Jun Marwin Hangad and Rhianna Jaquilmac

Women today are fashioned by resilience yet chained by tradition. They were expected to prepare food, maintain the upkeep of the house, and bear offspring to their male counterpart. This exposes the remnants of toxic norms, perpetuating gender inequality and oppressive systems.

Cartoon by Maurice Gimena

In many parts of the world, conservative views of women persist and continue to chain women to certain archetypes. In the Philippines, it is common for a single woman or a dalaga to be confronted on what are their plans for marriage. If said woman is married they would be asked when will they give their parents a grandchild. If said woman is career-driven they will be labeled as aggressive, selfish, or neglectful of their family duties.

Despite these stereotypes and prejudice, women today are continuously proving that they are more than just wives despite society's limiting definition. Likes of Risa Hontiversos and Leni Robredo have taken on leadership roles in their respective home countries. Others, such as Eya Laure and Hidilyn Diaz, proved to be role models for young girls to chase their dreams and excel in sports. Aside from those achievements, women have also etched their names on the walls of history, with the names of Dr. Fe del Mundo and Maria Llanes Escoda being two of many standouts in revolutionizing medicine and the greater society.

The surge of women breaking barriers is living proof that the narrative crediting them as servants is outdated, as they collectively carve avenues for their legacies and contributions and how it holistically shaped the world we have today.

However, we cannot deny the longstanding exclusion that had impeded women from utilizing their potential because they were treated differently. Also, power dynamics entrenched a huge gap as some women were not given chances to various leadership roles. And experiences of marginalization made others stagnant due to a lack of viable opportunities. These contemporary struggles all stemmed from the view that women are weaker among the sexes, notwithstanding the efforts of calling out the disparities and selfishly-driven agendas.

Women in the face of diluted empowerment

Toxic standards, ranging from unrealistic beauty standards, gender roles, and career perpetuate a huge stride as women are being gauged to follow the so-called ideal features and pathetic policies just to satisfy the conservative requirements set by society, and with women not doing so, they became a feast for discriminatory and hateful practices undermining their journey towards empowerment.

Unfortunately, the subtle influence of patriarchy reinforces a complete imbalance and foreshadows aggression and prejudice. Its pervasive structure is what corrupts every woman's confidence and fidelity to the environment they are entrusted with. Patriarchal attitudes have long been a major antagonist and have ingrained a cultural stigma where gender-based issues are formed and manifested by their algorithm. Truly, this puts women at a great disadvantage.

No man or anyone has the power to judge a woman's choice or how she expresses herself in society. The consistent threats made by the government over pro-choice notions, the unwelcoming eyes of society, and toxic masculinity imperil the call for women's empowerment and even shame the protection of human rights. Toxic masculinity has long been a major syndrome of humanity’s regression, with men positioning themselves at the top of the hierarchy thinking their ideals matter over everything, although they gain nothing but only promote external misogyny.

The necessary thing to do at stake in the matter is to condense the hollow ideologies among people and supplement the need for efforts to dismantle the power imbalance and create environments that truly empower women to thrive. In addition, it’s essential to reinforce gender equality in education for early awareness, encourage media representation, provide initiatives addressing gender-based violence, and implement feasible policies that aid working women in society.

Invest in women: It's now or never

According to the United Nations (UN), the current challenge faced by its women empowerment goals is the horrifying $360 billion annual cut in gender equality measures by 2030. Every woman should not face the looming effects of incompetence and partialities. The need for gender-based investments is crucial in order to profoundly accumulate development allocations that will back up the economy as a whole.

Investing in women means giving them access to the development they need to flourish even more. This creates large benefits not only in helping women decode their potential but also at the macro-level, where the community and economies will profit in a win-win situation. Investing means empowering women; it leverages the system to be progressive and neglects undervaluation in their status quo.

As we celebrate today's 2024 International Women's Month, the United Nations's (UN) call to invest in women highlights the great imperative to adhere to this year's theme, "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress." It's easy to avoid the said cause and say never, but with the dire consequences, the action must be now.

Fearless: Femininity as victory

Despite biased narratives, women in the modern world emerged victorious by proving that they have a lot to offer. Given their strength and values, they deserve an equal space just as men and must be endowed with profitable opportunities to compensate for the exclusion and marginalization that women have historically faced.

To celebrate being a woman is to acknowledge that they can do anything, and everything, as to what they desire. To celebrate being a woman is to take on the challenge of being someone who can make a positive impact on her surroundings. To be a woman is to be who she truly is meant to be. Today, femininity is power, and beyond limitless.