A WOMAN’S WIT AND PRUDENCE: BEBANG SIY’S
“IT’S A MENS WORLD” IN A FEMINIST VIEW
Lablynn Yvette F. Bautista
A major paper submitted to Dr. Leonora Fajutagana of
University of the Philippines Los Banos
in partial fulfilment of the requirements for
COMA 201: Critical Approaches to Communication Studies
Los Banos, Laguna
October 19, 2012
This paper examines how a Filipina woman used her wit and prudence in freeing herself through writing. Bebang Siy’s book “It’s a mens world” is a collection of 20 essays, it tackles the life of an ordinary Filipina with Chinese ancestry, from her childhood memories to womanhood and more things. Through this book, I will analyze the writing style of the author, the political feminism in the book focusing on the five foci of woman’s writing and the essence of the book in our lives as a Filipina in a feminist view. The Reader Oriented Approach can also be seen in my analysis.
II. THE AUTHOR AND THE BOOK
A. Brief Introduction of the Author
Beverly Wico Siy a.k.a Bebang Siy was born on December 10, 1979 in Quirino, Manila. Her parents are Roberto Siy and Resurreccion Wico. She is the eldest of five daughters. Her father was Chinese and died from a heart attack when she was 15. Her mother is a Filipina.
She took up BA Malikhaing Pagsulat (Creative Writing) in the University of the Philippines Diliman. She graduated cum laude in 2002. She immediately signed up for MA Filipino, major in Literature. Bebang became the youngest member of UMPIL or Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas' Board of Directors in 2004-2010. She also served as the president of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA) in 2007-2009. LIRA is the premiere and the oldest organization of Filipino poets who write primarily in the national language. She is a single mom to her son, Sean Elijah—“EJ” for short. She is the Executive Officer for Membership and Documentation of Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS), an organization of authors and publishers that helps fight for the economic rights of copyright holders.
B. The Title of the Book: “It’s a mens world”
At first, one may think that the title is just a typographical or grammatical error but it’s not. The book portrayed a girl-woman’s experience of the world as her title would indicate. Some see it as a play on both the idea of males and the colloquial term for menstruation—mens. When I read the back of the book, I also share the same impression, that it evolves on the memories of the author during her first menstruation and at the same time maybe it’s a sarcastic way too of telling that our world is not really and only for men but for women also. I thought that the book of course is focused on how a girl, a lady, a woman lives in a world dominantly controlled by men. Lastly, I would like to believe that this book is another proof that the world could evolve in things that concerns only to us, woman.
On the other hand, I was privileged to ask the author on how did she come up on the title of this book and this is her answer:
“Ang orihinal na pamagat ng sanaysay kung saan ko hinango ang pamagat ng aklat ay Regla Baby. Parang nilaro ko ang term na Regal Baby ni Mother Lily (ang may ari ng Regal Films na siyang producer ng mga pelikula noon bago pa sumikat ang ABS-CBN, GMA Films at iba pa). Ang Regal Baby ay iyong mga artista na nila-launch ni Mother Lily. Napansin ko noong Regla Baby pa ang title ng essay, hindi siya ma-publish-publish. Hindi ko alam kung bakit. kung saan-saan ko na sinubmit at kung tama ang pagkakaalala ko pati sa Palanca. Talo! Isang araw, habang nakasakay ako sa dyip, bigla ko na lang naisip ang phrase na it’s a mens world. At sabi ng loob ko, puwede. Bagay naman sa essay ko. Kaya iyon. Inuna ko ang essay na ito kasi it sets the tone of the whole book. Na this book is something really personal, na it's about a girl/woman, na it's about living in other people’s standards, parang ganon. Kaya naisip ko, maganda na rin na ito na ang pamagat ng buong aklat. It will give you a glimpse of what the book is all about.”
C. Popularity of the Book
She’s often been compared to the popular pseudonymous best-selling phenomenon Bob Ong—but with ovaries. It’s a mens world has done well and its author is now sought after as a speaker, thanks to her offbeat humor and sparkling repartee. (De Vera, PDI 2012).
