Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Tribute to Helen Gurley Brown ( 1922-2012 )

In light of a certain disturbing ( at least to my end ) episode that occurred earlier during my Filipino Literature minor-subject-class and my learning of the news of the death of a pioneer, icon, and writer Helen Gurley Brown I felt compelled to share the story of what happened earlier.

Our class was discussing, after much delay, the different literary theories. Today we discussed Feminism, its basic introduction in Filipino of course, since this was a Filipino Literature subject, even though all of us took the similar course already in English entitled Philippine Literature in English, we were still required by the college to take this minor course.  

My professor stated something to the class which really irritated me to my core so much that I had to step in and rebut his completely inaccurate statement, which he always does by the way its just that I have been tolerant and understanding of his other past generalizations. But this one, I felt couldn't be just simply neglected. He said that the status of women in general was much better here in this country, than those in the United States. And a classmate of mine even supported his outrageous statement, told the class that he agreed because he claims he read this report in the UN that stated that women here are treated much more equally. I believe it was a misinterpretation and neglect of the recommendations that was clearly stated in that report, on his part.

Can you believe that? He had the nerve to tell the class with conviction that women here in the Philippines are better treated and are treated more equally with men!. Here in this country, the Philippines! The only remaining country in the face of the planet to not have Divorce and is currently debating in its congress whether giving women the right to free contraceptives, birth-control pills, condoms,  and lastly giving every school-goer the basic education of sex health. A country without Anti-Discriminatory Laws, A country that tolerates misogyny in almost all parts of society (media, raising kids, etc.),in a society that doesn't tolerate couples choosing to simply live together and have kids without getting married.

Those were the initial thoughts that ran through my head, but I raised my hand and told my professor that "please don't generalize the entire culture of the United States because the US has many dominant cultures and sub-cultures in it" He replied with an even more irritating reply " No, because in the US people there only aim for high school diplomas, though there income is good, at least minimum wage, unlike here women aim for college degrees" 

So many logical fallacies, inaccuracies, generalizations, he uttered, that I could no longer respond because in a class of more than 30 people when one has a few moments to talk and to reply back, one has to take advantage of that opportunity quick, but I couldn't reply quickly because I didn't know anymore how to respond, with all the nasty things he said, how would I even start? 

So, what did I do? I chose to be silent until the class ended, unfortunately that was not the last stupid thing he said during that period, he also said to the class, when the discussion was now focused on fixed-marriages  "I think in the Muslim culture here in the Philippines, it's legal to kill when a wife does something against the will of his husband" at this point I was so dismayed, at the same time I felt so bad for him because he was now being stereotypical and racist, I felt just so out-of-there in that room while my classmates continued discussing the Muslim fixed-marriage thing and listening to one of my female Muslim classmates clarification, even with that at least he seemed to agree with my female-classmate's clarification, so in my head he wasn't completely being a bigot on that matter only at least. By the way the clarification given was " it's really done in countries where sharia-law is absolute like some countries in the Middle-East, and this is only done by radicals, not by mainstream Muslims, so my professor agreed with her so was the class, since many radical Christians, at least in some parts of this world, are also out there, anyway, let go back to the topic at hand, that is more of a different discussion. That discussion calls for another blogs-post, let's go back to his first unfounded and stereotypical comment on general American culture, which doesn't exist by the way. The culture of  New York City is very much different from that of Miami, Salt Lake City, as well as the culture of Seattle is very much different from the culture in Portland, and within those cities a lot of sub-cultures are also present again. So, one can't simply just generalize, one can't base opinion on a group of people solely on few accounts or what one sees in a few Hollywood movies.

I was really baffled, this wasn't the first time in class when he uttered stupid-generalizing-stereo-typical comments, I remember last month, while briefly discussing queer theory   he said that " all gays secretly wished for a vagina even if they were decent " I don't even  know what that means, I let it passed, I didn't comment because why should I correct an ignorant person whose view seems to be simply limited. I know exactly to which group he was referring to, to my lovely readers who's not very familiar with LGBT culture Philippine-Setting let me enlighten you a bit. Here in this country, one might notice that feminine gays are the majority here, so they think that all gays of the world are also like the one found here, wherein you have basically a boy trying his best to be a woman, most Filipinos aren't aware of gays mostly gays from western countries who are very masculine, the guy who you'll see in the street and will have no doubt that his straight-but he's not, most of the people here are only aware of the drag-oriented-type of gays. Same with the concept of lesbians here, they think all lesbians of the planet are butch, and want's to be a man, they have no concept of a simple guy or girl simply born to like members of their own sex.  In short Filipino's think that all gays are all transsexuals, when that is not the case. Here in the Philippines these type of gays might seem to outnumber those western-type-of-gays, but not on a Global-level.

So how does all of these relate to my supposed tribute to the death of one of the most celebrated editor-in-chief in history? One who changed the bad course that Cosmopolitan was taking and made it a profitable and household, a woman who reigned as Cosmopolitan's editor-in-chief for 32 years and making it a powerhouse, trend-setter, and taboo breaker, a woman who was a pioneer, along with others, of the sexual revolution of the 1960's, a woman whose book is one of the all-time-best-sellers in history, a woman who was a wife for 50 years, a woman who was an innovator, a woman of New York City, one who contributed so much to modern culture and the freedom women are experiencing in some parts of the world. 

As we all know Feminism has many waves, its ideals can't be easily summed up, one has to be specific of what sub-group's ideal he/she is trying to talk about. But Helen Brown's contributions, in my opinion, are more geared towards sexual freedom and the right of women to create their own tracks in life, for them to be liberated in decision-making-stigma from what most men at that time would have thought of their independent thinking. 

My Filipino 13 professor confuses a lot of things with other things, misdirects, stereotypes, and in his comments when truly deciphered in subtle ways you can notice the gender expected roles that still plagues his mind. Evident of this is when my classmate said " in trains women here are also maniacs now" he replied with great shock and said really women are like that? with an expression I can't find a word for it currently, And that's when, without me raising my hand to recite in class, sort of shouted, "you see that was what I am talking about, you still expect women to behave a certain way", and he quickly responded with " hey I am just giving my opinion OK" I didn't listen anymore to his polluted reply, I just thought he was being disingenuous and he's statements only support my conclusion of some parts of his personality now, that he thinks he believes and preaches something that really is not supported by his subconscious. His misogyny in his past statements is evident, masquerading of course as protection of the woman and respect for women, when in fact he considers women as not strong enough, as unable to handle things, which is sad. 

Sad that, he wasn't able to grasp the developments that occurred on gender equality while he was studying in the number # 1 university here, the University of the Philippines. And still remains, maybe he's not aware of it, a sexist, a person who still conforms to gender-roles. With all these said, I think he's not an evil person, I think he's a nice person, maybe along the way in the past he got lost, I don't agree with him, but I respect him. But I will not tolerate his generalizations, insensitivity, failure to recognize wrong facts, and stereo-typing behavior. I hope that one day people like him learn the lesson they deserve, but I hope it'll happen in a not-so-hard-and-harsh-way where they'll really be embarrassed and humiliated with their words, I hope it doesn't reach that point. I hope they simply realize it from within, without intervention from others, without a situation, just plain realize it on their own. I wish him all the best.

With the death of a legend, I had to share this because it's important that these scenarios get shared for everyone to read to show that somewhere in another part of the planet what this woman fought still permeates in subtle ways in this society.

Please, Feel free to leave your comments! It will really be appreciated!!!!

Love you all, my readers!!!!

-Paul Ken- 

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