Babaeng Gen Z: 8 young Filipino women face 8 tough questions
If you are a young woman born within the late 1990s to the early 2000s (about 1997 to 2010, as studies and publications set it), you fall within the Generation Z bracket — and you being the tech-savvy you, you most probably already know what makes you tick and what turns you off.
As a young woman though, still about to make your way through life, we are curious about the questions that bother you the most. After all, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and as stated in our recent report, there are many aspects where men and women remain unequal. Subordination of and discrimination against women still prevail, said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia. Problems about equality in pay, unpaid care and domestic work, political life and decision-making in all areas of life exist in even more magnified ways these times. How are you affected by these problems in your very young life?
Now if you reading this happen to be a guy, please do still read on. We spoke with eight Gen Z girls – Alex, Eunice, Stephanie, Rona, Gab, Dominique, Carteine and Marie* – and asked them questions that yielded the most interesting answers, all of which you ought to know. From views about marriage and divorce, abortion, sexual harassment and modern dating; to education and career, beauty pageants, gender roles and empowerment — what they had to say could surely help all of us understand the plight of women better, and can hopefully lead us to action, to help make life better for all the women in our lives, all the time, even beyond occasions like International Women’s Day and Women’s Month.
‘Are you in favor of divorce?’
All eight of the young women expressed that they can see themselves getting married one day. They all also believe in divorce and gave their two cents’ worth on the lack of it in the Philippines, highlighting its need in abusive relationships.
“The absence of divorce in the country is worrying since there are countless toxic couples that resort to violence and are merely left to ‘tolerate’ their partner’s abusive tendencies. [It] tells that a lot of authority figures and citizens tend to lean more on the aspect of religion or their personal beliefs that marriage is sacred, that it’s wrong for married couples to separate, without actually considering the situations of those who are victimized by unhealthy relationships,” said Alex, 21, a commission artist.
“I believe in divorce as much as I believe in abusive marriages. I think here in the Philippines there is a misconception that divorce ruins marriages, but it does not. Infidelity and abuse are just some of the common valid grounds for divorce. It is your right to cut people out of your life if they harm you,” said Eunice, 22, a graphic designer.
‘Are you in favor of legalizing abortion?’
Majority of our respondents also believe Filipino women should have access to abortion. Alex surmised the abortion ban may be due to the notion that all life is sacred, which she admits is at once true but also is also a stand unfair to other women:
“There are women who are physically incapable of bearing a child and there are those that have been raped. It feels unfair that those who have been sexually assaulted will have to undergo the process of having to deliver a child which she never planned to have while her abuse is taking a toll on her mental state.”
Stephanie, 20, a customer service representative in the BPO industry, said she respects religion, but believes abortion should be considered in a logical manner:
“They should really think about it logically instead of [as] a religious stance. I respect religion but this act [of restricting women’s choice] must be avoided. Many dreams and long time plans are suspended for the lack of option. My elder sister [didn’t] have the option to abort her accidental pregnancy back then so that she can still finish her 3rd year of college and eventually graduate. If [she did], she really may have a different life by now.”
‘Have you been sexually harassed?’
Rona, 21, a marketing student, shared she has been sexually harassed a couple of times while riding public transportation:
“With my first experience of being sexually harassed… I didn’t know what to do or how to deal with it. I was in third year high school by then. I cried to my mom about it when I got home and I am still mentally tormented by the experience. But I also learned how to fight back. A year ago, I was again sexually harassed while taking the LRT train. But this time I didn’t falter and instead kicked the guy in his groin.”
Gab, 21, a creative assistant, still remembers the fear she felt:
“Being in that moment is really scary and usually it makes you unable to move and do anything to protect yourself, especially when it happens in a public space. In times like this, I usually just try my best to contact someone to let them know my situation, and try my best to stay away from the harasser as much as possible.”
Dominique, 20, a production assistant, said she has been sexually harassed multiple times, so much so that she has resorted to anticipating it. Recently, she was sexually harassed at work when an old man she considered as a grandfather kept asking her out and held her hand inside the elevator. With frustration and pain, she recounts:
“I couldn’t even walk alone with my head up anymore (except if I’m feeling brave). I keep looking down anticipating catcalls… It’s always how I could’ve handled it better [because] it’s different when you’re in the situation. You’ll freeze before you could actually wake up from it and fight back. In my case, I haven’t tried fighting back yet. I haven’t overcome that freezing moment yet because I’m caught in the most unexpected times…”
‘What’s your opinion on dating apps?’
When it comes to modern dating and the use of online dating apps, it isn’t hard to notice the seeming apathy some of the young women had.
“Modern dating appears to be just a playtime for others. But its fast-paced image was influenced by how technology could improve overnight. I was into online dating before I entered a serious relationship. I used Tinder. Tinder life was just an exchange of validation and innuendo when if you couldn’t meet their standards or needs, they’ll just dump you,” said Carteine, 20, a college student.
