Apr 4, 2014

She's dancing fancy pirouettes

I saw you dance in the arena hall in
make-up, dressed up like a ballerina
Got to wonder what's got into you
Or just what you got into

-Pure Rock Fury, Clutch (2001)

I find it weird how every person in every culture and in every era had a well-defined role for women in their society. I am sure men suffer the same fate, as well as the LGBT community. I guess setting up roles and standards is something very human as it has withstood time. It is a bit disconcerting especially since these presets seem to be very precise, accurate and specific especially when it comes to what it takes to being a woman. When I was young, I was always reminded to be delicate, prim and proper. I would remember being dressed up in these inappropriate little girl dresses from a store called Queen Alice with ruffles, silk, organza and tulle... basically all things poufy which I often cried about when we were shopping for them or when my yaya forced me to wear them and I would always cry because they were too "scratchy." I was never allowed to take up rugged activities or hobbies like taekwondo (which I have to admit I was really interested in) or basketball or anything sporty (which wasn't really something that affected me since I hated anything that had to do with balls bouncing). I was, however, signed up for ballet classes and for a very long time practiced the art of dancing with grace and lightness. For years, I remember learning how to master the art of having a perfect and "always in place" hair bun, which required a whole lot of hairspray. I grew up listening to songs of composers with the hardest names to spell: Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Korsakov, Utsvolskaya and learning their names while girls who were raised to be sporty or athletic learned the names: Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman or if you're in a more "progressive" type of household, Sean Michaels, Steve "Stonecold" Austin or The Undertaker. 

While I do not think I missed out on a lot, since I really did love ballet (and theater was encouraged as a part of our curriculum in Grade School), I have to admit that I had such a hard time adjusting especially in the last years in Elementary and all throughout High School when sports were encouraged. Times usually enjoyed by my batch mates and peers such as the one week off from academic work for Intramurals, Physical Education for three whole hours and a week of military style training in our partner school in a province somewhere. Having studied in St. Scholastica's College urged girls to be feminists and forward thinking women as such was the directive of our School Director, Sr. Mary John Mananzan who is known for being a feminist-activist, being the Chairperson of Gabriela and establishing women-centered programs such as the Institute for Women's Studies, The Women Ecology and Wholeness Farm etc. It's not that I didn't believe in the whole ideology because I did and believe that I still do (and yes, there were photos of me in the front page of newspapers holding a big sign during a noise barrage to fight for women's rights, and very unflattering ones at that). It was just that I didn't adhere to that extremist way of thinking that to be a feminist, you must be able to do the things men do better than they do or that you should put men down, so as to prove your sex to be supreme. I don't think I have to put down a man, be the one to wear the pants in the relationship and call all the shots and feel good about it because I was able to do so. More so, I am not the type of person who would engage in a major fight over a comment most people make in the Philippines when it comes to sucky drivers, ie. "babae kasi yung nag-dri-drive." I do think it is pointless because 75% of the time, it is really a woman driving (again, I am not saying women are not good drivers) and more importantly, experiencing traffic in Metro Manila is already bad enough, being sensitive and affected by a comment and picking a fight while stuck in traffic will only make things worse. I guess in many ways, I tend to see things in a different way.

I often get a lot of flack for having graduated Summa Cum Laude from DLSU and choosing to be a fashion designer, blogger and brandowner. Most people would say I have decided to fall into the stereotype as I didn't entertain getting a corporate job because based on experience, it just didn't appeal to me at all. I do not understand what is wrong with being in fashion... perhaps because it was so cliche and expected of a woman to be in that field? Or is it because having garnered academic achievements, I was expected to be all suited up...power-dressing because I needed to remind people of how powerful I am and how I can take things like a man. I mean, I think I have to agree with Anne Jardim, when she said, "The ceiling isn't glass, it is a very dense layer of men" and with a side note because I think a sad as it sounds, sometimes, it is composed of women too. Inevitably, I have to ask: who invented the idea of the glass ceiling anyway? We were supposed to see through it... but we could never penetrate it- right? Hmm. Do we really see through it? Are we really privy to what is actually going on at the highest levels of business and politics in our world? I highly doubt it. But then, I have to raise a more important question: Do we want to be?

