[Dash of SAS] Small Dick Energy...on a presidential scale

“Gabi-gabi lumalakad ka, anong oras ka umuuwi? At kaninong bahay ka tumutuloy?” 

(You’re out every night. What time do you go home and who do you go home to?)

The president’s latest public meltdown could easily be chalked up to a spasm of  “small dick energy” (SDE), or the hyper masculine but uber insecure man’s way of projecting a massive ego to overcompensate for his painfully obvious ineptitude. 

But Duterte’s SDE meltdowns have the much more insidious and lasting effect of normalizing misogyny and sexism and legitimizing his governance through an army of henchmen, whose credibility to lead lies solely in how willing they are to follow the president and his orders.

The #DuterteMeltDown hashtag carried an impatience at having to put up with the ranting of a drunken old man for another two years. However, we are mistaken and slightly delusional if we think that this will all go away in 2022 when we elect another president. The danger of being exposed to these constant verbal attacks is that we are slowly conditioned into downplaying them. What we need to be wary of is the danger of how sexism, misogyny, and the castigation of any perceived “disobedience” have become the legacy that will outlast this administration and this president. 

The lasting power of Duterte’s punitive politics is easy to downplay mostly because it is so familiar. 

We – women especially – have been on the receiving end of verbal tirades similar to the one he subjected Vice President Leni Robredo to by our families, usually by older male members.

The verbal attack or what we normally call “sermon” usually ends with variations of “Gawain ba yan ng matinong babae?”. (Is that something a respectable woman would do?)

The boys and men in the family who step out of line are not questioned in the same way.

Such interrogation and castigation are reserved for women and positioned as a form of disciplining when, really, it is the exercise of control packaged in the family code of:

“We’re only doing this because we care about you and your reputation.”

The usual response to this tirade is non-confrontational acquiescence. We adjust our behavior, we mute our resistance. We shrink into a corner. We modify our behavior according to our family’s demands, to meet their expectations and win their favor. We do so in part because we see that other family members who toe the line are rewarded with preferential treatment, like being given a position of power they’re not qualified for or are a pass for transgressions – like having a birthday party in the middle of a nationwide quarantine that has everyone else locked up at home.

We only have to look at the various government officials who have traded in their political principles premised on gender equality and human rights for LGBT people to curry favor with the administration to understand how this kind of conditioning extends far beyond the home and into the political spheres of power and governance. 

More specifically, think about how Duterte won votes and public support by positioning himself as “Tatay” (Father), whose strict and rigid policies are a form of discipling because he knows and wants what is best. The justification for the brutality of the drug war is just one way that compliance and public support are conscripted using the family trope and the image of an authoritarian figure as head of the family. 

Those who ignore the pettiness of the verbal warnings and stand up to authority are lambasted with more threats. In the case of Vice President Robredo, it is the threat of being destroyed if she dares run for the presidency in 2022 and the bullying of other members of her family.

In his desperate attempt to use intimidation to enforce submission and compliance, we can sense Duterte’s fear. 

Vice President Robredo allows us to see what a leader and a working government look like. And in this space to reimagine an alternative future, we realize we deserve better and can start to demand for it. We may not be able to change our families, but we can change our government. Rappler.com

Ana P. Santos writes about sexuality and gender. This column is a spin off of the Facebook page Sex and Sensibilities.com. Ana is currently pursuing a masters degree in Gender and Sexuality at the London School of Economics as a 2020 Chevening Scholar. Follow her on Twitter at @iamAnaSantos.