When a Joke is a National, International Issue on Women

Would we always blame victims of jokes (and those who love them) for being sensitive and without sense of humor when they feel antagonized and hurt and when they  simply don’t accept the joke as harmless?

The public was divided when a famous and well-liked comedian used comedy bar humor in a concert stage and lambasted, through a presumed harmless and innocent joke, a well-respected and dignified Filipina. The views are varied and may mirror the kind of culture we have in the country and the kind of thinking the people have developed as an offshoot from exposure in such culture.

The comedian is Vice Ganda (Jose Marie Viceral in real life) and the woman is Jessica Soho. The joke was delivered during the May 17 concert of Vice where he jibed Soho for her weight and more, saying:

Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan yung apple?'”

(It will be difficult if Jessica Soho will play a bold role, it  always has to be gang rape. The rapist would say, pass on the suckling pig and Jessica would say, where’s the apple?)

Soho, after hearing about the jeering, expressed her discontentment on what Vice did and issued the following statement through GMA News Online:

 “Rape is not a joke and should never be material for a comedy concert. I thank all those who shared my hurt and expressed their support, but this should not be about me but about rape victims who suffer tremendously from this terrible crime. The horrors they go through are unspeakable and should never be taken lightly, especially by way of a cruel joke.”

The issue has patronizing effect though for fanatics who missed the whole point of the prevailing concern, and instead, threw malicious speculations (that it’s simply a network war between GMA 7 and ABS-CBN 2) and maligned more the personalities involved.

Vice Ganda broke his silence by publicly apologizing to Soho through Showtime and remarked:

Gayunpaman, kung meron pong nasaktan, humihingi po ako ng paumanhin. At sa lahat po ng nakisali sa maliit na isyung ito, na pinalaki at nagmukhang national issue na nagsimula sa isang simpleng biro, kung hindi niyo po nagugustuhan ang pagpapatawa ko, paumanhin po sa inyo.

At pinapangako ko po sa inyo (Jessica Soho) na hindi na kayo magiging kasama kailanman sa anumang tema ng pagtatanghal ko.”

(Nevertheless, I apologize. And to all those who meddled in this small issue which became a national issue that started as a simple joke, if you did not like my comedy act, I apologize.)

It is funny that public personalities, like Vice Ganda, when being targeted for their unacceptable actions, would always refer to the viewing, patronizing public, as outsiders and should not be involved.

Indeed, his issue has escalated into an impersonal,  national concern, and let me tell you why…

  • Not all people are amenable to being used as a joke/comedy material and if that person (and those who love him/her) feels hurt and offended, it is that person’s right to feel so. When someone is attacked viciously by way of joke and tirade which was not at all acknowledged by that person as harmless, is it not comparable to bullying? 
  • Stating that one’s hurting words is a “joke” or “not meant to offend” doesn’t make the speaker blameless of the act and the consequence(s). Accountability for one’s words and actions should be exercised, whoever you are and whatever your job is. The cliche “the harm was done” is a good reminder for us all to be cautious in all our actions.
  • This is clearly a gender issue. How can this statement “Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon’ be not about rape?
  • Rape, anything about it, is such a delicate, hurting matter. Victims of violence, such as sexual abuse, take time to accept their fate, more so, to recuperate. Rape, and all other jokes about demeaning women and glorifying abusers and perpetrators are preposterous. It would defeat all the efforts of women and men all over the world to not trivialize the issue on rape and other violence against women and to help the victims live normal lives after the abuse and not hide in shame. 
  • It is a national issue, even an international one. Last February 14, the global campaign on ending “violence against women” was carried out by millions of women and men who love their women. The Philippines is a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations and it has passed as a law, the Magna Carta for Women (RA 9710) which mandates the elimination of  discrimination through the recognition, protection, fulfilment and promotion of the rights of Filipino women, especially those belonging in the marginalized sectors of the society. It is for this reason that the Philippine Commission on Women issued a statement calling upon comedians, artists, writers, directors, producers, workers in the entertainment industry, news anchors and other media practitioners to practice censorship, sensitivity to feelings and gender responsiveness as many, especially the youth, view them as models. (Read the full statement here.)

