Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This is exactly what I mean...

In my column today at the Manila Standard Today, I maintained that "rape happens and will continue to happen unless we address the power inequities in our society, most specifically, those perpetuated by traditional gender stereotypes that tend to devalue women."

I ran out of column space, which is why I was not able to explain what I meant by "traditional gender stereotypes that tend to devalue women."

Well, what do you know, in some papers today, there are news items quoting Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan saying one of the most outrageous things that bring home my point.

While trying to draw lessons from the Subic rape case, the good bishop has been quoted offering this bit of advice to women "women, most especially, should be taught that 'womanhood is precious and noble, so it is not right for them to be flaunting it around.” "They should not make themselves appear cheap and practically inviting to be violated by men,” he said.

This is exactly the problem with traditional gender stereotypes - they cast people into certain moral categories. Thus, a woman must subscribe to the traditional gender stereotype of someone who is "chaste, meek, passive, obedient, etc" otherwise, they invite being violated. Thus, certain types of women (such as those who frequent bars, dance with abandon, wear sexy clothes, etc) deserve to be violated for "flaunting" their womanhood in public. Oh please. This is very medieval. This line of thinking reflects just how irrelevant and awfully outdated the Church is on a number of issues.

Why should the blame be pinned on the victim instead of the culprit? What does this line of reasoning say about men - that men are unthinking, sex-crazed animals who are bound to lose their mental faculties at the sight of a woman in sexy clothes? Rape - or sexual harassment - can be excused because a woman was walking on a street at midnight and therefore invited the assault?

It is reasoning like these that perpetuates power inequities in our culture - the same reasoning that conditions men to think that they are entitled to certain mischief - because the woman did not behave according to the traditional gender stereotype. Thus, she invited it.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

even worse, you'll find a lot of filipinas in the blogosphere sympathizing with convict smith... and calling nicole "slut" and such...

Jego said...

I think youre reading too much into statements like that. Advice like that stem from a pragmatic assessment of facts because just like you said, gender stereotypes do exist. Evil men do exist. A woman who 'flaunts it around' (I guess the bishop meant wearing revealing clothes and parties a lot) is more likely to be looked at as sex objects by stereotype-driven men with criminal minds than a woman who dresses like a nun. It's a practical advice I'd give to my own daughter since we live in a world where there are evil men.

Notice I said 'statements like that.' In the case of Archbishop Lagdameo, you might be right on the money that there is a moralizing element to it. But his advice is sound nevertheless. Maybe one day when you have a daughter of your own whom you want to protect from the evil out there, youd understand the wisdom of such advice unless of course, because you dont want to perpetuate power inequities in our culture, youd let her go out dressed like Paris Hilton at a drunken party. ;-) Just because you are a decent man who respects women no matter how they dress or behave doesnt mean all men are.

vic said...

Everytime some priest, or some religious leader open his mouth, one foot got stuck. Take a look at another priest OP-ED at manila buletin written by one Bel San Luis SVD, in which he gloated that his prayers of "Reming" diverting Her pattern had been answered and spare the Capital of the devastation, insensitive to the fact that the same typhoon had just devastated the Province of Albay and cause untold tragedy. A callous and insensitive commentary from a religious man. Sad that people don't even use their head, before they open their mouths if what they are talking, which may influence some thoughts of its listeners or readers it it's relevant or just plain Garbage..

BongA said...

vic,

i agree. some priests just do not know where to draw the line between selling and teaching faith.

bong

BongA said...

jego,
i do have a 22 year old daughter.

i teach her that yes, there is evil in the world, and she should know how to handle them. i don't tell her what and how to dress up, and admittedly, she doesn't dress up provocatively. but granting for the sake of argument that she does, i will tell her the possible consequences and teach her how she can protect herself; i may even have to ensure that she does not get into trouble by making sure that someone is with her- but not by telling her what to wear.

but then again, most sexual harassment and rape cases happen in unconventional places such as homes and offices, and yes even in convents. and the victims were not usually dressed up provocatively.

it is about power, not about sex.

btw, ceres doyo wrote a more detailed and better-argued column in the inquirer. you may still be able to access it at inq7. essentially, she argues that even prostituted women do not deserve to be raped.

Jego said...

essentially, she argues that even prostituted women do not deserve to be raped.

Goes without saying, bonga. We are reasonable men and we know that. But doyou think those words would deter an evil man? Or an otherwise reasonable man under the influence of drugs or alcohol? 'Telling her what to wear' is just a figure of speech for 'teaching her how to behave'. It's not just about clothes. It's about teaching our daughters--I have 2--to behave in such a way that they will be perceived as more than objects by men.

It is not about power, nor about sex. It is about the existence of evil. Telling women to go ahead and behave like they do and it's allright because men should know better is denying that. I wish it were a perfect world and men who read your and ceres-doyo's words would heed them, but it isnt. We're dealing with evil here and you dont protect yourself against evil by inviting it. Anyway, my previous comment is about the knee-jerk reaction of feminists to statements like Lagdameo's; that such statements are unenlightened and foster stereotypes and whatnot. Political enlightenment is fine, but to vilify the giver of such advice as unenlightened, well... I dont know how that enlightenment is worth in the face of violence. I myself will be giving the same advice to my daughters when the time comes, and I consider myself enlightened about these things.

(A minor point on most rapes--not sexual harassment, which is a different though related topic--occuring in offices or convents: We dont know that. I would even submit that most rapes go unreported and that a good number of them occur in social settings like dates and parties, or are an offshoot of these.)