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Art and media should highlight women’s struggles, gender issues —women artists

“If we are truly sincere in welcoming women into these spaces, maybe it’s also time to make stories that actually portray women’s different choices,” urged Pen&Ink founder Ingrid Shannah Calapit.

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Photo by Hannah Arboleda/TomasinoWeb.

Women still lack appropriate representation and recognition in art and media, according to four women artists.

In the forum “Women in Art: As Producer and As Represented” at the De La Salle University last Feb. 10., Palanca award-winning writer Genevieve Asenjo, Pen&Ink founder Ingrid Shannah Calapit, filmmaker Nana Buxani and visual artist Nikki Luna shared their insights on their different fields of expertise—from literature to conceptual pieces and even to advocacy work—and the struggles they faced as women working in the arts.

Asenjo discussed the presence of femininity and womanhood in the context of Filipino language and literature, with women playing an active roles not only in stories, but also in making them.

She also cited the image of the woman in the intersection of feminism and Filipino literature, stating that the notion of feminism in the literary world has not changed much since it first was introduced to the Philippines.

Nonetheless, Calapit said that despite the greater acceptance of the feminist movement in the country, discourse on the struggles of women in art were still marginalized.

“If we are truly sincere in welcoming women into these spaces, maybe it’s also time to make stories that actually portray women’s different choices,” she urged.

Having worked in the development sector for years as well as heading feminist art magazine Pen&Ink , Calapit further elaborated on the representation of women in popular culture.

“There seems to be an illusion sold to us, that women are already at the same level as men when women actually have to work harder,” she said, alluding to the still-existing issues of gender inequality in the workplace.

Calapit, who has worked with community media advocates and activist groups, likewise tackled press freedom, particularly with President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against Rappler, which various groups have decried as an attack on press freedom.

She said the concept of press freedom is especially sensitive as it parallels the transgressions of past administrations.

Meanwhile, Buxani—also known for her photography, documentaries and reportage—featured one of her documentaries on the challenges faced by female overseas Filipino workers in Japan. She also highlighted the plight of Filipina photojournalists, detailing how she persevered in a male-dominated field with only a handful of other women and how the field eventually transformed and opened for women.

She encouraged young women to continue with their passions but use caution when necessary.

Luna, meanwhile, portrayed gender-based violence as well the inequality between class and gender as she showcased her work in the convention, detailing the work she does with women who have experienced gender-based violence.

She urged artists to highlight social issues—particularly the struggles of women—in art.

“Art should talk about the world we live in. If not, then what’s the point of having it?” Luna asked, critiquing that the need to have art is to use it as “another form for people to grasp what is happening in society, in their world.”

“Women in Art: As Producer and As Represented” was organized by the Malate Literary Folio at La Salle’s Yuchengco Hall.

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Literary

Confession

It creeps up on me when I eat, when I am sitting in the living room, when I am about to sleep.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

To rest is a sin.

In the quiet moments of this new sheltered life, I have come to accept that there is a small dark corner of my mind where all the dates of the calendar are marked. From the first week of April, to the last week of May—it’s all there. It is a small dark corner. It creeps up on me when I eat, when I am sitting in the living room, when I am about to sleep.

This small dark corner reminds me everyday of what’s about to come. I explain that I’m not ready, that I need more time, that this is new territory and I haven’t taken a step further since I came here—it doesn’t listen to me. It tells me to get to work. It tells me that this is my priority, this is what matters the most in this worldwide pandemic. It forces me to listen, to do as it says, to be its puppet to be controlled with the numbers controlling my arms and legs.

But this is just a small dark corner of my mind. There are other corners. Much bigger corners.

To rest is a sin. 

I have yet to be forgiven. 

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Literary

Little Bit of Paradise

You try to breathe in the catastrophe as your thumb keeps scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until the end is reached, leaving a deep void that makes you unable to speak or act.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

You wake up to the sight of your room’s white ceiling. The summer heat makes your skin sweat immediately. Piled up papers stare at you from the corner of the room along with unpacked belongings from the dorm––ah, yes. You are home––earlier than expected but still, you succumb to this little bit of paradise.

You breathe in the familiarity of your bed sheet’s smell, let every caress of the fabric give comfort up until you check your phone.

Three hundred thirty-nine new cases. The death toll is now at 704. Recoveries at 1,842. The total is now at 10,610.

This little bit of paradise began to crumble from the inside. Like a volcano nearing to erupt. The summer heat began to burn not only the skin but also made its way into bones and flesh. Piled up papers began to yell, screaming for a continuation. Gentle caresses became tight grips with nails digging deeper into full palms.

You try to breathe in the catastrophe as your thumb keeps scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until the end is reached, leaving a deep void that makes you unable to speak or act.

You see posts from people staying up in their ivory towers while waving their flags of toxic positivity for all to see. You grit your teeth in disgust. The screen refreshes, showing heroes and people trying to survive from exhaustion and hunger.

This little bit of paradise of yours completely crumbles, leaving traces of guilt, fear,  and anger, all in one.

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Literary

Finding Courage

In this time, praying has become a refuge. There is solitude in knowing that you are being heard and that what you are feeling and thinking are valid.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

It’s nice to wake up with the thought of having food served on the dining table for the day. When you know that you have a home, your family beside you, and wondering what you will do for the rest of the day. Make Dalgona coffee? Bake? Read? Watch a new TV series? Finally finish your school work?

Watching the news has become a staple in the household. Seeing the cases increase, people helping one another, our frontliners making things easier for us, and the struggle of the people trying to make ends meet despite the difficult situation. Suddenly, watching the news brings tension, stress, and anxiety. 

In this time, praying has become a refuge. There is solitude in knowing that you are being heard and that what you are feeling and thinking are valid. It is okay to be scared in times like these but know that these too shall pass. Courage is hard to find these days but waking up and getting out of the bed is a progress. I hope you find the courage to go on day by day.

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