On Lady Gaga and the RH Bill

Joey Ramirez
In what universe do Lady Gaga and the RH Bill exist on the same plane? Welcome to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, you would know who Lady Gaga is by now. Her “blood soaked” performance at the Grammy Awards, the sure-to-be-talked about “clothes” (the meat dress, the bubble wrap ensemble, literally wearing Kermit the Frog), her music videos that leave viewers wondering “What the…?!?”

Anything and everything she does is almost guaranteed to keep people buzzing.

As a child of this generation, the pop star has utilized platforms like Facebook and Twitter almost fully to her advantage: based on sheer online influence and reach, last year, she was named Time Magazine’s Most Powerful Celebrity, knocking Oprah Winfrey off the top spot.

HELLO, LITTLE MONSTERS! From the airport to her hotel, Filipino fans swarmed Lady Gaga as she arrived in Manila on May 19. Her two-night concert at the new Mall of Asia Arena is on May 21 and 22. Photo from SMART Communications, Inc.

It underscores the importance of social media in this day and age. (News for news and other media outfits who are still not on the cyberspace wagon: Get on it. Remember the dinosaurs.)

In what universe would she and the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill be sharing the same space?

The unlikely answer comes from Indonesia.

News reports have indicated that Indonesian authorities have revoked Lady Gaga’s license to perform in that country (she was slated to perform there in June as part of her Born This Way Ball tour) after pre-selling 30,000 concert tickets.

The reason: three Islamic groups have registered their protest and displeasure at the upcoming event, accusing the singer of promoting “satanic teaching.”

I initially dismissed the news item as a sad consequence of living in a theocratic country, until I read it further: did you know that Indonesia is a secular state?

Just like we are. Supposedly. But reading another news item yesterday — a priest urging people not to vote for lawmakers who support the RH Bill in 2013 — I began to see that, however unlikely, Lady Gaga and the RH Bill are actually occupying the same boat, on a route to nowhere.

All because they both offend the sensibilities of a particular religious group.

Ever since our colonization from Spain, we have been subjugated by one sector long after the Spaniards have left us, and that is the Catholic Church. They have been so interwoven into our lives, they are already considered part of Philippine “culture,” and no one blinks anymore at their blatantly direct involvement in politics.

You can’t get any more “direct” than stating to your religious flock who not to vote for.

As if you needed more proof of this meddling, the RH Bill has been languishing in Congress for decades. The most vociferous critic of the proposed measure is the said religion, with both overt and implied threats of their “voting power,” rendering legislators largely immobilized by fear that they won’t be voted into office for another term.

Most of the opposition of the Catholic Church stems from its reading of the RH Bill as a measure that supposedly will push people into having sexual encounters 24 hours a day, because artificial contraception is the “hidden” agenda of the bill. Online commenters who openly oppose the bill on the same religious grounds usually have the same retort: Bakit? Makakain ba ang condoms?!? (Can condoms be eaten?!?)

It proves that there is a myopic, constricted view of what the bill is all about: sex. 

It’s not so different from one of the Indonesian religious leaders protesting Lady Gaga, who said that “she’s a vulgar singer who wears only panties and a bra when she sings.”

This obsession about sex reminds me of a statement by Stephen Fry, comparing it with people on a restricted food diet, who, because of the unnatural state, are naturally the ones most obsessed about food.

Dieters don’t expect everyone else to go on the same restriction just because they voluntarily do it, do they? This analogy pretty much answers which group is most obsessed about sex.

Reading through the RH Bill and its provisions (there are several sites online that you can peruse), it is overwhelmingly a bill that pushes for education about reproductive health, and a measure that respects people’s choices, religion being one of the bases for those choices. It will not, as one comment I’ve read puts it so animatedly, “sasaksakin yung condoms sa baga natin” (shove the condoms down our lungs).

But then again, most of the major world religions are not fond of the terms “education” and “choice.” How could they, when they all insist that their body of knowledge — such as it is — is the only way to go, and any deviation from their religious code is an affront to their deity and beliefs?

At least, in Lady Gaga’s case, all that will be affected will be her ticket sales. She earned US$-90M last year, so I doubt her non-concert in Indonesia will cause a blip in her financial standing.

But what is the cost for the non passage of the RH Bill? We now have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia. I saw a newsmagazine show over the weekend that featured a town filled with teenage moms, one of whom was still playing with dolls because she was still a child herself, barely a teenager.

Without education, there is no way people can arm themselves.

And as for choice? Well, the 30,000 tickets that were pre-sold proves that Lady Gaga has fans even in conservative Indonesia. Similarly, in survey after survey conducted by reputable firms, people in “the Catholic bastion of Asia” favor the passage of the RH Bill.

LIKE IT OR NOT, she's all set. Fans welcomed Lady Gaga in her couture hair-and-shoes glory. Photo from SMART Communications, Inc.

People can live without seeing a Lady Gaga concert.

But people are dying needlessly while the RH Bill gets kicked around as a political-religious football.

It is time for the government to score a goal for the RH Bill. – Rappler.com

(The author works as a fitness professional and is currently an area manager for a large multinational fitness center chain. For more by the author check out his blog.)

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