US IN THE MIRROR: Gender-based violence in this brave, new world


Girl before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso

It takes a lot to make me mad. Having spent the last few decades in a job that gives one the luxury to dish it out, I’ve learned to bend backwards in the face of rudeness and bad behavior. We gotta know to take it, too.

Most of the criticism hurled this way has to do with politics and worldview: “Lefty,” “Commie”. Just a couple of months back, someone screamed, “gay lover!”

So being called “menopausal” by a troublemaker on Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo’s Facebook page was a surprise.

And truth was the best response.

Yes, I told him. Menopause? Chemotherapy tends to do that.

I could have blasted him with a thousand and one grievous insults. But you don’t do that while administering a page with almost a hundred thousand users. Besides, his bomb was a dud. Menopause never bothered me; women friends in their 60s are still falling in and out of love!

It’s when insults and bad behavior come as social commentary that my cool is threatened. Someone who speculates that rape could have been caused by the victim’s choice of clothes will be told off – fast and hard.

We all agree that rape is a heinous crime. Yet some people joke about it. A friend in her early 30s broke down last year because a former neighbor – male – spotting a photo of her in a V-necked gown, thought he was paying a compliment in saying she was “fit to be raped.” She blocked him but decided against filing any complaint with Facebook or the authorities.

I’d love to say that only men display this kind of twisted logic. But when the woman called Nicole was verbally lynched in the days before and after her recantation of rape charges against Daniel Smith, some of the most vitriolic reactions on Facebook came from women.

Some, perhaps, were caused by disappointment after investing emotions and time in campaigning for Nicole’s cause. Some, however, were of the classic why-would-Smith-need-to-rape-her variety. Had these women never ever really gone bar-hopping? Had they never ever flirted, never ever tried some dirty dancing? And would they really give some man out there license to rape their daughters as punishment for getting drunk?

Emotionally charged debates are one thing.Most of gender-based violence on social media is perpetrated for very personal reasons.

An informal survey among younger friends indicates some common reasons: a spurned suitor or jealous lover, rage against someone who ought to behave in a more servile manner but won’t, or hatred for a rival.

One lawyer friend, in the heat of election fever, had some men actually threatening to rape her daughter. In the Hayden Kho case, the issue wasn’t just his sick penchant for taking sex videos of his unknowing victims. There was also the element of revenge for all the lovely young women seen as threats to the Queen Bee. In the southern city I call home, a squabble among artists featured accusations of STDs and attempts to tar someone a closet gay.

Even less scandalous incidents display troubling mindsets. On the FB page of a friend’s college-bound daughter, young men blithely explain away a pal’s failed suit as the result of the love object being a tibo. It makes you wonder what kind of upbringing creates youth who think only a “sexual deviant” (their term) would turn them down. Yet on the same page, young women openly talk about trying to flirt with their male theology instructor and then chalking up his resistance to kabadingan.

My friend got fed up and shipped off her unica hija to the United State,s only to bring her back the following year after seeing even worse behavior there by new friends.

Even those of us who ought to know better will forget and slip up. I am not always the most politically correct person, having “grown up” in the profession among alpha males who thought women were best toughened up by being subjected to all kinds of green jokes and ribald commentary. Some of us who survived that did so by giving as good as we got – probably more; one mentor used to moan that our one-upmanship robbed him of fun.

It was fun – sorry, but it was that, too – until we realized that not everyone enjoyed the bantering that we rabble-rousers took as a badge of belonging. It took tears from a colleague to sober us up.

I have grown up since, enough to remind people to be conscious of different levels of tolerance – yes, using that word to refer to things that hurt is problematic. Some days I forget and dismiss complaints (usually directed at others) as old-fashioned, grim-n-determined behavior — even as news stories and results of studies and official admissions clearly show how dangerous cavalier attitudes can be.

Just last week, political friends were laughing at a video clip of Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez. Very few seemed to realize that jeering at that particular clip (whether genuine or fake) implied that Marquez was worthy of derision because he appeared gay. It was surprising so many gay activist friends let that pass.

I don’t remember what book said people who think themselves enlightened could perpetrate horrible deeds. But it’s true. By commission we do this; likewise, by omission. Nobody’s asking for perfection nor demanding we become saints. But us do-gooders should probably make a regular habit of facing the mirror.

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