“I think modern dating makes it hard to find real love… Everyone is in a competition of who cares less… I thought [dating apps] would increase my chances of finding real love but it’s quite the opposite. You talk to a lot of people and opening up to each one of them is tiresome and honestly draining. In the end, you end up not taking people seriously and end up in meaningless flirting,” said Eunice.
Dominique, however, noted how “ligaw” culture was destroyed by modern dating – and for good reason.
“Ligaw disables a man to freely express [himself] as it isn’t manly, while it disables women to just let go of being pabebe, plus it’s heteronormative. So what if you wanna date and hold hands? So what if you wanna watch a movie and then make out? Then go.”
‘What work do you do or want to do, and why?’
Concerning education and careers, it’s the pursuit of one’s passion, being of service and allowing oneself to grow, are some of the themes common to the women. Alex, a fine arts and design graduate, has found joy in the creative field and works as a freelance/commission artist:
“It’s what I chose to study since it’s something I enjoy and I think it’s where I can unleash my full potential as my skills are mostly on the creative side… I do think it’s very convenient since I don’t really have restrictions when it comes to creativity and I have a lot more time as I can do the work at home.”
Dominique, a journalism graduate, said she was aimless when it came to choosing her course, but has since accepted it:
“I wanted to write for a living. I realized that informing the public of the truth is the only way to awaken them to care for each other… TV production doesn’t write as much so it’s not my dream job but similar, so I’m letting myself grow in it. I think there are a lot of opportunities. I do think this medium is much more laborious though.”
Carteine, who chose a humanities and social sciences track in high school, wants to be an educator and noted the lack of genuine patriotic Filipinos who stay in the country:
“For me, being able to sympathize isn’t enough. We need empathy. I see myself as a professor, or a teacher. Maybe a writer.”
‘What’s your take on beauty pageants?’
Take it from someone who knows the goings on of pageantry, Dominique, who has joined beauty pageants in the past, did not mince words about the industry:
“These pageants make people think konteseras are having the time of their lives, but really, no they’re not. They spend time and money but gain nothing if they don’t win. It feels incredibly objectifying as well to be a candidate because most of them base [judgments] on how you look, pabibuhan kumbaga (who is the wittiest). It’s constricting to be a woman in a pageant because people’s expectations of you are higher. The standards set by these pageants are also unrealistic. Lastly, it’s exploitative.”
Carteine held similar views, saying beauty pageants commodify women under the gloss of advocacies:
“I don’t disregard the fact that it’s a good avenue to voice out their advocacies. I just hate the idea that [it’s] still operating despite the fact that harassment took place in an event a few years ago. I really don’t have [a favorite beauty queen], but Maita Gomez could be mine. She proved that she really is confidently beautiful with a heart for the poor.”
Others, meanwhile, thought beauty pageants can be empowering.
“Empowerment. Not just women, [but] also [for] men and gays,” said Marie, 23. “Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray [are my favorites]. Queen Pia did her best when everyone doubted her and Queen Catriona has a heart of gold.”
Gab also pointed out that pageants can be a platform for women to push for change.
“I think beauty pageants help [in] empowering women and women supporting women. Pageants for me is a channel for women to voice out their opinions, promote their advocacies and inspire other women… and help [create] change.”
‘At home, what kind of chores do you do, compared with the chores done by male family members?’
There seems to be no free pass when it comes to domestic duties. While other respondents said they do equal chores with their family members, some of them reported being expected to do chores solely because they’re women. Women throughout history have been known to perform much of the household work and it seems this unequal distribution of unpaid labor has yet to be stamped out.
“I’m expected to clean the house because ‘babae ka.’ I’m also expected to do the laundry. Meanwhile, my older brother isn’t ordered to clean the house and do the laundry. Although we both wash the dishes and cook rice,” said Eunice.
“I am expected to keep the house clean. We all clean the house, but the burden is [the] ‘kababae mong tao’ excuse that we should be able to keep the house clean,” said Carteine.
‘Do you feel empowered?’
When it comes to being empowered, Dominique has shared she does not feel so, considering everything that is happening around her:
“I refuse to say I’m empowered by the things surrounding me. We’re still at [a] bare minimum at the moment of empowering women to be able to move freely in public without fear. Although I know I’m mostly surrounded by educated women who are all for equality, but how about those who aren’t educated yet on this matter?”
Meanwhile, Alex and Rona, and the others, have said they feel empowered as young Filipino women.
“I do feel empowered in [a] way since a lot of women are learning to stand up for themselves especially against misogynistic behaviors. These days, people are about setting their own standards and are not letting society dictate what they should do or who they should be,” said Alex.
“As a Gen Z woman, I think that we are one of the best drivers of equality because we recognize the power and potential that can be generated through social media, of course. I am a feminist, I embrace it as a very positive thing. I do believe in equal pay, I believe in equal justice,” said Rona, who also believes in breaking down systems that elevate men only and bring down women. “Women can lead and be their own bosses.” JB
*[Editor’s note: Full names of the respondents have either been withheld or changed to protect their identities.]
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