Like Bob Ong, Bebang Siy’s book is fun and easy to read but it will make you think of the underlying message of each sentence in her book. I believe, as an old fan of Bob Ong and a new fan of Bebang Siy, it is their conversational writing that hooked the public to read their books and appreciate its contents. The humor, prudence and the sarcasm in the way they write is like a pinched to us to see the message of reality that their books are shouting.
Reading this book is like talking to an old friend, looking in your own
photo album (memories), and seeing yourself through the author in one way or another. Everyone can relate to this book, not only women but also men. As Bebang Siy puts it:
“Maybe it’s because a big part of what makes Bob Ong funny is the language and the tone. I think that it’s the same thing that charmed my audience, the language, the tone and my being a woman, my sexuality. Walang babaeng ganito kabalahura (there’s isn’t another woman so outrageous). Sobrang candid siya at nasa wikang Filipino.”
Since Filipinos are very humorous, it’s not surprising why we appreciate authors like Bebang Siy and Bong Ong, the good thing is that their books are not only funny, their theme and message are also very inspiring and eye-opening.
III. THE POLITICAL FEMISM IN THE BOOK
A. Biological: The Woman’s Body
It is said that women’s bodies are their destiny. Meaning if we try to defy sexual roles, then we have to defy natural order. In this first essay, this belief is greatly shown in the following sentences:
“Magkilos-dalaga ka na kasi maliligawan ka na.”
“Pumasok ako sa kubeta. Sibibukan kong umihi. Doon ko nalaman na dalaga na pala talaga ako. Malungkot kong tinitignan ang mantsa sa panty. Ay, ang dami mo namang hinihinging kapalit. Demanding, parang ganon. Napakademanding naman pala ng pagdadalaga.”
In Philippines culture, when a girl has her menstruation already, she is no longer allowed to climb up trees or play with boys. Pagdadalaga (the transition to womanhood) brings in new meaning to every interaction. Here, we can see the impact of the changes that is happening on a woman’s body in her role to our society.
When I also have my first menstruation, I heard the same advice from the people around me. It can even be stressful and depressing if you’re not yet ready. Expectations are already set for you to follow. It was a big transition, from being a girl who can play and do anything freely to being a lady who is expected to meet the norms of the society. A lady or a woman should be prim and proper in her words and actions, even in our modern times today we are still expected to be more careful in our words and actions than men.
When you did the opposite (e.g. childish, talkative, flirt etc.), you can be
misunderstood. Indeed, being a lady entails a great responsibility.
B. Females Life Experience
Females’ life experience (ovulation, menstruation and then giving birth) influence their writing. This can be seen on the essay entitled “Ang Piso”.
“Hinatak ko si EJ at lumapit na kami sa pinto ng bus. Di ako mahilig makipaggitgitan sa mga pasaherong paakyat o pababa ng bus pero sa pagkakataong ito, hinarang ko talaga ang ilang lalaking paakyat para mas mabilis kaming makababa. Malabong paarangkadahin ni Manong ang bus kahit anung buset niya sa ginawa kong pagtungayaw sa kanya kasi me mga pasahero siyang hihintayin. Sayang din ‘yon. Pera din ang mga ‘yon.”
“Ligtas naman kaming nakababa, nakauwi. Walang bali, walang gasgas, walang nagdurugo kundi ang bulsa.”
“Noong bata ako, masakit ang piso. Ngayon, sumasakit ang puso ko dahil sa piso.”
By this time, the author is already a mother; she is very particular to the dishonesty of the bus driver and conductor regarding the fare since she is already a mother (a single mother that is living and providing their needs on her own). She is also very detailed in writing about their safety.
