#WHIPIT: Women who beat the odds

Maria A. Ressa
What challenges face the young Filipina today? Are there stereotypes and gender bias frameworks she needs to confront? Join us on Tuesday, November 26, as we try to find answers to these questions.

MANILA, Philippines – Are women treated differently from men? Yes, sometimes better, sometimes worse, and it changes from country to country. 

As a reporter, I learned to live with it. To use it. To understand it.

In New Delhi, I travelled with a crew of 2 men. Although I was clearly the team leader, the staff from one of the best hotels ignored me completely and addressed all questions to the men.

In some cities in Pakistan, I knew immediately I was a second-class citizen.

Southeast Asia’s a bit better. There are differences in religion and culture. In Indonesia, women belong in a separate part of the mosque, and I’d often have to rely on my crew to get the news if it happened where I couldn’t go.

The Philippines appears to be a haven for women, a country which has had two women presidents, where matriarchs rule families.

But that’s still a surface view.

It’s personal for every woman.  

I grew up in the United States and returned to Manila in 1986. Several observations jumped at me then: I loved that cynicism and sarcasm didn’t seem to exist here, but I immediately noticed an appearance-conscious society with a strong sense of male chauvinism and sexism. That was emphasized the further you moved from urban centers.

There were definite gender roles, and they were driven by values which permeated our society. For both good and bad reasons, it reminded me of the United States in the 1950s: a strong sense of a nuclear family with gender roles and obligations.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have strong women. Or that women can’t succeed.

But over the years, I realized that the values were part of our culture, like our brown skin – and although studies show our societal norms have improved, there are still barriers for women that don’t exist for men.

What challenges face the young Filipina today? Are there stereotypes and gender bias frameworks she needs to confront? Is there a glass ceiling?

We want to find answers to these and other questions.  This is why Rappler, in cooperation with Pantene, is launching #WHIPIT, a weekly series of stories and conversations we hope will spark a movement to challenge the status quo.

Pantene made the first move, releasing this thought-provoking ad that looks at actions by men and the same actions by women, yet both are judged differently.  

Male actions are seen as positive, but when a woman does the exact same thing, it’s perceived as negative. Labels and stereotypes are reinforced by numerous social conformity experiments.  

Solomon Asch in the 1950s conducted an experiment that showed us the power of peer pressure. What would a person do when confronted by a group that insists wrong is right? Asch gave a sheet of paper with different lines drawn on it to the group. He asked them to choose the shortest line, but his test subject answered last. What the subject didn’t know was that everyone else ahead of him was told to choose the longest line. How did the subject choose? About 75% of test subjects agreed with the group, suggesting peer pressure distorts our perception of reality.

So labels accepted by society can dictate the way we see ourselves.

The next question then is how do we see ourselves?

To find out, Rappler commissioned a survey of men and women in the National Capital Region, with the assumption that more progressive views and ways of life happen in urban areas, in the capital and its surrounding areas.

The results showed there’s been some progress since the late 80’s, but we leave it to you to decide whether it’s enough.

We’ll present these survey results on Tuesday, November 26, from 2 to 4 pm at WhiteSpace in Makati.  (Register here for a seat.)

We’ve invited a distinguished panel to react and share their stories: Felicia Hung-Atienza, who leveraged the buy-out of Merrill Lynch in the Philippines and founded the Chinese International School; Karrie Ilagan, the managing director of Microsoft; peace advocate and voice for young Muslim leaders Samira Gutoc; actress/writer Giselle Tongi; and Rappler’s Natashya Gutierrez. The forum will be moderated by Ana Santos

This event launches a weekly series called #WHIPIT, focusing on women, their values, the society they live in, and the best ways to move forward in an interconnected world.

We believe focusing attention and discussing these issues publicly is a first step in evaluating our long-held beliefs and creating new values for tomorrow.

Join us and explore the assumptions that underpin the surface of our world. If we all walk together, a movement can’t be far behind. – Rappler.com



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Maria A. Ressa

Maria Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for nearly 35 years. As Rappler's co-founder, executive editor and CEO, she has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government. For her courage and work on disinformation and 'fake news,' Maria was named Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time's Most Influential Women of the Century. She was also part of BBC's 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019 and Prospect magazine's world's top 50 thinkers, and has won many awards for her contributions to journalism and human rights. Before founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN's Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before opening the network's Jakarta Bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. She wrote Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.