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Special Features | National

MIRROR, MIRROR | The bashing of Deniece bares how Pinoys really see women
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- “Whether you believe her or not, you have no right to call her a prostitute, pokpok (whore), a seducer,” a University of the Philippines professor said of the bashing on social media model Deniece Cornejo has been receiving ever since the scandal involving her and celebrity Vhong Navarro went public.

Regardless of who is eventually proven to be telling the truth in the whole sordid affair, Cornejo has become a victim of massive vilification, the subject of everything from ridicule to wishes for her untimely demise.

“Exaggerated talaga ang name-calling sa kanya. Sobra (The name-calling is really exaggerated. It’s too much),” said Professor Judy Taguiwalo of UP’s Department of Women and Development Studies at the University of the Philippines.

But Taguiwalo acknowledges that to this day, misogyny, the hatred or dislike of women, continues to inform how many Filipinos -- including women themselves -- see women.

Blaming the victim

Thus, often, women who fall prey to abuse, physical or otherwise, are blamed for their misfortune.

When a woman falls victim to domestic or sexual abuse, many tend to cast doubt on the incident or hint that she provoked the attack, for example, by asking questions like: “Why were you wearing a miniskirt in the first place?”

More often than not, women who are raped get the worst of it, the trauma of their ordeal magnified many times over by insinuations they brought it on themselves.

Which is why, Taguiwalo says, it remains “very difficult” for victims to tell of their plight.

'Virgin' or 'whore'

There, too, is the “binary” way society looks at women as either “virgin” or “whore.”

The virgin -- the “good” woman -- is supposed to be pure and thus highly respected by others. This is because, said Taguiwalo, she “follows the dictates of society about what a woman can and cannot do”: one who does not flirt, does not make the first move, does not invite a man into her house when she is alone.

Women who veer from this standard in the way they dress, how they work, their relationships with men, and even the time they go home at night, and they risk being called whores.

This, said Taguiwalo, is the category many people have automatically placed Cornejo.

Why did she supposedly invite Navarro to her condo? Why did she supposedly tell him to bring food? Why did she supposedly engage in foreplay with him?

And as more and more doubt is cast on Cornejo’s version of events, so does this perception of her take deeper root in many people’s minds.

This misogyny, Taguiwalo says, runs rampant through Philippine history.

Under the Spaniards, women were relegated to home and church.

During the American period, while there was an “acceptance of relative equality,” the woman’s place continued to remain at home. Though they could have careers, at the end of the day, they continued to be measured by how good they were as mothers.

“There is the concept of, men are for the public place, the achievers, the performers, the women are first and foremost homemakers, childbearers, child-carers, husband-carers,” Taguiwalo said.

Of course, this attitude requires that women cannot be the initiators of relationships. They cannot court men, cannot have sex before or outside of marriage, lest she be forever branded a “flirt,” a “whore,” a “slut.”


Men, on the other hand, often not only get away with being promiscuous, they are encouraged and even praised for being so.

And so it was that Navarro, when asked in his first TV interview after his mauling about what he had learned from his ordeal, replied that people should be less trusting of those they do not really know.

It apparently didn’t occur to the It’s Showtime! Host, who has a girlfriend, that his infidelity had something to do with the bind he found himself in.

And while there are those who blame him for going on a rendezvous with another woman, Taguiwalo said it is still Cornejo who bears the brunt of this.

“The temptress, the seducer, and now the false witness … she has really been turned into the kontrabida (villain),” she said.

Which is apt since the misogyny in society is also reflected in how women are portrayed in popular entertainment that, in turn, reinforces already existing stereotypes and so on and so forth.

“If today there is (the movie) No Other Woman, during our time there were Bella Flores and Zeny Zabala,” Taguiwalo said.

The suffering wife, the martyr -- who does get a modern makeover in that she now knows how to fight for her man -- against the other woman, the seductress.

Thus, while the characters of Christine Reyes and Anne Curtis fight over the character played Derek Ramsey, he remains relatively unburdened.

Ang women ang nabe-blame, ang lalaki ang nalilibre (The women are blamed, the man gets away scot-free). So even if we’re supposedly in the 21st century already and there are new views about women, the good-and-bad-woman binaries still exist. The other woman and the wife are the ones fighting it out, while the man enjoys the affection of both, and generally he does not even suffer,” Taguiwalo explained.

Power of the purse

Economics is also relevant to how a woman’s place in society is defined.

Since traditionally the man is the breadwinner and the woman stays home, victims of domestic violence often find it hard to leave abusive partners because, without work, they cannot afford to do so. 

In many cases, women still do not get equal pay even if they do the same work as men. Many of the jobs “fit” for them also leave them vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse. Migrant workers are particularly at risk, since they are invariably alone among strangers in a strange land.

According to the October 2013 Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority-National Statistics Office, the employment to population ratio for women is 46.5 percent, as compared to 43.5 percent in 1997. For men, the ratio is 72.4 percent, as compared to 74.7 percent in 1997.

However, the same data shows that as of October last year, “the share (64.4% or 1.675 million) of men among the unemployed remains higher than women.”

Men also have a labor force participation rate of 78.1 percent, and an employment rate of 93.2 percent. Women, on the other hand, have a labor force participation rate of 49.8 percent, and an employment rate of 94.1 percent.

“You also need to look into the economic reasons why women become playthings for men. It is important that women have economic independence so they can make choices, and not be dictated upon by, or rely on, a Prince Charming,” said Taguiwalo.

The other extreme

Of course, Taguiwalo acknowledges, there have been changes in the once utterly “feudal” relations between the sexes, in the way women have become more assertive, can now have careers and even in expressing their sexuality.

But in many cases, she said, this too has been taken to the extreme, albeit in the opposite direction, particularly with sexuality. “Is that the kind of development we want -- to be like men? Asserting my right to my sexuality, my right to have affairs, not just with my spouse, but with another?” she asked.

As a woman’s advocate, she said, the answer is, “No.”

There must be consideration given to those who might get hurt in the process. Feminism should not be individualistic. Rather, it should be about attaining equality and social justice.

“It’s not about satisfying oneself alone, but about understanding that our problem, as a woman, or even as a man, has social roots,” said Taguiwalo.

The view of the woman as a feudal slave to the man, and the view of the woman as attempting to be a man, seeking only self-satisfaction, must be changed, she added.

“Either way, this is not good, because this is not equality.”

But the changes she says are needed can only come about with the transformation of the institutions that play major roles in how people regard each other and interact within society -- education, the law, media, among others.

And, just as important, women themselves should organize themselves and help with the transformation toward a more just society.