Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gender Equality in a Patriarchy? Hah!

[Note: This piece was published in Sun Star Davao.]

All women of marriageable age should watch the cartoon, The Impossible Dream. It will make you think twice before getting stuck with a seemingly harmless guy for the rest of your life. He might be one of those machos who have this insane belief that God specially designed mothers and wives to wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, cook and take care of the children.

Everyone knows this is plain baloney. But if you’re the type who takes pleasure in serving the opposite sex, you could of course be the exception. Even then, be warned: he won’t lift a finger despite the fact that you, too, are struggling with a career. Our emancipation has only lead to double burden honey. What did you expect of a society that breeds macho men? Gender equality in a patriarchy? Hah!

The Impossible Dream reminds me of high school when only boys were asked to carry the teacher’s bag, transport a chair from one end of the room to the other end or clean the blackboard. What did they think? That we girls were too weak to handle some measly eraser?

My female friends didn’t seem to mind being treated like invalids. They had a lot more important things on their minds like outdoing each other ala The Scent of A Woman. (If my lungs had been weaker, I would have been the first case of asphyxiation due to overpowering colognes.) They would sashay around campus with comb in hand, stopping every now and then to brush their “crowning glory.”

Boys, whose heads were made of 30% hair and 70% gel didn’t have such a problem. They had this irritating habit of trying to drink themselves to death but succeeded only in getting embarrassingly drunk. Spotting them in a crowd would be easy. Just wait ten or more years and look out for pregnant men. You know what I mean.

A baby boy is wrapped in blue and is given toy cars and guns. A baby girl is wrapped in pink and is given a doll. We call this stereotyping. People do it all the time albeit unconsciously. Which brings us to gender equality in a marriage and inevitably to the first object of scrutiny – fathers.

Like all daughters in love with our fathers, let’s be objective. (Pause). Our fathers are the greatest! They abhor liquor, nicotine, caffeine, softdrinks, and are too practical to gamble their money on sweepstakes and other such vices. And no matter how tempting, queridas have never been part of their vocabulary. Our systematic investigation can attest to that.

Being such saints, our fathers wash their own underwear and water the plants every day. They also set the table and wash the dishes when they see everybody else is busy. Their preoccupation with the family business never prevents them from lengthily discussing with us how our assignments can be improved. No matter how little the effort, in a sense, our fathers have become “house husbands.”

In contrast, our mothers will never anymore be our washing machines, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners. “Ma, it’s your duty, you’re our mother!” we often whine. Hopeless. Paid work has become so satisfying, they don’t have time to fuss about how dirty the house is and how clean they would like it to be. Leave that to household helpers – the indispensable replacements who do menial work for a living. We daughters won’t have to be the “domestically inclined” ever again!

I can already see it. Generations of future teen-agers will have become so accustomed to being “spoon fed,” their parents will be forced to hire professionals who can properly wash the dishes without breaking a plate. Yes, housework will become a separate profession we will have to go to school for. Imagine getting a MDM (Masters in Domestic Management) with specialization in ABA (Amo, Bahay, Anak).

Why not? The international demand for Filipino domestic helpers will make household work one of the most popular courses in the country. Once we’ve monopolized the domestic labor market, we can start demanding higher wages and better working conditions. If not, we’ll threaten a worldwide strike.

Only then will people realize how powerful the experts of soft brooms, cooking pots and kitchen knives can be. Housework will become so highly respected, even men would be clamoring – no, fighting – to do it. But we won’t give them that satisfaction. Housework should remain a job exclusively for women. This will be our punishment to men for treating us as “slaves” for so long.

Sigh. If only gender equality would be this easy.

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