POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 5 June 2014, Thursday
No woman is safe
He hated women and blamed them all for his loneliness.
That is the simple explanation of why 22-year-old Elliott Rodger killed six and injured 13 last May 23 in the campus town of Isla Vista, California, before shooting himself.
A rambling, 141-page autobiography he wrote reveals a mind disturbed. Emotionally and sexually frustrated, with no girlfriend since birth and believing he deserved one as a matter of course, he decided to take out his immense rage on womankind in general.
His attitude of entitlement is not confined to his race, age, nor class. It is a prevalent attitude among the majority of men around the world, Filipinos not an exception.
This attitude has been termed the “rape culture,” wherein societal norms make the rape and molestation of women and young children “normal” and excusable, even condoned.
Some extend the concept to cover male entitlement and privilege that considers women as property (“She’s my girlfriend/wife so I can oblige her to have sex with me”) and sexual objects (“Look at those breasts!”), as well as the idea of victim blaming (“It was her fault because she was wearing a tank top/ shorts/minidress.”)
One example of a society where the rape culture is in the extreme is India, where recently two young low-caste girls were gang-raped and hung from a mango tree. They were waylaid by a group of men when they stepped out of their house to urinate.
India was also in the news in 2012 for the gang-rape and murder of a young woman on a bus, igniting public anger and demands for change.
The Philippines has its share of reprehensible rape cases. According to magazine editor Joel Pablo Salud in a Facebook post, “The year 2013 saw 7,409 cases of rape in the Philippines, and 4,234 of these cases were children. That’s higher by 26 percent than the 2012 figure of 3,355 children.
“The Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (PNP-DIDM) also reported a spike in teenage rape suspects from 305 in 2012 to 406 in 2013…
“The rape statistics are just part of the little over one million crimes (1,033,833) committed in 2013 as against 217,812 in 2012. The country’s current population is over 98 million.”
The rape culture mindset is so deeply embedded that its even its slightest manifestations are considered ordinary, even expected.
Here’s an example: Our office moved to a new location on the ninth floor of a building on Shaw Boulevard. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlook the swimming pool of a condominium next door. During these hot summer days, tenants, most of them foreign, splash about in bikinis.
Every time this happens, many of the males flock to the windows to ogle the women who seem unaware of the attention and that their privacy is being violated. Some of the men joke about bringing binoculars for a better view. The figures of the bathers are rated on a 1-10 scale. Comments are made on the size of their “assets”.
I asked my officemates why they do this. Their answer: “Because they’re there!”
In other words, it’s these women’s fault they are being ogled and objectified because they exposed themselves to public view, never mind that it’s a pool on private property.
But our society is making gradual strides to change such attitudes. Last month, in a landmark case, the Supreme Court upheld that rape within a marriage can be prosecuted as a crime.
“Husbands,” said SC Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, “do not have property rights over their wives’ bodies. Sexual intercourse, albeit within the realm of marriage, if not consensual, is rape.”
Authorities have recently been cracking down on cybersex dens in the cities of Cebu, Angeles, Cagayan de Oro, Metro Manila, and other areas in the country.
The Philippines is among the top ten countries where cybersex is rampant, according to the Global Virtual Task Force on Cybercrime. Around 100,000 minors are said to have been victimized, sometimes pushed into the illicit trade by their own parents.
Many claim poverty as their reason for pimping their own children, but it is the mindset that children’s bodies are property and can be used for labor, including sex, that facilitates this.
But women should not be afraid to wear whatever they want, or not wear anything at all, if they wish. To highlight this, Scout Willis, daughter of actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, recently walked topless around New York and posted her #freethenipple picture to Instagram, in protest of the photo-sharing app’s anti-nipple policy.
“What I am arguing for,” said Willis, “is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body, and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her.”
What the world needs is to uproot the harmful mindset of the rape culture and instill respect for women, children, and the vulnerable in society. This respect should be extended to all living beings, including animals.
Women should be safe, no matter how they’re dressed, where they go, who they’re with, or what they do.
If respect for women were the norm, then maybe, just maybe, there would not have been an Elliot Rodger. ***