When I asked the author, how does being a mother and having a son affect her writing, this is her answer:
“Malaki. Maraming times na kaya ako sumusulat kasi gusto kong mabago ang mundo. Alam mo yon? 'Yong gusto ko, maging better ito. Kaya sulat ako nang sulat. Baka sakaling makatulong akong mabago ito. Kasi iniisip ko ang anak ko. Ilang taon na lang at siya na ang gagalaw nang mag isa sa lipunan. Mapapabilang na siya rito. Kaya hangga’t kaya ko at ng panulat ko, sulat lang nang sulat para makatulong ako sa pagpapaganda nito. Sa mga sinusulat ko, kahit mabigat at seryoso minsan, I always try to end with hope. Dahil may anak ako. Pag may anak ka, hindi ka puwedeng maging defeatist. Dapat fighter ka till the end. Hindi ka nawawalan ng pag-asa. Siguro 'yon din ang trait na gusto kong mamana niya.”
According to this belief, women have been oppressed by male dominated language. Men’s definition of discourse has trapped women inside a male definition of female. It is natural for women to defy a male dominated language than just to adhere to feminine style of writing. This can be seen on the essay entitled “Milk Shakes and Daddies”.
“Kaya raw sila nag-away, mukha raw kasing pera ang Mami ko. Hingi raw nang hingi sa kanya. Akala raw ng Mami ko, may balon ng pera ang balun-balunan niya. Konting dukwang lang, me pera na. ‘Yang Mami ko raw, numero unong gastadora. Saan daw kaya dinadala ang lahat ng pera na ini-intrega niya? Aapat lang naman daw kaming anak nila. Libre na nga bahay, tubig, kuryente. Laking tipd noon, tama ba ako? ani Daddy. Bakit daw andami-dami pa ring gastos ng Mami ko?”
“May isang genius na nagsabi: manhid ang mga lalaki. At kasangga ako ng genius na ‘yan. Dahil etong tatay, inuulit-ulit pa ang mga ganoong eksena sa buhay ko.”
“Ang bagong lalaki raw ng Mama ko ay ganito ang pangalan. Blah-blah-blah. Ang mami ko raw, nang-aakit ng lalaki kaya nga raw mahilig ‘tong magpahaba ng buhok. Ang mga lalaki kasi, mas mabilis daw maakit sa mga babaeng mahaba ang buhok. Sabi pa ni Daddy, huwag daw akong tutulad.”
“Bakit ko nga ba susundin ang babaeng ‘to? Wala namang kuwentang babae. Wala naming kuwentang asawa. I therefore conclude, wala ring kakwuenta-kuwentang nanay.”
The first paragraph showed a complaint of the father about her wife to his child. Before, since the man is the one who primarily gives money, it is the wife who acts as the treasurer in the home. Even today, I believe even if the wife is already working, she is still the one who budgets all the expenses of the whole family. For me, the author was able to give justice to a scene that is normally happening in a Filipino household (especially to the poor family). How sad it could be for a plain housewife who did her best to budget the money their husband gives them and still being questioned on where did they spent it. If the husband is the only one working, the words can be worse, since it could mean that he has the right to question his wife.
The second paragraph indicates the author’s complain on his father’s routine speech about her mother.
On the third paragraph, we can see the misinterpretation a man’s words can make. It was shown how the father of the author has misunderstood or exaggerates her mother’s appearance. In the third sentence highlighted, there is a generalization about the men’s understanding on women who have long hair and its purpose.
The fourth paragraph shows the impact of her father’s opinion in the author. Today, we Filipinas still struggle against common problems such as machismo, patriarchy, sexism and sexual discrimination. Overall, the writing style of the author in this book cannot be classified as feminine; she is very honest, open and straight forward in telling her childhood experiences towards the reader. She is not even scared on saying the exact words her father used to describe her mother. Each word showed the reality, that these scenes really exist and that the words were really uttered not only by his father but by others as well. In the exact manner it was said by his father, she was able to communicate the underlying message to her readers. The parents’ opinion to each other greatly affects their child.
