Updated: Jul 31, 2020
In this feature article, we talked to Dr. Nathalie “Natsy” Africa-Verceles, also known in the Instagram universe as @feminatsy, and she shared how she became a feminist, her opinion on how sexism manifests in the workplace, and tips for millennials who want to change sexist work environments.
We first saw Dr. Natsy last March when we attended Spark Philippines’ Women Summit 2020. She was one of the panelists invited to give a talk on feminism. Dr. Natsy proceeded to give an insight on intersectional feminism and we were both in awe after she said her piece. What struck us most was her answer to one of the questions: that our common enemy is the patriarchy. While laughing, she also blurted, “Diyos ko, ilang milenya na ba?” (God, how many millennia has it been?)
In our interview, she first asked us how we came to be The Filipina Feminists. It was like talking to a big sister and asking for advice on how to be better feminists. At that point, our sense of nervousness and intimidation went down the drain.
The Feminist Destiny
Dr. Natsy told us that she is a believer of serendipity and signs. For her, it was a touch of destiny that led her to pursue gender studies and women empowerment not only as a movement but also as her profession.
Years before, she had the opportunity to go to a very poor province where she immersed herself with the people. She saw how poverty affected women in a distinct way. The women looked so burdened as they were stuck at home. That’s when she began to ask herself some questions.
Why is it that in poor communities, women seem like they carried the heaviest weight on their shoulders? Why are they stuck at homes and within their poor communities?
At the height of the Erap resign movement, Dr. Natsy put the pieces together in her mind - how corruption greatly contributed to poverty. Because of this, she was angry at the administration then and actively participated in rallies even while she was breastfeeding.
Luckily, she was able to bump into Dr. Claudio, who piqued her interest into joining the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (UP CWGS). Through her master’s degree in Women and Development and later on her doctorate in Social Development (both earned from UP Diliman), Dr. Natsy was able to put all her questions within a framework that helped her understand and help society better.
The Working Feminatsy
Currently, Dr. Natsy is the Director for the UP CWGS. Since June is the celebration of Pride Month, UP CWGS organized webinars and forums such as Constructing LGBTQI Narratives (in partnership with Feminist Media Lab) and On Being Queer (with BJ Pascual and Samantha Lee). They also launched DAKILA online learning platform with an initial session on Gender Responsive Psycho-social Support for Frontliners in Times of Disaster which was free of charge.
She is proud that, with UP as her workplace, there is no sexism. Given this, she always asks the question, “Is it possible to work in a place where you won’t experience sexism?” She easily recognizes that presently the answer is an obvious no for most women. Dr. Natsy points out that there are many ways in which people can use femininity and womanhood and take advantage of those parts of a person.
Some women are preyed upon and are subject to sexual innuendos. Even with the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act or RA 7877 that clearly states which actions qualify as sexual harassment, most of us are reluctant to report to authorized officers. Due to fear of being invalidated, the scandal and gossip, and possible backfire, it gets hard to even talk about these things out in the open.
If the sexual perpetrator is a client, you would need to take extra care on how to draw the line. If you call out your client, you might lose that account. If the sexual perpetrator is your own boss who has already built up their reputation, it’s scary to rock the boat and tell your story especially if you’re a younger employee.
In companies, there are hierarchies in place and these hierarchies also involve gender play. Dr. Natsy also pointed out that sexism is not exclusive in the Philippines. Even Western countries have their own share in the sexism pie.
Feminist Tips from Feminatsy
We were able to talk further as Dr. Natsy shared some of her tips when dealing with sexism in the workplace. We shared with her our own experiences as well and even if it was just a virtual interview, we both felt the care from her. She truly understood what it meant to be on the other end of sexism.
She explained further how sexism is really systemic. Dr. Natsy gave us the #realtalk when she said, “Just because you’re a woman, you’ll always be vulnerable to gender-based violence.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.”
If you’re already a feminist which means you believe that men and women should be equals, Dr. Natsy has some tips for you.
If you want to fight sexism in the workplace, you have to face the consequences. It can really backfire. It’s a real risk you have to take.
Be very vocal when you can. Have the confidence to call it out when you see it.
If you’re an employer, put in place mechanisms and policies to protect employees, not just for women but for LGBTQIA+ folks as well.
Be part of changing company cultures. Sexism is systemic; part of the work should start with the leaders.
Diving in this interview, we thought we would just be getting answers to questions related to The WORK Issue but we got so much more than that. It also became a mentoring session as Dr. Natsy encouraged us, “‘Wag kayong bibitw ha.” She listened to our worries and fears as millennial feminists. When we asked who was her favorite feminist icon was, her answer surprised the both of us.
“I had to think about this but there is not one person...It diminishes the collective nature of the feminist movement in the Philippines [if I singled out one person]. Every single Filipinx feminist should be valued for what they do because it’s hard.”
For our beloved Dr. Natsy, not thinking about the collective action or highlighting “icons” so much would diminish the work of others. She goes on to say, “What about the women in the [minority] communities? Women are not homogenous. What about grassroots women? Are they not doing work that’s as important?”
Thank you, Dr. Natsy, for the wise and kind words and for sharing with us your time. To be honest, this is our first time to meet a feminist from a different generation and we were glad we took a shot with this. We definitely learned a lot and are inspired to promote feminism that’s grounded in recognizing intersections.
This post is sponsored by Simula PH.