Earlier this month, Senator Risa Hontiveros announced that she wants members of Facebook groups sharing obscene photos of women and children to pay a fine of up to P500,000 and serve a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
It may be recalled that concerned citizens exposed several groups connected with the Facebook page, Pastor Hokage Bible Study. Despite its name, the page was an online cesspool of misogyny, where photos of women and underage girls were traded and subjected to the sexist comments of the members.
Then again, there are so many other Facebook group pages that are similar to the Pastor Hokage Bible Study. Esquire Philippines even provided a list of these pages.
From Traditional to Digital: How Rape Culture Thrives
The sheer number of pages—some with thousands of members—goes to show that rape culture is alive and well in the Philippines and has gotten a big boost from the (mis)use of social media.
It's easy to express disgust and just pretend this isn't happening. However, if we want to eradicate this trend, we have to start by examining its possible roots and the part we have all unwittingly played in their existence.
Just like serial killers, misogynists aren't made overnight. The mindset of these men is a product of the world we all live in.
Here are five things we all probably do that have paved the way for such deplorable mindsets to flourish and exploit social media for their reprehensible agenda.
1. We sexualize babies.
How many of us have heard or read this comment: "What a beautiful baby girl! Your dad needs to be on guard/buy a gun/learn jiu-jitsu to keep your suitors away from you!" or "He's going to be a heartbreaker!" It may seem like an innocent remark but it actually disregards the innocence of the child and introduces the idea that she is at risk of being harmed by the so-called suitors or that he is going to ruin the lives of women. This is crazy because they're just babies. These sexualized comments (which are generally perceived as compliments) are a testimony to a disturbing mindset. Apparently, so many people perceive women and men in general: She is always a possible victim and he is always a possible victimizer. In a Medium opinion piece titled, "Please Stop Sexualizing Infants," a young mom wonders: "Why in the world are we so excited for our babies to be attractive to the opposite sex? What sort of insanity is this?" The sexualization of babies is the gateway to the victim complex for women and normalized misogyny for men. If you want to give compliments to babies, why can't you just say that they're cute and stop there? There is no need to taint your compliment with a scenario that portrays these babies as sex objects or sexual aggressors.
2. We confuse love and desire with cruel or criminal intentions.
Kaye (not her real name) has a 15-year-old daughter named Ashley, who told her that she was being bullied in school by a group of boys. Kaye told her friends that she was going to talk to Ashley's teachers about it. Kaye was taken aback when one of her friends (also a mother) suggested, "The boys probably have a crush on her and are just trying to get her attention." Consider this comment the entry-level justification for men who are hostile or engage in perverted behavior towards women. It's the same sort of justification for catcalling, when women are told, "Consider it a compliment that they find you beautiful enough to heckle you or do wolf whistles."
3. We look away.
When we witness another woman being subjected to sexual harassment, we don't automatically defend her. Case in point: When a female reporter was catcalled right in front of other reporters during a press conference, not one person stood up and said, "Sir, please don't." Later on, the reporter was even told that she should feel flattered about it (see No. 2).
4. We have selective outrage.
Let's be honest. It's easy for us to be enraged when we hear about complete strangers engaging in perverted behavior or catcalling women. We lose no time in shaming these strangers.
However, when it's our friends or family members engaging in these disgusting antics, we curb our outrage and pretend they all just had a momentary lapse in judgment.
We'll say, "He's really a good guy. Maybe he just made a bad joke." But then if we excuse our friends and relatives for making misogynistic moves, what right do we have to call out anyone else for doing the exact same thing? That would make our self-righteous stance downright laughable.
5. We don't see the big picture.
We easily dismiss the men who put up these Pastor Facebook groups as the scum of the earth—and that could easily be true. However, like it or not, these men are part of our society. "Traditional misogyny blames women for the lustful, licentious, and powerful urges that men sometimes feel in their presence," notes Kate Manne in her Boston Review article, "The Logic of Misogyny." Perhaps, we can all agree that gender sensitivity is a concept that should be introduced to everyone early on. After all, if there are people who think it's alright to sexualize babies, then children should be taught to resist this conditioning as soon as possible.