Manila —"Have you ever experienced sexual harassment? In what form? From whom?" A male journalist asked me this question for his article about sexual harassment experienced by female journalists. I had second thoughts to agreeing to be interviewed as, first, I was not comfortable with the question and second, I am rarely asked a question because I'm the one who often does the asking.
I stepped back for a while to look at what has happened last year and in the beginning of 2018. Women's voices resonated with marches on the streets, posts on social media and all forms of calling out for action from governments, people who are in charge and people who have power over others to listen to what women have to say.
Somewhere in the male journalist's questions, I replied, "Who doesn't?" I was tempted to ask him if he, too, has also experienced being sexually harassed and worse, if he has received a complaint from a female that he was at some instance inappropriate toward her.
I grew up in a world dominated by patriarchy (and again, who didn't?) where men and boys are given entitlements and are tolerated for how they behave while girls are disciplined by certain rules on how to conduct themselves. I know some boys and men also go through harassment and abuse, but 90 percent of the time, the males are the ones who are predatory and often also get away with it.
This is where I'm coming from when I wanted to ask my male counterpart in this profession of cutthroat, boiler room work situations the same question he asked of me. I'm not being a mean girl, but there are questions now that need to be asked. There is also a need to muster courage to confront experiences that may be unearthed by these questions.
In the United States, Hollywood led the awakening when actresses agreed to be interviewed and answer questions that made them probably squirm in discomfort as these were difficult to confront. Many others penned their own encounters. I viewed and read about some yelling during a forum and book launch, some blaming and condemnation.
The tricky and thin lines that may be drawn between and among such issues as consent, compliance, rebuffing and refusal during male-female encounters have been singled out and scrutinized as the ensuing outcomes dripped toward fields outside of entertainment and television.
As the world caught up, women marched again. The internet was awash with the hashtag movements of #MeToo and #Time'sUp. Female celebrities wore black. Girls carried placards with messages written by their mothers and mentors. Women gathered in their city circles to observe the one billion rising movement.
I said in my column last year that I think I will never see an end to women marching. At some point when I was a news reporter in my younger years, I grew tired of covering and writing about women. I think because there's too much drama, and I'm not saying this to demean women. There is indeed drama because there are many tragedies involving women.
Today's resounding calls for for people to enable change in families, schools, workplaces, communities and societies that allow better living conditions for females that are equal to that of males are now being pitted at an equal pace with rising misogyny.
I am just glad that women can now speak louder and can vow never to go back to that place where they couldn't even speak even if they were allowed to, or act on their own situations even if they had the means to do so.
Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.
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