Don’t F*ck with My Womyn’s History Month 2015

March marks Womyn’s History Month in the US, and has International Womyn’s day on the 8th. On cue, there are tons of articles popping up to help raise awareness on gender justice and women’s empowerment. As I finally get my fingers tapping and writing for myself on this blog, I want to take a more personal slant with this month’s entry.

Lately, I have been experiencing absurdly high amounts of microaggressions from men. Although this is nothing new, I should mention that I have drastically down-sized my exposure to social spheres. I go to work, and go home. On weekends, I go for walks, maybe go to a community function to see some friends, then go home. For the past several months, I’ve tried to spend as little time as possible being out and about in society because depression and anxiety hit me pretty hard this winter. Given that I’ve limited the amount of opportunities to make myself vulnerable to harassment, it still happens. Such as (and these are just a few):

  1. Not being clear with intentions
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  2. Using my front-line position at work as an ego boost
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  3. …Or mistaking my general personality for attraction
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These are minor and not threatening by any means, but it explains just how normalized we have been made to just deal. Although I exaggerate that stuff like this happens to me ERRDAY, it is damn close to it. Just this morning, there was an elementary school class taking a field trip that I passed on my way to work. I heard one of the boys from behind me try to holler, and I cringed as I imagined him a few years later growing into manhood doing the same cat-call to another sister on the street.

So, what is my point? My point is I’m pretty fucking ticked off. Enduring stuff like this every single day or multiple times in one day, no matter what city, context or space – we put up with it all. I’m also pissed that even other women take the “I don’t know why you’re still so surprised” attitude when I bring this stuff up. They mishear me because I am not surprised, but I am indeed angry. So please, don’t fuck with my Womyn’s History Month. Or in other words, my own history month as a womyn. Because really, we should celebrate ourselves.

Last month, I payed attention to the #surivorloveletter that went around on Valentine’s day. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to look it up now. Through all the ugliness and pain and suffering, survivors truly are beautiful souls to cherish and learn from. What breaks my heart most – because this has happened to me – is that survivors of any form of sexual abuse are often left or blamed in relationships for being “crazy.” Even more heart wrenching is that so many men out there are most likely going to attempt a relationship with another survivor (unbeknownst to them) down the road and then flee for the same reason, tearing yet another sister apart. Many don’t understand what it is like to have to heal from traumatic pasts, and in my experience, most don’t have the patience. So, during my exploration of “survivors” and “lovers,” I really intended to question WHY THE FUCK men expect to find a non-crazy, strong as hell womyn when 1 in 6 of us have survived sexual abuse? To add context:

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While there are many things we can do to heal ourselves, having extra support from loved ones and dear friends always helps. Here were some of the links that were posted on that thread:

And other related links:

So this month, I’m turning inwards and reflecting on my own experience as being womyn as well as explore how I can heal more deeply than I have already. But don’t worry – I’ll emerge soon enough, because I know I have fierce sisters who are looking out.

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In the meantime, you can catch me upholding the legacy and power of women’s resistance here and abroad at the 105th International Working Women’s Day March at Lake Merritt Amphitheater this weekend. Hope to see you there!

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International Women’s Day & 6 Badass Filipina Warriors You Never Heard Of

First off, Happy International Women’s Day everybody! I am so happy to see so many supporters of this day from many genders. Last night I walked around Oakland’s First Friday Art Murmur and was deeply touched by so many men and women liberally wishing me a happy Women’s day. It was really nice.

But then something just clicked in my mind. Why isn’t my being a woman celebrated EVERY day? Just as African Americans and Black Americans uncover the flaws of Black History Month as perpetuating color-based racism and hierarchy, is Women’s Day also upholding international patriarchy? Let’s think about this. For just 24 hours, women around the world get the spotlight. Dear readers, I ask you this: What is wrong with this day? Sure, women are being recognized. Great. But for only one day though? Does this mean the rest of the 364 days out of the year, it’s back to male dominance? Patriarchy has been so normalized, it’s hurtful. It leads to internalized sexism. So for my blog posts this month, I am dedicating them to women-strong causes, herstories, and organizations.

Starting us off, here is a repost of 6 Badass Filipina Warriors You’ve Never Heard Of. If you’re “in the know,” you’ve probably already heard of Gabriela Silang who was an anti-colonial freedom fighter in the Philippines during Spanish rule.  Here’s the article.

