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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

Combat fake news through literature, urges critic, veteran journo

Quoting Palanca Award-winning writer Jose Dalisay Jr., renowned critic Rolando Tolentino upheld that “the best antidote to fake news is true fiction.”

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

A veteran journalist and a renowned literary critic urged Thomasians yesterday to write more literature about current social issues to fight the rise of disinformation in the country.

Rolando Tolentino, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Creative Writing, said during this year’s Paz Latorena Memorial Lectures that writing short stories and poetry could help combat lies peddled by those in power.

Quoting Palanca Award-winning writer Jose Dalisay Jr., Tolentino upheld that “the best antidote to fake news is true fiction.”

“Paano mo maco-combat kung in-abdicate mo ‘yung role ng panitikan? Magsulat ng panitikan tungkol sa panahon na ‘to,” Tolentino affirmed.

With the advent of social media, Tolentino also lamented the distortion of “orality” of storytelling and the perception of reality but he maintained that literature “is a creative response to reality.”

He continued by stating that the role of literature in Philippine society is crucial as it serves as the country’s record of important historical events and social movements.

“Napakahalagang area [ng panitikan] sa kasaysayan natin, ito na ang chronicle natin,” he said.

He added: “Kaya natin napatunayan na may Martial Law, may Marcos dictatorship, may Spanish colonialism ay dahil sa mga matitigas [at] astig nating manunulat na nag-intervene sa panahon na ‘to.”

The former UP College of Mass Communication dean also stressed how “slow” writers are nowadays in publishing literary works that tackle issues current social issues.

“Wala na tayong poems na lumalabas, wala tayong short stories na lumalabag. […] May pagka-slow na ‘yung writers natin kasi ang pumapasok talaga are all these posts, mga commentaries [n]ila sa Facebook,” he said.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist and columnist Salvacion Espina-Varona called on writers to use literature to resist alienating pro-administration supporters.

“Alam natin kung bakit nanalo si Rodrigo Duterte [at hindi lamang ito dahil sa fake news but] because he does not exist in a vacuum: He is the sum total of rage passed from generation after generation,” Espina-Varona told the audience.

She also urged that a “real” way to battle lies is to become “truth-tellers,” telling them that safeguarding truth is not solely the role of journalists.

“Hindi pwedeng isang sektor lamang lipunan ang magiging guardians ng katotohanan sa mundo, hindi pwedeng journalists lang,” she said.

This month, Facebook began implementing strict measures against the proliferation of fake news, such as identifying links from legitimate news sites and blocking links from several websites identified to peddle false information.

The social media giant, meanwhile, on Thursday announced its partnership with online news agencies Rappler and Vera Files for a third-party fact-checking program in the country, which aims to prevent the spreading of fake news content on the social media platform.

Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque have protested the partnership, accusing Rappler and Vera Files of “partisanship.”

On Oct. 4 last year, the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media opened its first hearing on fake news, the first of its kind in the country. The committee concluded its second hearing last Jan. 30.

Bannered with the theme “Saysay ng Panitikan sa Panahon ng Fake News at Tokhang,” the yearly lecture is held in honor of Paz Latorena, an esteemed Filipina fictionist and former chair of the University’s Department of Literature.

The event concurs with the celebration of the National Literature Month. —with reports from P. Jamilla

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Literary

5 children’s books you should definitely read again

As we celebrate International Children’s Book Day, we take a look back on five children’s books whose lessons and tales remain true no matter when or how many times you read them.

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From novels to picture books, children’s literature from all genres were our gateways to other worlds and imaginary friends when we were young—and for some, these stories were their first taste of literature.

While people tend to dismiss books written for children when they grow old in favor of more serious literatures, it is undeniable that children’s literature shaped millions of childhoods all around the world and their timeless stories continue to influence the lives of people from all ages.

As we celebrate International Children’s Book Day, we take a look back on five children’s books whose lessons and tales remain true no matter when or how many times you read them.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is widely considered to be a hallmark of children’s literature and one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre, which has proven to be popular to both children and adults. The book’s narrative, peculiar characters and imagery have inspired various films, games and plays throughout the years, as well as various literary discourses and, ahem, mad theories about what the novel really is about, which serves as proof of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland‘s lasting legacy.

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Speaking of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy novel Coraline is often compared to the Lewis Carroll classic due to the two novels’ similar premises of a young female protagonist entering another world, but for a children’s novel, Coraline serves unexpected scares—especially in the idea of having better version of one’s family except that they have buttons for eyes. The book’s ideas may be too much for children, but reading it again after a few years reveals the beauty of the novel’s narrative and the timelessness of its horror.

 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Tales of children being lost in other worlds is a common theme in children’s literature, but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe takes this trope to a higher notch with four English siblings crossing over to another world to fulfill their destiny of ending the icy rule of an evil witch. The novel—which C.S. Lewis wrote as the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia series—also incorporates allusions to Christian tradition such as Christ’s crucifixion. While these details may not be obvious to very young readers, a re-read of the novel and the entire series shows the complexity of Christian allusions and pagan influences in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which serves to show that children’s literature can have complex narratives rivaling “adult” novels and break the stigma surrounding children’s literature and the fantasy genre.

 

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

While the high fantasy of The Lord of the Rings proved to be the more influential work in the long run, its predecessor The Hobbit, which was written primarily for children, laid the foundations of the Middle-earth mythos which has come to define the fantasy genre. Nonetheless, the adventures of Bilbo Baggins remain a classic and a landmark of children’s literature—and the prelude to a greater epic.

 

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Le Petit Prince or the The Little Prince, as it is more known in translations, is just a simple and little book, yet poignant. While the story is generally a children’s book, its tale of the loss of childhood wonder and innocence has resonated and moved adults readers throughout the years, and perhaps, the book’s timeless message, despite its short length, is a testament that the essential is indeed invisible to the eye.

 

What are your favorite children’s books? Share them with us in the comments or by tagging TomasinoWeb on Twitter!

 

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Literary

Lullaby

I still sing this hymn
Not to drive my friends
Gone. I want you here.

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Art by Aijen Sy/TomasinoWeb.

Tonight, I sing this
Hymn for two, four, six
Ears. My breath to reach
Yawns of the dismissed.

Alone in the dark
Room flooded with an
Eerie presence that

Lurk close by. I feel
Isolated. Don’t
Stand too close. Don’t stare
Too long. Tenebrous,
Eidola. Figures
Nudging my sight. But
I still sing this hymn
Not to drive my friends
Gone. I want you here.

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