Filipino comic strips

What’s in a kiss?

Giselle Töngi-Walters
All-around media pro Giselle Töngi-Walters joins Rappler with this first post

Screen grab from Isabelle Daza's Instagram feed (isabelledaza) courtesy of Giselle Tongi-Walters

MANILA, Philippines – Who hasn’t heard Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” song or talked about how Madonna and Britney Spears puckered up at the MTV Awards a few years back?

The spotlight on straight women kissing in the media certainly isn’t anything new. And yet, when the world celebrated the passing of the US Supreme Court decision allowing for benefits for same sex marriage last June 26, two of the Philippines’ hottest “it” girls locked lips.

READ: The day ‘equal’ became real

Their black and white photograph was taken by celebrity lensman Mark Nicdao and was shot during the campaign shoot of Georgina Wilson and Isabelle Daza for retail giant, Bench.

Released on Instagram (IG) through Isabelle Daza’s account (isabelledaza) the day after the historic Supreme Court ruling, it instantaneously elicited a frenzy of comments and cyber regrams.

READ: Isabelle, Georgina kiss for gay rights

Some were for it, some against it, some shocked by it. Heated exchanges on the timeline of the post revealed people genuinely offended while others fist pumped through their emoticons in full awe of the girls’ bravery.

There was no discounting the fact that the kissing post was a beautiful photograph that contained artistic merit. After all, Nicdao shot it!

Both women had undeniably beautiful facial features: posed with their mouths open on each others’ lips, eyes shut — giving the impression that they were in the middle of an intimate kiss.

Undoubtedly, they projected sensuality. With Daza’s heading tagged as their take on gay equality, they seemed to have good intentions.

Except for the reality that these two women are actually first cousins. Yes, their mothers are sisters.

So here you have two prominent females tagged as “it girls” who are nonetheless first cousins, using their celebrity to make a statement about their support for equality.

Because they both have a massive following on several social media platforms, it would be an understatement to say that their reach is expansive.  As we all know, public scrutiny is part and parcel of being a media personality.

Yet I’d like to argue that one of the repercussions of social media is that it somehow desensitizes people to let down their guard.  

In the digital age, we as a society are so quick to post what we eat, wear or the associations we keep.  Posting on our timelines more than once a day is natural and, because of this, we don’t think as much about how we represent ourselves. 

It’s easy to forget that everything captured on our IG feed becomes rhetoric that defines who we are to the world. Media literacy and critical thinking skills get thrown out the window when posting becomes a habit and you only think of what to post next.

Daza spoke to Ava May Robles for PEP.ph, the online showbiz site, and justified her post by saying people are taking the photo “too literally” and that the photo reaffirms their support for the gay community because she and Wilson are close to many who work in the fashion industry.

She said, “Wala lang,” they did it “for fun” and wanted to have a “memory” from their Bench campaign together or do “something artistic” for their friends.

She knew her post was going to be talked about and decided to release it anyway. When asked by the writer if she realized anything from how much commotion the post caused, she said, “I think my realization is that you can’t please everybody and there are always people who don’t agree with your opinion or what you like, and there will be people to support it. Yun lang.”

I tried to get Wilson’s statement about the controversy they caused through Pia Campos, her manager, but she declined and said to “ask Belle” about the issue.

I sought out one of the Diaz family members to see what they thought of this brouhaha, since I grew up close to their family. They too were “shocked,” but it wasn’t anything new to them. The Diaz clan representative goes on and says, “George and Belle are like sisters, and they take these shots to be risqué. Very effective!”

Wilson and Daza have another first cousin both are also very close to, Martine Cajucom. Her IG user name is ilovemartine.

Cajucom lives in California and is a model for local designer Boom Sason. For Cajucom’s birthday recently, Wilson posted an almost kissing photo of them on IG as a tribute to her cousin. Since I follow Martine on IG, I saw she posted the photo of her and Wilson actually smacking, eyes shut with lips pursed.

Screen grab from Martine Cajucom's Instagram feed (ilovemartine) courtesy of Giselle Tongi-Walters

So these are first cousins who are obviously very liberated and have no maliciousness about their intentions for one another — regardless of people who call them incestuous. From the photos they have of each other, they are very comfortable about how they show their love for each other. That’s fair enough. So let’s dismiss the “incest” angle.

But I think this is where the real issue lies. In order to support the gay community, Daza and Wilson used their affection towards one another to shed light on their advocacy even though they are both straight women. 

In a study conducted by Leila J. Rupp and Verta Taylor titled “Straight Girls Kissing,” heterosexuals kiss each other for experimentation purposes, but we can suppose that Daza and Wilson don’t fall under that category.  

The most common explanation according to Rupp and Taylor on why straight women kiss is to attract attention from men, following the theory of the male gaze

So this could be the reasoning aside from the initial intent to exclaim equality for our LGBT community. It’s evident that a certain amount of shock value is part of this equation whether they care to admit it or not.

True enough, only heterosexual males found the photo “hot” or “sexy.” People in the fashion industry mostly shrugged their shoulders, not surprised since “it’s fashion.”

The digital media age has made celebrities out of people not necessarily because of their artistic merit but because of their “social capital” in the cyber world (aka the number of followers on social media platforms).

The goal is to drive numbers and “likes,” therefore you can be assured that you can expect much more shocking images in the future. After all, the goal here was accomplished! It was always to get people to pay attention to them!

Gay rights seemed secondary, yet hopefully it opened up meaningful discussions about what “equality” means in 2013. 

A lesbian friend of mine, however, couldn’t hide her disappointment at this social media stunt; in response, she posted her own photo with her partner on Facebook saying that “real lesbians in a real kiss are still living ‘illegally’ in this country of ours.”

In ending, let me post Sandy and Ida’s photo taken by Raymund Isaac from a few years back of what LOVE between a same sex couple really looks like:

REAL THING. Sandy and Ida photographed by Raymund Isaac

– Rappler.com


Giselle Töngi-Walters

 

Giselle Töngi-Walters is the professional ‘slashie.’ Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, theater and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.


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