Vive le femme!

MARCH 8! International Women’s Day, and may I say “Hurray! Long live the woman!” or Vive le femme! as the French would have it, like when they shout Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! A surfeit of exclamations? Yes, if only to stress that, in this digital age, womankind still fights for equality with men.

Take the absence of equal opportunities in employment and in pay. See how female job applicants are of low priority and are generally given lower pay than their male counterparts occupying the same job. There have been other tales of woe and cases of discrimination not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world.

So, why not an International Day for Women? And March as Women’s Month? In themselves, these proclamations already bespeak unequal regard for women. The world’s acknowledgment of the obvious.

I remember male friends saying, “Okay, you have one month. We have eleven.” Huh? And my retort: Oh, yes, we can abolish Women’s Month, but let us both, male and female, have all of the twelve months. That’s 365 days of pushing for human rights, men’s and women’s.

There are women who believe that EDSA has established a level playing field for both sexes, the country having had a woman president, although she was not of the caliber we would have wanted. If to be recalled, Cory Aquino was praised for being good at making coffee and blending with the curtains. (Aray!) A little more of womankind have made it in the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress. But with 3 female senators against 23 males, the imbalance is really skewed against women. And pray, where are the Spice Girls in the House of Representatives?

Sometimes we here of John or Paul or Peter crying out reverse discrimination or reverse exploitation. Well, well, this is an individual problem for John and Paul and Peter to do something about. Customs and traditions have been in their favor since time immemorial, and if one of them feels under the saya, that indeed is a personal problem. As for Mr. Chauvinist Pig who gets out of hand, better do something about that personality problem or face the wrath of a woman scorned.

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On this year’s celebration of International Day for Women, I would like to make special mention of African-American activist Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014) – poet, author, and performer. She wrote intense emotional poetry, and one such poem she read during Bill Clinton’s inauguration as US President, holding the audience spellbound with her commanding stage presence.

Angelou’s early childhood was filled with tragedy that only a formidable spirit could overcome. We have yet to find her autobiography, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which is said to detail the tragedies in a young girl’s life. Here is a woman emerging from what she herself described as a “roller coaster of challenges and triumphs” to become a talented performer and a strong voice for blacks and women worldwide.

To celebrate Women’s Month, reprinted below is Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I’m not cute or built to suit a model’s fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I’m telling lies.
I say…
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say…
It’s the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say
It’s in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It’s in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me.

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On a lighter vein, we got some wishful thinking from the Internet about the Three Wise Women:

“Do you know what would have happened if there had been three wise WOMEN instead of three wise MEN?
They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the Baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given practical gifts.” ([email protected]/PN)

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