When I ask the author if she considered her writing as a feminine style, this is her answer:
“Hindi naman. Palagay ko hindi feminine ang style ko, hindi pa-gurl. Pero pambabae ang topic ko. Palagay ko rin, honest ito. Kaya kung honest, ibig bang sabihin noon ay feminine na? Hindi siguro. Pero madetalye ako. At nabasa ko somewhere na mas magaling ang mga babae sa pagbibigay at pagpansin sa mga detalye.”
D. The Unconscious
Whatever encourages a free play of meaning and prevents “closure” is regarded as female. Let us analyze the following lines below excerpted in the essay entitled “Sa ganitong paraan daw namatay si Kuya Dims”.
“Noong ibalita sa akin ni Mami na namatay na si Kuya Dims, parang may kung anong nilalang sa puso ko na nabigyan uli ng buhay. Parang may pumaradang isang bungkos ng eucalyptos sa ilong ko. Nakahinga ako nang maluwag. Pakiramdam ko, isa akong panaderong naglapag sa sahig ng libo-libong sako ng arina pagkaraang buhatin ito nang dalawampung taon. Anong ginhawa.”
“Sori pero natuwa ako. Dahil patay na si Kuya Dims.”
In the first paragraph, there is a play of meaning in the highlighted words. They are used figuratively. The last sentence above has the said “closure”; the reader was given a hint that there is a deeper story behind this sentence. The author has a big reason why she felt happiness in the death of this “Kuya Dims”. The follow up story is the author’s narration about her “sexual harassment/molestation”. In the end the author was able to free herself through writing; it is shown in the following lines:
“Ngayong wala na siya ay saka lamang gumaan ang dibidib ko. Kamatayan lamang pala niya ang dudurog sa pasan-pasan ng puso ko.”
“Nagsimula na akong magkwento tungkol sa eksenang iyon sa kubo. Inumpisahan ko sa boyfriend ko tapos, sa pinakamatalik na kaibigang babae. At heto ngayon, itinatala ko pa. Isinusulat bilang bahagi ng sariling kasaysayan.”
I think most of the readers admired the author the most in this essay. As a woman, it is not easy to disclose this kind of topic. This is a very sensitive issue that even today, many are still afraid to tell anyone (police authorities, families, and friends) that they experience this kind of situation or even worse. It is very humiliating that sometimes even the victims themselves stay in denial.
In a Catholic country like us, even if we are already in the modern times, the purity of a woman is still very important especially for those who still believe and follow conservative principles.
E. Social and Economic Conditions
Male and female write differently not because they are psychologically different but because they have different environments that influence their writing. This is shown in the essay entitled “Shopping”.
“Pumunta kami agad sa mga papel. Pinadulas ko nang pinadulas sa makinis at kulay-gatas na papel ang mga daliri ko. Pinagsasawa ko na. Alam ko kasing magaspang at kakulay ng umiiyak na langit ang bibilhin ni Mami para sa akin. ‘Yong tipong pamunas lang ng kaklase ko sa naputikan niyang sapatos.
Kailangan ko din ng pambura. Dumampot ako ng isa. Ulo ni Hello Kitty. Inaamoy-amoy ko ito nang lapitan kami ng isang saleslady. “Hindi sinusubo 'yan,” anya. Noon ko napansin, ang pakla-pakla ng ngiti n'ya. Siguro umaangil na rin ang pudpod niyang takong: “Tang’na, bilis-bilisan n’yo sa pagpili. Gusto ko nang umuwi.”
The paragraphs above showed the social and economic condition of the author. It can also be observed how detailed and descriptive the author is. If it’s a male writer, maybe we can expect a less detailed narration of the scene. Another possibility is that if other writers didn’t experience this personally and they do not give such importance to the description of the paper, the author can just use simple adjectives (old, new, expensive, cheap) instead of the highlighted word above. Indeed, the author wanted to emphasize their situation.
