Thursday, October 27, 2016

Is Femininity Dead?

Is Femininity Dead? 

Originally Published on Thought Catalog

It’s been a while since I heard the word femininity. In writing this, I immediately thought of its twin sister – feminism. As femininity sits in her quiet confidence, feminism continues to draw attention to herself. Feminism is as loud as femininity is quiet. Plastered across Facebook and Instagram are role models for the new brand of feminism that rebels against male standards and a male dominated world… a battlecry that advocates freedom to “do what you want” without much regard for consequences. We see this in the manner women dress, speak and act – where naked seems to be the new normal and filters seen as the new authentic. 

Fragile Beauty (Bali, Indonesia)

Don’t get me wrong, feminism emerged from the mentality that men and women deserve the same rights – and this movement has given women in most parts of the world the greatest gift of all – the power of choice. Fast-forward to this century – now that we are reaping the rewards of this choice, are we using it to elevate women or are we creating more dissonance amongst ourselves? Are we using it to promote a healthy coexistence with men or are we turning into men to try to beat them at their own game? Have women in the public eye been using this responsibly? 

As this modern brand of feminism gains momentum, the classic definition of femininity is shunned to the sidelines. Are the days where strength in silence, grace in adversity, beauty in authenticity really gone? Has Audrey Hepburn been replaced by Kim Kardashian? 
Role models are seen as beacons that represent the desires of a generation. Perhaps centuries ago, the classic image of femininity – being prim and proper, speaking only when spoken to, being conservative in dress and manner, even putting a premium on motherhood- these were what encompassed what being a woman was all about.

At the time feminism was at its birth stages, we remember the tragedies that became the fate of Anna Karenina, Madame Bovaryand Edna Pontellier, where these women decided to act on their desires and disregard social conventions. This was a time women didn’t have many options and weren’t blessed with the power of choice as a birthright. 

So what about now?  Has the meaning of femininity been lost or has it just evolved? 

For me it all boils down to the gift the women that preceded us gave us – the power of choice. Femininity nowadays is no longer limited to its classic stereotype of being “prim and proper”, or the traditional roles that surround it – motherhood, or marriage. With more options comes more responsibility. With freedom, comes consequences. With conflicting images in media and society, comes a call to examine one’s conscience. Exercising freedom with no regard for present day realities is not feminism, but rebellion. In fact, femininity is not a concept so separate from today’s modern woman, because it already exists within women regardless of what generation she belongs to. It’s a call to humanity, more than anything. It’s choosing love. It’s choosing authenticity. It’s choosing joy. It’s choosing peace. These are concepts that transcend gender, and fall into the realm of what it means to be human.

Don’t get so lost in the labels and mixed signals we pick up from society or the media. 

Just be the best human being you can be. 

Just be what you already are.

Here’s My Problem With Modern Feminism (From A Self-Proclaimed Feminist)

Here’s My Problem With Modern Feminism (From A Self-Proclaimed Feminist)

Originally Published in Thought Catalog


It’s something that scares men away, and divides women. It’s something that is used so loosely nowadays its value diminishes. Its origins stem from inequality between the sexes in a patriarchal society. Fast forward to today, most first world nations have taken steps in the right direction. Canada being at the forefront of a feminist-centric movement through equal gender representation in its government, a movement advocated by its male prime minister. All over the world women are recognized, even put on a pedestal for “having it all.” We toss these names all over our newsfeed, our modern day Amazonians – Hillary Clinton, BeyoncĂ© Knowles, and other figures than may have not made it in mainstream consciousness but have become movers and shakers in their own fields, male dominated or not.

Despite these developments, I think this generation has gotten feminism all wrong. 

With the advent of social media, I find it so alarming that the likes of Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus are seen as icons of the modern feminist movement. I find it alarming that “Free the Nipple” and “My Body, My Choice” are battle cries breeding a generation of women that is so blinded by freedom, it forgets about consequence.

It’s one thing to be free to choose. Most, if not all human beings have that right. But where the conflict lies is how empowerment is seen in the act of free choice, without considering the consequences of that choice. It’s a fine line that separates empowerment with narcissism. If you get up on that bar top and take your bra off, that is your choice. But you need to be able to own up to the consequence of that action, or the worst-case scenario. In this case it could be as mild as heckling and as bad as sexual harassment. In an ideal world, men should respect you and your decisions. In many parts of the world, this is not reality.

And to be a true feminist, we need to understand that before getting blinded by narcissism in the disguise of empowerment.

The trap of modern feminism is thinking it stops with free choice, without taking into account the consequences of that choice within present day realities.

