by Sylvia Estrada Claudio

If anyone is still to be convinced that Philippine culture is sexist and that a whole lot of men out there think it's okay to be sexually violent to women, then look at what these people have come up with

GuyEstradaClaudioI can hardly look at the compilation of memes a friend sent me. I do not even know whether I shall write about this because it would only call attention to the memes.

They aren't very scandalous actually. They are just in very bad taste. In any case, I trust the mature reader to decide not to bother to look them up (a good option) or if they wish to do so, look them up without passing them on. I tried to find them myself, but only to find out more about the scumbags who post them.

I am talking about memes that portray Presidential Adviser for Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, government peace panel chairperson Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, along with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in various romantic/sexual poses.

So let's just say that while I was enjoying International Women's Day and Philippine Women's Month, these memes made me crash land from my high.

If anyone is still to be convinced that Philippine culture is sexist and that a whole lot of men out there think it's okay to be sexually violent to women, then look at what these people have come up with. So let me say this to those who made the memes: you are sexual harassers. And, because you are sexual harassers, I urge the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate who you are and file cases against you.

I understand, too, that there is a whole lot of money floating around out there for this kind of negative campaigning. Don't be naive dear reader, about the corruption in media and the advertising industry. Let's not be naive also about the fact that there are those who benefit from war in Mindanao and there are some ambitious politicians who are riding on the Mamasapano incident as a means to boost their political chances. They would benefit from the besmirching of the reputations of these people. So I am hoping the NBI investigates and discovers further if any industry player and/or politician is paying for these memes.

I don't even care at this point whether you are for or against the peace process or the MILF or Iqbal or Deles or Ferrer. I am incensed that whenever some people disagree with a woman, they degenerate to hitting her through the sexual and intimate. This is a hatred of women, our bodies and our sexuality masquerading as political commentary.

Sexism on the Internet

Sexual violence on the Internet is yet another problem women advocates need to deal with. It doesn't matter whether you are for or against an issue; whether you are a celebrity, a public figure or an unknown. Rest assured that if you dare to express an opinion on the Internet, and you are a woman, you are going to get sexually foul comments from someone who disagrees with you. Rest assured that if you come to the attention of any of these poor-excuses-for-humans, they will delight in saying something sexual about you – even if it's just to call you fat.

And the studies show that this is a problem for women, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transpeople than it is for heterosexual men. It is a problem for all women because it discourages us from thinking for ourselves, expressing our opinions and generally engaging in political life. What it says is the only sphere of life in which we are to be considered, is the sphere of the body or the sexual.

When it is done to women who hold high-ranking positions and who do worthy things like negotiating peace, it is all the more a message to all women that, no matter what we do, our worth is confined to how men think we can be in the bedroom.

It is a problem for those who believe otherwise. It is a problem for those who believe that like men, women are capable of all the things human beings can accomplish. It is a problem for those who love their mothers, daughters, nieces, female cousins, aunts enough to want them to be the best they can be. It is a problem for men who are confident enough to want to shine in a field that has not been narrowed by discrimination against half of the human race. It is a problem for those who wish to encourage women bloggers, writers, opinion makers and intellectuals.

It is also a problem for those who have an allegiance to freedom of expression and genuine debates that lead to a more enlightened nation. I used to prefer unmoderated forums even for the online sites of media outlets. This was until I saw the horrible content that people come up with. Because of these foul human beings, moderation has now become the standard. So don't you use the freedom of expression argument to me in this regard. It is because of people like you that we have to leave to the sensibilities of moderators what eventually comes into the discussion boards. (And they make mistakes. And the studies show that they become traumatized by the content they have to deal with.)

Fight back

So, whether you are some independent wannabe political analyst and Internet warrior or you're a media relations person for hire – I want you to know that you are dead wrong.

If you're an independent wannabe, go see a mental health professional, perhaps she can testify in court that you're sick should the NBI eventually come knocking at your door. (Please, please, please NBI do investigate. Make it your gift to us for this women's month.)

But if you are some gun for hire, then quit your job. The only moral defense you could possibly have for doing this to women (including your mother, aunt, sister, daughter) is that you would starve if you did not do this for pay. Then, perhaps we might forgive you. Deles, Ferrer and Iqbal might even send you alms. They are nice people. Honorable people who do honorable work. So unlike you.

In the meantime, those of you who might want to look up the memes should do decent men and women a favor. Leave a message or comment. A simple one: stop this sexual harassment, scumbag! –

Sylvia Estrada-Claudio is a Professor at the Department of Women and Development Studies, College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines. She is a former Board Member and current General Member of Isis International.

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