6 Badass Filipina Warriors You Never Heard Of

The term warrior typically conjures up images of ironclad gladiators or soldiers who braved out some of history’s bloodiest battles. Here in the Philippines, both Andres Bonifacio and Lapu Lapu somehow fit the bill. However, there are also many unsung heroes whose direct participation in battles have been forgotten. Surprisingly, some of them are women who proved that not all of our Filipina ancestors were the stereotypical Maria ClaraFor this short list, we’ve picked only lesser-known Filipina warriors (sorry, Gabriela Silang) who were directly involved in battles and didn’t just give donations.

Without further ado, here are 6 badass Filipino heroines who showed “Pinay power” at it’s finest:

6. Agueda Kahabagan

Agueda Kahabagan

Who is she?
Known in history as the “Tagalog Joan of Arc”, Agueda Kahabagan was the first andonly woman general in the armed forces of the Katipunan. Hence, her contemporaries called her “Henerala Agueda.”  Historical records show that Agueda was commissioned by General Miguel Malvar to lead troops of men armed with rifles and daggers. For her participation in bloody combats against the Spanish and American forces, Agueda was officially  conferred the title “general” on January 4, 1899.

Badass moment:
In October 1897, Agueda Kahabagan joined General Artemio Ricarte in a three-day attack on the San Pablo garrison in Laguna. While riding a horse, with a rifle in one hand and a bolo in the other, she led her men and fought against the enemy. [Image source: www.topicalphilippines.com]

5. Patrocinio Gamboa y Villareal

Patrocinio Gamboa

Who is she?
Also known as the “Heroine of Jaro”, Patrocinio was born to a family of ilustrados but yearned to free her country from Spanish rule. She secretly read the works of propagandists such as Jose Rizal and Graciano Lopez Jaena. Inspired by their advocacy, she eventually joined the revolutionary army to raise funds and heal wounded soldiers as a Red Cross nurse.

Badass moment:
Gamboa was dropped off the Spaniard’s radar due to her gender and affluence. She used these to her advantage and acted as an intelligence agent for the revolution. On November 1898, Gamboa voluntarily agreed to take a replica of the Philippine flag to the Santa Barbara headquarters of General Martin Delgado. They had to bring the flag for the inauguration of the Revolutionary government of the Visayas. However, to reach that place from Jaro, they had to pass through several checkpoints heavily guarded by Spanish guards. It didn’t take long before Gamboa came up with a clever plan. After wrapping the flag around her waist and covering it with her garments, Patrocinio took off in a carriage together with a young lieutenant who pretended to be her husband. Upon reaching the road block, the two pretended to be a couple in a serious quarrel. Acting as a dominating wife to her submissive husband, Gamboa managed to escape the guards who found the sight too entertaining. Tia Patron, as she was often called, died an old maid on November 1953. [Image source: “Women of the Revolution”]

4. Gregoria Montoya y Patricio

Gregoria Montoya y Patricio

Who is she?
Born on on November 28, 1863 in Kawit, Cavite, Gregoria Montoya was the lesser known heroine in the Battle of Calero Bridge in Dalahican, Cavite. Just like other women who joined the revolution, Gregoria fought in the battle for a worthy cause: to avenge her husband’s death.

Badass moment:
During the Battle of Dalahican on November 10, 1896, Gregoria led some 30 Filipino rebels to fight against an infantry division of the Spanish army. She was reportedly seen standing on a trench with one hand holding a bolo and another one firmly grasping the Katipunan flag. However, she was more immortalized by the tragic end she met, which only proved how strong religion’s influence was towards less educated women of that era. After climbing atop the fort, Gregoria shouted and reportedly waved a white piece of cloth commonly used by the priest to cover the chalice during a mass. She used it as a charm with hopes of warding off the bullets from the enemy. Unfortunately, an artillery shell or cannonball from a Spanish gunboat hit her in the midsection, almost cutting her in half. Gregoria was instantly killed, along with fifteen of her soldiers. [Image source: Professor Xiao Chua]

3. Lourdes Evangelista-Castro

Lourdes Castro

Who is she?
Lourdes Castro (July 23, 1926 – December 3, 2011) was one of only two Filipina WWII US veterans. A Pharmacy graduate from UST, Castro is known for her volunteer works during the war. Aside from being part of the Medical Corps who attended to the needs of the wounded American soldiers, Castro was also a member of the guerrilla forces as well as the Philippine Commonwealth Army. Later in life, she became a staunch advocate who pushed US Congress to pass laws that would benefit Filipino fighters and guerrilla members during the WWII. These include the “Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act” (FVEC) which officially became a law in February 2009.

