This exhibit is proof that women did not sit silently during WW2
Ayala Museum’s "Women and War" exhibit shows the active wartime roles women took on
Mar 7, 2019
What did women do during the war?
Unless you already have a vested interest in this point in Philippine history (or women’s part in the country’s history as a whole), I’m betting that you don’t have an answer to that question. “They were busy…being victims of war?” might be your closest guess. I don’t blame you.
Even though many women took on very visible and active roles during the second world war (and really, all the wars our country took part in), Philippine history still follows a male narrative. And this narrative eithers make a woman invisible or, when it isn’t able to push her out, treats her as a laudable exception. In order to push the idea of war as a man’s game, history occludes the stories of the very real women that existed.
View this post on Instagram
⚠️ Extended until March 10! ⚠️ Did you know that during WWII, the responsibility of keeping the economy alive fell on women? Women have been tilling the land since before, but even more so during the war when they were left to tend to their family’s farms and made to work in Japanese-ran plantations. Women & War by @filipinasheritagelibrary #NowOnShow
Which is why the Ayala Museum has stepped up to show the diverse wartime roles women played with their “Women & War” exhibit. Under their Filipinas Heritage Library wing, “Women & War” looks into the woman’s role as farmer and as warrior. And in the case of the comfort women, also shows her as a survivor of systematic rape.
My second bet: when you hear about women helping out during the war, did you immediately imagine homely women spinning a spindle, making uniforms for the male soldiers? Not to demean the women who did end up taking on typically feminine duties, but women took on many roles, some of them more typically masculine.
View this post on Instagram
#Repost @ayalamuseum #WomenAndWar • • • • • We have a new free exhibit with the @filipinasheritagelibrary entitled, Women And War. An exhibit that focuses on what Filipinas had to do, endure, and overcome during WWII. In every war, women are also at war, and are in fact in the frontline. #NowOnShow until 3 March 2019
Did you know that there were female troops? The Women’s Auxiliary Service was founded and headed by Josefa Capistrano, and she personally oversaw the training of women as soldiers, medics, and other important roles to help the war efforts. What about rebel fighters? When the Japanese occupation started, film actress Carmen Rosales quickly joined the Huk rebellion and herself became an underground rebel soldier, one of the many women that took up arms to quietly fight tyranny.
And because women are made invisible by history, the horrors of war that they face are also silenced by history. Or if not silenced, then sanitized. The Japanese soldiers abducted and raped women, calling them comfort women—an incredibly cruel term that mocks the rape that took place. These women were sex slaves, rape victims. Even now, comfort women are not given the respect that they are owed: The acknowledgment that the rape happened.
It’s easy to forget what our women went through during WWII at the hands of Japanese soldiers, but we shouldn’t.
This is the Song of the Malaya Lolas, a song recounting the terrors these women had to endure. pic.twitter.com/iRBzVPNUve
— Ayala Museum (@ayalamuseum) March 1, 2019
Hideko Mitui highlighted in her journal article “The politics of national atonement and narrations of war” that the language used in the Japanese-set up fund for the comfort women emphasized the plight of the survivors while erasing the soldiers who raped them. According to her analysis, the language showed that war, which everyone suffered from, was what raped the comfort women, not the soldiers. This shows that we still have a long way to go in making the women’s shared plight known.
If you want to learn more about the narratives of women during World War 2, you can drop by the “Women & War” exhibit until Mar. 10. Admission is free.
Photos courtesy of Ayala Museum
Get more stories like this by subscribing to our newsletter here.
Read more by Zofiya Acosta:
Not convinced about climate change? Watch this documentary
Ruins of San Ignacio Church in Intramuros now a museum
More than 20 heritage churches in Pampanga damaged by earthquake
To all the books we haven’t read, yet are already on our bookshelves
EDSA shrine now an important cultural property