The Perpetuation of Rape Culture in Philippine Media
On the morning show "Umagang Kay Ganda" that aired last February 19, host Anthony Taberna came under fire for his victim-blaming and sexist remarks to a female survivor of rape. He was heard commenting “Pambihira naman, o. Eto po ay hindi first time na nangyari, napakadaming pagkakataon na yang eyeball eyeball na yan, ang mas delikado nakipag-eyeball ka na nga, nakipag-inuman ka pa. Yan ang problema, yun ang mabigat sa lahat, lalo’t puro lalake ka-inuman mo.”(This is just remarkable. It’s not the first time that this happened. There have been so many incidents like this of eyeball meet-ups. What is more dangerous is you not only go to that eyeball meet-up, you even went out for a drink with those guys. That is the problem, the hardest of all, especially since you’re drinking out with an all-male group.)
In Taberna's statement, he blamed the woman for having to go out on a meet-up with an all-male group and having drinks with them. He never blamed the men for their actions.
One of the co-hosts, Jeff Canoy, was more aware and grounded on the situation and countered Taberna. “Madalas usually pinapa-alalahanan yung mga babae na wag sumama, wag uminom...Pero dapat yung blame talaga eh yung nasa lalake. Pag sinabi ng babae wag, wag, diba.“(Usually, women are reminded to not go, to not drink [with strangers]. But the blame really should be on the men. If the woman says “no,” that actually means “no.”)
Cutting off Canoy, Taberna rebutted that in (his) truth, women should and must not put themselves in harm's way by subjecting themselves to situations such as what the victim went through.“Hindi, sa totoo lang, madali sabihin yang sa lalaki eh. Pasensya na dun sa biktima yun dapat mabigyan ng katarungan. Pero ito para sa future na pangyayari. Kapag ka ikaw ay babae, wag kang papasok sa lungga ng mga tulisan.” (No. The truth is it’s easy to say that to men. Excuse me, but in so far as the victim is concerned, she must be given justice. But this should be a [warning] for future incidents. If you’re a woman, don’t enter the dungeon of bandits). This kind of comment incites and perpetuates what we call a Rape Culture wherein we make remarks such as inappropriate statements and jokes about rape. The Rape Culture is further induced by the Culture of Silence not just by women victims but also men. What is Rape Culture? It is a sociological concept used to describe the actuation and perception of rape (forced sexual intercourse) as having been normalized in a society due to the existing knowledge and attitudes about gender, sexuality, and the perceived roles of men and women (Olfman, 2009). According to Herman (1994), the most common behaviors associated with Rape Culture includes victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or a combination of these. And Taberna just did that. It seemed that remarks about rape and victim-blaming in national television only merited public apologies but never got any actual disciplinary actions. Previous victim-blaming statements from media personalities such as Tito Sotto, Joey De Leon, Noli De Castro, and Ted Failon just went off undisciplined and we continue to hear these kinds of comments in the media. Taberna only issued a public apology and went a 120-degree turn on his victim-blaming statement. He said “Kailanman po ay hindi ko kakampihan ang mga demonyong ito. Subalit alam ko rin na merong mga hindi nagustuhan ang aking komento at ang aking paalaala, ipinalagay na paninisi sa biktima.Hindi po yun ang aking intensiyon. Nais ko rin pong sabihin na hindi ko sinisisi ang biktima sa nangyari. Dapat pong panagutin sa batas ang mga kriminal.” But he did blamed the victim and now he denied it in his statement. This is like an apology with a justification of the fault he committed. He only said that he will be more careful in his statements the next time. And what about the response of the show? They just said that they are looking into the matter but that's it. Why is Rape Culture prevalent and is perpetuated in Philippine Media? First, media personalities, the press, and the people working in media as a whole are not aware of the impact of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and all behaviors associated to the Rape Culture. Media networks should be more vigilant in ensuring that their staff, crew, and personalities be highly aware of not perpetuating or tolerating Rape Culture in media because of the impact they can cause to the society, the perpetrators, and the victims. Second, there is less work on gender-responsive media training currently being implemented. With the majority of the networks that are privately-owned, they are not required by law to undergo Gender and Development training. Although government agencies have developed a guideline for Gender-Responsive Media, this still needs to be widely used and applied to all media outlets regardless if they are publicly or privately-owned. Third, there seems to be a weak policing on sexism in media agencies. In my work as GAD specialist, I only know of one government agency doing a monitoring of sexism in media outlets (and in most times only in print media). This agency monitors and submits the Philippine Commission on Women but from there, we do not know what actually happens next. Perhaps these agencies were reprimanded and sent with letters from PCW, but in terms of those media personalities being disciplined apart from reprimanding them especially for the likes of Taberna, there seems to be leniency from those monitoring bodies.
For us to reduce similar kinds of incidents happening in Philippine media, we should:
continue to call out sexism and other similar remarks in national and local media;
use social media as our free space to call out media personalities who perpetuate the Rape Culture and to hold them accountable for their actions;
encourage media outlets to train their staff, crew, and media personalities on the Rape Culture and the impact of their work to the perpetuation of rape and sexual violence in the country; and
support the creation of initiatives to continue or increase policing of sexism in media and enact a new culture of accountability and sensitivity towards genders and to the victims of rape and sexual violence.
And finally, let us remember that "rape is rape" in whatever context we may put it. Victims never cause rape, rapists do. Short skirts do not cause rape, rapists do. Drinking alcohol does not cause rape, rapists do. And flirting does not cause rape, rapists do.
Resources: Herman, Dianne F. "The Rape Culture". Printed in Women: A Feminist Perspective (ed. Jo Freeman). McGraw Hill, 1994. Olfman, Sharna (2009). The Sexualization of Childhood. ABC-CLIO. p. 9.