Behavior that promotes the culture of misogyny, that justifies and normalizes abuses, and that denigrates women should not be tolerated by any Filipino. I am speaking for myself, as well as for mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters, even the other women that pass by as strangers.
Rodrigo Duterte, well-known for his jokes on rape and derogatory words toward women before and after his election as president, let loose with another sexist and misogynistic remark last Feb. 7 concerning female New People’s Army fighters: He said soldiers involved in counterinsurgency operations should shoot the women rebels in their private parts.
This practice of the President calling for and promoting violence against women is deeply troubling on several levels, and we should recognize and examine it because first of all, women should not be subjected to this kind of insult every single time he is presented with the opportunity to speak. No woman deserves this contempt.
Everyone needs to start seeing all women as worthy of respect so we can end this cycle of violence and liberate the women in our country from any and all forms of abuse. No woman deserves to be insulted or to be reduced to anything less than the complete person that she is—not by random men passing by, and certainly not by the President. His is the mindset that we must fight to stamp out in our society.
Mr. Duterte’s sexist remarks and the amazing number of people—women and men—coming to his defense show how prevalent the problem is: This is a problem everywhere, and people who think like him are everywhere! Defending his behavior amounts to telling boys and men that viewing girls and women as mere objects and joking about rape and other forms of sexual violence are completely okay. Defending him sends the message that the struggle of generations of women against sexual assault every single day is worthless.
It has become completely clear that Mr. Duterte’s views on women are toxic and serve to promote a culture of sexual violence. His stance clearly shows his disrespect for women, and an attempt by anyone to excuse his inappropriate behavior amounts to a validation of one’s own approval of his words and actions.
He is not being held accountable. Some are even applauding him, and laughing at his “jokes.” There is something seriously wrong about this situation, and these people should be made to realize that there is nothing to laugh about. The issue on sexual violence against women is not a joke, and should never be.
Mr. Duterte’s lament last Feb. 9 concerning the death of a Filipino woman worker in Kuwait whose corpse was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment amounts to nonsense considering that he keeps ignoring the challenges posed on women and the very real collision between his administration’s actions and women’s lives. Women do not lead single-issue lives, and the President should not ignore their empowerment agenda and the diverse realities that they bring to the table—women with disabilities, migrant women, and women of different religious, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. He has the singular opportunity to be a force for policies that will help women, but he is wasting it with his sexist remarks. It is time for him to come up with comprehensive solutions to address the diverse needs of all women, and discard his administration’s misogynist agenda.
“Destroy the idea that men should respect women because we are their daughters, mothers, and sisters. Reinforce the idea that men should respect women because we are human.” With sexism treated as a joke, you are opening the door even wider for sexual assault and misogyny to be employed on the people you love—your mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters.
Being citizens of a sovereign country, we should begin to hold powerful men to account for abusing their positions and influence to harass and call for violence against women. For every man whose career is cut short because of allegations of misconduct, there is the reality of Mr. Duterte holding the highest office in the nation despite standing accused of sexism. This movement for accountability will ring hollow if it does not apply to the most powerful man in the country. We cannot simply ignore his misogynist behavior and be intimidated and silenced again and again. How many times should a perpetrator be allowed to harass and abuse women through sexist remarks before we speak up and fight?
We say: Enough is enough. Sexism and derogatory behavior toward women are not funny and should not be condoned, let alone applauded. Now is the time for accountability. We are women and we are worthy of respect.
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Richelle Ann Buan, 26, says she is an “OA feminist.”
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