(Click here for screenshots of examples with translation)
The Philippines is obsessed with tearing down women – specifically accomplished or famous women who are either perceived as:
a) being too promiscuous and liberated (e.g. Nadine Lustre, Jessy Mendiola)
b) being too pious and thus fake, especially when society pits them against a male “rival” (e.g. Lennie Robredo, Lisa Hontiveros)
Saddest thing? Many people are not self-aware enough to realize their internalized misogyny. Often when you try to point out their cruel behavior, they will move heaven and earth to defend their lopsided, unjustifiable hate towards the well-known members of the female gender.
Regardless of personal accomplishments, character, or talent, Filipina public figures are deemed respectable, valuable, or good only when the sexist half of Filipino society decides they are; and so as long as they don’t step out of society’s invisible line of control disguised as “decorum,” “Christian values,” and “lady-like manners”.
Even if a renowned Filipina is proven to be immoral in character or transgressors of law, the ire she draws from the public is visibly more venomous than what her male counterparts receive.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise considering Philippine show-business is notorious for glorifying the Madonna-Whore complex. Majority of Filipino TV series and mainstream movies consist of a demure poor or middle-class girl with the right amount of cheek, warring against a rich, successful, city girl. Demure girl is usually antagonized and bullied by city girl, while city girl aims to steal demure girl’s true love, happiness, and/or money.
Studies show that media can actually impact audiences’ real life perception. Moreso in poor countries where the TV and film industry are monopolized by a wealthy few. If the media of a 3rd world country repeatedly portrays fictional prosperous women as villains, is it any wonder Filipinos are so quick to malign real life prosperous women?
One case would be Nadine Lustre winning FHM’s Sexiest Woman Of The Year Award. Mirroring the experiences of last year’s winner, Jessy Mendiola, Lustre became the target of an angry online mob. She was called “gay-face,” “the undeserving unattractive girl who does not deserve her handsome boyfriend,” “arrogant worthless woman that is the scum of the earth,” and “ugly bitch” among others.
Right after Lustre won the award, tabloids reported she had secretly moved-in with her boyfriend of more than a year. This added fuel to the mob fire. People all over the Internet, and even real life, branded Lustre “a sinful whore,” “not pretty enough for the boyfriend,” “trash of the Philippine media industry,” “bad attitude,” “horny young girl desperate for attention,” “girl with an ugly body without any curves trying hard to be sexy,” and more.
Another case would be suspected crook and drug queen Leila de Lima.
Parts of the criminal cases filed against de Lima seem to have some merit as to her guilt, however the style in which scores of Filipinos voice their dissent is shockingly horrendous. There were rumors about her creating a sex tape with her alleged lover and co-conspirator. Several male politicians who claimed to have seen the tape described it as “disgusting and made me lose my appetite” (probably in allusion to de Lima’s age and figure).
To quote one congressman who claims to have seen the tape, Lito Atienza, “’Yung video showing na napanood ko, hindi naman dapat ipakita pa sa inyong lahat. Hindi niyo nakita? Maswerte kayo. Dahil hindi kayo nakakita ng horror story… Ako napanood ko, pangit yung mga performers eh.” (The video I watched does not need to be shown to the public. You haven’t watched it yet? You’re lucky because you haven’t seen a horror story… The performers in the sex video sucked anyway.)
And another congressman, Danny Suarez, expressed, “Magaling yung partner… Kung maganda sa mata, okay. Kung hindi, eh huwag na ipakita” (Her sex partner is good… If the video were pleasing to the eye, alright. But if not, then we shouldn’t bother showing it in court.)
Instead of calling out the unprofessional comments, our society not only empowers these chauvinistic politicians, but also participates in the verbal slaughter. Never mind that the sex tape rumor is still unproven and even if it were, it has NOTHING to do with the case filed against her. Comments on Facebook range from mildly sexist to downright harassment – you wouldn’t believe any decent person were capable of writing such statements, especially out in the open.
Whether a popular woman is a good person or a bad person, it makes not much difference. People will be waiting to find an excuse to vilify her. Though many of these people are also professionals, politicians, middle-class citizens, upper class, parents, and/or educated students, they will shamelessly attack the woman with unfiltered acerbity. They will do so on public spaces and forums where their families, bosses, and colleagues can witness their tirade.
Sadly, this seems to be standard practice when the news of the week involves a prominent female figure. People will issue prejudiced and nasty comments, lies even, towards the celebrity regardless if those comments have nothing to do with the topic or discussion at hand. It is a behavior entrenched in our culture.
Find proof an influential man has had affairs with and children from different women; or molested a woman; or abused a woman, and most Filipinos will label it “normal, boys will be boys.“ Spin a negative rumor about a well-known Filipina, and our society will jump to believe it more than they believe in Jesus Christ. Call her “immoral” and she is immediately stripped of all her achievements and humanity.
We’re so neck-deep in this shit that if someone calls out a sexist/rude person for being out of line, the latter will casually reply with, “Well, she’s allegedly done *insert X offense* so she deserves all the hate. It’s just words compared to what she did wrong.” It does not matter whether the woman’s perceived misdemeanor is true or false; it does not matter that opinions can and should be expressed without ill will; it does not matter women face physical and verbal violence everyday. For these judgmental people, it is crucial they express their unfiltered anger and share it to the world A.S.A.P.
This is one of the ways the oligarchs control us. They distract the middle class with frivolous shit while they slowly take away our rights and critical thinking skills, all while they continue to do away with the poor.
And we, narcissistic and bored as we are with our own meagre lives and eager to please the sheep we know as our so-called friends, are all but too happy to participate in the mud-slinging.
It is sickening to think that our aggressive hate of female celebrities can trickle down to the everyday woman, as if she weren’t already suffering enough. Because although these verbal offenses are being done to affluent Filipinas, average and poor Filipinas experience greater injustice and exploitation everyday – by their husbands,their employers, their Church, their government, their media, their colonizers, their community.
Is it possible to liberate Filipino women when parts of Filipino culture itself seem to be rooted in the subjugation and oppression of women? I doubt it. Not when including our current idols, politicians, and favorite artists promote rudeness and bigotry as “cool” and “sassy”, like a real life TV drama.
I hope I’m wrong, though. I hope one day our country stops objectifying and degrading women. I hope our government invests in better education, instead of bowing to the Catholic Church and lining politicians’ pockets.
Because regardless of our politics or religion, Filipino women on all sides are getting the losing end of the bargain.