Lemonade, battered woman syndrome, and Duterte apologists

Nikki Luna
Lemonade, battered woman syndrome, and Duterte apologists
A generation is about to be influenced by a leader who has low regard of women

These past few weeks, the temperature has gone through the roof in the Philippines and in social media, where conversations about politics have engaged everyone.

Friends, family, and acquaintances are fighting over their chosen candidates. From millennials to veterans, everyone has an opinion. Now and then, there are news breaks that momentarily interrupt talks on politics. 

For example, Beyonce’s Lemonade album was released. The very personal virtual diary set off tongues wagging. Speculations have been lingering about her husband’s rumored infidelities. Lemonade speaks of marriage, struggles of (racial) identity, feminism, and an affair.

I listened to the songs. Although I am not a Bey fan, the lyrics appeal to me as clear and strong. “This is your final warning. You know I give you life. If you try this shit again, You gon’ lose your wife…” Bey was praised for coming out with her marital woes, making a stand that she is a woman not to be trifled with. Then, the Beyhive went after the alleged mistress. Amidst all of this mayhem, how come the husband Jay-Z was left off the hook?

A few days after Bey’s Lemonade, the talk of the town goes back to local politics. Duterte comes under fire, once again, for encouraging wives to take philandering husbands back as long as they don’t bring back STDs. Prior to this statement, he made news globally for his controversial remarks on the rape of an Australian missionary. Duterte “joked” about a woman who was brutally killed and raped, saying “the mayor” should’ve had the first dibs on the woman. 

Duterte defenders were quick to admit: It was a bad joke. But they said he should be forgiven because that’s just his humor.

After much ado, he took back his statement and apologized. But the damage has been done. His statement lost him not a few voters. For example, my mother-in-law’s helper, Rose, told me she will not vote for Duterte. I asked why and she replied: “Mga lalaki lang ang mamayapa sa kanya (Only men will prosper under him).”

Her words are simple and true. Rose came from an abusive marriage with a philandering husband. She now supports her 3 sons on her own. 

Rose, however, is the exception. The rest of the Philippines see otherwise.

Duterte-Cayetano at the Rock D' Avance concert in Taguig on April 30, 2016. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

I saw Facebook posts openly sharing that they too have been raped, but are not affected by Duterte’s joke. They don’t realize that their statement just negated the silent, painful struggle of all other rape survivors.

Well and good for them that they can share their experience, even going as far as defending someone who perpetuates rape culture. It is heartbreaking to think how their supposed bravery could impinge on the determination of other victims to speak out against their abusers.

Duterte’s daughter Sara leads those victims defending the abuser. True to form, the abuser further abuses the abused. Duterte silenced his daughter, relegating her real horrid experience to typical female hysteria.

Universal truth

Duterte apologists look away from what they know isn’t right. Regardless of gender, they ignore what holds as universal truth – respect – all in the name of change. 

As one of his defenders said, Duterte is like her “father” who is decidedly chauvinist but is a fierce and loving protector. 

The issue of citizens defending Duterte is similar to the battered woman syndrome where the partner tries to protect her abuser. Filipinos have experienced abuse for centuries – from our former colonizers to our current corrupt government officials.

We’ve accepted sexism, rape culture, and patriarchy as the norm so much so that we don’t have second thoughts voting for a misogynist candidate.

I am not for oligarchs. I am not for crooks. I am not for newbies using the woman card to further her interests. I am certainly not for misogynists. But I concede that the clamor for Duterte is loud and clear.

The defenders see him as the “savior, messiah, and knight in shining armor.” They wait for change through him. They keep insisting change will only be through this person.

As cliché as it sounds, doesn’t change come from within one’s self? The late Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror should be listened to more often.

This isn’t just for me, but more so for children who will grow up under his stead if he wins.

We learn what we are given growing up. With Duterte at the helm, we are allowing boys and girls to hear and see a womanizer and a sexist to be forgiven for his woman-shaming ways, just because he has done good for the majority in Davao. 

Is it okay if someone like Duterte marries your daughter? Is it all right if your son acts and talks like him? Would it be fine if your children make fun of those who are disabled or to use derogatory terms? Is it fine for you to watch your daughter to live and suffer under a philandering husband? Is it okay if your daughter cries rape and be shut down? Would it be fine if your sons disregard girls as merely objects or for them to see other people as dispensable?

I believe the leaders we choose are a representation of who we are ourselves. 

Although in the end, despite himself, Duterte is the hero. 

I have two young daughters who are both less than two years old. They are named after Philippine goddesses – protector of women, defender of mankind, and goddess of hardworking laborers.

I can only hope my children will grow up as empowered as their namesakes. I hope they can do and be anything and contribute to a democratic society, despite this society. – Rappler.com

Nikki Luna is an artist, feminist and founder of StartArt a non profit providing art workshops to women and youth victims of human rights violations. A UP Fine Arts graduate, she took her art residency at the Cooper Union school of Art in New York. She has mounted several exhibitions in local and international galleries and museums representing the Philippines. Her visual discourse revolves around women’s issues. Currently she is studying in depth her MA in women and development studies in UP. Follow her on Twitter @nikkiluna.

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