Grrrl Meet # 1: Girls for girls
MILLINER MUSINGS - Mich L. Dulce (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2017 - 12:00am

Last Saturday was the first Grrrl Gang Manila Meet.

I’ve told this origin story many times before the meet happened, but briefly, Grrrl Gang Manila came about from my personal need for female solidarity. I had long wished for space to talk about women issues and feminism in a space where I wouldn’t be afraid to make a mistake and say something wrong. In my travels I was lucky to have been part of many meets and women oriented events in my quest to learn more about feminism, and I would always come home feeling inspired and more educated, learning a lot more from other people’s stories and talking to strangers and asking questions than from the many books I would buy and read. It was easy and welcoming, and physically being there with other women felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, that I wasn’t alone, that other women shared my struggles, my thoughts, my worries, my dreams, my activism, and my insecurities. I always wished that something like that existed in Manila.

Certain personal struggles triggered me to actually make it happen — from emotion from egg freezing hormones, casual comments with misogynistic undertones from a guy I used to date, frustration about the current global political climate and bias against women, and really just an urge to feel safe, like I belonged, a need to know that someone gets my struggles as a woman and what Im going through.  Inspired by girl meetings in the 1960s during women’s liberation and in the 1990s during the riot grrrl movement, I had hoped that Grrrl Gang and its Grrrl Meets would be like those events I went to abroad, where I could talk freely, where people would listen, where I could listen, where I could learn, where all I was was a girl amongst other girls who wanted to learn more and do something. That was the dream.

The thing is. Saturday was better than anything I could have ever imagined.  Why? Because I wasn’t in New York or London, I was in Manila. I was in the Philippines.  I was with girls and who knew what I was going through and wanted to achieve. We were Filipina girls who have had many similar, overlapping experiences that Pinays have — whether it was strict parents, overbearing pakialamera mothers, all-girl Catholic schools, judgmental gynecologists. We all knew what it felt like to hear a guy go “Pssst, pssst” or “Hi miss, hi seksi” while walking past them.  We’ve all had an older person tell us to cover up, that our skirts are too short, that our knees are too dark, how ‘uyyy tumataba ka ha’ or how we should bleach our kilikili.  We’ve gotten annoyed at that nanghihipo, or nangboboso or nagcha-chancing. We all heard those statements like “Nakakahiya, babae pa man din” or “Ay babae talaga oo, oversensitive” or “Ano ba yan magdrive, babae siguro yung driver.”  It was so great to relate to every other Pinay in the room, and have something in common, with them, whether they were 17, 30 or 45.

Grrrl Gang was really a testament of a sisterhood and how powerful working together can be.  I was so moved the morning after that I had to write a sappy thank you letter to all of my allies in this cause, my friends who helped me get it off the ground, their friends who joined in, the strangers who volunteered once they heard about it, the press people who helped get the word out, the people who showed up at the event. There was no way Grrrl Gang could have gotten off the ground without all of them who stepped up to help our cause — everyone worked so hard to get it off the ground. 

All I had a was a little idea and putting that into action or even shaping it alone would have yielded something much less, or maybe that idea would have never lifted off at all. The result was so much more organized, so much more efficient, so much more enriching than I could have ever dreamed, and that came from working together as a team — listening to each other, contributing ideas, volunteering,  making sure things we committed to do came into action and watching out for one another.

When I first started talking about the first Grrrl Gang meet to the initial little GG group of Marla, Alice, Earnest, Claire, Kitty and Goldie, I kept talking about a town hall meeting where there was no structure or agenda, where girls would just show up and scream their issues into a mic. But our coming together and bringing to the table everyone’s experience, network and expertise yielded something way beyond my first idea.  My OC friend Zo drafted a flow alongside suggestions from the volunteer group, that Earnest, Aimee and Clem, our “veteran” feminists in the group converted into the most dynamic and discussion promoting flow I’ve ever been part of. We had action stations, sharing in small groups, speed dating, plenary discussions and reporting, which yielded an experience I really learned from and I am so proud to be part of.

Everything that happened was a product of the combined efforts and enthusiasm. Grrrl Gang is product of what everyone gives at every meet, whether its our skills, our voices, our stories, our listening, our time.  It’s a product our frustrations and fears, our experiences and life hurdles, and our dreams, our wishes and wants, not just for ourselves, but for our kids, our future kids, and other women around us.

I felt so safe in that group. I felt like I could mess up and no one would judge me and someone would catch my fall.  And I think the reason is because we weren’t there to perform for each other, to impress each other, to fan our egos. We were there to learn from each other, nurture each other, be there for each other, come up with solutions to problems we all had to benefit each other.  We were there as a community.

At the end of the meet I had to close it so I asked how everyone felt.  When they said they felt empowered and I saw that they felt the same way I did, I literally started to cry.  I couldn’t believe that that little idea in my head worked, and came to life, and strangers actually came and were affected by it in a positive way. 

You know when you think you have all these great ideas in your head, but until it works and happens it really isn’t anything? Or how you start to work on that idea then it bombs and you feel really bad about it? Or how even when something is already happening you don’t feel good about it until people validate your idea? Or how you just think you’ll be judged for not being worthy to carry out that idea, or to even have that idea in the first place?

If you’ve had any of these insecurities, then you understand how much the success of Grrrl Gang’s first meet meant to me. Multiply that feeling by a hundred times because feminism and women’s issues are things I feel really passionate about. Multiply it by another hundred because the success came about from strangers who believed in the idea, became your friends and got your back and worked so hard on something and gave everything they could just because you share the same passion. Multiply by another hundred because you formed it together and its not one event; its something that will go on and grow and maybe, hopefully, it can somehow change the world.

I mean, come on. Of course I cried.

It was such an honor for me to go from strangers to sisters with everyone who was there.  I am so grateful. I hope that we girls can keep Grrrl Gang Manila going and evolving, and keep each other motivated to share and care, and translate our emotions and frustration into collective action that will hopefully create change. Girls for girls, women for women.

* * *

Grrrl Gang Manila’s Grrrl Meet # 2 is set for May 6, 2017.  Follow @grrrlgangmanila on Instagram, twitter and Facebook to stay updated.

MANILA MEET
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