‘Inviting the beast’? #HijaAko trends as women call out victim blaming

Samantha Bagayas

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‘Inviting the beast’? #HijaAko trends as women call out victim blaming
Many on social media join Frankie Pangilinan in condemning the thinking that women's outfits are to blame for sexual assault

MANILA, Philippines – Rape exists because of rapists.

This sentiment was echoed in thousands of tweets as women took to Twitter on Sunday, June 14, to shut down the misconception that their outfits are to blame for sexual assault.

Using the hashtag #HijaAko, women came forward with their own stories of harassment, pointing out how these incidents occurred even if they were not wearing revealing clothing.

The hashtag went viral after Frankie Pangilinan, the outspoken daughter of “Megastar” Sharon Cuneta and Senator Francis Pangilinan, used it to reclaim the term “hija” to refer to “girls who fight for their rights as human beings.”

Pangilinan earlier tweeted the need to teach people not to rape in reaction to an online post of the Lucban Municipal Police Station that told women to avoid wearing revealing clothes so they would not be targeted for sex crimes.

Seemingly talking down to Pangilinan by calling her “hija,” broadcaster Ben Tulfo said sex offenders would pounce on any opportunity to commit unwanted sexual advances, and urged “sexy ladies” to be careful with the way they dress because they might be “inviting the beast.”

Tulfo reiterated his point in a separate Facebook post on Saturday night, June 13.

“Bago natin sila baguhin, baguhin muna natin ang sarili’t pag-iisip natin. Gets mo, hija?” he said. (Before we change them for the better, we should first change our way of thinking. Do you get it, child?)

Pangilinan later countered Tulfo, saying his way of thinking has only continued normalizing rape culture and the objectification of women’s bodies.

“Rape culture is real and a product of this precise line of thinking, where the behavior is normalized, particularly by men. The way anyone dresses should not be deemed as ‘opportunity’ to sexually assault them ever. Calling me hija will not belittle my point,” Pangilinan said in a tweet.

Women quickly backed Pangilinan’s points by using the hashtag to showcase the very real incidents of harassment that occur because of men’s behavior, not because of their outfits.

Many added that clothing should never be used to excuse sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, pointing out how even young children and babies have become targets of predators. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment)

“Excuse me, Ben Tulfo, the way ‘sexy ladies’ dress up is not an invitation to the ‘beast.’ As long as men like you who think this way exists, we will never be able to abolish the culture of victim blaming. Rape exists because of rapists,” Twitter user @Joannaaaabanana said.

By Sunday afternoon, the hashtag quickly rose to Twitter Philippines’ top trends, with at least 4,121 tweets.

One Twitter user pointed out that conversations about the existence of rape culture and victim blaming should be taken offline as well to help dismantle people’s misconceptions that it’s merely up to women to protect themselves from sex crimes.

Another even provided a list of resources that people can study to better understand that sexual assault happens because of the offender’s actions and decisions.

Here’s what others have to say about the matter:

– Rappler.com 

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Samantha Bagayas

Samantha Bagayas is the head of civic engagement at Rappler.