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Thursday, March 14, 2024

Filipina YouTube Creators: Pioneering Inspiration and Breaking Barriers Online and Beyond


Working together and showing up for one another—that’s the key thing to remember for women trying to break barriers in both the digital space and the real world.

 

It’s the consensus reached in this year’s Breaking Barriers Online and Beyond, the third edition of Google’s Women’s Month celebration that honors the strength, power, and courage of women content creators on YouTube.

 

Hosted by stand-up comedian Issa Villaverde, this year’s event featured award-winning journalist Jacque Manabat, dermatologist Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas, celebrity dentist Dr. Shideh Nikbin, fitness coach Anne Aniag, tech creator and reviewer Isa Rodriguez, and entrepreneur Rizza Lana-Sebastian, all of whom have established their own channels and made a name for themselves on YouTube.

 

One of the biggest takeaways from the event was the necessity of representation both as women content creators proud to be authentically themselves, and women speaking up and using their real expertise in their respective fields, especially on a global and accessible platform such as YouTube. 

L-R: Issa Villaverde, Dr. Shideh NikbinRizza Lana-SebastianCoach Anne AniagJacque ManabatIsa RodriguezDr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas

 


“When I first started, I was like a headless chicken running around because I didn’t know what I was doing,” shared Rodriguez, who has a popular tech channel on YouTube called Isa does tech. “But I got an email from a journalist in Malaysia saying she found me, and at that moment, I realized that by showing up every day, that in itself is a message: I’m here, I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do it the way I want.”

 

This was the same realization that Manabat—who pivoted to online journalism by starting a personal YouTube channel after a long career in TV—came to.

 

“When I saw YouTube, I saw that it encouraged authenticity and emotions. Media literacy and women empowerment are my advocacies, and I was inspired by those who champion it online,” she said. “If they could do it, if they could inform and educate those watching on YouTube, then maybe journalists can break the stereotype barrier. So when you see my YouTube content, I show emotions, I am me, and I am more approachable and relatable, because I believe you should be where the audience is.”


Nikbin agrees with how YouTube pushes genuine authenticity. She had faced a bigger challenge by not just being a woman, but also being part of the LGBTQ+ community in a public same-sex relationship, which she fearlessly features on her YouTube channel Dr. Glam

 

“YouTube was a great platform for me, especially the way I was raised—you’re a doctor, businesswoman, professional, you have to look like this. I was doing it, but there was a fear in me that a lot of people weren’t aware of it, and YouTube was a platform for me to overcome that fear by sharing it with others,” she said. “I realized that there were a lot of people on YouTube who were true to themselves, and that inspired me.”

 

It’s the presence of other people that can really be a big push for those figuring out how to get started. “What I really learned in my journey as a YouTube creator is that you should never be afraid to ask people for help,” agreed Robredo-Vitas, who started her YouTube channel in 2019 to make the science of skincare and skin health as accessible to as many people as possible. 

 

“I really started with a lot of self-doubt. I had a lot of great ideas, but then I kept thinking, I couldn’t do this. But then I learned that you can’t do it all on your own.” 

 

The harsh reality women still face

This particular brand of bravery also fights back at a world that feels it’s necessary to pit women against one another, when what’s needed most is collaboration and support. 

 

“For me, it’s about human empowerment, regardless of whatever gender you identify as,” said Lana-Sebastian, who shares about her life, travels, and work on her self-titled YouTube channel and brought her experiences as an owner of multiple successful businesses to the event. “We all just want to live and thrive. Can we stop pitting women against each other?”

 

Such a mindset is still the product of internalized bias against women, which also manifests itself as outright misogyny in many online spaces. The relative anonymity and great freedom of speech granted by the internet remains a major barrier that works against women in varying degrees.

 

“I get so many comments on my videos about my appearance and relationships from men,’” shared an emotional Manabat. “That usually affects how we tell the stories, it could also erode our credibility if they see that narrative. If men see other men who are more misogynistic, they’ll think, ‘Oh, we can say these things!’”

 

The misogyny also makes it easier and more commonplace for people—not just men—to downplay women’s expertise. “I also get that in my field. For example, I’ll teach an exercise in a video. A lot of people will question my credibility, asking if I know what I’m teaching,” says Aniag, who helps teach and empower moms how to get and stay fit on her channel Fitmomproject PH

 

“Not only that, they’ll tell me women are not supposed to have a lot of muscles. But muscles are sexy, and the reason why I have muscles is because I want to be able to lift my kids and carry my groceries!”

 

But despite the seemingly permanent presence of discrimination and bias, the speakers agreed that the only way up is through—by fighting using their natural talents and keeping their heads above water.

 

“You have to develop a tough skin for that, but also know that just by being great at your craft, it shows them that their discrimination isn’t true.  You think you wouldn’t be respected in such a space, but you’re a breath of fresh air,” said Villaverde, who also shared her experiences as a queer stand-up comedian in a predominantly male scene.

 

And to sum up the state of the women experience in 2024, Villaverde also has a winning piece of advice for all the women who regularly face adversity: “I think it starts with being self-assured. If you are affected by an insult, it means part of you believes it’s true. If you believe it, it will hurt you. If you don’t, it will just bounce off of you.”

 

To learn more about how the company supports women and other advocacies, follow the official Google Philippines YouTube channel and Facebook page.

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