07/15/2016

Tito, it’s not the pekpek shorts

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Hearing stories and debating about victim shaming has become repetitive. No week goes by without it being discussed in our news feeds, either on Facebook or the local news. It might be one of your lady friends being catcalled or a local senator/TV personality telling a woman on national television that it was her fault that her husband’s friends took advantage of her. The latter episode, absurd as it may sound, is factual and unfortunate.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto has done it again this week. He’s under fire for victim-shaming a winner in Eat Bulaga’s popular segment “All for Juan, Juan for All” last June 9. The segment is famous for interacting with the winner and getting to know a little more about them. During this segment, the winner opened up about the time that her husband’s friends took advantage of her while she was drunk. This left a bad taste in the Senator’s mouth; he asked: “Kababae ‘mong tao, pa-shot shot ka?” (Why do you do shots? It’s very un-lady like of you). The fellow hosts of this show agreed with the Senator. The comedian Jose Manalo followed the Senator’s remark with a question about what she was wearing and if she was wearing short-shorts.

Is this disappointing? Of course! But is it surprising? Not really. It’s a dialogue familiar to most of us, especially those of the younger generation who have learned how wrong victim-shaming is. The Senator’s answer was the like the ghost of noche buenas past. We recall family gatherings that ended up in debates between you and your titos and titas, maybe your lolos and lolas, even your own parents sometimes. This all comes out when the hot topic of the get-together happens to the subject of rape or any other sexual abuse. “Hubadera kasi. Ayan tuloy.” (“She wears skimpy clothes. That’s why.”) There are other variations on the previous statement, but the message never changes: all fingers point to the victim. And at most times, regardless if you channel your inner Annalise Keating, your folks will still stand by their point.

Most of the younger generation has learned to question this mentality of blaming the victim. We’ve self-corrected the statement in our minds, from saying “Don’t get raped” to “Don’t rape.” The Internet has played a big role in this. And it’s not like older generations don’t know how to access the online world, but we’re the ones consumed by it.

“Call out who needs to be called out, regardless of kin. Think positive: who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?”

You have to consider the environments in which the previous generations grew up. Not to label them, but victim blaming is more prevalent with them. Because of their authority over us, though, we’d rather keep quiet in fear of disrespecting them. We let them blabber on and judge. Though we have to draw the line somewhere.  Let them understand that the era of the mayuming Filipina is over.

“Kabataan talaga ngayon. Ang daming nalalaman.” (Kids these days. They think they know everything.) That’s the usual response when we try to correct them. “Kids say the darndest things.” But the kids are right this time, so we intend to keep talking. It’s hard to educate your older relatives about the toxic ideology in which they grew up. Living in a country with strict traditions makes it even harder. But times have changed and so have Filipinas, along with the mindset of the younger generation. There’s still an expectation that all of our young women remain soft-spoken and shrouded in modesty. Being modest isn’t as sin, but there are all kinds of Filipinas. You may be sexually provocative, tomboyish, simple, fashionable, or anything you want to be. But regardless of what kind of Filipina or even what kind of a Filipino you are — anyone can be a victim.

That’s what we need to make other people realize. This is not to suggest that you attack your unfortunately sexist folks at the next family gathering. But when the topic comes up, be ready to stand up for your point. It might take a lot of patience, and they might not even acknowledge your point because of your youth  — the sheer repetition of victim blaming stories is meant to fuel that fatigue. But this is no reason we should stop examining and removing a harmful ideology from our systems. Call out who needs to be called out, regardless of kin. Think positive: who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

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