President Duterte has said he would resign if “enough women” protest the incident in South Korea, where on stage, in front of his Cabinet members and the Filipino community, he decided it proper to ask a woman he had handpicked from the audience to give him a kiss on the lips.
The woman said in an interview: “Nag-black<out> ako, hindi ko ma-explain, kinakabahan ako, natatakot, excited ako, thankful. Kasi kahit nasa Pilipinas ka, suntok sa buwan na makikita mo ‘yung President.” She then said the kiss was nothing but a way to entertain the audience – echoing what Duterte said after the incident. But her words highlight a critical fact of this encounter: the power relations between the President of the Philippines, and a female audience member.
It is Duterte’s power as President that made this encounter possible. It is Duterte’s power as President that dictated this woman’s reaction, which the President should have known to handle with dignity and distance: this reaction is borne of the fact of his position. But Duterte decided this moment was about him, and that he would use his power over this woman to ask for anything. The mere fact that he asked for a kiss already reeks of malice.
Duterte says: “During the campaign in my mayorship days, I kiss every woman there, lips to lips.” Duterte forgets that the days of the campaign are over, he is not a mayor, and he is not in Davao in front of blind adoring fans.
He is President of the Philippines. That position comes with a set of responsibilities, a set of behavioral expectations and requirements. It is no different from being required to stand dignified beside other Heads of State. The President has the responsibility to behave accordingly, because his actions and words do not only represent nation, it also molds our culture in his image.
So when the President abuses his power over women, demanding a kiss, negotiating for it; when we witness his constant objectification of women: speaking of women based on their body parts; condoning soldiers raping women in a time of war; offering female artistas as gifts to soldiers; justifying polygamy and infidelity as normal for all men; advising against condoms because “hindi masarap” and saying women take sole responsibility for birth control.
When we hear the President defending himself by saying this is what’s “normal” for him: what kind of culture are we creating for our women?
Duterte’s people say this is his “realness,” his “pagiging totoong tao” shining through. But all that tells us is that Duterte’s real self is a chauvinist misogynist pig, who looks down on women, who does not see us as equals, who does not respect us as human beings. This is the President of the Philippines, categorically and unequivocally taking a stand against all women as he normalizes a culture of gender abuse and sexual violence. This is Duterte making the lives of all women less safe by the day, as men are made to believe they can have their way with us, in whatever context. The repercussions of Duterte’s actions, left unchecked and unchanged, will resonate for generations.
Many women will defend Duterte. But this battle is for them too, no matter that they stand against it. Because even as they defend him, their lives are no less endangered by this President’s actions. These women who disagree with us will not silence us. If at all, they remind us is that in the midst of disagreement and division, we can stand strong in fighting for what is right and just for all women.
What matters is that here and now, we take a stand against Presidential misogyny, act consistently against a government that condones abuse, and unite on the truth that we will not, cannot stand for violence – not just against women, but against all Filipinos.
Today, we say: ENOUGH. ***
After three days, we’ve gathered a little over 2,600 women’s names.
If you would like to put your name on this statement, post a comment with your name and city below. You can also share the statement with your network of women, and email a list of names and cities to email@example.com.
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