By Excel V. Dyquiangco
Chef and Menu Creator Maria Sonia Guevara Astudillo never really considered her role to be solely for a man or solely for a woman. For her, when she decided to start her business alone, she took on a boss role that perhaps back in the old days would be considered a man’s job.
“I set up my business, made my business plan, and financed my plan,” she says. “And for a long time, it was a onewoman team, especially when I used to go around teaching raw food classes. I plan everything on my own. I carry all my kitchen equipment (I have one female assistant). When I started the salad delivery, it was again a one-woman team at the start. I did the menu planning, shopping, salad preparation, and even delivery. Was it by chance? No, I chose that role because it is something that makes me want to wake up in the morning. It is something I can go on doing everyday and never feel tired of.”
Like many women these days, Astudillo has embraced a role specific for men. She has embodied what men could do, and what they should do. She has refused to being confined inside the house but instead, took on a leadership role that many years ago were unheard of.
But when did this shift start? Where will it lead the society to? What are the characteristic features of masculinity and femininity today in comparison to ten, twenty years ago?
The roles men and women play
According to teacher Clare Santos-Gacad, the shift in gender roles in the Philippines began during the arrival of the Spanish in which they were surprised by how much freedom the women had. She says that during the colonization process, the Spanish rule affected gender differences as the women began to adopt more of a traditional role.
“When Filipinos are born, they are immediately expected to play a specific role in their lives. Filipino men are brought up to take after their fathers and the elder men in their lives, as women are raised to become less dominating roles and take after their mothers/ elder women,” she says. “However, in the modern Philippine society, changes and constitutions are and have been made in order to shed a positive light in women’s gender role such as: granting rights to women to be part of nation- building as well as being provided safe working conditions taking account of maternal functions.”
Unlike before when men took care of mechanical devices such as cars, hifi systems, and appliances and women tended to be in charge of taking care of the house and decorating and was also in charge of purchases, these days, however, women can be the boss of their company, they can be presidents, and they can take on responsibilities and activities once associated with men – such as being breadwinners of the family, being race car drivers, welders, and even wrestlers. Men, meanwhile, can take care of their kids at home, can cook, can do groceries, and can even change diapers.
“These days it is hard to find roles and lifestyle that are exclusive to men and roles and lifestyle that are exclusive to women,” says Astudillo. “Men can now be house dads and women, the breadwinner. Both can be single parents, on the other hand, doing duties of both the mother and father.”
The implications in the society
With this new reversal of roles, society is slowly starting to embrace this new shift. But as psychologist Dr. Fredric Neuman warns, gender roles are shifting and complicated.
“One person can be the final word in one sort of issue, like finances, and have little to say about other matters, such as dealing with the children,” he says. “Still, there are couples whose friends will agree that one person, or the other, is clearly the boss. I think this is not necessarily a bad thing. Usually, in these cases it is simply that one person feels more strongly about certain things than the other, or is by temperament more passive than the other. If that person makes most of the decisions in family matters, it does not mean that the other person has a lower status. These roles can change, anyway, in the event of illness or some other family emergency.”
For Astudillo, this paradigm shift means that men and women are treated equally in a society, not based on gender but based on who they are and their individuality. “It means women taking on CEO jobs and men doing house work not to prove anything but because it is what they want to do,” she says. “This means that society is allowing people (man or woman) to show emotions. It means living the life you want and love not based on your gender but on what you love to do or as they say, what wakes you up in the morning.”
She adds that society will always love this individual, whether it is a man doing the dishes or a woman flying the airplane. “There is admiration in that,” she says.
These new roles for both men and women, it seems, are not going to change anytime soon and while society marvels at the exchange, the power and responsibilities still lie underneath both of them.