences of the morning or before sleeping when the routines of work are over.

Image from thefilipino.com

Image from thefilipino.com

It effing hurts to have left.

But I know … it would have hurt so much more to have stayed.

Hate is a Precondition for Freedom (or Mothers & Daughters)

fear of fifty

Erica Jong is a 1970’s author who invented the term “zipless fuck” — a passe concept that is not so popular now among the Y-gens and the millenials. What’s the big deal about zipless fucks when we have “friends-with-benefits”, “twerking”, and “Christian Grey”, right?

Erica has a daughter named Molly, with whom she had a love-hate relationship with.

Daughters will always have a love-hate relationship with their mothers. Unless that mother is dead and there is no point in hating her. When your mother is dead, the only way you can release yourself from her ghost is to forgive her for bringing you out into this world.

I think my mother would also have liked Erica’s books. I wouldn’t know now.

So, to mommy: thank you … I imagine that you are saying these to me from your grave ….

 

[Daughter], I want to release you.

If you hate me or want to reject me, I understand.

If you curse me, then want to atone, I also understand.

I expect to be your home plate: kicked, scuffed, but always returned to.

I expect to be the earth from which you spring.

But if I release you too much, what will you have to fight against?

You need my acceptance, but you may need my resistance more.

I promise to stand firm while you come and go.

I promise unwavering love while you experiment with hate. Hate is energy too — sometimes brighter-burning energy than love. Hate is often the precondition for freedom.

No matter how I try to disappear, I fear I cast too big a shadow. I would erase that shadow if I could. but if I erased it, how would you know your own shadow? And with no shadow, how would you ever fly?

I want to release you from the fears that bound me, yet I know you can only release yourself. I stand here wearing my catcher’s padding. I pray you won’t need me to catch you if you fall. But I’m here waiting anyway.

Freedom is full of fear. But fear isn’t the worst thing we face. Paralysis is.

(from the book “Fear of Fifty” by Erica Jong)

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

 

Sex and the RH Law

From slideshare. Dr. Darleen Estuart's slides: "Reproductive Health and Responsible Sexuality", presented at the Mindanao Young Women Leader's Congress, 2011

From slideshare. Dr. Darleen Estuart’s slides: “Reproductive Health and Responsible Sexuality”, presented at the Mindanao Young Women Leader’s Congress, 2011.

The wonderful thing about blogging is that after a draining day at work, you find a post that gets your blood pressure up again.

So Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda have made budget cuts against the Reproductive Health Law. Somehow I am not surprised.They will both claim “personal/religious convictions” and “prioritization of other more important matters” in their decision; but the truth is, they find it easy to undermine a law that would give more reproductive freedom for women because they have never been …

  1. A 35 year old multigravid with a pedicab driver for a partner who depends on free RH services at the health center to limit her pregnancies …
  2. A doctor/nurse/midwife who works as a frontliner in said health center who feels helpless when the multigravid comes to her and the only thing you can offer is “counselling on natural family planning” — which does not work, by the way; the 35-year-old-multigravid has tried it before ….
  3. A 16 year old teenager whose parents both have lover number 2; the teenager wants to leave the family house to live with her 18 year old “kargador” boyfriend who at least has a job ….
  4. A barangay health worker (BHW) who wants to help this teenager but is feeling very demoralized because the program for teenage pregnancy prevention will not take off because of lack of funds. Imagine, there has been a so-called Adolescent health program for years, but it’s all on paper. So BHW is embarrassed with the community because this program is just a bunch of crap …. because the policy makers wouldn’t put their money (which is actually not their money, but the people’s money) where their effing mouths are ….
  5. A 40 year old multigravid who wants a bilateral tubal ligation and (at the moment) can’t get it for free because the hospital says she has to buy this and that medication for the procedure. Ah yes, Philhealth did say BTLs are free — well Philhealth kindly have discussion with hospital regarding the definition of “free” ….
  6. A  nurse working for PopCom (Population Commission) who has just been told by the district health officer that no we are not offering  the very effective contraceptive implant at the moment because there are no supplies coming from the central office. Poor PopCom nurse, who has to explain this to the young mothers who just want to space their pregnancies and want to use a convenient way to do it.

…. etc etc

It can be very hard to empathize with women who want reproductive health services because hey, it wouldn’t kill them not to have sex, right? They would just have to abstain or use natural family planning methods or the withdrawal method. Yes I am being sarcastic. And by the way, the withdrawal method is not a reliable form of contraception, having a failure rate of more than 20%.

Seriously! Has Tito Sotto tried withdrawal before? Has Loren? Have they tried calendar, Billing’s, BBT;  and do they know how much commitment and effort is required of a couple who wants to use these methods?

I mean … is sex such a luxury in this country? If you are poor, better forego sex and be celibate if you don’t want to get pregnant?

I find it ironic: in a world where sex is so common (in television, in movies — commodities that we sell to poor women, and which they buy, because hey it is entertainment and some of us really need to be entertained to forget the drudgery of our lives), it is also a world that deprives women of opportunities to have freedom over their bodies.

If I am a girl ( oh fuck! I am one) I would like my government to help me achieve the maximum amount of freedom I can have with my body. A lot of people (mostly men) would not agree. They would say, reproductive health and all things related to sex are private that should not be meddled with by the government. But …. love and marriage are also private things, a compact between two people, but we all know the government has a lot to say about them.

 

A Defense for Euthanasia

(Jonas’s POV)

When I was five years old, my sister, Marianne drowned a lame one-legged chick in a drum-ful of water and pinned the blame on me.

For years, everybody in my family believed that I was the animal murderer who drowned that chick. It was almost a family legend. Told again and again to illustrate how “naughty” I was as a child.

