We already know, from immersion near drowning in the universal storm for gender equality, that men should respect women and vice versa.
Respect means that the rights of the other are not transgressed either in actuality as in rape and sexual exploitation, or in perception as in discrimination or rejection because of gender stereotypes. Filipino men (except for a Hadean few) respect women highly as figures of their mothers and sisters. But the irony of gender equality is that it brings down the respect for women from that high pedestal in the heart of a son or brother to the crass level of rough and tumble competitiveness in the “equal playing field” of workaday life.
When will gender be totally a non-issue in the rise up the corporate ladder, for example? This happened at the regular Monday ManCom meeting in a big, respected business conglomerate: the top executives and department heads were discussing how to “soften” the Bureau of Internal Revenue on the multi-million peso assessment of underpaid income taxes. “Let’s send Annie to negotiate,” the president said. The 10 male executives around the conference table guffawed. Annie was a young widow, pretty and sexy. Never mind that she had a Ph.D in Economics. The four lady VPs at the meeting, including Annie, smiled wryly but said nothing.
Perhaps the “saying nothing” excited the pheromones even more in the challenged male executives who deep within might have begrudged Annie’s “undue advantage” by her sex appeal. Through no fault of hers, she was objectified: to be open prey to those men who pruriently fantasized some “action” with her or those who decided up front that they could never have her — and punished her for this by alienating her and giving her a hard time in the necessary coordination and cooperation between departments in the corporation. It was sexist bullying. Of course there were still other more grounded males in the organization who observed proper respect for the lady and her position, and continued to be strictly professional in their dealings with Annie.
But not the corporation’s president — the top honcho, top macho. Tricking Annie to his office one evening when all the staff had gone home, he groped and kissed her, and attempted to pin her down on the sofa. Of course Annie fought him off and stormed out. The next day she spoke confidentially to the SVP in charge of Personnel. No witnesses, he said. He advised her to just forgive and forget, if she wanted to stay in the company. Annie needed the job. She stayed until the year-end evaluation and merit increases in pay. No increase for her that time. She stayed until the reorganization and her possible promotion from VP to SVP. No promotion. Annie had to resign and look for another job.
There is R.A. 7877, an “Act Declaring Sexual Harassment Unlawful in the Employment, Education or Training Environment, and for other purposes” approved on Feb. 14, 1995 and effective on March 5, 1995. There is also the Anti-Discrimination bill, S.B. 948 of July 2018, which was revived and refined this year from the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill in Congress, a more encompassing discrimination bill that addressed the concerns of everybody, from those who have different sexual preferences to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and children with special needs.
But it is not laws that we need, but a real change in our cultural stereotypes for men and women. “Babae lang ’yan” (She’s just a woman). “Eh, kasi lalake” (It’s because he’s a man). Can we ever move away from generally excusing males from wrongdoing when they are urged by that machismo that our confused culture forgives and upholds? And applauds.
Why do we see, in countless live video clips on national television, crowds who are President Rodrigo Duterte’s audience at his public speeches applaud him and laugh at his sexist jokes? Never have we had a president who talked this way, so liberal with his “putang ina” (son of a bitch) that running his speeches would have to be peppered with blips and tut-tuts.
Tut-tut, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, “That style made him the president,” quoted in Philstar.com of Oct. 29, 2018 that reported women human rights defenders’ grave concern over President Duterte’s supposed displays of sexism and misogyny. Indeed, he won as president, when even in his campaign sorties made a joke about the rape and killing of an Australian missionary in Davao City in 1989, saying he, as mayor then, “should have been first” (inquirerdotnet, Feb. 1, 2017).
“But it’s for Senator Leila De Lima that he (Duterte) has reserved his brightest misogynist colors,” The Diplomat of Nov. 21 this year said in its article “Is Duterte Waging a War on Women Opposition in the Philippines?” It was de Lima’s 1,000th day in a Quezon City prison, as she has been detained for alleged drug trafficking in collusion with her ex-driver, her admitted ex-lover. Slut-shaming strengthened convicted felons’ testimony on her complicity as then Justice Secretary with certain Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials.
The Diplomat article also pointed to “the needling of Vice President Leni Robredo over her comments on the drug war in recent weeks and the gleeful doggedness in which Duterte allies are engaging in an effort to ensure she’ll ‘lose’ are evidence of this.” The drama was not over yet when The Diplomat spoke thus. Robredo was offered the position of co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) on Oct. 31; she accepted the position on Nov. 6; on Nov. 24, she was sacked by Duterte from both ICAD and as “Drug Czar.”
President Duterte must think so low of Leni Robredo as to make her, our country’s Vice-President, only co-chair with Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino, who only has the rank of an Undersecretary. Robredo was not given the rank of Cabinet Secretary as Duterte earlier teased her with. “I cannot trust her… If I make her one of the Cabinet members then she would participate in the discussion and would know everything that is classified,” he said, as quoted in The Philippine Daily Inquirer of Nov. 19.
Leni Robredo cannot be trusted with state secrets? Never mind if she is Vice-President, the constitutional successor of the President? “I don’t think she will be ready to govern a country. Reason? Incompetence,” said Duterte in an interview with reporters in Clark, Pampanga, as reported by Rappler on July 18, 2018. A later Rappler article quoted Duterte: “You’re better off with a dictator the likes of Marcos.” He said he prefers either Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, or Senator Francis Escudero to succeed him if he resigns. Malacañang has said Duterte would step down if Marcos wins his electoral protest against Robredo (Rappler, Aug., 30, 2018).
The 18-day appointment of Robredo is yet the most blatant sexist bullying by the top honcho, top macho of the land. But guess who won?
Never underestimate a woman.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.