Reactor Miss Anezka Kirsten Tan

3.Anezka Kirsten Tan

In the beginning, there was light. After a while, Plato arrived and made his theory on soulmates. To him, human beings used to be androgynous which meant we had four hands, four feet, and two heads. We moved so fast as we move by cartwheeling, which I am supremely jealous of. I mean, how cool is that, and we were deemed too powerful that the gods felt threatened. To weaken us, they decided to tear us apart into two separate humans. Under this philosophy of Plato, humans longed for their other half, so they would throw their arms around each other, weave themselves together, want to grow together – because they wanted to feel whole again.

Sisters, parents, faculty and staff, and fellow audience, good afternoon.

It would probably be very contradicting to start a speech off with a philosophy when this should be religious or talk about dependence when the topic is empowerment. No matter how ironic this is, this is often what we have in life - the irony of wanting to be alone without feeling lonely or wanting to swim without getting soaked. Life is filled with ironies and one of them is that even if God took Adam’s rib to create Eve to showcase equality, it still is not happening today. Using the only part that had not been separated from Plato’s philosophy, our fingers, I will give you 5 steps on encouraging the full participation of women and girls in education.

Raise your pointer finger up and there you have it. The number one reason.

This actually symbolizes a lot of things, but not the ones that have to do with your nose and picking something. Firstly, the index finger represents to lead or direct which can also be defined as dominance. The idea of male dominance has been propagated the moment you are born. In fact, UN World Report on Violence Against Children conducted among 1,000 women in India revealed that infanticide was the cause of 41% of deaths among newborn girls. Worldwide, 15 million of girls - mainly those living in poverty - will never set foot in a classroom, compared to 10 million boys. This stems from pre-existing stereotypes that women stay at home anyways, so why bother? Because of this, in times of crisis or poverty, girls are usually the first ones forced to drop out of school. This perpetuates a lot about how even until today, there is always that underlying meaning of strength for males. Gender hierarchy is an evil, and as followers of Christ, we are called to fight this sin in ourselves and in our world as it increases the vulnerability of women. Without education, the lines between love and dominance, service and submission are blurred, especially if we are so far past it that it seems normal.

This leads me to my second definition which would be that this (raise finger) means asking questions regarding the stereotypes perpetuating in society. More often than not, people don’t ask the important questions not out of fear, but out of apathy that these realities are caused by social constructs dictated to us by a society that we made. We don’t ask questions like, why can he go out at night, but she can’t? Why does she need a man to complete her? Why should I want to get married or even have kids? However, this is true to men as well, as they question: Why am I not allowed to cry? Why is it that being called “girly” offends me? Why should I be good at sports or even know how to fix a car? Why should I not punch a girl? By the way, the answer to that last bit is that you should not punch anyone in general. We may not have all the answers to the questions we pose, but it is important to have that inquisitive nature with scrutiny, regardless of age, in order to actually stimulate change.

Put your middle finger up not alone okay, and there you have your second reason. The meaning to this sign is peace. I bet that you would be thinking – girls? Peaceful? It almost seems impossible. We see #MeToo movements, rallies for rights, we think of aggressive feminists or your moms with their famous brooms or tsinelas hunting you down for not doing chores. What I am trying to state here is that peace is chaotic. Education helps in propagating chaotic peace because women who have remained uneducated due to the lack of access to education are more prone to experience and accept domestic abuse and lower levels of psychological well-being because they believe that they are not worthy. Through education, much needed alternatives, affirmative actions, complex legislations, and so much more can be processed and accessed by these women and utilized to its full extent. If you can find peace right here and right now, that is not peace because you are blindsided by the hope of peace or maybe privileged to believe that everything is fine now. We have to break the fourth wall, in an author’s metaphor, to see the reality of what lies ahead. Compliance and Complacency is not the answer

Raise your ring finger up with the rest, and if you like it, you don’t have to put a ring on it. Number 3: this represents a promise that it will never be the same, but you may be asking, what can we do? Education is such an important segment in this aspect because how you teach your students often implicates how they are going to grow up. We often hear the stereotypical creepy old guy who preys on young girls, and though this is not always true based on statistics, we have to remember that this old man was once a young boy seeing the enactment of ideas that had been supported by peers and unbeknownst to the educative community. Make a promise to yourself to become the ray of light that streams through a darkened room for everyone to clearly see the truth of equality. What do I mean by this? To nuance this to the Bible, let’s play a quick game. In 10 seconds, name 5 great women of the Bible whose main purpose was not simply to give birth or become wives or mothers of the great men in the Bible, excluding parables (10 seconds).

In the Bible, the famous women would be Eve who seduced Adam or Delilah who lured Samson to his fall after bewitching him. And they claim men are the only players in the game huh. I think this lack of representation is stemmed from the integration of the patriarchal communities writers lived in, but it is different now. We cannot change the past, but we can change how we interpret it. There needs to be more discussion on Deborah, the only female judge/prophetess present in the Bible or Ruth and Naomi who are symbols of abiding loyalty and devotion. Maybe we can talk about the woman at the well, the first Samaritan evangelist to know the true identity of Jesus, or even Mary Magdalene and her powerful story of redemption from washing His feet with her hair, staying with Jesus until His crucifixion, and one of the first witnesses and believers to His resurrection. In order to respect everyone equally, you have to concede that inequality does exist and make an active effort towards it. We can totally exonerate ourselves from being apprehensive to change, but the real adversity is when we, ourselves, fear the change.

Raise that little finger up, and there it is. Number 4: in sports events, this represents final quarter of a game to identify the victor. This represents the urgency of this problem. 70% of women still receive sexual harassment. 35% have experienced physical and sexual violence with women of marginalized communities taking the worst toll. The calls to helplines have turned into a five-fold for intimate partner violence during this time of pandemic. 137 women get killed by their own families or significant others every day. We must put an end to this not only for women, but for men too. 1 in 33 men admitted to being raped, but most of these reports go down the drain because they are supposed to “be a man.” You are telling young boys that this violence is accepted because they should have the ability to fight back just because they are boys.

When did society become so heartbreaking? As a student, as a teen, as a person, I do not want to grow up in a society that will tell me what to wear so that I would not get raped, that will tell me I have to get married before 30, and that will tell me that it is okay to be sensitive and weak just because I am a girl. What kind of world are you putting us into?

Five, STOP. Stop these patriarchal thoughts from entering your mind, and extinguish old ones. STOP other people from doing the same by calling them out, telling them what they are saying is wrong, and please please, if you cannot do it for the whole world because you do not believe that it would make an impact, do it for your daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives who are told that they are not at par with men. Do it for your sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands who feel that their emotions have to be concealed. Save the next person from getting violated, killed, or abused by increasing the access to education these women have. Teach girls and boys about consent and meaningful relationships. There is nothing greater than discourse on pressing social issues, but you can still do so much more. You all have the opportunity to participate and change the stigma. If you can stop one child from belittling someone else based on their sex, you can change their whole world. The educative community is a family that molds its students to know the inequalities that exist in society and make an active effort to stimulate change.

And maybe, someday, much like Plato’s philosophy, we would throw our arms around each other, weave ourselves together and want to grow together not because we want to feel whole through the existence of another, but because all of us as a collective whole, form to create an epitome of truth and excellence, where all of us unite in the four pillars where forgiveness is shared, evil is expelled, love is propagated, and justice is served at the cross of Jesus Christ.