INSIGHT AVENUE
Locker room talk
by Lea Sicat Reyes

Just last week, a video was released that was particularly devastating for Mr. Trump. On it, he talks about getting away with sexual assault simply because he was a star. The words he used were certainly beyond the pale and predictably, his spokespeople were on panic mode, trying to put the brakes on a scandalous turn of events. This might spell game over for Trump but that is for the US to decide come November. What I want to focus on is how the candidate and his surrogates framed his apology and that was to say that it was nothing but locker room talk.

I would like to draw some parallelism in our own context. I would say that the culture of objectifying women unfortunately is reality in our own community. I remember, in my early twenties, I was seated in between two middle-aged men, one I recognized as a local politician, en route to Manila via Cebu Pacific. They exchanged pleasantries and after a while, casually talked about their sexual alliances with younger women. I do not think that they ignored my existence. In fact, I feel that my very existence encouraged such talk. It even reached a point that one brandished a picture of a beautiful young woman and bragged that she is her current “past time.” “25 years old pa ni bai,” the man on my left boasted.

And that is just one of the many stories that I have, and I suspect, many women have in such an environment. Rape jokes draw no significant outrage. Wolf whistling seems to be just some acceptable male past time. And if a woman is harassed in any way, too often, it is somehow her fault by virtue of the length of her shorts, the amount of alcohol that she drank, or the tightness of her dress.

The Delima issue seems to solidify what I have suspected all along — that there still is so much gender insensitivity in our country. While we have a male national figure who openly brags about infidelity, in a stark example of double standards, infidelity is one of the tools used to destroy Delima’s credibility. All that talk about showing the sex tape as well as discussing the intimate details of her supposed relationship with a married man during a Congress inquiry is shocking to me. Did they really have to resort to that to prove that she had something to do with the drug trade in Bilibid? And really, how can that information be of any use in crafting legislation?

The sad part? Such gender gaps unfold right in front of our children. What kind of message are we sending them when we cheer at language so blatantly sexist? Do we really care at all?

In the United States, the judgment on Trump after the damning recording came swift. Some Republicans withdrew support. Hillary Clinton, his opponent, surged in the polls. Numerous people, even athletes who stay in actual locker rooms before and after their games, went on record to denounce such statements. While it is too early to tell who will ultimately win in such a contentious race to the White House, it cannot be denied that these vulgar remarks have dealt a heavy blow to his campaign.

I feel that we, Filipinos, should be a lot more assertive in drawing the proverbial line in the sand. As parents of young boys and girls, we must teach them the values of respect, of being able to disagree agreeably, of basic decency. Let us avoid using slurs of any kind, setting an example to young ones that such language is not tolerated in virtually any context. In other words, we should stand up and be part of the solution.

Let me end with such beautiful words coming from Atlanta Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme in an interview with the New York Times, “The attempt to normalize it as any type of ‘talk’ is wrong. I refuse to let my son think that this is just how men speak.”


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