Women’s month and women’s place in society

By Joshua Corcuera

Women hold half the sky, a Chinese proverb says, and it is timely to visit the contributions made by women to society—after all, this month is dedicated to them.

In the Philippines, out of the 16 presidents in its history, we already had two female chief executives—Maria Corazon and Maria Gloria. Interestingly, the incumbent vice president and lone female candidate of the 2022 presidential elections bear the same first name: Maria Leonor. Though politics is controversial, and so were some of the policies and actions of the two former leaders, the fact that women managed to secure the most powerful office in the country shows that they are capable of winning the trust and support of the masses. This is contrary to what many conservatives claim that leadership positions are exclusively restricted only to men, which was always the case in the past, but not in our times.

After all, some women can be even more capable of leading, governing, and inspiring than their male counterparts—though not necessarily. However, gender alone should not be a sufficient basis for getting elected to a certain post. Integrity, academic achievements, and track record are more important to note when choosing who to vote for.

The point is, women can be at par, if not better, than their male counterparts. Aside from the presidency, several women managed to enter public service in other posts such as the Senate: examples include, but not limited to, former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and incumbent senator Risa Hontiveros. Speaking of Hontiveros, she was the principal author of the recently signed law which raises the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. Such law was signed by the president last March 7.

Likewise, women made their mark not only in politics and public service, but also in other fields such as sports. The Philippines finally had its first Olympic gold medal with the most recent Summer Olympics held in Tokyo. And the one who brought pride to our country was a woman—Hidilyn Diaz, a weightlifter. Who said that men are always physically stronger than women? Despite being a woman, Diaz managed to lift a heavy thing, something as heavy as a motorcycle.

Can most men do that as well? This year, the Philippine national women’s football team also secured a spot in the FIFA women’s world cup next year to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Aside from leadership and physical strength, women can also be intellectuals with some contributing vastly to science. Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who conducted important research on radioactivity and was able to win not one, but two Nobel Prizes—one in chemistry and another in physics. What is impressive was that Curie traveled all the way to France just to pursue her studies as Polish universities at the time did not admit women.

Speaking of the Nobel Prize, the Philippines won the prominent accolade only once and it was won by a female journalist, Maria Ressa. Though Ressa may be controversial, which is not really surprising given the nature of her job, the fact that she won a prestigious award is something we must all acknowledge.

In the arts and letters, we also have prominent female artists and writers, such as Lualhati Bautista whose literary works are widely read. My school back in elementary school instructed that one of her works, “Bata, bata, pa’no ka ginawa?”, be required reading for students including me.

Women hold half the sky, and yes, they have indeed contributed vastly to society. But why is women’s month being held? One of the likely reasons is to be aware of the abuses and oppression they face which is especially true in conservative societies—mostly in Africa and the Middle East—where the way of life seems to order them to merely stay at home.

They cannot study, learn to read and write, contribute to the arts, sciences, politics, medicine, law, entertainment, and so on. We have to remember that women can benefit our society and change the world for the better; some have already contributed to changing the world positively.