 

With this article, I am hoping that people would see beyond the Vice Ganda and Jessica Soho fiasco. Not only Vice is guilty of using detrimental, spiteful words in the guise of jokes, with sexual undertone or none. People, especially, young people, commit suicide after being bullied or made fun of. I hope we will all learn the lessons from this incident.

And again, for those who feel that this is simply a laughing matter that should be shrugged off, you may want to read what Monique Wilson has to say. The issue on violence against women (VAW) is a fight many women fought since time immemorial and is still being fought by women and men of today. You may curse and mock the people who care, but for us, women and men who continue to advocate for the end of violence against women and children and even men, we will never stop making you understand, until it all makes sense to you and you begin to realize how you, too, can help make peace.

“…watch and observe all the tireless women’s rights activists who devote their lives to ending violence towards women, who risk their lives getting justice for them.  Do not capitalize on the pain and anguish of others. Immerse yourself in education and understanding of this issue because actions like this—the mockery of such a serious crime against a woman—is one of the things that keep impunity in place.”  Monique Wilson

(Read the complete article here.)

Lastly, let us take note that more and more comedians/comediennes from comedy bars are dominating the Philippine showbiz scene. As expected, many of them bring their comedy bar toilet humor to mainstream media exposing their “for adults only” jokes to our children and people who are experiencing and suffering insecurities, disabilities, anxieties and emotional/mental trauma because of bullies, rude people and perpetrators who used to or continuously victimize them.

Comedy bar humor is acceptable only to people who visit or frequent comedy bars because the shows are private and the people who go there accept the kind of comedy they would get. Concerts, television programs, and movies, are public shows where children and more varied types of people may watch. I am hoping that Vice and other comedy bar comedians/comediennes and other artists who perform in public shows would avoid jokes with sexual undertone so parents like me would feel safer that we can allow our children and teenagers to watch the television a little freely knowing that our Philippine artists care too about values development of the Filipino people.

As a media practitioner and a college instructor teaching mass media, I detest media practitioners neglecting ethics in the exercise of their profession. I detest artists and media industry workers who proliferate shameless joking without bounds and regard for other people’s feelings, rights and welfare.

If we are working in mainstream media, the more we should be conscious of our responsibilities to teach our children and the general public the morals and the lessons they should rightfully learn. Otherwise, do not blame the government and the criminals alone for the rising societal issues of this country.

On a positive note, this issue pave way to discussions on violence against women, women’s rights, and women’s equality. Hopefully, the public learned a thing or two from this hoopla.

 

Mhel Villamar Daroy of Marikenya.com

 

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A Filipina’s complaint: Pressured to be beautiful and sexy

Original posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles: A Pinay’s complaint: Pressured to be beautiful and sexy by Jasmine B. Barrios

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They haunt us everywhere. Commute to and from work and you see them along highways and major thoroughfares with their beautiful slender bodies flashed on giant billboards and big posters by the tail-end of big buses. Browse through the newspapers and similar images are splashed on the pages. Turn on the TV and the same looks glare back at you in shampoo, soap, canned goods and even detergent soap commercials. Watch the news and the broadcasters exude the same aura. One showbiz host just delivered a baby and a few months after, she was up and about with a flat tummy in no time at all. Worst, you see your husband dozing off by the bedside with a picture of a sex goddess splashed on the centerfold of a men’s magazine. And the Pinay’s plaint ensues.


The pressure to be gorgeously sexy gets so unbearable that we try to achieve the skinny look we constantly see around us. Unkown to us, while we painfully struggle for the perfect Coca-cola bottle (not can) shape, other people get a joyride. Manufacturers of diet pills earn big bucks. Remember how the Bangkok pills sold like hotcakes way back in the early 2000’s? The gym bursts to its seams especially right after fervent resolutions to stay healthy are dished out in the New Year. As all sorts of diet gain popularity- Atkin’s, South Beach, Cabbage Soup- the authors get richer. Everybody is happy except us poor women trying to scale down our weight. No matter what we do, the nasty built-in belt bag seems to get bigger even more.

