(My op-ed column today in Manila Standard Today)
A couple of weeks ago, my batch in the U.P. College of Law sponsored the special screening of “Biyaheng Lupa.” The screening was at 8.00 p.m., I was scheduled to arrive from Singapore at 9.15 p.m., obviously too late to attend. Because the film screening was a fund-raising project, I was more than willing to pay for my share of the tickets despite not being able to go. However, my younger daughter, Alex, a movie buff who intends to take a Film course in college had other ideas. She would go with three friends.
So, Alex and her friends went to the screening. Unfortunately, the person with whom they planned to ride home with did not show up and they had to commute all the way from Quezon City to Antipolo.
Later that night, I asked Alex whom she met, she told me her Ninang Laly was there and also “mga lalaki na wala nang buhok” (bald, balding) who, she said, asked why I was allowing her to commute at that hour. My first reaction was it was none of their business.
When photos of the activity were e-mailed to me a few days later, I checked who the “mga lalaki na wala nang buhok” were and I told myself I shouldn’t attach any malice to the comment about why allow Alex to commute. The male classmates she mentioned were nice guys and the comment was probably uttered more out of concern rather than as a criticism.
It’s been weeks since the movie screening and I have had time to dissect and re-dissect the comment of the “mga lalaki na wala nang buhok”. No malice there definitely. I take no offense. But I still wanted to understand. And I realized what it was – a generation thing and a mixture of misplaced chivalry, chauvinism and feudalism. What do I mean?
If photos were allowed in an op-ed column, this piece would be published with a photo of Alex so you’d understand. A mother’s bias aside, she’s pretty and she’s all-girl. She’s very fair skinned, small-boned, soft-spoken (except when she’s angry) and she has long flowing hair that is the same color as cornsilk hair. At 15, she wears no make-up, prefers T-shirts, blue jeans and Chucks. In short, she looks frail and unsophisticated and guileless. Ergo, she elicits the kind of reaction that makes boys want to protect her.
But stupid, defenseless and helpless my daughter is not. And the “protection” of a “stronger” male is the last thing she’d clamor.
The thing is, the debate about how much protective we ought to be with our two girls vis a vis how much freedom they should be allowed has been a serious debate in our household for years. My husband grew up in a very traditional family and, when the girls were around 10 and 11, he was of the persuasion that his daughters should not be allowed to commute.
I agreed that he was right. For safety reasons (the peace and order situation ain’t exactly a fairy tale these days) – up to a certain point. And I say point and not age. One day, they would be ready and craving for more freedom and independence. And they should have both. To cut a long story short, one day it just happened. They just announced that they could commute. Truth be told, Alex, younger by a year and a half than Sam, learned earlier. I silently applauded. It was a good beginning.
My girls wouldn’t grow up to become silly little things. When the time came for Sam to go off to college and live away from us, I stayed with her for a night at the condo and then she was on her own. She would tell me later about a friend who eventually decided to commute everyday between Antipolo and U.P. Manila because she cried every night at the dorm. She just couldn’t bear to be cut off from her family’s apron strings. Poor her.
And much as I wanted to appreciate the concern of some parents to allow their daughters to go out only if there is a family member or trusted driver to take them to and from their engagements, there is that thought the the deep-rooted intention is based on very feudal customs. It’s like Maria Clara who must be guarded all the time lest her chaste reputation becomes sullied.
That reeks of something awfully foul. First, there is the presumption that unless guarded, nice girls would go wild. Meaning, they shouldn’t be trusted. Second, there is that maddening thought that a girl’s “value” is proportional to an image that must be upheld at all times – an image of being protected and pampered, as though a girl who is isn’t properly chauffeured to parties and social affairs belongs to a low class and, therefore, unworthy. And, yes, I am talking about that thing that total snoots simply refuse to acknowledge and much less utter – the marriage market. It’s a social class thing, really, and total horse shit.
If we were of the opinion that daughters ought to be raised to project a certain image so that they would have an advantage in the marriage market (a.k.a. snag a rich husband), we really should send them to some finishing school where they will learn how to walk, talk, put on make-up and develop a fashion sense. Never mind that they’ve got brains. Never mind that they can be productive members of humanity. Let’s just mold them into ornaments that could be some rich guys’ trophy wives.
What a total waste. If that’s a curse that other parents want to inflict on their daughters, that’s their funeral. We think differently.