Badass moment:
When she was just 18 years old, Castro got inducted as a member of the US Army due to two instances of heroism. First was her notable role in freeing POWs in a concentration camp in Los Baños, Laguna. She then later risked her life when she went into the battlefield, pulling wounded soldiers out of harm’s way to treat their wounds. In 1986, Castro migrated in California with her family. She continued to do volunteer works until her death in December 2011.

2. Trinidad Tecson

Trinidad Tecson

Who is she?
Dubbed as the “Mother of Biak-na-Bato,” Trinidad Tecson was already 47 years old when she joined the Katipunan. And unlike other women who joined the revolution, she did the manly tradition of Sanduguan or blood compactShe fought in the battlefield wearing a Katipunero outfit (see photo above) and survived fatal wounds numerous times. She also organized a group of women who would nurse sick and wounded Filipino soldiers during the war. For her efforts, Tecson received a post-war recognition from the American Red Cross. She later became known as The Mother of the Philippine Red Cross. Trinidad Tecson died in 1928 at the age of 80.

Badass moment:
Trinidad Tecson joined the revolutionary army and fought a total of 12 battles. Among her valiant acts were the capture of munitions from the civil guards at Caloocan as well as the capture of firearms from a jail in San Isidro. During one of these exploits, Tecson once pretended to be dead in order to evade capture. Along with her husband, Julian Alcantara, and two of her servants, Tecson also successfully defended the fort of Biak-na-Bato during an enemy attack.

 

1. Teresa Magbanua

Teresa Magbanua

Who is she?
Teresa Magbanua is known in history as the “Joan of Arc of the Visayas” for her impressive feat as a woman general who battled against the Spanish and American forces. Born on October 13, 1868 in Pototan, Iloilo, Teresa Magbanua or  “Nay Isa” was a “tom boy” as a child. She would later be sent off to two colleges in Manila by her parents who were concerned by her behavior. When the war broke out in Iloilo, she, along with her two brothers, joined the Katipunan. Magbanua enlisted under her uncle, General Perfecto Poblador. During WWII, Magbanua also helped finance the guerrilla forces by selling all her properties. She later migrated to Mindanao where she died in 1947.

Badass moment:
Teresa Magbanua was a terrific female warrior who led groups of men in attacking Spanish soldiers. As a result, she was often called “General” by some of her followers even though she was not officially considered as such. She bravely fought American forces in Jaro in 1899 despite personal setbacks. Her two brothers died in the hands of fellow Filipinos. Elias, then 19, was gunned down by a Filipino guide working with the American forces. Pascual, on the other hand, was brutally killed by Filipino bandits.

Source: http://www.filipiknow.net/filipina-warriors-in-philippine-history/

Thoughts on the Word ‘Tradition’

Woo, I know I have been very quiet lately. A quick update – I have not posted for a while because 1) I had to, ya know, finish my thesis, and 2) I conferred my degree! Finally, I have been able to take some time to decompress. Now that my brain has recovered, I’m happy to get back in the habit. I figured I’d start with an interesting correspondence I had.

Recently, a friend I met at the 2013 International Babaylan Conference sent me a message and asked my thoughts and opinions on the words ‘tradition’ and ‘traditional’. When is it okay to use, if at all? I was both surprised and unsurprised, because of course, this is a highly problematic term; however, it is a term that cannot be avoided using. Below is my (edited) response:
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There have been many essays and dialogues written up about the problem of the term and use of ‘tradition’ and ‘traditional.’ Historical anthropology and ethnology brought about the temporal notion of ‘traditional’ versus ‘modern’, and with it, other sticky, Western-based dichotomies:

savage vs. civil
barbaric vs. refined
pagan vs. christian
Other/Oriental vs. Western
inferior vs. superior
insider vs. outsider

Academic fields have since addressed this topic, which has produced a sort of apologetic discourse. (like: “hey, sorry the country I’m from colonized yours and then applied their own meanings to your culture – we know this is bad and here’s what we wrote about it!” type of thing). It continues to be problematized, and the terms are always written with qualifying statements when used.  Now that colonized/formerly (continually?) oppressed countries have started to speak out about their own conditions and histories, have set movements of cultural rebirth in motion, or have incorporated indigenous research within their own academic approaches, the term ‘tradition’ remains a hot topic. It is both embraced and shunned, but should be used appropriately. The tricky thing is that most people have a sliding scale of what is appropriate and what is not. It differs with each culture, and then differs culturally versus academically (yes, complex and confusing – especially difficult for those who are both culturally and academically inclined).

