Decoding the Context

In a time when our political life is filled with much distortion, an appeal to humor and common sense seems a bit of a trick for most political leaders. True enough since humor and common sense go along each other well.

Humor is cultural, common sense is political. Like humor, sexism propagates a shared belief. Like common sense, sexism establishes a way of getting sense out of a certain political belief.

Sexism in politics is peddled through humor and common sense. First, for a sexist political act to gain support, it has to be humorous in the eyes of the public. It does not need an explicit approval from the audience because what is essential is for them not to defy it. And this leads to the second point. In the absence of public defiance, sexism becomes a component of the everyday life. It registers to the political imagination of the public and it forces tolerance of any similar act in the belief that it is part of what is normal and common.

Sexism does not happen by chance. It is a manufactured political propaganda aimed at projecting power and authority. Political actors like politicians and political parties and “die-hard” supporters of either of the two are in the frontline of such propaganda. For them, the mission is simple: to amass public sympathy through sexism.

The sites where sexist politics is manufactured come in various forms.

First, through rhetoric. The likes of Mr. Duterte and Mr. Estrada (Erap) have proven time and again that the use of sexist language is a way to appeal to common public sympathy.

Mr. Duterte, in several public occasions, did not fail to express his “playful” desire for women. As early as June 2016, he was criticized for whistling at a female broadcaster during a media conference. For him, such act is part of his freedom of expression. For his die-hard supporters, he is just being playful. Mr. Estrada, for his part, did not miss to flaunt his bravado appeal by capitalizing on his action star image in films. One thing that made him proud during elections is the way he openly admits his extramarital affairs with other women. For him and his supporters, he is just being honest.

Second, through tolerance. In October 2015, a few months before the 2016 national elections, members of then ruling Liberal Party (LP) of Mr. Aquino III used a group of female dancers called Playgirls to “entertain” its party members. It has since then dubbed as the LP twerking scandal to characterize the sexist dance performance of the female group which the party members nevertheless “enjoyed” and tolerated. The event coincided with the oath-taking of new party members and birthday celebration of one of its candidates in the provincial elections.

Third, through sexist mythical projection. The tyrannical regime of the Marcoses as early as the 1970s was largely inspired by what Mr. Marcos termed as Bagong Lipunan (New Society). In his attempt to revive his might, Mr. Marcos framed his image as Malakas (The Strong) and that of Mrs. Marcos (Imelda) as Maganda (The Beautiful) – the Filipino counterparts of the Bible’s Adam and Eve, the first man and woman of the land. This mythical projection of might through the sexist binary of strong (as father of the country) and beautiful (as mother of the country) came in visual formats like paintings and short stories. For the Marcoses and their loyalists, the images of The Strong and The Beautiful represent the political longings of Mr. and Mrs. Marcos for the country. They were thus worshiped as the ultimate saviors of the land.

And fourth, the propagation of sexism through the social media space. Under the guise of democratic platform, the social media has become an extended site of sexist politics. This time, with a more blatant orchestration since the only measure of success is popularity by numbers. The more likes, shares and comments, the more convincing the propaganda is. The number of actors and sympathizers involved in this kind of propaganda is also a relevant consideration. Now more than ever, the armies of trolls and followers become a ubiquitous force of their sexist gods and goddesses. For them, they are merely expressing their democratic right to free expression.

Sexism perverts even more our ever-distorted political life. But one thing is clear: sexism is embedded in our political imagination for the simple reason that the culprits behind it, then and now, are one and the same.

Sexist politics is only a portion of what needs defiance. The system that continuously feeds the sexist political actors and their armies of trolls with power is another. (davaotoday.com)

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