Photograph - Rotsen C. Agreda

Untamed Femmes

Glaiza Rae D. Amable

It’s a man’s world.

This is how society sees it. Regardless of contrasts in degrees of domination, the standards continue as before, that is men are in control. These observations reveal the obvious patterns society refers to as male predominance since mankind’s foundations. It is the norm, and breaking it is frowned upon. In the different cultures of the world, patriarchy literally means the rule of the father or patriarch. Thus, it can be used to describe a certain type of “male-dominated family” in which the great house of the patriarch, women, young men, children, slaves, and domestic servants are all under the rule of that dominant man. Centuries ago, this was precisely identified, an attribute that continues to this day.


The concept of patriarchy is defined by thinkers in different ways. In 1971, feminist psychologist Juliet Mitchell uses the word patriarchy to refer the to kinship systems in which men exchange women, while Sylvia Walby’s journal entitled “Women and Nation” showed the concept of patriarchy as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.

Aristotle referred to males as active and females as passive. In his works, a woman’s inherent inferiority renders her inferior in her capabilities, her capacity to understand, and hence her ability to make judgments. Because man is superior to woman, he is born to dominate, and she is born to be ruled. However, these notions of male superiority have been debunked, and it has been demonstrated that there are biological differences between men and women, but these differences do not have to serve as the foundation of a sexual hierarchy in which males are dominating.

Meanwhile, Maria Mies in her paper, The Social Origins of the Sexual Division of Labour, put forward that maleness and femaleness are not biological givens, but rather the outcome of a protracted evolutionary process. They are defined differently in each historical period, with the definition dependent on the dominant method of production in those epochs. This means that biological distinctions between men and women are perceived and valued differently depending on the prevailing mode of appropriation of natural matter for the fulfilment of human wants.


In an article published by Charlotte Higgins, part of the idea of “patriarchy” is that this oppression of women is complex. It works across inequalities at the law and state level, but also through the home and workplace. It reproduces itself endlessly through the cultural norms and structures, which in turn are patriarchal in nature; and therefore, it seems natural or inevitable, or is obscured in a liberal context by partial advances in gender equality.

In the Philippines, the situation for women is described as fraught with marital abuse, economic difficulties, employment discrimination, exploitation as migrant workers and prostituted women, and relocation because of intermittent warfare in conflict-affected areas.

In fact, recent data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that an average of eight people a day have fallen victim to sexual assault. However, women’s rights advocates lament that official rape case statistics are not true representation of the actual rape incidence since not all of which even go on to be tried in court.

The concept of patriarchy helps to reveal that such a trial is merely the pinnacle of a structure supported on myriad props. These props might include all kinds of things without obvious connection: a legal system historically designed by men; the lingering misrecognition of rape as simply an excess of male desire; a police force carrying a legacy of sexism; the cultural and religious shaming of sexually active women; the objectification of women’s bodies; pornography; the fact that women in general are discouraged from speaking out (and if they do, they may expect baleful consequences), as Mary Beard has shown in her book, Women and Power.


However, as early as the Spanish times, historical literature revealed Filipino women had been on equal footing with men as a matter-of-course and were in the forefront of many struggles. Take for example, Gabriela Silang who took over the leadership and gave the Spanish military several bloody defeats and endless embarrassment. Her resistance in the cause of freedom, though eventually quelled by stronger forces of the colonialists, enshrined her in the hearts of the Filipino people. Further, towards the twilight of Spanish rule, one woman by the name Gregoria de la Cruz carried the momentum of the revolutionary movement after her husband, Andres Bonifacio, was treacherously killed by a rival. And so, the ascent of Corazon Aquino to the presidency, after the assassination of her husband, has its models in the historical past. It really did not come as a total surprise.

In recent times, Filipino women may be considered among the most progressed in terms of academic, professional, political, and legal advancement when compared to women in other countries. As a matter of fact, women organizations proliferated as offshoots of national, social, and political movements. These are those which have chosen to address issues that specifically relate to women’s concern, such as the inequalities in our present laws, causing discrimination against women, such as the inequalities, labor imbalance, abortion, and the like. Today, GABRIELA (General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action), a women’s coalition of about a hundred or more organizations, serves not only as a clearing house but a dynamic pulse on addressing social issues concerning women.

“We aspire to a sovereign society free of foreign dominance and intervention, with a self-sufficient economy geared toward people’s needs and giving equal value to the role of women in production; where land belongs to the tillers and recognizes women’s equal right to own land; and a democratic government where people’s rights – including women’s rights – are upheld, respected, and guaranteed an equal opportunity,” shared GABRIELA’s Founder Liza Maza.

Going against the millennium-old pattern of male supremacy in society is difficult, but not impossible. As more women gain authority and empowerment, fewer are strangled and hidden from the gaze of a homogenized society. When one learns to comprehend and see beyond the norms, a little portion of the fortress is shattered. After all, they are women, not just women.

Published: April 25, 2022