1st anniversary of questioning misogyny in fisheries

Today is the 1st anniversary of the first post on womenandfish, and as it is June 8, it is also #worldoceansday .  Yesterday, I successfully made it through my thesis defense and presented my research to a room full of friends, family, and colleagues.  I answered a few great questions- one in particular I am still chewing on.

In response to my results (specifically those in the post Becoming butterflies) my buddy Raz asked, “Is the level of misogyny in Siquijor going to limit the ability of women to participate in fisheries management?”  The short answer is no, because while it may limit it today, it doesn’t have to limit it tomorrow.  Let’s continue with two examples.

1) In the field, I completed an interview with a female Bureau of Fisheries staff who thought it was incomprehensible that women could or should guard marine protected areas from poachers.  After I turned off the recorder, I told her about the women in Maite who approached violators on the beach day and night.  Her eyebrows raised, her eyes went big, and she said, “really?!” I think her opinion on what women can do changed in that moment, and a big window of opportunity flew open.

2) Also in the field, when I ended a presentation of my preliminary results, the group of 30+ was very quiet for a few moments.  And then a hand raised and a man asked, “So, do you think women make better project managers? Because that is also what I am beginning to observe in the mountains with land management.”  I explained that perhaps sometimes they do make better project managers, but I don’t mean to say that we should be excluding men from fisheries management.  Androgyny will not serve us any better than misogyny.  It is very likely that some of the fishermen in attendance were embarrassed by the quotes I had captured from them that were degrading to women.  Fishermen are half the story and I do not support pushing them aside.

These two examples illustrate that misogyny is not the end of the story, but only a moment in time.  Exposure to new things challenges and shapes our worldviews whether we are American or Filipino, highly educated or barely literate, woman or man.  As I have talked and written a lot about what the women in Maite had accomplished, it seemed that around the island, and even around the world, people are interested in the possibilities that women bring to the table of environmental management.  The exchange of information pokes holes in people’s perceptions of women.  I have seen that the consequences of sharing what I’ve learned is real, and it can have a positive impact not only on women’s well being but also on our planet ocean and our global village.  So let’s celebrate #worldoceansday by flinging open the windows of opportunity for women. Please share this story with a friend.

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Coming full circle with my results

This past year at U.W., I heard it repeated countless times that scientists don’t communicate well and don’t communicate enough with the public.  This blog has been my personal effort to buck that trend and to practice writing these “complex” ideas in a way that non-scientists can understand.  I also know that scientists learn ALOT while doing research that never gets shared with people, and that means nobody is empowered to do anything about it.  I think that if you are working in “action science” like me, your ultimate intention is to make the current situation better.  My goal is to improve marine conservation in the Philippines with this one little drop in the bucket, and the only way I can do that is by sharing my results with the people who have the institutional power and the capability to do conservation here.

Yesterday I presented my preliminary results to the CCE staff, and tomorrow I will present to the agriculture and fisheries government staff, as well as others involved in coastal resource management on Siquijor, including the presidents of sanctuaries.  There will be people from all over the island, not just from the communities where I worked.  While I don’t have any statistics and numbers to give them, and I haven’t finished transcribing all the interview recordings I have, in reality, I think most numbers bore people.  So my presentation is mostly concepts and stories of my observations, and ultimately, trying to showcase how these women are challenging our gender stereotypes and making the case that women need to be included intentionally in coastal resource management.

I have already spent 26 days on Siquijor Island gathering data and am about to spend one more week there.  The things I have learned here have really blown my mind… I had no proof of how women were participating in MPA management here, and very few ideas of what to expect.  A month ago, the best I hoped for was that maybe women were bringing coffee to men while men were up all night guarding the sanctuary… I am happy to say that the role women are playing is much, much more significant than that.  I have no incentive to keep my data secret like many scientists do- most of the funding for this research has come out of my savings, except a $500 grant from the Wendy Graham Fund through U.W.- so I will share it tomorrow and will continue sharing it with whoever wants to know (and probably some who don’t).  If what I share is useful or empowering to just one person, I have done what I set out to do.

Wish me luck and not-too-sweaty hands!

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