Grassroots & Governance
By Teresa S. Abesamis
President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest rants against saints is, to my mind, just another instance of his continuing campaign to express his machismo; still another effort to demonstrate his manliness in terms of iconoclasm against all things held sacred, even by religious tradition.
The determined campaign to expel veteran missionary Patricia Fox, who served our disadvantaged communities for almost 30 years, is to my mind, still another manifestation of his need to demonstrate his macho power. Why he has to resort to such radical expressions of his manliness strikes me as an obvious form of insecurity. What is it about assertive women that he fears, so that he has to oust them from high office, or have them indefinitely detained, or ousted from the country?
He has already attained the highest, most powerful position in the land. Why the need to prove this time and time again, even to the point of wielding the awesome powers at his command? He actually comes out a bully, since the contest is not even.
Rodrigo Duterte strikes me as an epitome of a hopefully dying breed of men who need to put down women in order to assure themselves that they are superior. Those who have attained maturity may have come to terms with the idea that the genders are equal; and are likely to have healthier relationships. An old friend has even gone further. He says to me that “it is really a woman’s world; but thank God, I will be dead by then.” Haha.
A clinical psychologist friend says we really need to run a “men’s liberation” campaign, in order to help women attain their own liberation. She thinks that men are burdened by the high expectations on them. Women seem to be less under pressure to perform; and are easily recognized when they attain some measure of success. It is said that Filipino women mature at the age of 25, and the men mature at the age of 30. Perhaps it is because in our families, girls are brought up differently from the boys. Girls are given responsibilities at home (cooking, cleaning, running errands); while the boys are allowed a lot of freedom to play and hang out with their gangs.
I find that my own grandson, who married at the age of 30, seems to have a healthy relationship with his wife who is actually the same age. They prepared well for their marital commitment and family life. They dated for seven years, and attended a “discovery weekend” where volunteer facilitators helped them to find out if they basically held the same values and attitudes about crucial matters like money, children, education, in-laws, and the usual things that cause marital discord. It was only when they realized that they differed only on minor matters (which they were able to resolve during their workshops) that they decided to get engaged. They now have a 7-month-old son, and are enjoying him and work as a team in rearing and bringing him up.
I am really impressed with their clear and committed egalitarianism. They both work to earn a living; and share in their family expenses; and in running their home and caring for and rearing their son. Their peer groups of young urban marrieds also seem to hold the same attitudes and values about gender roles and responsibilities. It makes me optimistic about the coming generation of parents and leaders in our communities.
The schools and communities can play a key role in orienting future and current parents on bringing up their children and orienting them on equitable roles and responsibilities for boys and girls.
Obviously, there is a lot of work to do to turn the egalitarian trend into an epidemic. The fact that Duterte, with his iconoclastic ranting and machismo games, is so popular indicates that we are a long way from an egalitarian and enlightened society. The fact that the barbaric ranting and macho posturing of our national leader is acceptable and even, alas, popular, is a sad reality that indicates that majority of our menfolk, and their parents and forthcoming parents need a lot of reeducation.
The schools can do a lot to hasten the transformation. Egalitarian gender consciousness along with civics education can bring us closer to the mature and civilized nation that we have the potential to become. Certainly the business community can help mobilize gender re-education in the workplace. A more mature citizenry will likely choose more mature and enlightened leaders. We can perhaps look forward to less childishness in our legislative proceedings and in government executives’ public behavior.
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.