Happy Women’s Month! We see an exponential trend in women empowerment where women speak out, heard, and take action. Which, in my opinion, should have happened a lot sooner and quicker.
I started becoming aware of the absurd unfairness of how everyone treats women differently than men at a very young age. When I was around 6 years old, I wanted one of those car toys called HotWheels™. My mother denied that request and said that toy cars were “for boys.”
As I grew older, I would ask permission from my mom to go out and hang out with my friends. My parents answered “You can’t because you’re a girl.” I know that this came from a place of love and wanting to protect me, but I felt a simmering anger at society and the unfairness of it because I was born female.
I just want the same things I can get if I were born a boy.
What is Women Empowerment?
Women Empowerment comes in many shapes and forms. Some find it through economic freedom, others in power and control over their bodies and lives, even in something as simple as getting an education.
Somehow, women became trapped in this cultural cage of separating and judging people based on their gender (and race and age and etc but that’s for another time). Harmful practices have been ingrained in our cultures so much that we have hindered growth of women.
In other words, women empowerment is all about women’s choices. Choices that have been taken away from women because of things like unfair laws, stifling traditions, and cultural stigma. Women empowerment is simply giving back a woman’s right to choose.
Biases Against Women
Unfortunately, a lot of women do not have the right to choose.
Education still withheld on some places in the world from females. Worldwide, there exists a huge wage gap between male and female in this day and age.
There are also absurd and impossible standards of beauty for women that men simply do not experience. Dad-bod became attractive and sought-after, but a mom-bod, God forbid, looks gross and unattractive.
Sexual harassment and domestic abuse are also things that stem from the societal imbalance of power between men and women.
Personally, I don’t know ANY woman who has never been catcalled ever. During my college days, my favorite days were the ones when it rains. For the sole reason of those were the only days no one was on the street to catcall me.
Did you know that a survey once found that 88% of women in the Philippines age 18 to 24 experienced sexual harassment at least once. Thirty-four percent of them experienced the “worst forms” of sexual harassment: flashing, public masturbation, and groping. 
I remember one time in college, a female friend walked in the college then suddenly broke down and cried. On her way to class, she got stopped by a random stranger then flashed her his penis. In writing, it seems like a tiny thing, but the trauma and gross harassment got this normally strong and confident girl sobbing at our college lobby.
I could talk for hours on how unfair and how ingrained this system has become. These little things that seep to the root of our psyche has been played up from when we were little and never endingly pounded into our heads daily that it becomes almost impossible to free ourselves from it. But we must, which why we should speak up and take action.
Sadly, because of this ceaseless brainwash, even women subscribe to misogyny. And to free ourselves from this, we must look at and analyze how we think, speak, and act towards other women and ourselves.
My Own Brand of Empowerment
Now that I am in my late 20s, I started to concern myself with how I wish to live my life. I have been with my partner for more than a decade, and very soon we shall get married. I want to play a more supportive role for my partner, who happens to be a man. Now, do I want to play the age-old stereotype of a woman whose goal is to lift up her partner?
Many women before me have fought for more opportunities at work. Shouldn’t I honor that and pursue and focus on my career rather than supporting a man? It feels like a betrayal to all who fought for women empowerment.
I realized that I became trapped by the other side of the coin. I don’t have to be someone who is career-driven to be empowered. Being empowered means that I have the choice to be and do whatever I want to.
I don’t HAVE to be career driven, but I have a choice to be. In it’s essence, women empowerment isn’t about hating men, it’s not even about being powerful.
It’s about having a choice.
A choice to pursue or not pursue a career, a choice to have a child or not, a choice. That’s what we are fighting for. And we are seeing the changes everyday. But it’s a long and difficult road. And we need to keep on fighting for it.
Embracing and Supporting Women and the Diversity They Come In
For women to reach their full potential, everyone has a part to play. Even seemingly tiny things like calling out peoples’ insensitive remarks creates a mindset and a certain standard that women should be respected just as much as anyone.
There are many everyday ways to support women empowerment. Language used daily has a great impact on how we view things. Simply not using derogatory terms to refer to women and calling out those who do (even in jest) normalizes respect for women as people. Speaking up for women being discriminated against becomes another way to empower other women.
Embracing women of all races, ages, body type, religion, even sexualities play an important role in this as well. Only when we lift each other up can we really rise from our social, economical, cultural, and political disadvantage.
If you want more actionable and more concrete ways to advocate for this, there are a multitude of organizations you can donate to or volunteer for. CARE Philippines, Renew Foundation, and even UN Women are only some of the organizations that focus on women.
It took more than 20 years, but recently, my mother bought me a gift. She said “You’ve been saying you wanted this for so long.” And she handed me a HotWheels™ toy.
Yes, it’s going to take a lot of effort and a lot of time. But see, it matters.
I’ve decided to write more about my opinions on my blog. So, apart from my love of food, fashion, and travel, I am extending my writing to more sensitive topics close to me. I hope you stay with me as I explore my these more with my writing.