Machista ideology, which depicts men as superior to women and in control of the public domain, and women as those working and taking care of the domestic arena, is being increasingly challenged. Machismo, defined as having a “strong or assertive masculinity, characterized by aggressiveness” actually minimizes the realities found through the globe (Mish et al 443).
Women, these times are holding the family together economically, emotionally and spiritually. This reality is becoming more and more acknowledged and accepted. General conceptions are changing about the roles of women. Women are now known to be more recognized and are beginning to express their repressed inner feelings.
These changes in the status of women now which can be described in terms of the “degree of participation in decision-making in domestic as well as public affairs and the amount of benefit derived from such participation” are being accounted because of the demand in doing so (Angangco 1). Some of the factors that contribute to the role changes experienced by women include: “long term acute economic crisis, the breakdown of the extended family in the face of the ever-present reality of a high incidence of male abandonment of the home, as well as the high incidence of single motherhood, the high rate of unemployment among men, the migration of the men or of the young people or of families-as-a-whole to look for work, the growth of the informal market, and the key support that Christian churches as well as non-governmental organizations have been providing for women at risk (Pinto 1). For these, women play a vital role in the society.
But let us first examine the status of women in the past which has evolved out of many socio-cultural and historical factors. Women way back before Christ received a different treatment over men in the society. Women’s capacities were belittled, disparaged. Though women are superior by evolutionary design proven experimentally – that women possess a more controlled personality over men, being mild and gentle – society by that time took it as something against the interest of women. Misogyny or hatred of women existed. It had its precedence in antiquity from Plato, Euripides, down to the Old Testament… The letters of St. Paul and the writings of the church Fathers such as Tertullan, Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome and later those of St. Thomas Aquinas are replete with typical anti-feminine ideas.
St. Jerome who suffered in his temptations of presumably sexual nature, launched a diatribe against sex and marriage. St. Augustine considered women as unstable animals. He cites three arguments with which faithless husbands seek to silence their wives: “we are men, you are women, we are the head, you are the members, we are masters, you are slaves.”
The sixteenth century theologians were no less misogynistic, and their ideas determined to a large extent, the position and role of women in that society. Balthasar Gracisn propounded:
“Different kinds of temptation make war on man in his various ages, some when he is young and others when he is old; but woman threatens him perpetually. Neither the youth, nor the adult, nor the old man, nor the wise, nor the brave, nor even saint is ever safe from women…”(Mananzanan 50).
Women’s liberty on decision-making were reserved and limited even in their childhood years and so in their adolescence. A girl was neither to play with little boys nor to accept presents from them. She should employ her time on useful handwork, in cooking, in praying, looking after the maids, managing household duties…She should spend much time in prayer in her room…
This rule of seclusion prevailed throughout the centuries. There were very few occasions for leaving the house. In fact Escriva and Fonseca quote the ancient saying that “a woman should leave the house on three occasions only: baptism, marriage and burial.” In practice, the women left the house for Holy Mass. Thus, daily attendance at mass was not totally due to fervor but was used as an occasion for seeing and being seen.
Once married, the woman was passed from the dominion of her father to that of her husband…
The husband was to teach and train his wife in religious and secular matters. He also exercised authority over her personal appearance. She should dress in accordance with her husband’s wishes…
The wife was exhorted not to awaken her husband’s jealousy. However unjust her husband’s suspicious may be, she must suffer them patiently in silence and prayer…(Mananzanan 49-53).
But these customs and traditions did not prevent the women to bring out the best in them. These instead inspired them to nurture their capabilities and master their skills, wherever they thought the greatest. The boundary for this realization was made much visible during the medieval ages. In these times, women resorted to handling big responsibilties. They were already involved in the trade and business. They even took charge of defending castles or manors from attackers, and managed to lead troops into battle.
Later, women were likewise involved in political affairs in their respective states having the urge of doing such a need – for society development. Women now feel equally competitive with men. By believing in their own capacities, they were able to acquire a strange kind of machismo only women possess. In the field of leadership for instance, women showed such commendable efforts convincing people of their excellence in their profession. Few of these were the empresses Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria and some of the more modern leaders such as Indira Gandhi who even attempted a dictatorship in India, Golda Meir of Israel and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Philippines.
It is indeed very clear that women are capable of doing all the things men consider under their qualifications. I would even agree with Quezon III when he admitted that “the entire planet would be better off if every country were run by women. Things would be more efficient, more sensible, more compassionate”(PDI A15).
Moreover, “while too often reporting of women in conflict situations shows them as powerless victims, the reality, often glossed over, is that in post conflict situations women are in the forefront when it comes to negotiating and building peace. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan has pointed out, “Women, who know the price of conflict so well, are also better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it. For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls” (Burns 1).
In addition to this, it is now undeniably true that women “tend to have strong resilience in their spirits…and this becomes especially apparent in the multiple role functions they uphold…for instance in the family circle”(Pinto 2). It is she who is “in charge of the biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual welfare of the family. As a mother and wife it is she who takes the children to the doctor, and it is she who forces her husband to go to the physician when necessary. If the father-child relationship goes wrong, she is the one who helps them to reconcile. If a crisis falls upon a family, she generally represses her feelings of frustration in order to provide a peaceful environment within the home. On top of all this, it is generally the woman who transmits spiritual beliefs to the family and who motivates them to got to church. In this, they are exercising Christian priesthood better than their male counterparts” (Pinto 3).
These facts encourage some more women and strengthen their views and empower them. In a sense, “she does not allow herself to be (di)stressed by society’s impositions which infringe on her own human rights and privileges as a person…She is able to do situational analysis and decides which things take precedence over the others”(Ho 38). This is one strong advantage women could further develop which is deeply strengthened by a great number of opportunities to where to excel depending on one’s interests. After all Quezon III acknowledged the essence of women in human society. “Men start wars; women find ways to lessen its hardships, and nurture the young, the weak and wounded. Men kill for peace; women achieve power in other ways. The saying men are from Mars, and women from Venus, makes a lot of sense if you look at the mythological origins of the names of the planets: the God of War, and the Goddess of Love”(PDI A15).
The transition between the age of repression to the submission to women empowerment nowadays define the valor and extremeness of a woman’s being. After all, if there is one constant thing that a woman has, it will be her continuing change of her image, role, and status; that is if opting to empowering herself, could build up a more distinct unique character of a woman. By that time much more than being empowered, hopefully – which the term app for it still I don’t know.