In the second paragraph, I think the author and her mother just ignore the saleslady since they will not buy the Hello Kitty eraser. If they gave a response to the rude attitude of the saleslady, I think the author will mention it in the story but since she ended it like that, I came with the conclusion that they just ignored the rude saleslady and left.
However, I believe the author wanted to help the readers realize how blessed they are if they didn’t experience such situation. As for me, I just did.
IV. WIT AND PRUDENCE: A WOMAN’S ARMOUR IN WRITING
Overall, this book shows how Bebang Siy was able to use her wit and prudence as her armour in freeing herself through writing. Away from the boundaries our society and norms sets, she was able to communicate the underlying messages of each word to her readers in a humorous way. In this book, she was able represent the modern day Filipina who is fearless, a fighter and feminist at heart.
In her essay entitled “First Date”, she was able to use her wit with sarcasm and criticism as basis of humor to give practical advices for any Filipina on their first date.
Unahin natin ang tungkol sa paggastos.
Para sa akin, dapat hati. Para walang utang na loob ang isa sa isa. Kung lalaki kasi ang magbabayad, magiging mas maingat ang babe sa pagpili ng oorderin o bibilhin. Baka hindi pa niya maorder o mabili ang gusto niya dahil maiilang siya sa katabing presyo ng item kasi nga hindi sya ang magbabayad.
Kung babe ang magbabayad, baka biglang maglaslas ng pulso ang lalaki dahil nasaan naman ang dignidad doon, diba? First date, babae ang nagbayad? Naman. ‘Wag. PLEASE.
She was able to show the reality of practical dating. She was able to express the woman’s anxiety on the payment issue. In the old days, the man is the one required to pay for all the expenses in their dates but today woman without embarrassing the man can also pay for herself. Woman today are more capable and practical and not only the man.
Ayos lang naman kung palpak ang first date. Wala naman talagang perpektong first date. Ang mas importante, hindi palpak yong taong ka-date. Ibig kong sabihin, walang sabit (tulad ni Ginoong Gasul) at higit sa lahat, masayang kasama.
The paragraph above uses criticism as basis of humor, however the main message is to be careful to guys like Ginoong Gasul (the authors previous date who eventually became her boyfriend but cheated on her, described by the author as unanong tabatsoy).
Bakit sa Maynila? Kasi kabisado ko ang lugar na ‘to. Syempre, mas maganda talaga kung kabisado ng babae ang pupuntahan niya. Sakaling weirdo ang pala o di kaya biglang tinubuan ng sungay ng kamanyakan ang ka-date niya, alam na niya ang daan pauwi o palayo sa kasumpa-sumpang ka-date.
This line is very interesting for me. This is a very important reminder for women on their first date. To choose a familiar place is to ensure your safety. We should know how to take care of ourselves.
Lastly, in her essay entitled “Asintada”, she gave a very inspirational
advice to her readers:
“Kung meron kang gustong patunayan, ihanda nang bongang-bongga ang sarili sa mga posibleng mangyari dahil siguradong may kapalit ito. Minsan ang kapalit ay maganda, minsan matamis. Pero minsan din ay mahapdi at minsan naman, maalat.”
As a woman, we all want to prove something to all the people around us but we must think carefully before making any decision especially if it’s a life changing one.
It’s good to laugh while reading, but when we were able to think and realize the deeper message of it, then the author succeed on her goal. In the end, I can only say that I really enjoy reading this book as a girl in heart and a Filipino woman. In this bloody world, we can heal all wounds through the grace of God and love from the people around us.
De Vera, R. (2012, January 17). Funny Girl. Philippine Daily Inquirer online newspaper. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/30079/funny-girl
Lim, R. (2011, November 12). Vagina Monologues. Manila Bulletin online newspaper. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://www.mb.com.ph/node/341000/vagina-monologue
Unknown (2012). Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://manilaliteraryfestival.com/index.php option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=3
Ang akdang ito ay ini-repost nang may permiso mula kay Bb. Bautista. Maraming salamat, Lablynn! More power!