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The new Nescafe commercial really bothered me. It started out with a feel-good vibe focusing on the young mom and wife supposedly fulfilling a whole load of social roles (that are all happening within the domestic sphere by the way), and finally ending with a tagline that made me slap my forehead in dismay: “Ang pangarap ko ay matupad ang mga pangarap nila.” (The central female figure in the ad of course said this as she watched her entire family go off to school and work while she stayed behind to tend to household matters.)

I looked down on the cup of coffee I was savouring up until that unfortunate moment when the implications imbedded in the tagline hit me. I put the coffee down with a weary shake of my head and proceeded to take the commercial apart in my mind.

Unfortunately, since the Spanish period, women in the Philippine society have been assigned specific roles, behaviours, functions and even way of thinking that are deemed to be acceptable within standard norms. If the woman would delineate from these “pre-ordained” social roles and behaviour, then she would be branded as a “bad”, “bitchy”, “eccentric”, “zany” or even as an “immoral” woman who should be shunned and ostracized. This is the harsh reality that women had to live by.

However, the modern period and especially the rise of Feminism have somewhat alleviated the female condition. Finally, women began to fight for their rights and little by little society began to recognize the inherent rights of women to decide for themselves, to vote, to engage in intellectual discourses, to be heard and to assert what they want to happen in their lives. Yet, we still need to ask the question: have women truly come of age as a social group, or are they enjoying these so-called “liberties” because the world they live in has “allowed” them to do so?

Women only have to look around them in order to realize that they still live in a society that is still male-dominated, and yes, women were given “freedom” (can we really call it that?) but only to a certain extent. It is through subtle manipulation that women are still being “socialized” into accepting and fulfilling the roles assigned to them since time immemorial. The Nescafe commercial is an example of how this is still happening today. Analyze the latent message behind this ad and you will see that it is telling women that their sole purpose in life is to live for their family and to serve their family, for it is only by doing this that a woman would find fulfilment as an individual. “My dream is the realization of their dreams.” (Ang pangarap ko ay matupad ang mga pangarap nila .) Were women not individuals first before they became mothers and wives? What of their own dreams before they got married? Are they expected to become domestic slaves, foregoing their individuality and their dreams? Does society expect them to sacrifice their hopes for the stability of the family without even as much demanding the same commitment from men? Where is the equality in this? Where is the recognition of the rights of women? And why is this thought being promulgated?

It is all right to become a mother and a wife, there is nothing wrong with that, but there is more to a woman than just being a wife or being a mother. As women, our lives don’t just revolve around these two facets of our existence. People must remember — we are our own being, we have our own dreams, we have our own aspirations; and yes our families can make us happy, but they are not the sole source of our happiness. We should not be imprisoned within the confines of domestic “bliss” and “satisfaction” that ads like Nescafe is propagating. Simone De Beauvoir is right when she said that we should transcend; we must go beyond the roles that have been given to us; we must challenge ourselves to become better individuals, simply because we are women — we live, we love, we laugh — and most of all — we think.