There is that oft-used cliché—“When America sneezes, the world catches cold.”
During such occurrences, there is normally found a special resonance with and for the Philippines and the Filipinos. After all, having been a colony once, our history has incubated a mentality, so inspired, that such spirit is embedded in the national psyche.
Colonial mentality, whether grudgingly or happily, we admit. This reference is usually made with lifestyle norms and fashion fads; political, social and economic trends, cultural wars and even military conflicts. In fact, most anything American of substance catches the national sense hereabouts. And, expectedly, we are inveterate copycats.
Remember the descriptive expression of the Philippines as “three hundred years in a convent and fifty years in Hollywood?”
Well, there is currently a prevailing cultural tremor shaking up American society but hardly nary a nudge is felt in our fair islands. Not yet, anyway! Let us hope.
There is, for quite a while now, an epidemic sweeping the American landscape concerning offensive and oppressive male sexual behavior and unchecked misogynism. The open pursuit of redress and exaction for just recompense of sexual assault and harassment is now unshackled. Thanks to a movement that has taken a national toll among the powerful, the wealthy and the famous. The guilty are not only falling in disgrace but actually punished by well-deserved material loss, as well.
Of course, in the Philippines, we have a bit here and a piece there but these are sporadic and intermittent. While rape and sexual assault instances are reported as common crimes and often sensationalized, there really is nothing by way of a serious wide-spread ferment of long term and lasting outrage profoundly intent on slaying, once and for all, the dragon of male chauvinism, of oppressive entitlement and impunity. Nothing quite like what is now a celebrated societal change in the U.S. Methinks that as long as our womenfolk hide their physical and emotional wounds in shame, we fail to elevate and improve Philippine society.
I am speaking of the “Me Too” Movement in the US that started out as an Internet hashtag. #MeToo! Spurred on with consistent media-support and popular encouragement, there was caused the sensational fall of personalities in media, politics, business, entertainment, the clergy and sports. Even in the judiciary. Abusers all, of course.
Just to rattle off a litany of those exposed and punished with well-deserved disgrace, we come across big American names such as Roger Aisles and Bill O’Reilly, Fox News chief potentate and top pundit, respectively. NBC TV’s Matt Lauer. PBS’ Charlie Rose and Garrison Keillor. The most flagrant and powerful was recidivist offender Harvey Weinstein, Miramar movie mogul and star-maker!
Of course, we have Roy Moore about whom our last blog was. Incumbent elected politicians such as Senator Al Franken and Congressmen Conyers, Franks and Farenthold. One Congressman (a Rep. Johnson) even committed suicide out of shame! There, too, is TV Comedian celebrity Bill Cosby, Uber CEO Kalanick and journalist/political analyst Mark Halperin. Past indiscretions revealed. Athletes of various sports, their corporate team owners as well as sports physicians have likewise been accused. A Court of Appeals justice was forced to retire summarily.
All exposed and outed by once silently suffering victims of sexual assault and misconduct, finally emboldened, inspired and united in spirit, having found strength and succor under an “umbrella of solidarity,” as TIME magazine characterizes the movement. Indeed an epidemic. There are many more names that may not be familiar to our local audience but are VIPs in their respective US constituencies and communities.
The biggest one, with the most number of reported accusers and complainants, is no less than President Donald J. Trump. There are at least nineteen women who have accused this President of sexual harassment, acts of past lasciviousness. Remember “grab them by the pussy?” There is a build-up of a spectacle that promises to be worth watching out for. In the meantime, a New York judge will be deciding on the matter of Presidential immunity from civil suits while in office.
“Me Too” has empowered and invigorated the once morally muted victims to finally break their silence. It is for this reason that TIME Magazine has chosen for their Person(s) of the Year the courageous women the editors crowned with the title of “The Silence Breakers.” They are American society’s game changers!
“Me Too“ has provided these brave women an avenue for denouncing, via the press and social media, those guilty of sexual assault and harassment. They honed up on the acquired ability to spread and publicize their hurtful experiences and the unchecked widespread nature of such behavior. Each had a story to tell, all with a common theme. As a welcome consequence, millions in the US have responded and more are still coming forward. In fact, emulative stirrings in some 85 countries have been noted to be blossoming and growing.
Where lies, then, the Philippines in equivalence? Can this “Me Too” social phenomenon find fertile grounds in our national milieu? It has to! It must! For the truth is that sexual abuse and harassment of women is rampant and rife in the Philippines.
We do hear about them periodically and usually only through informal “whisper networks?” It is most unfortunate that offenses crying for retribution are routinely submerged by the weight of prevailing social hang-ups among victims. We know only too well that it is the fear of shame and the stigma of identification, the lack of trust in the country’s justice system, the risk of physical harm and a sense of helplessness, all combine to remain very strong cultural inhibitions that deter Filipino women from voicing and breaking out. Instead, they suffer inner torment in silence.
This is what “Me Too” in the US was able to overcome, as a first step towards empowerment and the conquest of fear. Can women of the Philippines (and their righteous men) just close their eyes, just flinch and remain insouciant and unaffected?
In a suddenly changed Philippine political regime where many top national leaders are also known to be lewd, lecherous and misogynistic, the situation of women in Philippine society can only deteriorate, should the threatening trend not be excised with lasting effect. Already there is a marked devastation of the nation’s infrastructure of morality and the devaluation of ethical standards.
Indeed, it is a pity that outrage, a natural human reaction, does not seem to be forthcoming. Not yet! And again, we hope! Should not some stoking, therefore, be launched? But where do we begin and who should take the lead?
This call to action is a ‘natural’ for women social activists. It is a most alluring and noble challenge, in representation of the abused and the oppressed. I believe our country is already in possession of a very potent foundation for such a movement. The firmament of talented Philippine journalism is pleasantly populated by fearless and sagacious stars in skirts and pantsuits. Women of the Philippines as vanguards and in the trenches of reform. Let us be unabashed colonial copycats for a most worthy cause. Me Too! It is time to fight back. It is time for the first story to be told. Let the outrage begin!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Keep well and stay safe, y’all!
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.