Whenever women gather to tell their stories, it’s a revolutionary act. Especially when these women represent a spectre of experiences — from abuse and violence, to the hefty price of the balancing act of work-life-love required of womankind. The act of listening becomes revolutionary because we realize that we are not alone — we never were. And as women before us have overcome these experiences, so shall we.
Last March 21, Anvil Publishing and National Book Store brought together such women for “Her Story: An Afternoon Conversation with the Women of Today” at the Ayala Museum, Makati City. Five authors gave talks on topics like violence against the vulnerable, how to be a girl boss, and women in the literary field. The first part of forum was about stories of violence and reclaiming power. The second part was about being a girlboss, whether as a freelancer, writer, or businesswoman.
Dr. Pinky Valdes, the first lay president of Assumption College dared us to “Change the normal.” She spoke of her and her students’ stories of abuse and violence which lent a heavy poignance to the event. To change the normal, she said, we have to foster an environment where vulnerable women have a voice. Her famous parting words: “The best friend of abuse is silence.”
If Dr. Valdes tore the wound open, Susan Quimpo, the next speaker, let it bleed. Co-author of Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years, Tita Susan, calm as ever, shared the violence committed against seven of her activist siblings (including herself) during the Martial Law period. In the painful recurrence of events, she is now a community organizer giving pro bono lessons on Martial Law History and federalism. Most of her volunteers are mothers, she said. “If you are a woman, especially if you are a mother, how can you look away?”
The next three girlbosses talked about taking matters into your own hands.
Karen Ferry-Fernandez, aka Raket Chick, spoke of being a former adwoman and her shift to being a freelancer. She told the mostly-millennial audience to “Break the mold. Man the ship. Wear the pants. Swing those balls”. Writer Bebang Siy talked to us about the “leading lodis” of Philippine literature. Lastly, Alexandra Ramos-Padilla, managing director of National Bookstore, talked about “Life lessons from Lola” — Lola being Socorro Ramos, a.k.a founder and chairwoman of National Bookstore.
The event is a reminder that if we will change the norm, we can’t do it by ourselves — we have to do it with each other. These days the generational differences can tear even feminists apart, and gatherings like these remind me that there is much to learn from the revolutionary women who have gone before us.