By Krip Yuson
Yes, of course we still are. To a certain extent.
By us I mean we Filipinos. I would think, however, that we have made progress in this area by leaps and bounds, and would be much higher than the median level if a global reckoning were to be conducted.
Proof of this is the recent finding that next to Russia, the Philippines has the most number of women in executive and managerial positions. Russia as Number 1 appears to be a shocker, but hey, we don’t have winters and are thus not privy to full considerations.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a literary event billed as “Wordello” — a pun on bordello, conflating it with what makes up literature.
The activity was mounted to raise funds for Likhaan: UP Creative Writing Institute. The idea was to prepare an environment (in this case a large hall at the new Green Sun boutique hotel) that would simulate a bordello, and appear as a kinky venue for the following: poetry readings, spoken word and other performances, a body calligraphy session, and to top it all off, a kinbaku eye-opener, referring to the Japanese practice of rope bondage as a curious performance art.
Of course the subject of the body painting was a young female, with her back as the canvas for illustrations and wording. The high point of the evening was the kinbaku presentation, with yet another young female ceremoniously trussed up in ropes by a young man who appeared to be well-practiced. He knew his knots, in other words.
The lady in a sleeveless blouse and black lace shorts was tied up in geometric patterns, front and back, then her lower limbs, and hauled up a scaffolding, with one leg stretched vertically away from the other. I must say, watching the spectacle live for the first time, that it was a unique aesthetic experience.
I have yet to research further on the art of kinbaku to find out if men are ever made the subjects of rope bondage. I highly doubt it.
It isn’t so much the supposed submissive nature of women that make them such natural subjects for this sort of creative expression, but their possession of natural physical attributes that, at least in my view, install them as far superior specimens for visual appreciation.
On an aside, I have numerous friends in the LGBT community, some of whom I enjoy close relations with, exempt of anything physical unless they play team sports.
I can admire hunks who can dunk a basketball ten feet up from the floor, or bend a football with a kick from 30 yards out into a protected goal. Or marvel at how male gymnasts can perform their nearly superhuman acts of derring-do. Apart from this armchair sportsman’s high regard for athleticism, however, nothing in the male form raises my testosterone level.
On the other hand, my eyes glisten when they fall on a woman’s fetching figure. And my lips fall dry upon further appreciation of particular elements that comprise her aesthetic bounty. The curves, her lips, limbs, neck, shoulders, waist, navel, sacral dimple, well-turned ankles, etcetera.
Since I’ve enjoyed this full gamut of visual appreciation from boyhood, what I suggested is that we of a certain masculine predisposition would imagine a female as either madonna or whore, to be placed on a pedestal that is a metaphor for reverence or wishful thinking, inclusive of the salacious.
Oh, as well as all other types between that polarity: trophy date, virgin bride, wife and mother of our children, unreachable goddess, a “pards-babe,” Significant Other, and whatever other imaginable iterations of the wished-for partner may come to mind.
Does that make us sexist? In a way, it does. Depending on the male’s evolution towards becoming a more enlightened individual, the predilection described above can unfortunately remain on a simplistic level, or with good fortune, welcome a sea-change from macho attitude.
In particular, our archipelago seems to have been early blessed with a partiality to acknowledge the special skills of women, other than those most men would reduce them to, as mere horizontal partners and breast-feeders for the children, thence homebodies whose turfs remain the kitchen and laundry area.
But we had our pintadas as much as we did pintados — human canvases for elaborate ink designs. And more importantly, we reserved a special niche for the babaylans, whether actually female or cross-gender, as spiritual or intuitive antennae for the tribe.
No doubt our centuries of experience under the Spanish yoke supplanted much of this early worldview. Still, elements of a highly matriarchal society remained, so much so that our pantheon of heroes included heroines, and eventually the distinction of having the first woman president in Asia.
The glass ceiling remains, as it does in much of the world, thanks in part to the existence of men like Donald Trump as well as those of a certain culture and thinking that still suppress the idea of gender equality.
It may take the world another millennium, at the very least, to achieve this notion of equality. But there is no reason at present to prejudice our aesthetic appreciation of the female form with an accompanying denigration of female capability to accomplish things even better than men, and not just equally with all vestigial sexists.
Liberté! Fraternité! Sororité! Egalité! Better yet, there may and should come a time when women rule the world, while men can content themselves with their continued service as chefs (now opening up to gender equality as well) and the manufacture of good spirits — which we can then enjoy sipping and sharing with our mistresses, er, masters of the universe, plus all gender-bender friends possible.