Dekada 70 and Women

While cleaning my room today (ok fine, while attempting a.k.a. planning/looking around and deciding I should clean but then came up with an excuse not to do it) I came across one of my history books, “The History of the Filipino People” by Agoncillo. For some weird reason, just looking at the book gave me the urge to watch a Filipino movie. I gave  in to the urge and settled with Dekada 70. I went for the movie not because I’m a Vilamanian (Vilamasian?) but because it was the fastest to stream (God bless the generous souls who post free movies on the net).

Anyway, the movie Dekada 70 is an adaptation of a novel with a similar title by Lualhati Bautista. The setting is in the 70’s during martial law and is a portrayal of the times as seen through the eyes of its main character, Amanda. Amanda is a middle class housewife with five sons. The movie shows the things that occurred in Amanda’s family with the Marcos’ regime as a background for the conflicts happening within her household.

 In the movie, one can see that the gender roles and division of labor has been divided between men and women and that it’s a big NO to try and cross the said division and take on the roles which are supposed to be for the other gender.

Take for example the scene wherein Amanda’s husband and his friends are discussing a book: the moment Amanda contributed an opinion concerning the said author of the book there is instant silence. An awkward silence which is tantamount to the men expressing their surprise and outrage that a woman would know about said book and would go as far as to comment about it.

There was also an instance when Amanda asked her husband if it were all right for her to work. Her husband becomes angry and asks her why she would need to work when he was able to provide for them. He then leaves in a huff after a tirade following the question. The scene can be interpreted as the man not angry because he thinks that he can’t provide for his family but as the man is angry because his wife, a woman, someone lower than him in their society, would have the audacity to compete with him in the financial world to earn a living. The scene makes one wonder at the husband’s reaction: why does he not want Amanda to work? Is it because he thinks people will think that he is not able to provide for his family or is it because he is afraid that his wife would surpass him in her work and might bring home a higher salary?

 In the movie, I’ve also noticed that only the women enter the kitchen, and are seen doing chores. The men on the other hand are always outside and should they have scenes inside the house, the scenes would be either be in the bedroom, dinning room or living room. This can be seen that during this time  (or perhaps until now) men were not expected to play a big role in the home and in the family. As long as the father provides financially for the family and teaches his boys sports and about sex then he is already a good father. The mother on the other hand must take care of the home, facilitate the maid, fix the meals, worry about the children and keep an eye on their moral upbringing.

 Amanda was both a mother and wife (in this order) and she had to play a difficult dual role not made easy by the fact that she lived in a time of great turmoil. It was difficult for her to stay at home and wait for things to happen around her because she was a strong woman forced into a role of docility. Most of the time she felt out of place when her family conversed because she was the only woman in her family. As a mother she had to deal with sons who did not deem it necessary to confide everything to her, only coming to her when they were in dire straits. Yet she dealt with them all in a manner wherein everything ended up all right for them, even if it wasn’t for her. As a wife, Amanda had to deal with the demands of her husband. Her husband was a man who did not think it necessary for a woman to have her own opinion or believed that a woman ‘s self worth could not just be based on her family. Despite everything, Amanda was able to survive and at the end come to terms with her husband.

 The political situation of the time also was a factor to the shaping of gender roles. It was at this time that Martial Law was enacted and there were also the presence of the American military bases. Because of Martial Law, women became active participants in the fight against the Marcos regime. The role of women (particularly of the young) was slowing changing. Women were no longer confined to the home. Some took to the streets to march in protest, others going as far as to join the fighting in the mountains. Also, with the establishment of the military bases, women became a commodity. The Americans were looking for entertainment and a lot of “night clubs” sprang up near bases. In these “clubs” men could pick up prostitutes for a price. With this, the Filipino woman’s image was changed drastically from the Dalagang Pinay into the International Whore.

In my opinion, women’s role has changed since Dekada 70. Women of today are no longer constricted to the home. We are now allowed to voice our opinions and are not required to just stay quiet when men converse because what we say now has weight. The men of today would not dare to brag about their sexual conquests or future sexual conquests in front of women in fear of being made fun of. The woman of today, although not as free as she would want to be is still a lot better off than the women of Dekada 70.

Another realization that came to me after wathing the movie was that that there are so few movies out there that do justice to the books from which they were based on. Dekada 70 is one of those movies which will disapoint the novel’s readers. I should know, since I have had the good fortune to have been able to read the novel a couple of years back and I must say that the impressions the novel has left with me barely compares to the movie. In the novel, Amanda is given a voice, narrating the story. But rather than just narrating the novel, Amanda, on a side note gives out her opinion on certain matters and shown to be a philosophical woman, questioning the norms society imposes.

Take for example the scene in the movie wherein Amanda is cleaning and her husband calls her. She tells him that she is busy and despite the number of times her husband tells her to come up she ignores him. After she has finished with her chores she goes up to her husband and asks him why she was being called. Her husband replies with a huff that he has lost interest. The innuendo here is that her husband was horny and was wanting to have sex but did not say it outright and maybe Amanda got it, or maybe not, but when she comes up later her husband had already lost interest. In the novel while Amanda is doing the laundry her husband calls to her and tells her to go inside. When she asks why, her husband tells her to just come in because he was in the mood. She asks in the mood for what and he ends up irritated with her. After this scene, the readers are given a glimpse into Amanda’s mind. She asks herself the question why is, that when a husband is in the mood for sex, he assumes that his wife would cater to his mood? She also wonders why is it that it is only the man who is allowed to voice out his desire for coitus, but not a woman? She then wonders at how her husband would react should she be the one in the mood for coitus.

I suppose to some extent, the producers did try. But they dramatized the novel to an extent I did not like. Then again, not many people know about the book. Ironic that a Filipino writer only gains popularity when her/his book is made into a movie, even then some still do not become popular. A lot of Lualhati Bautista’s books have been made into movies, yet not many know about her.

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