For all it is worth, there is comfort in knowing that we have company in this misery. It is not just the Pinays who seem to lose the battle with the bulge. A study conducted by the North Carolina State University in 2005, found that only 8% of the 6000 women-subjects have the perfect 36-24-36 body stats. The rest are distributed to the more common shapes like “46% for the banana shape (rectangular), just over 20% pear, and just under 14% apple.”

Yet this truth is covered up by how the media project that thinness is the most common thing in the world. Skinny actresses come a dime-a-dozen making big bucks in the entertainment world even with the slightest hint of true talent- dancing with two left feet, singing out of tune and acting with the help of eye drops to shed buckets of tears.

It is not just the svelte shape that we contend with. There should be the matching long, black, soft and shiny hair that should go with the sultry image. Mind you, it should be tousle-and- tangle-free even if you ride in an open jeep or bus and the wind blows hard. Advertisements even claim you can land your dream job with the perfect tresses.

Not to forget the milky white complexion to match. The skin tone should be even from head to toe with the best glutathione and papaya soaps around. Of course, you have to have the porcelain teeth for a perfect smile.

The pressure to be beautiful and skinny sometimes gets so overwhelming that some women either go into crash diets, get addicted to plastic surgery or fall into eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Even royalty is not exempt. One of the dark secrets of the world’s darling Princess Diana was that she was a bulimic. Even the rich and famous are not spared. Geri Halliwell of the reknown Spice Girls, Canadian singer Alanis Morissett, “Ally McBeal” star Calista Flockhart and a lot more went through the same struggles.

This get-pretty-to-please plague is now affecting the MTV generation. Girls as young as 11 have to deal with the insecurities on flabs. There is a growing trend among the young generation called “thigh gaps.”

Licensed Eating Disorder Counselor Jacquelyn Ekern defines the thinspirational objective, “a person is said to have one if they put their knees together, but their hips do not touch.”

This look is so reminiscent of the image projected by Barbie the Fashion Doll which was invented by Ruth Handler in 1959. As Barbie gained fame in the 60’s, the thin-is-in era ushered in with a real model Twiggy personifying the slim look and long, slender limbs.

Many very young Pinays are not exempt in being blinded by the false branding of beauty. In fact, some teeners get into unhealthy eating habits just to catch up with the thigh gap craze. Rachelle Bado thrives on fried processed foods and chips while Angie Castillo opt for high protein viands and stay away from carbs. If these bad patterns are not curbed, this could spell trouble especially when women want to start having babies.

Dr. Richard Sherbahn of the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago reminds us that “being thin can lower the sex hormone oestrogen, making it harder to get pregnant.”

What is more disturbing is the early demise among teens who get hooked on this trend. Ekern further warns, “I think when they start seeing this topic trending they have a tendency to grasp that and become a little too obsessed with the thigh gap and develop eating disorder behavior that can really open the door to some very destructive eating and exercise patterns that could eventually lead to death.”

Cuypers and colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology enjoins parents, teachers and influential people to help teens “find healthy body role models. Most important though is acknowledging role models for their positive internal qualities such as kindness, sharing, courageous, forgiving etc.”

Luckily, more and more brave souls are coming out to counter the emaciated illusions of beauty. 22-year-old Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence who rose to fame as Katniss Everdeen in the blockbuster hit The Hunger Game in 2012 is not buying the thin lie. She does not care that much about being considered a “fat actress” in Hollywood. She bravely banners that she is “comfortable in her own skin.”

Probably one of the most influential fashion movers that may help contribute in veering away from the bony bunch is Lady Gaga who has been battling anorexia nervosa since she was 15. Getting back at the media attacks on her 25-pound gain, the singer posted her photos clad in revealing underwear on her website in the latter part of 2012 and dubbed her blog as, “ “A Body Revolution 2013.”

