Friday, October 9, 2015

Sexism and Philippine Politics: Liberal Playgirl Party

It's funny how the smallest things make the biggest impressions on people. I remember as a kid in the 90's, men staring and catcalling at women meant nothing and was considered playful. Nowadays though, pulling that sort of crap will turn you into the subject of a viral Facebook post overflowing with feminism. I guess it's better that way. Catcalling, whistling and staring at women are dick moves. They're just a few steps away from rubbing your elbows at a woman's breasts in the MRT. It's because of this attitude change that some people say sexism is fading the country. But then again I ask, what is sexism in the Filipino context?

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.

But there are instances that make me stare in confusion when people say something is sexist. One of the incidents that come to mind is the Coco Martin controversy with Bench.

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...

Before I start discussing the difference between the two incidents, I'd like to let you know that I'm not a big fan of the Liberal Party or "Tuwid na Daan". It's a fair assumption that I'm just pulling them down. But sexism and sexual exploitation are not isolated in the LP. A lot of politicians regardless of their party have been linked to mistresses. Child rapist, Romeo Jalosjos is even supporting Grace Poe.

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.


  1. I didn't watch the video or read the news related to this incident as I think it will just piss me off how shallow our country has become. Sexism is a no-no especially for a woman like me, but where do we really draw the line? Tama ka. Malabo e. San nga ba? But per our HR, kelan ka pwde magreklamo ng harassment? Simply when you feel uncomfortable. I think there's not really a line. Kanya2 kasi. So I think sa iba, wala lang ang ibang bagay, sa iba offensive na. If you feel victimized na, you can cry foul. At least that's how it is as I was informed and I certainly agree. I don't think I need to wait for someone to tell me if it's harassment na or hindi pa quota kng ako naman ang hindi kumportable na.

    As with our politics, phew. Ano pa bang bago? I think they should be more conscious and cautious especially when in public because everyone's watching their moves. They need to earn the people's respect if they want us to vote them. We can have clean wholesome fun if we want to.

    And it goes both ways. I have a looot of guy friends and the one thing I would never forget them telling me is that the woman shows men how she wants to be treated. They know if the woman "wants" it and they respect it if she's not game. Although I think a real gentleman will still respect a woman even if she's asking for it, I must agree na may point sila. It's pointless to fight for women's rights when some women themselves are putting themselves down.

    Ang haba ng comment ko! :P

    Happy weekend! Another great relevant read from you. :)

    1. For individuals kasi, iba-iba talaga ang meaning ng sexism. The same can be said about other issues in social science tulad ng racism. Ganun talaga.

      Pero as for politicians, iba dapat ang level of thinking 'pag sila ang tinitignan. II don't care if they are sexist since I'm not looking to vote for a saint. Sa akin lang, iba dapat ang tingin ng mga tao 'pag leaders na ang usapan. Hindi porke't naganap yung sa Laguna e hindi na iboboto si Agarao. At the same time, people should not dismiss it as "pilyo" trip lang. If we as a nation respect the equality of the sexes, our politicians need to be persuaded to talk about provocative performances and their place in what should be professional environments like a campaign rally or events for the promotion of new initiatives.

  2. Interesting read. My difficulty is that I can't really discern who the victims were. The playgirls were there willingly, the men involved did not walk away. The audience stayed in their seats. The judgments all came after the even when ideals and morals could get interjected. Perhaps unfairly for the people who just did what . . . as you say . . . so many Filipinos do, had fun with sex as the between the lines, or maybe up front and in your eyeballs.

    I agree, the politicians involved did not have a high sense of ethics, or protection of their party and government workers in general. But do Binay or Enrile or those who look the other way when thieving is being done?

    I'd say the lessons have been learned . . . among those who are inclined to learn them. Best to just move on.

    Thanks for the interesting article.

    1. It is hard to determine if someone is being exploited or just exercising his/her sexual freedoms. That's why for normal citizens, I don't care if they watch porn in public or whatever. That's who they are. I just wear a pair of glasses with thick lenses whenever I look at politicians. For citizens, I wouldn't give these types of events a second thought. But for the people we put in power, sometimes we need to watch and let our ideals take over. Politics is grounded on ideals whether these ideals be based on morals or completely Machiavellian. So yeah, the judgements thrown at the politicians should be influenced with morals and ideals for me.

      Anyway, yeah, we'll move on from this. Hopefully, we learn something from it though.

  3. Common decency dictates that public officials act in a manner suitably respectable to the position they occupy. This spectacle should not have been shown in front of an audience with minors present but rather in private for the DOM who enjoyed it.

    1. That's one of the things I don't get with those people. They could have gone to a bar or went to Agarao's home and partied like hell. Yet, they held this event in public where they know they and their party are gonna get ripped to shreds by social media. I don't know if their stupid or arrogant.

  4. If I remember our Sexual Harassment Seminar correctly, one must first give a verbal warning towards the harasser. Speaking up, standing up, is a requisite. The harasser may not be fully aware of his/her actions or may perceive that you are "okay" with it. If the harasser does it the second time, that's when you can file a complaint to the HR. The harasser's understanding of what sexual harassment is, will not be considered, nor his/her intention matter. Only the victim's feelings will be regarded.

    That is fair enough for me.

    I don't see the Playgirls standing up against those men. Instead, they are defending them to the teeth. So what's the point in us defending the Playgirls in the first place?

    I also don't think the Playgirls can be likened to drug addicts. Drug addicts have lost control of their will. The Playgirls clearly exercise theirs in full.

    1. I don't think defending the Playgirls is worth the time either.

      What may be more worthy of our time is determining why the Playgirls are defending those people. Are we conditioned by culture to accept that professional gatherings like support rallies for our leaders need to have performances like what happened in Sta. Cruz, Laguna? I mean a lot of politicians use the tactic in local elections and it has proven effective. Are we as voters conditioned to disregard these performances the same way smokers are conditioned by nicotine to forget about the negative effects of their habit? Are we conditioned to shrug off sexism?

      Free will is a gift given to every person. But that free will is acted upon by external forces. And of all the people in the world, it is our leaders that have the power to shape those external forces.

  5. you do know the technology exists to fabricate dreams and visions.