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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

RAIN

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rain

At the clap of thunder
I hear the voice of God,
Roaring with dismay
Calling onto humanity
His hand preparing to smite down
the urban hearth.

Until he froze
With hesitation.
He Looks at His calloused hands,
His battered nails,
And coarse skin,
The mark of a carpenter.
“My will be undone”
He weeps with dismay
At the folly of freedom.

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Literary

No Woman Is a Temple

They will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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picture of a woman with the symbol on it
Artwork by Jessica Lopez

[trigger warning]

The first woman here is of infinite loneliness.

Thin-lipped and round-eyed, the girl has her arm sprawled across the desk, with her palm up and her fingers curled. Beside her is another girl whose full lips are smiling shyly, her arm also on the desk. The light is luminous on one side of their heads, yet it is the light on the smiling girl that they think is more beautiful—because the thin-lipped one is neither fair-skinned nor skinny. She tries to smile back, but she already has her arm under the table.

The second one is of perpetual silence.

Smoke billows out of the jeepney as the stop light turns red and a girl in a denim skirt and halter top comes out into broad daylight. She is attractive, everyone around her thinks, and so does the smirking man by the sidewalk. He calls her names, and she turns, baffled at first, then realizing all at once that he meant her, she flushed, abashed. For a moment she does not notice the stoplight turning green. At that instant, she simply wants to disappear, perhaps along with the black clouds of exhaust spewing out of the honking buses and vans.

The third one is of quiet rage.

Hands shove her legs apart. Always, always, they tell you it’s okay, you’re safe with me, with that almost-motherly voice they possess—soft, gentle, and kind. She thinks of her mother, imagining herself as a baby, cradled adjacent to her chest, her small head settling in the space by her mother’s neck. This is not like that. This is not a safe space. Hands that roam places that are not theirs to touch are not hands of love. This is home, the hands say, it’s okay. It isn’t.

Finally, the last one is nameless.

They call her a woman. They call her names. But oftentimes, they call her in a language only they understand — when she has to speak in a mild tone, when she has to drag the hem of her skirt down just one more time, when she has to put the dress back in the rack. Or when she and her girlfriend make vows in the grocery aisle. Whenever she has to say no, again and again, only to nod eventually because she has to be kind. She has to be poised. She has to be silent. She has to be a woman.

But loneliness is fleeting. Silence does not last. The rage is never quiet. And the nameless — at the end, they were never meant to be named. Because they will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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Literary

Ang Tugon

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blurry crowd of people artwork
Artwork by Jessica Lopez

Lumibot ang mga mata upang makita

Ang sambuntong kataong nagpasya—

Nagising, natupok, napukaw, nagmartsa

Sa kahabaan ng avenidang EDSA.

Ang init ng panawagan, sumisiklab na

Galit sa diktador, tuta, pasista

Isinusuka nang lubos ng militanteng madla

Na hahatol sa berdugo’t magbibigay-hustisya.

 

Pilitin mong isadlak sa langit ang dilim,

Ilayo ang liwanag, pag-asa’t kulimlim,

Gugulin ma’t patuloy pang hanapin,

Ilatag ang libingan, kuhain ang patalim,

Lasugin ang katawan, ang sarili’y ilibing;

Ang mga palahaw at sigabong pinanganorin

Na gigising sa iyong diwang nahihimbing.

 

Hinagpis ng masa’y tunog ng ibong kinulong:

Umalpas ang nais, ang hapag ay patibong.

Walang-awang dinakip, sa’yong sunga’y nasuong,

Agarang babadya’t katarunga’y isusulong—

Galintik na hinabik sa taas-kamaong hamon.

 

Pakla ng sinapit na hindi makalimutan,

Atungal ng umaalimpuyong galit ng sambayanan,

Higpit at sikip ng tiyang patuloy na kumakalam,

Inilalapat muli ng isa pang diktador na nag-aasam

Na isulong ang huwad na Bagong Lipunan.

 

Talagang wala nang ibang landas kundi magbalikwas.

Umaayong panahon, ang pakpa’y pumapagaspas.

Liriko ng kanta ng paglaya’y nagpapainog—

Umuungol, sumasaliw, sa mapagpalayang indayog.

Tuluyang tulutan ang sariling kumawala.

Ang himno ng dagundong, sa apo’y aapula.

Nang ang demokrasyang mithi ay puma-Hilaga.

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