women's rights

[OPINION] The feminist movement: Love manifesting through collective struggle

Meggy Katigbak

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[OPINION] The feminist movement: Love manifesting through collective struggle

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

'I have learned that feminists are among the most loving people you could ever meet'

“…to be loving is to be fiercely angry at injustice” – J.S. Park

One of the most common misconceptions people have about feminists is that the movement is fueled by hate. Particularly, hatred directed towards men. Contrary to this, I have learned that feminists (and all activists, for that matter) are among the most loving people you could ever meet.

What you might misconstrue as hatred is mostly anger. Being cognizant of the fact that gender-based violence (GBV) affects everyone (albeit some in greater, more fatal degrees than others) enrages us. We are indignant of the reality that anyone who does not conform to heteronormative roles and standards are subjected to some form of mental, social, emotional, and physical abuse. In a society where gender roles are rigid and predetermined before one’s birth, most everyone faces some form of institutional trauma from not confirming to such standards. The fact that gender-based trauma and violence is created and produced in all institutions (political, economic, social, and religious) ignites our fire to keep fighting for gender justice because it affects everyone around us and those that we love, including ourselves (and, yes, this includes the men in our lives).

We do not hate men, but we despair at the fact that in a sexist and patriarchal society, heterosexual and cis-gendered men are afforded a more privileged life at the expense of the freedom and safety of women, girls, and people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions (SOGIE). This reality leads to anger, but not towards men. This anger is directed towards systemic injustices that we face every day, and it is fueled by love. As feminists, we struggle against gender-based violence and oppression, and we strive for a society rooted in justice, love, and care.

Feminists and all gender-justice activists and advocates also espouse what I believe is the truest form of love through collective struggle. Truly, there is power in knowing that we are not alone. To struggle together means that we are fighting for our own rights as well as the rights of all people, that we see our own freedom in the context of the freedom of others, and that we love ourselves in the same way that we love others.

One thing that we also learn as feminists is that the struggle for gender justice is not confined to our individual experiences and the experiences of our peers. This allows a lot of us to see the different, multiple, and intersecting contexts that people all over the world are experiencing. Though sometimes (or a lot of the time), it might prove to be difficult to come together in solidarity because of our own limitations and worldview, we continue to carry on with love. Part of the struggle is to learn how to move forward in solidarity. We may not be fully there just yet, but just as the abundance of empathy and love that the feminists before us possessed won us the right to vote, to education, and other rights that we enjoy, so will it empower the feminists of today to continue the struggle and to win the right to control our own bodies as well as other rights that we do not yet have today. 

It goes without saying that our struggle is far from over. Unbridled sexism and gender-based violence and oppression continue to this day, which ultimately lead to the suffering of billions of women, girls, and people all over the world. Debates on abortion and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SHRH) continue to be led by traditional politicians whose interest lie in maintaining the status quo, women and children continue to be among the poorest in society, and gender-based violence continues to be created and replicated within institutions. This is why Women’s Month and the feminist movement continue to be relevant and significant for all people.

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Women’s Month is both a celebration and a promise by all feminists and, in fact, all people. It is a celebration of the hard-won gains of the women and people who have come before us, who paved the way for the life that we are living today. It also celebrates the women and people who continue the feminist struggle today.

Apart from celebrating the courageous women and people of the past and the present, Women’s Month is also an avenue for us to renew our promise to continue their legacy and to keep the struggle alive. Despite the multiple ways in which the patriarchy and the neoliberal capitalist system have divided us, we will continue to find ways to advance our call for freedom, justice, and equality together.

To the women and people who fought for us before we were even born:

Thank you for showing us the true meaning of love, one that transcends time and space and one that is grounded on empathy. Through you we have learned that to struggle against the injustices that we face every day is to fight for freedom and justice for all women, girls, and all people.

To all women and people celebrating women’s month together:

Padayon. The struggle is hard, but I hope we can find ways to also live a life that is joyful, meaningful, and full of love. That, in itself, is its own form of resistance. – Rappler.com

Meggy Katigbak is a women’s rights advocate, singer, and songwriter who is currently taking her MA in Women and Development at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Her focus is on women’s economic empowerment, tax and gender justice, gender-based violence, and international development.

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