OPINION: Women And The “Illusion of Choice”

I was having a conversation with some friends, when the old question got brought up: Why do women need empowerment?

Easy, I thought, until a male friend of mine then subsequently posed a counter-question— do women really need empowerment these days? He argued that women these days shared the same rights as men: we are able to vote, we are given the same avenue of expression as men enjoy, we are able to go to school, get a good education, and find a stable job. It’s so easy to cry discrimination these days, he shared, so women had no business worrying about being discriminated, as there will always be a public willing to go up in arms over even the tiniest issue of discrimination.

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Later that day, we had ended up talking about a mutual acquaintance, whom we recently learned had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Let her live the consequences, he said. It was her choice, after all.

But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? These days, it’s all but an illusion— we are given the illusion of choice, yet women will eventually—and inevitably— receive the short end of the stick, should we end up making the wrong decision. Do not be so sexually promiscuous, lest you end up with the ire of judgmental men and women. Do not be so outspoken, lest you be turned a deaf ear on by those unwilling to hear your views, because no one likes a chatty woman. In this mutual acquaintance’s case, it was get pregnant, and turn into a social pariah. It was your choice, after all.

We are told that we are free to make our own decisions, but one way or another will end up in unfavorable consequences. But who decides on these standards, after all? How come when a woman gets pregnant before marriage, she is immediately castigated for being promiscuous and just possibly plain stupid, yet the man who invariably comprises half the equation, gets out scot-free? Wasn’t the guy irresponsible as well, for not ensuring proper protection on his part before engaging in the act, in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy?

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In the day and age where locally popular television shows and films about extramarital affairs are abound, it is always the mistress, depicted as a serpent-like seductress with the vampy dark lipstick and big hair, that is demonized. Never has it been the case that the man, caught between a tale of two lovers pining over him, that ends up being shunned by society, or at least judged. He could not resist her wiles, so the tired excuse goes. Eh kasi, lalaki eh. As if men were somehow more biologically incapable of resisting certain urges than women.

No Other Woman Anne Curtis

Whether the choices made by these people are impractical, immoral, or “in sin” is out of the question. The fact is that a man and a woman can choose to make the same decision, yet the woman will constantly be victimized by a double standard that lashes out repercussions, based on her gender alone.

The question then remains: why empower women? Because while women may be afforded equal rights in certain places, we are certainly not afforded equal opportunities. The illusion of choice stands as an ominous reminder that women cannot make the same decisions as men, and expect to receive equal treatment. It reminds us that in the modern age that tethers between the immense influence of Facebook and people preparing for a Mars expedition, among other quantum leaps forward, there still remains an archaic patriarchal society lurking in the shadows.

Thoughts on this? Sound off below!