Australia has a long-standing history of feminism. It was the second country in the world that allowed women the right to vote. It had a female prime minister. It offers federally-funded childcare. Compared to many countries, its approach to gender equality is very progressive.
But it’s not all rosy.
Historically, many of the country’s advances towards gender equality have excluded women of colour.
Even in 2020, the concept of intersectional feminism is not widely understood or accepted. That is, the notion that true feminism should create space for female-identifying people of diverse backgrounds.
The Entree.Pinays’ co-founder and culinary curator Grace Guinto knows this struggle well.
Throughout her time in the professional services industry, there were plenty of opportunities to attend female leadership seminars, yet they always left her feeling empty.
“I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, talked like me, had a migrant story like mine,” said Guinto.
She was just one year old when her family moved to Australia from the Philippines. Despite being raised here, going to school here, and learning to speak here, Guinto remained deeply connected to her Filipino heritage. It’s what led Fides Santos-Arguelles, The Entree.Pinays’ other co-founder and marketing and partnerships lead, to reach out to Guinto on Instagram.
After seeing the way that Guinto celebrated her Filipino heritage, and specifically her mum’s recipes, Santos-Arguelles was inspired to collaborate.
Over the course of several shared meals and drinks, Guinto and Santos-Arguelles developed the idea for a food-focused sisterhood called The Entree.Pinays – it’s derived from the English word entree and the Tagalog word pinay, meaning female Filipina.
The collective officially launched in August 2018 and eventually grew to also include Felis Sarcepuedes, head of community-building; Kristina Náray, culinary curator; Sandra Tan, media manager; and Maysie Lecciones, photographer and visual designer.
Filipino fare is the foundation of the initiative and the focus of most of The Entree.Pinays’ events, which have spanned from vegan degustations to communal kamayan feasts to food documentary screenings and meals aligned with Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – but it doesn’t end there.
“Food is the call to action to engage and to attract and to build conversation,” said Santos-Arguelle.
It’s essentially an accessible way to reach those who might otherwise be unaware of or uninterested in Filipino culture, some of which are Filipino themselves.
Despite the nearly 300,000 Filipinos living in Australia, their country’s cuisine is not well represented here. Guinto suggests that may be due to lack of pride, which is one of the topics The Entree.Pinays hope to address through their events.
“If we don’t value our culture ourselves, how can we expect others outside of our community to value it as well?” said Guinto.
By creating a platform for women of colour, The Entree.Pinays are helping shift this narrative, applying a western diaspora experience to Filipino culture and being the Australian Filipina representation that they never had growing up.
“For a Filipino to see a Filipino event aligned with one of Melbourne’s best food and wine events, it gives them the confidence to do more,” said Guinto.
Supporting other women on their professional and creative journeys is integral to Guinto and Santos-Arguelles’ ethos.
While wary of expanding their team of pinays beyond its six core members, the women built a second collective called Sari Sari Sisterhood which aims to engage those outside the food and hospitality space and highlight their ventures, entrepreneurial or otherwise.
“When we started, we weren’t thinking about sustainable livelihood or social enterprise or indigenous communities, but a lot of that has just evolved through the conversations,” said Santos-Arguelles.
She and Guinto take pride in the fact that both The Entree.Pinays and Sari Sari Sisterhood are Filipina-led and focused, but do not want to dilute the fact that they have allies of various gender and cultural identities. Their approach is intersectional, including males and non-Filipino supporters who can help shape and support their mission.
“We can’t do it ourselves,” said Santos-Arguelles. “We need a barrio of people, a neighbourhood. But for us, it’s also about what we can offer them.”