Yes, it’s hard to be a woman in a somewhat, still very male dominated world. Yes, sometimes you just want to wear that short skirt and screw anyone you want, without facing consequences. Yes, sometimes you just want to shed all of what society expects from you as a woman and begin acting like a man. But in doing so, you still conform to the very ideology you are trying to rebel against- by conceding to the thinking you very much detest. We are dangerously attracted to the recklessness, relentlessness and ruthlessness men seem to get away with in the arenas of love and career, we forget about the natural strengths and abilities that come with being a woman.

To be a true feminist isn’t to act like a man. It isn’t to embody masculine traits and add more fuel and division to an already very male eschewed world. To be a true feminist is accepting the uniqueness that come with your gender – strengths, limitations and all, and respect that same uniqueness in the opposite sex. 

You can be a feminist if you’re male, female, or gay. To be a true feminist is to own up to your choices by owning up to their consequences. Know the difference between narcissism and true empowerment. “I will make a choice based on the consequence I am willing to face.” That takes it a step further than the mainstream take on feminism. The mark of a true feminist is making informed decisions. It’s owning up to not just our choices but the consequences of our choices, considering present day realities. It’s one thing to dress provocatively to express yourself, but take it a step further and think of the consequences of that choice. That is true feminism for me. In fact, it goes beyond the gender wars. Thinking of consequence takes you beyond feminism to what I think the world needs more of – HUMANISM. 

More than showing the world our bodies, let us show the world what kind of humans it needs today – one that exercises freedom with full knowledge of consequence, one that accepts and respects the strengths and limitations of both genders, one that seeks to unite rather than divide the world even further.

So the next time you want to shed some skin, think of your true motivation before you #feminist what you show, do, or say.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This is What It's Like To Move Home After Studying Abroad

This Is What It’s Like To Move Home After Studying Abroad

Originally published in Thought Catalog

They say it takes at least six months to come to terms with moving back home after living abroad. I remember reading so many self-help articles on reverse culture shock, and six was often the magic number that came up. At the time, I thought I could defeat the six month mark by forcing myself to begin the job search ASAP and establish a routine ASAP. 
But just like break ups, trying to outsmart the natural process of moving on only made it worse. 

View of Manila from my flight home

In the first month, I spent some time traveling to soften the blow of my decision to leave the life I’ve created somewhere else. The second month was all about agonizing over a time that would never return and paying homage to it through writing. The third was about establishing a routine back home by finally brining myself to look for a job and seeing my friends regularly. The fourth, a continuation of the third, with less breakdowns. 

If you’re lucky, by the fifth month, like me, you would already have a job, or things lined up. And when that time happens, expect birth pains from adjusting to a new job, new workmates and a schedule that is more normal than what you were used to. 

View from my Office at Bonifacio Global City

But, for whatever reason, the sixth month brings clarity, without you even realizing it’s already been six months since you left your old home abroad. Without you realizing that routine is not so bad. Without you realizing that you haven’t seen your friends from abroad for that long. 

Farewell countdown with old colleagues 

When you do get in touch with them, things are different yet still the same -your relationship enriched by new and separate experiences, but still bound by that special time you were all destined to meet in that part of the world.

Maybe part of why you left home that time was because you were afraid of routine. You were afraid to dedicate your life to the four walls of a concrete building, afraid of settling, afraid of not living life to the fullest. 

You probably also left your home abroad because what was once exciting had already become routine, and you can’t see yourself living the way you did forever. 

But at the six-month mark after coming home, routine feels ok – at least for now. 

Routine makes you appreciate the small surprises that come your way, it makes you appreciate the things you once took for granted.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong... 

It may be a visit from a longtime friend, an impromptu drive with your family to the countryside, or just time to recharge in a familiar place- after your tumultuous years abroad. You realize that routine isn’t as bad as it seems and is simply a state of mind. You can break away from it if you want to, regardless of where you are in the world or what your situation is. 

And it is not determined by what job you have, but how you spend your time and how you set your mind. 

At the sixth month mark, I realized I made the right decision of coming back home, because I can’t imagine myself anywhere else – at least for now.

I can’t see myself starting over somewhere else, I can’t see myself getting a random job just to live in another country, I can’t see myself suspending everything I valued yet again for uncertainty. More than it being a safe decision, it was the decision I just knew in my heart, logic aside, that I had to make. 

At the six month mark, I picked up a guidebook to explore my own country, determined to have the same wanderlust I did for exploration when I was abroad. I went out, less than when I was abroad, but enough to keep things interesting. I wrote – a passion I rediscovered after the perspective I gained from living abroad. I rediscovered the things I loved to do before living abroad and all the distractions that came with it. And everything is meshing together well, so far, thanks to routine. 

Roadtrips to Tagaytay

I’m not yet completely ok, but I’m ok enough to want to stay where I am. 

I think routine brings me balance – and balance is what I need right now. 

That’s probably why I came back home. And just because I did, it doesn’t mean that I’m settling. It just means that I am preparing myself for even bigger adventures to come, from the place I grew up in – the place call home, for now.