I'm not really an expert in the field of sexism. I never took a single unit in college that tackled the issue. Heck, I haven't even been in a sexual harassment seminar. Do they even offer those things in companies here? I'm not even entirely sure.
Sexism has been a focus here in the country thanks to the Liberal Party who decided to throw a little soiree here in Laguna. Apparently, the now ex-Chairman Tolentino was the culprit of the mess. Even though he and his allies have denied the allegation, the public backlash has resulted in his desire not to be included in the party's senatorial slate. This doesn't mean he's no longer running. He's just distancing the party from the scandal. Aside from that, a complaint has been filed against Tolentino by a group led by aspiring senator and attorney to the stars Lorna Kapunan.
But I ask though, was it really sexual exploitation as many claim? Don't get me wrong. I don't share the sentiments of Rep. Benjie Agarao who is just too damn hetero to see anything wrong with the performance. I'm just curious as to where do we draw the line?
Sexism and sexual exploitation has been a long-standing issue the Philippines. From the sex dens that sprouted near the US military bases to Jennifer Laude, it's been a constant issue. The underground market of prostitution has turned our country into a destination for sex tourists. There have also been reports and raids of internet-based sex violations. Aside from that, normal days are also littered with inappropriate remarks brought about by sexism. Even the revered field of medicine doesn't escape this reality.
People cried foul because they saw a woman being dragged around the stage by a man. Of course, Gabriela got into the fray. Netizens were pissed and could not understand how a show where a man walking a woman like a dog was allowed to be showcased. But then again, they were not trying to show a woman in a leash. She was portraying some sort of feline and Coco Martin was supposed to be some kind of lion tamer. I don't see anything sexist about it. For one thing, the woman was bending like no woman would. She was obviously trying to portray something completely different from a woman.
I don't see a hint of sexism in this example. It was just a performance. Provocative as it may be, it's a performance.
But let's return to the liberal party and this little mess they made. What made this wrong? If you use my explanation for the lack of exploitation and sexism of the Bench fiasco, I wouldn't blame you if you'd think I see nothing wrong with the performance in Sta Cruz, Laguna. I mean, they're just portraying some oversexed women looking to screw anything that moves. Their not generalizing women. They're just portraying fictional versions of themselves when onstage. Plus, they're doing it willingly and they're happy with the cash. It's common practice here and abroad. There can't be anything wrong with that, right? WRONG!.. well for me...
Returning to the Liberal Party incident, there are a few things that set it apart from the Bench incident or even bold movies.
The occasion in Laguna was attended by people just looking to support their candidates and celebrate with their congressman. Unlike the Bench incident where only the fashion world was meant to spectate the event or bold films where people of right age are the intended viewers, the event in Laguna was meant for all who supported the LP. Some of the crowd were even under-aged. What happened in Laguna was a form of sexual exploitation because these women who performed were exposed to people who were not conditioned to appreciate their performance. Sexism is a form of hasty generalization brought about by a trigger and that trigger can be a sultry performance. And I doubt the dirty old men in the event thought of that.
A defense given by a lot of people in the internet was that the members of the Playgirls were not exploited since they happily accepted the gig and the cash they were given. But if a drug addict happily snorts meth, is that okay? The Playgirls, like addicts, were conditioned not to realize what was happening. They are not like a twerking Maja Salvador because if Maja stopped twerking at ASAP, she is still going to get paid. If Coco Martin no-showed that Bench event, he'd still be a star today. Unlike Maja Salvador or Coco Martin, they need to grab every opportunity to perform. Even if they saw the kids and thought it was inappropriate to perform, it's unlikely they would deny the officials there of their performance. I mean, had they not performed, they wouldn't get paid and get this media exposure.
There are a ton of things in this event that can piss me off. But after going through everything connected to the issue in my head, the main thing that irks me is the fact that come May, this event won't matter. Those politicians in the event will easily get pass this. This has happened before, especially in local government. And it will happen again. Their electoral fate won't be determined by this incident. The LP's electoral fate won't be determined by this incident.
We can draw the line on sexism for the average schmuck. But as far as politicians are concerned, that line can be pushed as far back as they want.
Sexism is alive and well in the Philippines even if we may think it's fading away. We may think we are slowly shifting the tide. But taking into consideration the leaders we elect, we can't fathom the amount of damn we don't give.