Microaggression and the Filipino women

Published April 26, 2021, 12:00 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

Avon’s #LetHerBe campaign sheds light on this important issue that hinders women from achieving their full potential

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK Seemingly harmless jokes or comments called microaggressions have long term psychological effects (Pexels)

“Bakit wala kang boobs (Why are you a flat chested)?”

“Bakit wala kang boyfriend (Why are you single)?”

These are just some of unsolicited thoughts and questions Filipina women are dealing with on a regular basis, whether from friends, families, or even acquaintances.

Microaggression and its long-term effects

For some, it’s nothing or it’s harmless, but studies say otherwise. Unknown to many, these seemingly innocuous comments are called microaggression, “indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group,” as defined by the Oxford Language.

According to the study conducted by the University of Edinburgh, microaggression could lead to loss of self-esteem, damage to the ability to thrive in an environment, mistrust of peers, staff, and the institution, and decreased participation and ability to study. In extreme cases, it can even cause students to drop out of school or workers to quit the company.

‘Gender microaggressions usually fly under the radar, given how these are often treated as seemingly harmless jabs. But repeated over time, gender microaggressions can pile up and affect a person’s sense of self and identity.’

In the Philippines, the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report shows that Filipinas now outnumber men in senior and leadership roles at work, as well as in professional and technical fields. There are also more women than men enrolled in higher education. What’s more, the female population has better health with an average life expectancy that is five years longer than that of the male population. Nevertheless, Filipinas are still dealing with microaggressions, hindering them from achieving their full potential.

The #LetHerBe campaign

#LETHERBE The campaign by the award-winning beauty brand discusses microaggressions to women

To shed light on the issue, Avon has launched its #LetHerBe campaign. In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Avon’s marketing director Anna Garces shares the importance of supporting this campaign.

“Gender microaggressions take many forms. These include microinvalidations, which dismiss a person’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions simply on the basis of gender (e.g. ‘Ang babae, dapat ’di maingay.’), microinsults, which are subtle jabs that belittle a person’s gender (e.g. ‘Sayang ang ganda mo pag wala kang boyfriend!’), and microassaults, which are a blatant display of sexism (e.g. ‘Ba’t wala kang boobs?’),” she explains. “Gender microaggressions usually fly under the radar, given how these are often treated as seemingly harmless jabs. But repeated over time, gender microaggressions can pile up and affect a person’s sense of self and identity.”

To educate people about this, the company has dropped the #LetHerBe campaign through a powerful video, featuring empowered women from different walks of life.

“In the pursuit of creating a better world for women, much has been said to remind women of their strength and potential. It’s no longer a question of whether women can do it, because we already know they can,” Anna says. “This time, we want to shift the focus on the societal pressures that hold women back. We want to shed light on gender microaggressions, because these are so ingrained in our culture that they often go unchecked.”

Women should fight

When asked what women can do to end this, Anna emphasized the importance of speaking up. “Speak out. Call out the abrasive behavior,” she says. “People who commit gender microaggressions often do so without being aware, so we need to let it be known that this behavior will no longer be tolerated. Every time we speak out, we chip away at the outdated norms that hold women back.”

Aside from rolling out this new campaign, the company also runs the #SpeakOut program that encourages women to fight against gender-based violence. Avon is also raising funds to support different women organizations. On top of these, the company is continuously producing inclusive products that cater to the needs of women across ages, such as intimate apparel.

“Avon believes in personal growth. Every person can work toward becoming a better version of themselves, versions that can outgrow outdated cultural norms that enable microaggressions,” Anna says. “We can all grow into mature, progressive individuals that treat women with respect. We have so much proof that women are capable of making great things happen. We just simply have to #LetHerBe.”