*Larita Kutsarita - n. see THE AUTHOR
*Spoonfuls - n. articles/dispatches/scribbles by Larita Kutsarita
(Background photo by Aiess Alonso)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Above Us Only Sky

“Imagine all the people living life in peace,” so goes the utopic “Rolling Stones Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s 3rd Greatest Song” by John Lennon. When I was in my second year in the University of the Philippines, I wrote a paper on Androgynous Feminism where I quoted Lennon’s undying lyrics and lots of Virginia Woolf. That was the first time that I was able to grasp the concept of equality among all sexes. Now, after taking up “Exploring Gender and Sexuality,” I have come to realize what “equality among sexual identities” is all about.

Although my favorite lesson was about Feminism, I decided that the essence of the whole course was really the fact that Transsexuals, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Heterosexuals are all part of the human race, just as the Blacks, Yellows, Browns, Reds, and Whites are. To me, this particular need for equal rights for everyone is not a mere idea of Liberalism. It is not about granting all kinds of people the exact, same privileges. “To each according to his needs; from each according to his capabilities,” said Karl Marx (if I quoted him correctly, that is). Never mind that the statement is sexist, what with the pronouns’ masculinity—it says everything we need to know about equality. For instance, if all the Filipino families were to receive a sack of rice each, would it be just to give only one sack of rice to a family below poverty line with a brood of ten and one sack as well to a family of three (one haciendero father, one socialite mother, and an earning socialite daughter in her 20s)? No, the sacks of rice must be given to those who have the most mouths to feed and with the least pay, considering that in Philippine society, the one who works the hardest (e. g. an everyday tricycle driver, a non-land-owning farmer in the rural areas, etc.) earns the least, while the one who only sits in a big chair behind a big table in a big office all day (e. g. a CEO of an international company, an owner of a multimillion multimedia company, etc.) earns the most (sometimes, even more than enough to get one generation by). Equality does not ignore class differences as it should not ignore sexual discrimination and oppression. Personally, one’s sexual orientation/identity is not separate from one’s class. Equality means legalizing marriage for homosexual couples, making sex change operations and procedures more accessible to those who are certain of who (not what) they want to be, eliminating taboo from the field of discourse involving homosexuals and queers, liberating women from the chains of patriarchy and misogyny, and legalizing divorce and implementing the Reproductive Health Bill for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Give them what they need and take what they can give—this is equality. The only reason most people think that this kind of society is utopic is that we deem it so. “It’s impossible. It cannot be done. Yes, we want change, but I like my Ferrari and Playboy magazines more than I like equality.” All this apathetic, cynical, and materialistic opportunistic thinking is what gets in the way of genuine social change.

Generally, these were all the thoughts that ran through my mind when I was trying to figure out what kind of statement I’d like to literally “wear” for my Gender and Sexuality class fashion advocacy project. The thing about statement shirts is that one is not just a simple piece of clothing that you randomly pick out from your closet and wear for the day. You have to wear them because you mean them. Whether you like it or not, you will be judged according to that particular statement, which is really reasonable because you’re wearing it and that is tantamount to actually saying it. Yep, never underestimate the power of a statement shirt. This is precisely why I am careful not to wear any of those “Buy a (insert stupid brand) shirt, provide more jobs, save the economy” and “Look out for your guy before I steal him” kind of shirts. So, I got around to thinking about what it is that I am willing to shout out to the world. I was going for “Free the Women = Free the World” statement but I didn’t find it fresh enough, and I really wanted something that upholds all kinds of sexes. This was when I remembered my English 10 paper in my sophomore year.

Androgynous Feminism is relatively a “baby” branch of Feminism. Androgynous Feminists are all about equality among all, whether you are a woman or a man, and anyone else in between for that matter. And yet, they still acknowledge that women are, in fact, still oppressed, even in the 21st Century when they can already vote, become astronauts, and own licensed guns. There is still that “imaginary ceiling” that prevents women from really ascending to a pedestal genuinely equal to that of men. We are not all looking at the same real sky; some of us can see it, some of us cannot, and that is what is unjust. Unless we stop identifying women as “people from Venus” and associating them with fresh meat clad in bikinis for our yearly calendars—courtesy of car and alcohol product companies—then that ceiling will stay and Maria Clara will remain the role model even for modern Filipinas.

Not only does Androgynous Feminism condemn labels and stereotypes about women, they also aren’t too happy about discrimination of the other sexual identities. Also, Androgynous Feminists do not agree that the world is better off without men, unlike the radical feminists back in the 60s and 70s when they even had a S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. Androgynous Feminism is actually a world without sexual identity, where one functions in society according to one’s capabilities, and not one’s genitals, or preferred sexual partner. It’s really almost subtly written in John Lennon’s song, wherein he proposed a world without religion, without race, without class, without possessions, etc. A world with only one nation and one people. Lennon was quoted to have said that it’s actually an “anti-capitalist” song, which is why I do not think that “Imagine” is about globalization, either. Besides, I’ve always believed that globalization’s just a euphemism for Americanization.

It’s pretty simple, really: Amidst all our differences, we are one and the same. A bit too clichéd? Yes, I guess. But it is one of those plain truths that we take for granted. And so, I wanted to remind the people of the possibility of this seemingly utopic vision. I picked an oversized white shirt and altered the neckline so it would be more flattering. Unfortunately, the shirt was my brother’s, and because I was already rushing the whole project, I wasn’t able to ask for his permission, but I guess he’d approve of the end product if he saw it. I got out my trusty red paint and painted a peace sign shaped like a heart to give it a more “hippie” kind of appeal because for some reason, I sometimes believe that I was a flowerchild in my past life, or maybe it’s just because of Papa whose musical influences—he listens to a lot of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and is crazy about Pink Floyd—have been passed onto me. Instead of just the “love and peace” design, I completed the insignia by adding the universal symbols for male and female and inventing a third one which might represent all the other sexual identities, which I thought was pretty rad. And then, I wrote really big letters spelling out “IMAGINE” as background for the logo. The letters were in stripes and spots to emphasize people’s different characteristics, sexual histories, and what have you. And at the back of the shirt, I wrote down, “Now let us make it happen” to deliver the message that as much as it is good to dream of an ideal society, we are always going to raise the possibilities a notch higher if we all join in the struggle of making that dream come true. Heck, if I had enough money, I would have had the shirt silk-screened, but as I am still affected by economic constraints, I had to paint, draw and make everything myself.

When I was done with the shirt, I was pretty happy with the outcome. Wearing a shirt you made gives you probably one of the best feelings in your life. Never mind that most of the people I encountered were not able to read the word, “Imagine,” maybe because they’re dyslexic or because of my handwriting (and considering the number of possibly dyslexic people who saw my shirt, I guess the latter reason is a lot more likely). Whenever I explained to them what my shirt meant, they said it was cool and that they found my “love and peace for all sexes” sign very creative and artistic. Overall, I liked what I did, and I would love to do it all over again even if it’s not for an academic project. Considering that my college life is already done apart from my thesis, I’m really glad that I was able to go out there and advocate something by “modeling a shirt” right before I graduate. It was a memorable, “freshman-like” experience—in the sense that it seemed new to me and was a welcome break from all that senior cynicism—and I hope I will always remind myself of what I, and many others out there, stand for. Someday, that vision will happen. It doesn’t matter if I live to witness it or not. All I have is today, and believe it or not, today is more than enough to make a change.

“You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.”
– John Winston Ono Lennon, 1940-1980

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