Saturday, October 08, 2016

I am Leila

THE YOUNG woman was distraught. She had been looking forward to celebrating with her friends. Then her father fired several bristling questions: Why? When? Where? With whom?

To seal that disastrous day, she ran into a particular young man just when her eyes were puffy from crying.

She had not seen him in campus for days. Then they walked into each other just as the covered walk was deserted. There was not even a scrap of poster she could pretend to read as he passed her, oblivious.

Why do men bookend our disasters?

My student’s rollercoaster Friday channeled my thoughts to misogyny. A parent’s concern and young love’s throes hardly manifest the deep-seated, even unconscious, contempt against women.

Yet, men socialize women: fathers, brothers, playmates, classmates, lovers, spouse.

Not to mention the usual suspects: the construction worker, the president, the troll and their rape jokes.

The catcalling variety of misogyny may have lost much of its novelty. It has swaggered from the streets and dunghills to straddle MalacaƱang and the once hallowed hall of Senate.

The first 100 days of this administration has ushered the most maddening honeymoon between President Duterte and Filipinas, 28 million of whom comprised 52 percent of the 54.4 million voters who turned out in May 2016.

We bristled and seethed as the president and his men made a new twist of the old carrot-and-stick approach with Vice President (VP) Leni Robredo.

First, he shut her out of his Cabinet, saying he was “non-committal” about Robredo, elected by 14,418,817 voters, because he did not want to hurt the feelings of his good friend, defeated rival Sen. Bongbong Marcos.

Then, after he “courted” her into heading the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), we had to read his nauseating “compliments” to the “beauteous” vice-president.

“You won't listen to a female president, you will just stare at her because she's beautiful,” said the president, who has told journalists he often gazes at Robredo during Cabinet meetings.

President Duterte has defended that he was not patronizing Robredo, a vocal critic of extrajudicial killings and the president’s move to give the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial.

Misconceived as hatred of women, misogyny can be disguised as the idolatry of “women as divine creatures.”

“What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person,” wrote Dorothy L. Sayers in her essay, “Are Women Human?”

For other women, though, who don’t fit into the president’s mold of "lady-like and kind" paragons of femininity, the prince will readily turn himself into a frog.

In his brutal, relentless public destruction of Sen. Leila de Lima, the president has pulled out all the stops. He has even used standard English, for once eschewing his colonial curses.

An “immoral woman”. The greatest English monarch, Elizabeth I had been called “diseased,” “deformed,” a “man in disguise,” wrote Sayers.

From Elizabeth I to Leni and Leila, slut-shaming is not so much about women going out of control as the desire to control women by men, who are, if they would admit it, afraid of them.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s October 9, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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