On Feminism

Drawn from interview questions by students.

How would you describe your organization/group? What are its main objectives?

Gantala Press is an independent, all-women, feminist collective that seeks to enrich and promote Philippine women’s writing by publishing works for, of, and by women. Since its establishment in 2015, it has published varied materials such as anthologies, komix, a recipe book, zines, etc. that discuss the status of women in different patriarchal contexts. We also collaborate closely with women from other marginalized sectors, such as peasants.

What does it mean to be a feminist? How would you define feminism?

Feminism is a critical analysis of the socio-economic, socio-political, and socio-cultural aspects of a context / environment to understand how they shape the concept of gender, especially of women. We believe that the fight to destroy oppressive class relations, which is the root of all oppression, is intertwined with the fight to destroy patriarchy. You cannot have one without the other. It is essential to point out that feminism does not and must not detach itself from its economic and political roots: that upholding feminism must also mean upholding better living and working conditions not only for the women and their family but for the nation entirely.

What are negative connotations you hear about feminism?

That it is “anti-male,” or “extreme,” or “exclusionary;” that it is rabid and hysterical. Some so-called nationalists also maintain that the struggle for gender equality is not a priority and must take the back seat, and that all efforts should go towards class struggle; that feminism must wait until after class liberation. Some people also think that feminism is nothing but a western, bourgeois construct that Filipinos have no use for.

We think that, especially in these times, a feminist cannot help but be anti-Duterte. We really find it hard to imagine a pro-Duterte feminist. A feminist is against oppression, first and foremost, and Duterte is the embodiment of the kind of oppression that Filipinas have always been trying to overcome. We have heard liberal feminists call feminism a “fun” thing to do, which is very silly. All over the world, throughout history, feminists have been castigated, harassed, or killed for their beliefs and actions. Actually, women in general are still being castigated, harassed, or killed for simply being women. The president constantly puts down women and tries to pass this off as just “having fun.” We cannot afford to “have fun,” or in this case at least, to use the language of the oppressor in fighting oppression.

How does your group respond to these negative connotations?

By publishing feminist, class-conscious, progressive materials; organizing events where women are central; and attending rallies. One of our founders is actively working with peasant women, and this deeply informs her literary works, whether poetry or zines. We also try to join as many conversations as possible about feminism in the Philippines, for example by delivering lectures and workshops in schools, and by answering thesis questions like these.

What are some of your group’s accomplishments?

Our main accomplishments are really the books we have produced. We are very proud of each of them. Our first book is an anthology of women’s writings which we think includes a good representation not of “women’s writings” per se, but of women’s experiences in the country (and even abroad). That book includes poems, essays, and stories about lesbians, mothers, biracials, daughters, workers, political prisoners, Muslims, lumad, women in the Cordillera region, artists, writers, and others, written in various Philippine languages. Our second publication is a collection of essays by women on the Marawi siege, followed by a Mranao cookbook which, although written by a man, is a good documentation of a woman-shaped culture that is severely threatened by militarization. We’re publishing a second volume on the siege, which will include essays and poems written mostly by women from Marawi / Mindanao. The Marawi project was done in the context of an entire information and fundraising campaign which also opened much-needed conversations about women and war, and connected us to a lot of people who eventually became partners and collaborators. We have just published an anthology of lesbian komix created by queer women, one of the first of its kind in the country. Part of the proceeds of all our books go to various causes: for IDPs, peasant women and children, and student organizations, for example.

What else would you like to accomplish with your organization/group?

More publications, especially those that document women’s lives and histories, and a physical space where women can gather and have meaningful feminist conversations and be creative and productive.

Where do you think is gender inequality rooted in?

Class oppression and class inequality.

The Philippines was ranked as one of the most gender equal countries in the world. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

Our women have always been strong, powerful, and revolutionary; many Filipinas in history prove that. However, the so-called gender equality does not manifest itself in everyday life. Our women still suffer from sexual harassment and rape, domestic abuse and violence, and mockery or denigration by everything and everyone from the president to the media to our fellow women. We have had two woman presidents and a number of women in government but they turned out to be loyal to their class, not to their sisters. Some of Duterte’s most rabid defenders are women who insult or blame his victims! Likewise, a great majority of Filipinos still live in poverty. If you’re a woman farmer, for example, your suffering is twice your husband’s because, as head of the family, it is only the husband who gets paid (almost next to nothing) for farm work even if his wife or children labored along with him. And after a day’s work in the farm, the wife has to take care of the children and other household chores simply because she is expected to. So, as long as many women still live in abject poverty like this, there is no true gender equality.

Do we need more feminism in the Philippines or have we already obtained gender equality?

Feminism is necessary as long as class struggle is necessary. Though the Philippines might appear gender equal on the surface, there will always be women exploitation and abuse unless we call for a national system overhaul. Because Gantala Press envisions not only a gender equal community but a community free from all forms of exploitation, we continue with our publication endeavors that take strength from progressive roots.

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