Wednesday, November 15, 2006

on women and bubbles

Bubbles ended a recent conversation about two types of women: the ignorant and the politically incorrect. The theory is that these two women live in bubbles – the first, because she doesn’t know any better and the second, because that’s the only way she can get the fame and fortune she obviously enjoys. Somewhere between these two types of women, are those who just find insecurity in the fact of living with burst bubbles all around.

It is an insecurity that many women of the middle class live with in this country.

It is after all, infinitely easier to be a ditz. Worrying only about make-up and clothes, the engagement ring you long for, the fantastic first date and walking down the aisle. To be in that bubble, where everything can be bought and then had, and all happiness can be fulfilled is the easiest thing. Pinays who don’t know any better but to believe in this bubble and make it into a fortress are forgiven. They are after all products of a condition that kept them from being educated in schools that would allow them to spread their wings and realize that there are many alternatives to the life that they watch on American films and television.

But then, in this country, the more educated version of the ditz becomes the editor of women’s magazines, the commercial model on TV, the actress who stars in movies, the TV host with nothing but a twang to be proud of. These women, unlike the ill- or mis- educated, have one all-important thing: choice. The careers they end up doing, the things they end up selling, the whole ideology and image of the Pinay that they engender, are choices that they have made. And they must be taken to task for creating false images of the Pinay as someone who insists that she needs to be whiter than her morena skin, that make-up is the only way to feel better, that the salon is a haven, that we are all capable of becoming women of the world by saying no to everything from education to marriage to children.

These women, when they speak so unapologetically about what they believe is the Filipina of the millennium, when they sell their make-up and clothes, their magazines and television commercials, when they make Filipino women all over the country – and the world – believe that they are living the greatest of lives and everybody else is insufficient, must be criticized time and again. Those bubbles they create for themselves need to be pricked at every juncture.

Those bubbles after all, are the most destructive kind. Within it are women who are aware of the falsity of the choices they’ve made, and yet are slaves to the money that this brings. These are the Pinays who oppress other Pinays everyday, by pointing out how the latter’s lives are imperfect compared to these bubbles that bring in the cash and allow for a certain amount of fame. These are the Pinays who make the choice to sell sell sell, instead of enriching other Pinays’ lives and encouraging them to become individuals in the choices that they make – from life decisions to the clothes that they wear.

These are the Pinays who make it difficult for many of us to be happy with what we have, and come to terms with that which we lack. Because at every juncture, with every magazine and TV commercial, we are shown how we – the real-life Pinays – are not enough.

That these Pinays, we are told, are not so bright is beside the point. They after all become the representation of a whole generation of us who continue to struggle with the battles that our mothers tried to win. Who continue to traverse that thin line between oppression and power, martyrdom and love, sometimes with success, but most of the time with tears and anger. And yet these Pinays in our magazines, TV screens, and movies do not know enough to even see themselves as part of the life of great Pinays before us who fought many battles from the right to vote to the right to wear jeans.

And when we assert that they are not as intelligent as we are, don’t we really only end up creating that bubble within which we find comfort in the fact of our intelligence?

But then again, our difference is that we prick our own bubbles ourselves. If only to find better answers.*