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  • By Diana G Mendoza

When women march

Manila - Years ago in the Philippines, a male celebrity led a host of other young men who walked the streets of Manila wearing stilettoes. The celebrity, who also functions as spokesperson in a government youth affairs body, said the activity was meant to call attention to the plight of women, as it was March 8, International Women?s Day which makes March International Women's Month.

There have been other activities highlighting women's footwear to call attention to the situation of women and girls. There was even a stiletto race for policemen and soldiers who donned heels in one of the Philippine cities known for producing locally-made shoes. Last January prior to the country's hosting of the Miss Universe, pageant fans of mostly men held a stiletto run.

The United Nations organizes a host of global advocacies including the International Women's Month that it hopes its member countries would follow and campaign for through their governments and civil societies. There are hundreds of country-signatories to a host of UN covenants and treatises for women and girls.

The world of women has come a long way since the 1920s, the time when historians believe was the inception of feminism when women won the right to vote in the suffrage movement. In the 1960s, American women burned their bras to make a stand for women's rights and to symbolize their independence of men, the freedom to let their breasts hang naturally instead of clothed or pushed up.

It was also in that decade when women marched to protest the Miss America pageant as an oppressive way of putting women up to measurements and standards of beauty. They also threw things such as bras, girdles and high heels to stand against stereotyping women only as housewives and mothers and nothing else.

Then came stalwarts Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem who fought for socioeconomic equality for women.

I won't go into the parade of names and events but it we fast forward to today, the only thing I can say is that all of these should not even be happening if there is equality. There would be no women's month, bra burning, stiletto stunts and neither of the underwear nor footwear protests to draw people's consciousness to the sad circumstances of women and girls.

I am not for equality at the price of men. I believe that men and women who are given the responsibility to raise boys should nurture them into being strong, not to be soft when they are supposed to talk hard the same way girls are taught to be assertive and strong if they need to be, but both must be raised to be respectful of each other. I have my own versions of Gloria Steinem.

There's this woman in the indigenous tribe of Teduray in Mindanao in the Philippines who advocates for respect to indigenous peoples' options to practice their own home-birthing and natural health practices and for respect to their land from mining companies. There's this girl who invented light in her town without electricity through the use of salt and water, and said that better lighting would help stop violence in the community, especially on women and children. These females may not have joined the massive women's marches over the years to protest the unjust treatment of women in all spheres of life, but they certainly provide a fresh perspective of how feminism or equality should be, without even mentioning these labels.

I live in a city that implements a law that penalizes street harassment of women. Also known as the anti-catcalling ordinance, it imposes a fine and jail term for acts considered as sexual harassment of women in public spaces. The primary objective of this law is to change the cultural mindset of males toward females while empowering women at the same time.

This is a great development from the world I knew as a little girl many years ago. But there are also new threats to the otherwise peaceful equation. That is why women continue to march. I don't think I will ever see an end to women marching.

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