Kelly Tschopp of Shreveport hails the campaign “we as a society have put celebrities on a pedestal that when they come out and they share their struggles and they share their accomplishments with that struggle I think that really speaks loudly to us. They’re human and they have the same struggles that we do and they can be overcome.”

So the next time you peek out the bus window and see the ghastly skin-and-bones apparitions called “beauty,” better think twice. Exude with confidence in knowing that real beauty lies in strength of character and pureness of heart even if its trimmings are voluptuous bulges.

Photo: “who is she?” by kedoink kedondeng, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

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Take a stand: I will NOT forward any form of message, video or photograph that violates another person’s right to privacy #amalayer

There was a discussion on twitter on the viral #amalayer video. What lessons can be learned here? Citizen journalism is about being responsible. @cyberdean07 suggests “to act with justice, give everyone their due, observe honesty and good faith . Uploading may not comply with the requirement of acting with justice.” Let me share this useful advice via takebackthetech.net when confronted with a message, video or image that may lead to potential violence or humiliation.

There are many ways to bear witness. Seeing is a political act. When you see, you affect what is being seen, and it affects you. What we bring into the act of witnessing is the politics that we bring into situation.

How do you witness violence against women? Do you witness it as a spectator, interested only to be shocked, bored or entertained? Or do you witness it as a person engaged in creating a more just and equal world that is free from violence against women?

This is the key difference between documenting violence and forwarding violence. How we locate ourselves in the act of violence, and question our role in perpetuating or ending such violence. And the action we take after we witness.

Today we are repeating the call for you to take a stand, and make a commitment to stop the spread of images and content that continues to perpetuate violence.

In Canada a teenager was arrested for distributing photos and a video of a sexual assault of a 16-year old girl. In South Africa, a video that depicts the alleged rape of young girl by two boys in her school is being distributed via cellphone and through the internet. The video was recorded on a cellphones by someone who was watching. These are not isolated incidents.

In many countries the filming and distribution of images such as these is a criminal offence. It must be – those who are filming are not doing anything to prevent the violence. As ‘spectators’ they are implicated in the assault themselves. But what of those who receive and forward the images and videos, what is their role in the continuation and replication of the violence committed? How are they implicated in the violence? What does the sharing of this material mean for the victim who has to live with the knowledge that her violation and trauma, is being distributed, replicated and viewed by others?

How many times have you received forwarded message that contains photographs or a video of someone being violated or humiliated? What do you do with it? Do you reflect on your role and power to stop the violence? If you pass it on, will it perpetuate the harm? Can you stop its spread by pressing delete?

Many people think that it is ok to forward material like this. They argue that the damage is already done and that they are merely doing what everyone else has done already by sharing it. But every act of passing it on, and forwarding the message, is another act of violence.

You have the power to stop the spread. Take a stand. Don’t forward.

 TAKE THE PLEDGE

  • The violence stops with you. Make a commitment and take the pledge by signing on here.
    • I take the pledge of non-violence.
    • I will NOT forward any form of message, video or photograph of someone being violated or humiliated.
    • I will NOT forward any form of message, video or photograph that violates another person’s right to privacy.
    • I WILL stand up against violence against women.
    • I WILL stop the violence.

    Don’t forward violence. Instead, disseminate action and calls to stop violence against women. Take a stand!

    Protect our Filipina women.

    Also posted at Blog Watch

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What can you do to end violence against women? Take Back The Tech!

How does technology like the internet and mobile phones impact on violence against women? What can we do as users of technology to use it in activism? Take Back The Tech! is a collaborative campaign that promotes creative and strategic use of technology in the fight to end violence against women.

Take Back the Tech campaign calls on all ICT users – especially women and girls – to take control of technology and strategically use any ICT platform at hand (mobile phones, instant messengers, blogs, websites, digital cameras, email, podcasts and more) for activism against gender-based violence.

Join the campaign. Spread the word. Embed, share, comment, respond! Visit www.takebackthetech.net

Watch this video:

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