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