I guess I have come to define feminism like how Nancy Reagan put it: "Feminism is the ability to choose what you want to do." I have to say with all confidence that personally, I find a great sense of empowerment in choosing what I want to do and actually getting to do it.  After I graduated I started entertaining questions such as: Am I prepared to take on the responsibility to make the decisions that affect myself and the world around me on a daily basis? Or am I just going to keep as busy as I can be so I don't have to answer or even consider the hard places? Would I rather stay dumb, irresponsible, and grumble? I didn't think so. I knew that I want a future. I want a future for my family. And that I do care about the decisions being made above the glass ceiling. At some point, I think, we strong, beautiful, caring, intelligent, and brave women need to take a step back and see what our doing too much is keeping us from not doing... We may be shocked. 

It is interesting how certain terms go out of style in our culture- feminism, addictions, liberalism- yet the concepts and the social ills behind them still stubbornly persist. In fact, they may persist even more strongly without the consciousness of the label. I guess that instead of looking down our noses at the women who bore the labels, we might want to take a minute and thank them for the work they did for us so that we have the possibility to be head honchos of major companies, and see if women can make a change or to make choices for our lives, for the future generations, our creativity and our strong beliefs. As Sandra O'connor said, "Young women today often feel very little appreciation for the real battles that took place to get women where they are today." It never hurt anyone to say "thank you" to those who have given us presents, opportunities such as these and I guess the real way to show our appreciation is to not take these gifts for granted, to know that to fully accept who we are as women, we should have the ability to choose to do what we want to do...and also, we should also have the ability and the respect for what other women choose what they want to do. 

I guess in many ways, that applies to what I am wearing in this post as I am sure a lot of brows were raised after seeing me in this outfit. I am sure questions were raised such as, "What was she thinking?" or "There she goes again with being over the top..." or perhaps something more concise: "WTF?" While I did know I will get some flack for this outfit, I decided not to care what other things and practice my ability to choose to do what I want to do and wear what I wanted to wear. In so many ways, it is also a tribute to me, in all my childlike innocence... because here I am, in ruffles, silk, lace, organza and tulle...and wearing it proudly at that. I am still a ballerina at heart: slowly going through slow enfolding movements in adagio (a ballet term) which means "at ease, with great fluidity and grace," To be able to deal with life and its fast-paced craziness in allegro which is applied to fast, brisk movements (like those ever present in life) with smoothness and lightness. To be able to do the chasse  which is to literally to chase... after my dreams and glide on my way to achieve them. To be able to allow myself to tombe which means the act of allowing oneself to free fall, which is usually how things begin. I am able to plie through the bad things, which literally means to bend...and not break. To be able to coupe or to cut my losses, which in full meaning, is both a step and an action. And of course to eleve: to rise when the occasion calls for it and finally to releve: to be lifted, to rise to any position when the time calls for it... to balance on the top of my toes, with one of both feet to support me and rise higher and higher with every day that I am given the chance. In so many ways, it seems that ballet has trained me to apply every position in dance and more so, in life. This is why I am in this black lace and tulle dress, which in every way I must say screams: ballet costume. I know I am not a prima ballerina in any way, but I am dancing through life and celebrating myself. That and the fact that I chose to wear this outfit, is reason enough for me and now that I have scratched the surface of how it is to live and be uncompromisingly who I am... and I am no longer dreading wearing these dresses and nobody even has to force me to anymore.

Black Tulle with Lace Sleeveless Backless Dress with Ruffled Tulle Skirt: Gold Couture | Opaque Black Tights: Topshop | 2.55 Caviar Quilted Bag with Gold Hardware: Chanel | Jewelry: My Collection | Hair Snowflake Bling: Euphoria Hair Accessories at Etsy.com 

Hair Extensions tied to achieve a fuller bun: STYLD. Hair Extensions
Hair and Makeup: Ms. Klick Victoria

xx, JL

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