By Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes
The Philippines has always been proud to claim that our society is one of the most gender equal societies in the world. We are, according to the World Economic Forum 2015 Report on Global Gender Gap, among the Top 10 countries in the world that have the least gender disparity, a distinction we have had in the past five years. Our women are privileged with as much opportunities as men. They are as educated and literate as men. They have taken top roles in business and governmental institutions. That women can occupy leadership positions in the community with almost similar likelihood as men manifests our belief in the equality of sexes. Yet though the gap has been narrowed and arguably even closed, stereotypes and sex role obligations remain deeply entrenched. Have we, then, truly closed the gender gap?
Our society delegates certain behavioral standards for men and women from the confines of our homes to the immediate community and the state. Women are expected to be homemakers while men are the breadwinners of the family. Social patterns anticipate mothers lording over homes as budget planners and executors, meal supervisors, and performers of actual household chores. Everything on parenting from child rearing to school work and activities, and even the early intellectual development of a child becomes primarily mom’s domain as she is perceived as more caring and more nurturing, and has a greater ability to empathize than dad. Home aesthetics are acknowledged as within the purview of motherhood as it is more feminine to be attuned to beauty and order.
Dad, on the other hand, must bring home the bacon. Quite simply, his main task is to ensure food on the table and enough finances to pay the bills. In addition, carpentry, electricals, do-it-yourself repairs or any physical undertaking at the home is the manly thing to do. Consider scenes from films depicting dad busy tinkering with maintenance of the family car or doing his assigned outdoor chores and you get a fair picture of what we obligate men to do in the family.
On the community scale, women are preferred to take on certain positions in the organizational and corporate structure because of character traits of assigned to them. It is supposedly women’s fastidiousness that makes them ideal for tasks that necessitate combing through voluminous information. Because of their apparent ability to multitask better than men, executive assistants or secretaries are mostly women. When the task is about ensuring meticulous execution of plans, we prefer women. Men, as science theorizes, tend to see to see the bigger picture and are the better sex when it comes to building and managing systems, hence, leadership roles. They are physically larger and stronger and thus, it is more acceptable for them to do more physical tasks.
That women bear children while men don’t is, I believe, the most essential difference between the sexes. It is physiological. Apart from that, both men and women can take on character and personality traits we have hitherto assigned. Both can be nurturing parents. Both can take on physical roles at home and at work. Both can be tasked with administrative minutiae. Both can perform roles delegated to each other by society without fear of judgment. I will not argue with neurological science that upholds truths about how men’s and women’s brains are wired differently though I assert that both men and women can both be doting parents, can both multi-task, can both be emotional, and can both be strong and decisive leaders.
Only when we believe that there exists no divergence between males and females other than physiological can we, with conviction, truly close the gender gap. When we realize that there are no societal rules on how the masculine standard is to be less loving or caring or how it is feminine is to be less aggressive and more subservient can we fully embrace the tenet that men and women are equal. We can begin by ceasing to frown at dads who opt to stay home while mom is at work or by stopping to snicker at men who earn less than their spouses. We must cease scoffing at men who allow the ladies to dabble into physical repairs at home because they are better at it. We should dismiss the idea that a dad is henpecked because his wife makes the decisions in the family. We should get rid of the template roles fathers and mothers take on in the family. To consider alternatives to what men and women are predisposed to must not be scorned and met with disdain. Otherwise, the equal opportunities that our legislation has ensured for women and our celebration of the greater role of women in Philippine society is just lip service.