Here are my thoughts on ‘tradition’ as a practice and ‘traditional’ as an adjective:

My personal take on the word ‘tradition’ is that it is totally okay to use.  In fact, I can’t imagine NOT using it. Indeed, tradition is all around us – it evolves, it changes, it adapts just as each generation does. Older traditions are modernized. Other traditions have been born just recently, in contemporary contexts.  Traditions, even when modern, continue to invoke ancestral acknowledgement.  I personally believe that traditions must innovate – it is the way that they survive and stay relevant to us.  Others think that when we add a new twist to traditions, we are bastardizing it or disrespecting the ancestors somehow.  Certainly, it all depends on how these innovations are handled.  I know of contemporary cloak weavers who painstakingly gather and prepare the raw materials, fibers and feathers for traditional and ceremonial use.  I know of other cloak weavers who spend as much time and energy on their craft but use materials like glass and wire – not for use as wear, but as art.  Both parties have used the word ‘traditional’ (among others) to describe themselves.  It all depends.  Is tradition decided by materials, or intended use?  Or aesthetics?  Even then, there are more nuances that can be brought to consideration.

But, to go back to the original question of when/how the terms ‘tradition’ and ‘traditional’ is used, here are my general rules of thumb when used in writing or presentations:

  1. Know who your audience is
  2. Express in some way that you are aware it is a problematic term (normally found in an introduction to a body of work)
  3. Contextualize it within its time period
  4. Take care to mention which part of the ‘tradition’ you are referring to (cultural/temporal specificity)

For example:

  1. This is a traditional carving that repeats our ancestral patterns and indicates a sacred house, although we used contemporary architectural designs.
  2. This is a traditional dance that uses age-old moves/narratives/music, but is no longer performed to indicate ceremony.
  3. This is a traditional weaving, but I’m wearing it a contemporary garment.
  4. Exchange of [x] was a tradition popular in the 19th century but was discontinued in 20th century, although the production of [x] continues today.

Again, these qualifying statements are essential.  They can be confusing, as traditions are constantly morphing and expanding.  But, spending time and attention to detail will pay off.  Otherwise, you can end up being the target for a lot of criticism.

Some other thoughts:

I have been involved with, and listened to, other culture bearer artists whom I’ve witnessed get uncomfortable when scholars use the word ‘traditional’, but then describe themselves or their work as ‘traditional’ with every fiber of their being.  Again, I think this goes back to that temporal notion.  Many of the cultural producers feel as though they are being frozen in time or historicized, flattened and encapsulated in a sterile, academic discourse.  However, when they describe their work as traditional, what they really mean is that traditions are alive and breathing, changing just the same way we as humans do.  They are still honoring the ancestors, even if the tradition in question has experienced new changes.  As long as there is a mutual understanding that tradition is not static, then the term as a label really shouldn’t be a big issue.

I had a conversation with a friend and scholar, Ping-Ann Addo, who once told me that the survival of a cultural tradition is dependent upon the community.  They might decide, if it no longer makes sense for them, that they might not choose to continue a traditional practice.  This doesn’t mean that their culture or identity changes, but rather the way they express it.  In this light, tradition is something we must allow for some flexibility, just like our identity.  Tradition is not something that is linear, unlike time – traditions are repeated then discontinued, they circle back, they modernize, they recur, they are forgotten, they are brought back, and so on.

What we do with our traditions and how we relate to them should always be full of respect, but must also be present in our lives only if it continues to serve us.  If a certain tradition no longer applies to our lives or contemporary situations, do we continue it out of obligation?  Do we force it to fit our lives?  Or do we change it and keep certain elements so it remains present?  Do we constrain it?  Or let it grow?  It’s never easy to make these decisions, but they are made just the same.  There will always be a spectrum of reactions and criticisms, and we deal with it in our own ways.

I think I’ll leave it here for now.
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Readers, hit me with your thoughts! I would love to hear them.