Monday, January 28, 2013

Woman’s lot

JUST when you think education and reproductive health boosted my gender, here comes Johnny and Gigi.

Last Wednesday, the primetime TV soaps faced stiff competition from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

Embroiled in controversial Christmas gift-giving and an aborted coup, the senators shifted to a verbal tussle, using the timeless weapon to bring down a man: a woman.

In keeping with the jargon of soap, I correct myself: Cayetano lobbed a bomb, also known as The Other Woman, against Enrile.

According to a Jan. 24, 2013 Rappler report, Cayetano dragged back into open speculation Enrile’s chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes when he depicted her as lying at the root of the two men’s enmity.

Cayetano’s privilege speech was explicit about Reyes’s closeness with his political enemies. Yet, by being elliptical about it, his privilege speech peeled back layers from the “closeness” between Enrile and Reyes.
Enrile’s denials fanned even more speculations of an illicit relationship, a secret outed by other newspapers, reported Rappler.

On Jan. 30, 1998, the Chicago Tribune wrote that Enrile’s tryst with a top aide 30 years his junior led to his wife Cristina walking out on him. The Tribune named Reyes as the “other woman,” who made Cristina, married to Enrile for 40 years, finally make the break and quip that “she no longer could tolerate his chasing after other women, including domestic helpers, cooks and assistants”.

On Jan. 24, 2013, the Philippine Daily Inquirer referred to Reyes as the “24th senator” for her “extraordinary” power to sign cheques in behalf of the Senate President and speak out during Senate caucuses.

As the Tribune commented, womanizing is not strange in the corridors of power.

It disappoints, though, that the root of that verb has not yet escaped from that pejorative, despite the sacrifices, efforts and gains of leaders who are principled, ethical, inspiring and female.

When public figures become twinned by mass media into “tandems of power” –before Johnny and Gigi there was Ferdinand and Imelda, Fidel and Baby, and Erap and his mistresses—both the man and the woman may actually be exploiting position and privilege. However, despite the lack of information or veracity of rumors, it is always the woman who falls lowest and irretrievably in public perception.

Why this misogynistic bent? Is this “hatred of women” only directed at the Other Woman or embracing all women?

It is as if by her nature, woman is illicit. So any power she acquires when she becomes twinned or partnered with a man immediately becomes tainted and suspect. Enrile declares he trusts Reyes and that is the only reason why he wants her back after she “irrevocably” resigned in the wake of Cayetano’s privilege speech. In our living rooms, we titter, acting as if we, too, are privy to Senate whispers.

Why can’t a woman’s indispensability at work not always be traced to her sexual availability to those with the power to grant her privileges?

On the other hand, one doesn’t have to be a student of history or journalism to assert that when there’s smoke, there’s fire. Or that she’s the Eve to his Adam.

It is just a woman’s lot. According to the, “lot” is “that which happens without human design or forethought; chance; accident; hazard; fortune; fate”.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Jan. 27, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column

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