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Respeto Naman – about strong women, and strong men

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Respeto Naman – about strong women, and strong men
By Dr. Rebekka Volmer

Strength, independence, and leadership are still associated with men while femality is linked to empathy and harmony. Run like a girl is still a humiliation while “boys will be boys” a false excuse for aggressive behaviour in boys.

The roots for this split comes down from the animal level –  while males have to fight for a mate, females have to display physical beauty demonstrating fertility and of cause need empathy to raise their offspring. The differences in behaviour and physical appearances are a product of hormones. Testosterone increases the metabolic rate (that’s why men can run faster), induces bone and muscle growth, and makes an individual more aggressive.

The best example can be seen in spotted hyenas in which females are leading the pack. They are larger, more muscular and more aggressive than the male – and they have higher testosterone levels than their males.

The reason why aggression is concluding to leadership in the animal world can be simply explained. If you have one strong and brave individual in the group this one will be the best to defend the group or will lead the group out of a dangerous situation.  The desire of strong individuals to dominate over weak ones is, from its basic, a good and healthy one.

It can, however, become bad when strong individuals use their strength to exploit the weaker ones. Rape and sexual harassment is the expression of dominance and strength over females. It is less an act to fulfill the sexual needs – that’s what brothels are there for. Sexual violence is the desperate will of weak men to demonstrate their power over women.

Rape and sexual violence is still a problem worldwide. According to the Philippine Commission on women, one out of five Philippine women aged 15 to 49 suffered from physical violence while 6 per cent experienced sexual violence based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey. Even worse, only 30% of the victims sought for help.

The culture of silence is more precisely a culture of rape – were the victims who are brave enough to speak up often are blamed. They are made responsible for what happened to them – even by other women. This can be an even worse nightmare for the victim than the crime itself, and the main reason why most victims don’t dare to speak up at all.

While western countries already progressed in gender equality, women sometimes tend to feel to comfort in the role to be the victim of toxic masculinity. It is easier to blame others than to actually do something to solve the problem – especially in regions where women have not yet the same opportunities to gain economic independence.

According to Vice President Leni Robredo, only half of Filipino women have access to jobs and 11.2 million of them remain poor. This is also a sad reason why women in the Philippines are speaking up, because they depend on the perpetrator or their family.

Although it might be typical for males to be strong, true power also includes empathy. Then strength is used to bring the family and community forward.  Empathy combined with toughness results in empowering of the weak – and this is also the job of the strong western nations where gender equality is progressed already.

Wondering why the #MeToo movement never reached the Philippines, the Swedish Ambassador Fries and his wife took action. Together with the Office of the Vice President, the UN Women Safe Cities Metro Manila Program, SPARK! and Empower the #RespetoNaman campaign was started aiming to go against gender-based violence.

The exhibition “Don’t Tell Me How To Dress Exhibit” is addressing the rape culture. The exhibition displays clothes that girls and women were wearing when they became a victim of sexual violence. The exhibition includes the uniform of a soldier and a baby jumper demonstrating that clothing is clearly not an excuse for sexual violence against girls and women.

Macia Teves, Executive Director of SPARK!, wants women in the Philippines to know that they are not alone. “Together we will fight for our rights and for respect.  Now, more than ever it is the time to shift the narrative, end victim-blaming, and call for respect for women not because of what they wear or how they act, but by virtue of their being human,” she said.

Sweden has the first feminist government in the world. Their foreign policy aims to ensure that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights is both an obligation within the framework of our international commitments, and a prerequisite for reaching Sweden’s broader foreign policy goals on peace, and security and sustainable development.

The #respetonaman is a highly promising initiative and a leading example of European countries to promote European values and human rights.

The #DontTellMeHowToDress will be exhibited in Ayala Malls on July 18-31 and from August 1-18 at the University of San Carlos.

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