The New Woman in Feminist Literature and Filipino Films
By Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil
The second (and latest) offensive of that phenomenon known all over as Woman’s Lib stands clearly revealed in two items which, as luck would have it, made almost simultaneous claims on my attention during the week. They are: a 349-page book-thesis called The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (an Australia-born Cambridge graduate with Ph.D. in Shakespeare) who is good looking enough, judging by the book jacket, not to have taken up feminism out of spite, and a Tagalog film, Daluyong, written and directed by an avant-garde set of Filipino artists who have recently been making their mark in the world of local films. Miss Greer urges upon women the by now slightly worn proposition that Women Are People, this time from an angle other than those of such American pioneers as Ti-Grace Atkinson. Being a professor of English Literature she jumps off from Shakespeare, Violette Leduc, Norman Mailer, Herbert Marcuse and Mickey Spillane into exhilarating proposals like new institutions to replace the traditional nuclear family (unwed mothers bringing up children in a sort of fluid commuter-commune, for instance) sexual self-sufficiency and moral and social self-determination for women.
The intriguing title is an allusion to the spiritual and mental mutilation and powerlessness which women endure from men and from the peculiarities of feminine education, through the even more bizarre circumstances of courtship, to marriage and family life. Miss Greer sheds many an intellectual tear for wives, whose only talent having been “in engineering an attachment” become merely “the chief consumers and showcases” for the buying power of husbands whom they come to resent, and loathe and want only, in subtle ways, to humiliate. The working women, secretaries, entertainers, strippers, nurses and researchers, come in for their share of sympathy and outrage, the conclusion being that “woman has more likelihood of success the higher she pitches her sights and the more uncommon she is in her chosen environment.” Romance and marriage, for their part, writes Miss Greer, “sanction drudgery and physical incompetence and prostitution” while traditional family produces children who grow up “with the burden of gratitude for the gift of life” received from mothers who play martyr and who are in reality trapped in the anti-social nature of mother-father-child relationships.
As antidotes to these poisonous dilemmas (and they have, historically, not always been with us) Miss Greer recommends the view that insecurity is freedom, for “security means that nothing will happen to one anymore” and advocates creative, innovative relations with men and children, such as women going out with their mental and social inferiors (as men often do), planning on having children in more propitious circumstances than traditional families, and above all, working productively, and realizing “their true potential as independent persons and contributing their special talents towards running the world, politics, business, technology as well as family life”.
All this courage and logic will tend to be a bit of a bore, however, to most Filipino women, especially those of the working classes and a few higher up who have been working productively all these centuries and practically running the Filipino world of politics and trade. There are certain sections, of Filipino society who do deserve the insults and the pity of Western women writers like Germaine Greer by virtue of their being “slaves who have enslaved their masters.”
The more interesting point is that in a recent Tagalog film, which even allowing for New Wave honestly displays uncanny accuracy in taking up the same points. I refer to Daluyong, which opened in Greater Manila. The upper class parents are made out to be examples of the romantic, familial, anti-social figures that so corrode life in the modern West, the mother both victimized by and victimizing her rich, Forbes-Park husband who in turn, is a compulsive male chauvinist, unable to keep his hands off the nearest girl but constantly buying his manumission from his excesses by handing out expensive gift. The daughters seek a way out if their disgust with their parents by embarking on a ménage a trois, both of them in love with a natural child, “illegitimate” by the mother’s choice and the other acting as “true love” and surrogate mother.