[OPINION] Misogyny is bad for all Filipinos

There is great dismay in Philippine feminist circles these days. It seems a week doesn’t pass when some government official and especially the President makes some appallingly misogynistic statement.

This in itself is a matter of outrage. After all, we do have several laws that prohibit these utterances like, for example, the Magna Carta of Women. It is even more egregious that our leaders get away with these violations of the law with such impunity.

We are in a state of shock, those of us who have been fighting for women’s rights and dignity. We are shocked whether we are old women who have been fighting for decades or millennials who, because of the successes of feminist fore mothers, are even more astounded by what these old and hoary men have been saying.

Misogyny

Wasn’t it just two years ago when people dared not say these things in public? I am sure that they had these attitudes. In this new and “permissive” environment, the foulest things keep coming out of their mouths. What is worse is people actually laugh at these jokes in what I can only describe as a weird display of collective self-stimulation. But at least men were supposed to keep these sentences among themselves and tell them to women only in beer gardens and brothels.

But then again, I am firmly convinced that the halls of Congress and Malacañang are fast-becoming brothels and the Philippines is now a huge beer garden. And lest you think my analogy is going too far, think about it. Many men who do drink in beer gardens dislike all the denigrating comments of women they hear from (usually) older men. And women who are in the beer gardens either dislike the misogyny and have various forms of resistance, or have internalized misogyny so deeply they passively accept the sexism.

And so, because the Philippines has been turned into hostile territory for any woman who has a modicum of self respect, I decided to review psychological studies on misogyny. The studies clearly define misogyny and there is abundant proof that it is a problem. One review summarizes the literature:  “Misogyny is a cultural practice that serves to maintain power of the dominant male group through the subordination of women." (Piggot, 2004)

"Women, and their role in society, are thus devalued to increase and maintain the power of men, which results in a fear of femininity and a hatred and devaluing of women and female related characteristics (Burch 1987; O’ Neil 1981; Worell and Remer  2003). The negative impact of the devaluation of something as central as gender is perpetuated not only by men but also by women who reinforce the central male culture of devaluing women through acts of horizontal oppression and omission resulting from internalized misogyny (Piggot 2004; Saakvitne and Pearlman 1993).”

So when someone says, “shoot them in the pussy so that they will be rendered useless”, that, dear reader, is a misogynist statement that aids in subordinating women. And when women themselves reinforce this culture by downplaying, excusing, or applauding it, they participate in their own oppression.

And the studies show

I now present the 5 reasons in the literature that show why all these statements are bad for women and Filipinos in general. Reasons why we should not tolerate, minimize, or encourage misogyny.

1) Misogyny includes verbal remarks of the “I will give tourists 42 virgins” kind. These are not to be seen as jokes, eccentricities, or signs of sincerity – unless we mean sincerely hateful and abusive. They have serious psychological effects. That is why these types of remarks are against the law.

2) Even if it was a small victory, being able in the past to keep such remarks out of the hearing of the general population, especially children, is beneficial. Thus the argument that those of us who like “disente” (decency) and therefore are merely hopelessly elitist and hypocritical is not supported by the studies. It has been shown that even just hearing degrading remarks is detrimental to a person’s psychological well-being.

It has also been shown that men who are inclined to sexual harassment are more likely to harass women when social norms condone or permit these. Such men are likely to engage in similar behaviors when they see their peers doing it. (Parenthetically, my dear women friends, this is why we are seeing so many instances of public self stimulation among the President’s men.)

3) Men as well as women experience the stress and harmful effects of misogynist statements – unless, of course, you happen to be the President, the Speaker of the House, a certain Senator who seems to be “na-ano” lang, the President’s spokesperson, and all those people who laugh at their harmful statements. The studies show, however, that if you are a woman who defends, minimizes, or enables this language by saying such traitorous things like “as a woman I am not offended” you are likely to suffer even more harmful psychological effects.

4) Authoritarian men are more likely to engage in sexual harassment. This is in the nature of “we told you so” to all those people who did not take the “mayor mauna” (mayor first) joke as an indicator of someone’s being unfit to lead. Some of these people even understood the necessity of democracy to a free and prosperous society. So how many times do we have to prove the point that there can be no real social transformation if you leave women behind? Mirese. Martial Law in Mindanao. Extrajudicial killings. The suppression of dissent. Mirese.

5) Speaking out against sexual verbal abuse is good for your psychological health. There is this loony claim going around that women who stand up against this regime’s  human rights violations, including the violation of women’s rights, are “expiring women”.

Well..duh! This indeed is a misguided statement made about women who stand up for themselves. By the parameters of evidence-based science this idea stands in the category of “were you on shabu, Fentanyl or something?”

There is something wrong with you if you do not stand up for yourself and others against this abuse. One of the hallmarks of a normal and healthy person is to see injustice, whether it is against you or another, and resist.

This is also why men and women who witness sexual slurs against women, even if it is not directed at them, experience psychological distress.

So, this is not just about women being prudes, prissy, insecure, easily offended, needing attention. It is about fighting because we are normal. Speaking of needing attention, it has also been shown that sexual harassers consistently misjudge their attractiveness to women. That is, they tend to think that women need attention from men like them, when in truth, women wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. (There are also psychological theories that men who engage in this level of misogyny are suffering from homosexual panic. But that, dear LGBT friends, will require another article on this administration’s hatred of gay people.)

Which is why the Philippine Dispensation Upholding Total Sexism (PDUTS) movement will never succeed in normalizing misogyny even if their principal doesn’t seem capable of putting a sock in it.

6) The correlation between resistance and mental health is so well established that in feminist counseling, which is now recognized as a major and established approach, part of the professional responsibility of a counselor is to engage in some activity for social change and to encourage her counselees to do the same.

So, dear reader, to uphold my professional integrity, I hereby request that you check out the Bantay Bastos campaign. – Rappler.com

Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a doctor of medicine who also holds a PhD in psychology. She has been giving free psychological services to women and men victims of violence for the last 30 years. She believes in evidence-based discussions. She firmly believes that what is popular is not necessarily moral and what is immoral will eventually be unpopular. For this article, she trusts that the reader can tell the difference between her description of findings and conclusions, her application of these to our current situation, and when she is merely engaging in stress relief by giving back to misogynists that which they seem to enjoy putting out.