Philippine celebrity and Senator Tito Sotto and his co-hosts attracted the ire of the public once again with his remarks against a female contestant in a recent episode of noontime show Eat Bulaga. Apparently, after the contestant narrated how she was sexually abused in the past by her husband’s drinking buddies while intoxicated, Sotto berated her for putting herself in what, to begin with, was a vulnerable position in his opinion and also blamed her for drinking alcohol in bad company. He also questioned what she was wearing at that time and surmised that she was probably wearing provocative clothes.
Sotto’s remarks were classic “blame the victim” mentality. No wonder some members of the public were outraged by it. It’s bad enough that he was unsympathetic to the sexual abuse of the victim, he was shaming her on national television too. The worst part is, since he is a much-loved celebrity and a popular senator, his views will likely be taken by many as gospel “truth”. The laughter he generated from the audience is enough indication that a lot agreed with him. It’s too bad that all the victim could do was laugh along with her interrogators. I can just imagine the number of sexual abuse victims who have to hide their pain for fear of being shamed like this female contestant.
Tito Sotto: Kasalanan ng lahat ng iyan, yung pag inom. Yung pa-shat shat. Kababae mong tao, pa shat-shat ka?
Jose Manalo: Hindi, tama yun. Umiinom ka na, naka-short ka pa?
Allan K: Gaano ka-iksi? Gaano ka-iksi yang shorts na yan?
(Jose Manalo hikes up shorts, audience cheering)
AK: Ano bang tawag sa shorts na yan?
Wally Bayola: Ngyort!
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What is outrageous is the lack of outrage from members the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). One can’t help but think that since the person being bullied on TV is from the lower classes, MTRCB officials couldn’t otherwise be bothered worrying about her welfare. Never mind that this appalling behaviour being perpetuated by so-called members of the upper classes like Sotto for millions of Filipinos to see is what damages the very fabric of Philippine society. The public should also be calling for a sacking of MTRCB heads for allowing garbage on TV to air for years.
Sotto acted like Dr. Phil on the noon-time show. He saw an opportunity to give “advice” to the hapless sexual abuse victim. The question is, how is his advice going to help prevent future sexual abuse in the country? Will Filipino men use his excuse now and stop being accountable for raping women? The answer to that is, only morons – those who do not have empathy – would use it as an excuse. People who are intent on taking advantage of others in vulnerable positions would always find an excuse to do bad things to others anyway. Sotto just gave them extra mileage.To be fair, while I don’t agree with the way Sotto berated the female contestant on the show, I tend to agree with his stand on how both men and women in the Philippines over-indulge in alcohol consumption. It has become a national pastime. You will find a lot of men drinking instead of working during the day too. I also notice on social media how people proudly show photos of their favourite bottle of hard drink as if others should be envious of their plan to get totally pissed drunk. Even women are proud to brag about their plan to drink the night away.
Granted, our society is not the only one with a strong tradition of drinking alcohol. Societies like Germany, for example, with their beer festivals, managed to advance and become one of the greatest countries in the world while keeping many of their traditions. There is something about Filipinos in general and the way we celebrate even before the hard work is done that keeps us from moving forward.
Going back to what Sotto said about the sexual abuse victim’s attire, while it is wrong to think that women who wear provocative clothes are “asking for it”, we women have to read between the lines of his statement. Sotto could be saying that men’s primal instinct gets switched on when they see women’s flesh exposed. I have first-hand experience in this.
Once when I went to an auto-mechanic shop to have my car serviced, I noticed a significant change in the behaviour of the men after I removed the head cap and pair of sunglasses I was wearing. Prior to removing them, I was sort of incognito and gender neutral. But since I was indoors, I had to remove the said hat and shades revealing my long hair and that I was a woman. The men who were supposedly “busy” working on the cars started checking me out, some subtle but others not so. I wasn’t even wearing a pair of shorts or nothing too revealing. Just a pair of jeans and t-shirt. But they gave me the look just the same.
The behaviour of the men in the car shop gave me an epiphany. It was a light-bulb moment. Men — straight men, of course — are programmed to check women out in whatever shape or form and we women need to keep that in mind. Women in some societies who wear hijabs, nijabs and burqas obviously have that in mind.
Having said that, I also firmly believe that women should be able to wear whatever is appropriate for the occasion and venue. If we are at the beach, we should be able to wear shorts or swimwear without having to worry about perverts and being shamed by the likes of Sotto. Filipino mentalities should evolve and get onto a higher plane. Filipino men should understand that woman who wear short skirts and skimpy clothes are not necessarily out to get some action; most women just like expressing themselves and aren’t really “asking for it”. Some women aren’t even aware of the effect they have on men. They are just being themselves. Men should respect that. I know a lot of men who do and are able to rise above their primal instincts. I just hope prominent people like Sotto can promote that kind of mentality instead of his very basic view of the world.
In life, things are not always what they seem.