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Random sketches on gender inequality

Illustration By Igan D’bayan

Along the stretch of the Mormon Temple Drive after Katipunan, on the downhill slope going into Green Meadows Avenue, we drove by a platoon of police officer trainees out on an afternoon jog. I was with four other females — three daughters and a yaya — and a lone male: our driver. I saw them first from about a hundred yards away: bouncing figures in dark blue gym shorts and light blue shirts emblazoned in bold black letters with the word “POLICE”. 

I immediately pointed them out to the kids, “Look! Officer trainees jogging in formation.” We all stuck our noses to the windows eager for a good look. They had kept their formation: muscular platoon leader with a buzz cut as lone figure up front, flanked by neat rows of trainees. I was then unaware that I had muttered under my breath, “Let there be a woman please, please, and let her be in front, not just keeping up but well abreast with the men.” But when my oldest daughter Isabel, echoed, “Yes, c’mon, where are the girls?” I realized what I had been saying.

As the group of joggers came closer to our van, we spotted a lone female on the very first row directly behind the platoon leader, keeping in perfect stride with two other men. She held her head up and didn’t appear winded at all. She was a picture of fitness and strength. The children broke out in cheer; it made me smile. In my thoughts I kept saying: Let there be more women for the sake of my girls please.

There weren’t anymore — at least for a long stretch. There were men only. But all of a sudden, from far away, we spotted a lady in the same uniform, obviously lagging way behind the platoon. She was portly and had fallen behind out of fatigue because she was now heaving, dragging her feet, and wiping away her sweat with the back of her hand. 

“Oh no, poor lady,” said my seven-year-old daughter Amaya. 

“She’s not a poor lady because she’s brave enough to become a police and join all the men,” my 10-year-old daughter Sophi, said.

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“Amen!” I said to that.

“Hey, wait!  Look!” Isabel said, pointing to two men who were even farther behind than the portly woman. Both had clearly given up on the exercise. They were now merely strolling and regarding their surroundings. A slim tree branch with leaves at the end was in one man’s hand. He was swatting it this way and that in the air, obviously bored.

“Huh!” Isabel exclaimed, rubber necking to catch sight of the portly woman dozens of yards ahead of these two men. “Go, girl!” she said as though to cheer her on. She then continued, “Mom, this is why you say you write, right? To show that women are equal to men?”

“Well, it’s not a crusade, darling,” I told her. “Because saying so would be admitting that we are not equal in the first place. That fight has been won and settled by brave women of the Sixties and Seventies. Today, we just try to remind each other that we are indeed equal when there is a need for it and whenever an opportunity arises.”

“But they are the stronger sex,” she said.

“Physiologically, without a doubt. But we can beat them any day using the most powerful organ in the human body.”

“The brain, right?” she answered.

I was revisiting this scenario in my head as I laid out on the beach some months ago. I was regarding several groups of people — tourists: foreigners and Filipinos alike. There was this Russian couple in their 60s, I presumed. I singled them out not because the man was wearing itty-bitty Speedo swim trunks (eeew!) but because the woman was tripping over herself serving him hand and foot.

I had expected that of an Asian woman, as is common in our culture, but not of others. My companion, to whom I had mentioned this, said, “Maybe they’re from the Asian part of Russia that’s why she is so solicitous to him.” 

“Could be right,” I said. 

She was wiping his sweat with a towel as he pored over his book, unmindful of her, maybe even a tad annoyed because he kept snapping his head as she fussed over him. Every time he came back to their lounge chairs after a dip in the ocean, she would towel dry him like a mother would a toddler. Then, she would hand him his tropical drink, positioning the straw so that it went straight into his mouth as he drew near.

She must really love him; I might do that too if I really, really, really, loved the guy, I thought. But I just couldn’t get past the Speedos and the now bright pink with sprouts of blond hair, large overhang of a beer gut that all but concealed the very little that there was of that Speedo.

“She must really love him,” I whispered to my friend. He nodded.

“You like that? Being fussed over?” I asked.

“It’s nice of course but I’m so used to fending for myself. It’s not a pressing concern,” he said.

“But I see you do that to women. You take care of them.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I just do it. No big deal.”

Maybe it’s our generation, I thought to myself. We simply take care of each other. It is not assigned to one specific gender; we are just equally invested in nurturing the relationship — emotionally, financially, and otherwise.

Same beach, later in the day. We were both people watching — what else do people really do in the beach when they lounge around anyway aside from check out cup sizes and six-packs? 

We simultaneously zeroed in on this one woman — another Russian as we found out later when she spoke to others — who had the most awesome buttocks. They were outstanding because they did just that — stand, as West Point cadets do, at full attention and ever so erect and rigid. 

“Ms. Russia over there has an awesome butt, don’t you think?”

I agreed as I pointed out to him the gorgeous landscape of men with six-packs that would give David Beckham a run for his millions. I thought to myself: I don’t think the women of the older generation would even dare say such thoughts out loud, more so to the opposite sex. And there I was, comparing random notes on human physique with a male friend. As one famous Virginia Slims cigarette ad said: “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

Same beach, same lounge chairs, the following day.  Two couples — all foreigners and all four of them gay men — were congregated close by. They were obviously having the time of their lives, toasting on champagne and applying sunblock on their partners.  They were exchanging smiles and jokes and having a grand time.  That could just be the most democratic of relationships on this entire place, hands down, I thought.

“Who’s the man and who’s the woman in relationships like that?” my friend asked.

“There aren’t hard and fast role definitions like that in such relationships. There need not be any; that’s the beauty of it. That’s what we need to learn from them.” 

I’m not sure if I was trying to convince him or myself.

* * *

Thank you for your letters.  You may reach me at cecilelilles@yahoo.com.

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