I have believed it myself. Until 3 years ago when Marianne confessed, that, ehem, she was the one who committed the ghastly crime and turned her 5-year old brother into a fall guy.

Maybe I should have been angry at my sister. But when she told me the true story, she was then currently suffering from the throes of severe uterine contractions trying to bring out her first child into the world.

There is an evil part of me that felt gleeful that my baby sister had such a terrible 23-hour labor. Alright, gleeful is a strong word. Let’s use “vindicated” instead.

I think, however, that one should not fault a guy for feeling good that there is some justice in the world.

I am remembering this now, in light of what happened the past year. When I look back on that, an inevitable cloak of despair drapes over me blinding me to anything that is not darkness.

I have not … always been … this way. A rational part of me knows that. I look through stuff that I know I owned: clothes I have worn, the house I bought when I thought I was going to get married; papers and pictures that describe me … or the me that was. But I do not recognize that man. I know that he lived. I recognize his name, his face, his history. But I cannot feel empathy, or any connection to this person, this human being … I cannot claim him at all.

I got a stress debriefing after, it’s probably an SOP. And I have told what I know of what happened as much as I could. I could not confess what I cannot remember.

Forgetting is a relief. My best buddies, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo are a huge help as well. There are mornings that I can almost forget my name. Those are the good days.

What gets my craw is seeing her everyday; because she chose to live in my house of all places! Marianne said awkwardly, “She rented it kuya. You can’t throw her out. She has leased it for a year. It’s all legal.”

It has always been my fantasy to strangle my youngest sister. Of course, I couldn’t do that before out of respect for our mother; and I cannot do it now because her husband will kill me. On the other hand … maybe death courtesy of Anton will not be such a bad thing.

She is always straightening things out around the house. When I first showed it to her 5 years ago, what she said was: “I think this is a good investment.” Back then it was a bare one-story detached 2-bedroom bungalow in a sleepy town south of Manila. Now the town has woken up, mostly because of the industrial complex that has sprung up in the city just beside it. With the location and the fact that this house is barely new, I was sure that it wouldn’t be difficult to rent out. What I did not expect was it would be rented out by her.

According to Marianne, her (the tenant’s) job was located in Paranaque; less than 2-hour commute from my house. “Also,” said my sister. “She wanted to be near you. Or at least to your memory.”

My memory. In fairness to my family, for the better part of the last two years, they thought that is all they will have of me. Until I came back from the dead. In a manner of speaking.

My sisters have suggested that I can live in the family home in Quezon City. In my absence, my mother had died (another tragic story), and our house was taken over by my eldest sister, Tess, her husband, their 3 children, our aging yaya/maid/mayordoma Nana Azon and the children’s assorted collection of parakeets and goldfishes. I cannot possibly live in the Quezon City house.

So I moved back into this one, occupying the bigger of the two bedrooms. She insisted on vacating it, pointing out that I am the one who owns the house after all, which makes her my tenant. That was one way of looking at it. She transferred to the guest room out front, the one with the windows overlooking the garden.

Two years ago this house didn’t have a garden. I had to blink when I saw the profusion of sunflowers and gladiolas on the small plot beside my garage. Small pots of flowering shrubs (sampaguita, rosal and santan) scattered over a trimmed and well-maintained bed of carabao grass. The effect was simple but eclectic, cheerful and friendly; giving the impression that someone actually lived here. Before the thing that happened happened, I have used the property as storage area, halfway house, and I have twice rented it to two buddies of mine who have stayed for a year or so. Nobody bothered putting up a garden.

“I didn’t know that you are into gardening,” I told her.

“I wasn’t,” she said, laughing a little. “But I had a lot of free time. What do you think?”

“It’s okay.”

The truth is, I do not know what to make of the fact that she is here. In this house, this town, this part of my world.

Two years ago, when the concept of hope was still something I could understand, I had given up hoping that she will be back to this country. The last time we talked, she had made it clear that she considered it backward, inefficient, corrupt and doomed to failure.

I remember almost wanting to surrender to what she wanted, but goddamn it, I thought, I’m the guy here, and to acquiesce will be to consent in my own castration. I could not do it, I should not do it. So we said our goodbyes, the final one (or so I thought) that would conclude nine years of (seemingly) infinite goodbyes that precede the countless times we have returned again and again to where we started.

It was not very difficult settling down to a routine. I have been here for two months and I feel almost human again. Of course there are the nightmares but Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo help me deal with them. On most days, I rarely see her. She leaves early and comes back late. I don’t sleep much so I know that she arrives at 9 or 10 pm. I never go out to greet her. When it’s early, she would knock on my door; would ask if I had dinner already or make chit chat about her day. The truth is I can’t bring myself to care. But I still remember how to be polite, so I pretend to listen; go through the motions of normal human interaction and, sometimes, I can even manage to smile or laugh.

What perplexes me is that these days, I can’t feel anything. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I can’t even feel worried that I feel nothing.

This morning, for example, she came out of the bathroom wearing a yellow towel on her head, an old white t-shirt and shorts (I have never remembered her to wear shorts). She was probably surprised to see me because she immediately crossed her arms over her chest and muttered a (somewhat shy?) good morning and excuse me. Two years ago, if I had seen her looking like that – wet hair, bare legs and nipples peeking out of a thin cotton shirt – and smelling like that, well … it would have elicited some reaction out of me.

But now, nada.

When Marianne told me the story of her drowning that chick, I asked her why she did it. She said that she thinks she did not do it to be cruel. Her four year old self felt so bad for that lame one-legged chick, hopping around unable to catch up with the other chickens, completely wasted. My sister decided to put an end to chick’s misery. Hence the crime.

There are some days (this one is a perfect example) when I wish that 4-year old Marianne is still around to put another animal out of its misery.