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.