My current desk editor (she’s my third) in Manila Standard Today also writes an op-ed column. In her column published a month ago, she wrote her thoughts after seeing The Other Boleyn Girl. As to what led me to that particular column, well, I was digging through the archives looking for Emil Jurado’s column lambasting another Manila Standard columnist, Australian Peter Wallace. I checked all the issues in the week after that Jurado column came out to find out if Wallace ever responded and found nothing. When Jurado continued harping on the issue a week later, I got bored. Meanwhile, while going through a week’s worth of newspaper archives, I found Adelle’s column on The Other Boleyn Girl. She wrote:
… These people were prisoners of their own time. They were born and raised to believe that was how things were. They had no way of knowing that other options were available to them. And I say this for the commoners as well as for the royals.
Fortunately, this is something we leave behind in the past.
Now there are options. Now we know which things should and should not be. Now we know it is possible to rise from the station one is born into, not by attaching a premium surname to one’s own, jumping into a relationship with a high-and-mighty or forgetting about things one used to believe in. There is such a thing as working hard and advancing on one’s own merits.
Hmmmm… There seems to be the presumption there that mankind has progressed some because parents (and even kings) no longer have the same absolute power that enabled them to make women and daughters their toys and pawns in the past. I don’t think that’s an accurate observation.
Actually, those who succeed on “rising from one’s station” by working hard and advancing one’s own merits are exceptions (applause!). There are more who succeed by sucking up, knowing and attaching themselves to the “right people” without necessarily acquiring their surnames. And there are those who rise up by being land-grabbers, unconscionable businessmen and politicians (pwede ring all three).
And the practice of “attaching a premium surname to one’s own” or “jumping into a relationship with a high-and-mighty” is still very much a part of the present. I call it the Cinderella mentality. Of course, no woman born into a “low station” and who married a rich guy (or who became the mistress of a rich or powerful man) will ever admit that she did it for anything other than love. In the case of politicians, it’s not as if these women do not contribute anything to the marriage and family name. Just consider the number of politicians who married famous women in the entertainment industry. These women may be “low class” to their snooty peers but they also provide the leverage that every politician seems to dream of these days. And that’s not a small thing. In fact, that is priceless. And then there are those who publicly declare an attachment with actresses or some other media personalities without publicly defining the relationship. You know, just to get the same kind of leverage come election time.
(Too bad, of course, for people who vote for male political candidates just because they have famous wives, girlfriends or pretend-girlfriends. Too bad for the rest of us because the people with that mentality are the many and their collective votes do affect us. But then we Filipinos like to profess so much, and so often, that democracy works, don’t we? Deal with it then.)
Thing is, whether in Tudor England or in the Philippines today, people marry or get into relationships for reasons other than love. “Love” simply enters the picture because it is what makes the marriage or relationship acceptable to the public. Hence, love is professed even when it is not there. People — and this goes for women as well as men — marry or hook up for a lot of reasons. Financial security, companionship, social or political opportunity, to produce an heir… It might suck for some but if it works for them, if they are happy with what they achieve with their liaisons, who are we to judge especially if we are not prejudiced by their arrangements? So long as it is adults who knowingly enter into such relationships, we really have no right to say what’s right or what’s wrong. What’s morally wrong for some is not some universal standard that nature says everyone should observe.
Some things just don’t change. The rules may be different but the game stays the same. It’s true with marriage and liaisons; it’s true with how parents treat their children. There are no absolute monarchs to pimp beautiful daughters to but there are the entertainment and fashion industries. Beautiful daughters are still considered as prime investments and commodities in the money game. I don’t think it’s wise to pretend otherwise.