Allow me to say this: our sexuality is not a joke.
There is something fundamentally wrong with how LGBT and women are portrayed and treated in pop culture. In the latest Eat Bulaga controversy, the TV show hosts try to “help” a gay father by advising him to return to the closet to spare his children from embarrassment. This is nothing new.
Sexuality has always been the butt of jokes and this not only holds true for the LGBT community because women, too, face the same challenges albeit differently. RememberVice Ganda’s rape joke on Jessica Soho?
This is how pop culture portrays LGBT and women – someone you can laugh about, joke about, not take seriously. After all, it’s only a joke, right? There should be no harm done.Ang pikon ay laging talo (Whoever loses his temper never wins). But where do we draw the line between jokes and stepping over dignities of certain groups of people?
Fans of these celebrities and their shows are up in arms, ready to defend their idols and the shows they’ve grown to love over the years. And so arguments such as “it was just a joke,” “do not take it seriously,” “you are too sensitive,” have been raised.
But let’s be clear here: when you treat our issues as jokes, you perpetuate the culture of hate and discrimination, the culture of patriarchy and sexism. And when you defend those who make a joke out of us, you give more power to those who constantly oppress and abuse us.
A difficult battle for women and LGBT
Pop culture has always been a difficult battle for LGBT and women. Women are still being objectified, made to wear bikinis in noontime shows for purpose of viewership but at the same time are still expected to be prude and be like Maria Clara. LGBT’s are almost always misrepresented because of ignorance that gays and lesbians are not the same as transgenders and vice versa. Women are still told what to wear and what not to wear, how to act and how not to act. LGBTs are still fit into stereotypes – the loud gay friend, the siga(tough) lesbian. It’s still a woman’s fault if she gets raped because of what she wears and how she acts. It’s a transwoman’s fault if she gets laughed at because by wearing women’s clothes, she clearly doesn’t respect herself.
And although there have been progressive efforts to mainstream knowledge on LGBT and women such as teleseryes (television series) with gay and lesbian couples as main characters and shows where women are empowered, these are not enough to educate the public on the issues of sexuality. As long as pop culture remains inconsistent in its messages on LGBT and women, it continues to uphold the culture where we can be laughed at but cannot complain about it.
Here is where the problem lies: pop culture, a reflection of a deeper problem of patriarchy, sexism, and heteronormativity, will only uphold LGBT’s and women’s dignities so long as it does not inconvenience them. But once we start to complain, once we start demanding a change in the way they treat us, they retreat to their discriminating and oppressive ways.
You want us to stop making women dance in bikinis? Why would we when they give us more audience? You want us to apologize for having offended LGBT’s? Why would we when it was just for laughs? You want us to say it’s not a woman’s fault when she gets raped? Why would we when she was tempting us with her revealing clothes?
Responsibility of pop culture
With the popularity and influence of these celebrities and with one senator running the controversial noontime show, we would have thought them to be more careful and more responsible with their actions and words. We would also think that they could have just been humble enough to admit their mistake and apologized. But instead of doing so, they defend themselves and thank those who defend them. Alas, the truth has become clearer:Eat Bulaga is run by proud sexists, macho men who cannot recognize the wrong they have done.
But Eat Bulaga is only one show and we have only scratched the surface. There are many other shows that need to be scrutinized. Big TV networks run shows from sunrise until midnight. How many of these shows are gender sensitive? How many of these shows do not step on LGBT and women’s dignities? With more celebrities being called out on how they treat LGBT and women, concrete action must be done to address the issue. For example, why not make Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) and gender sensitivity workshops mandatory in the showbiz industry?
Pop culture’s oppression and discrimination on LGBT and women are most of the time covered in glitter, packaged nicely, unrecognized, and let off the hook. But with more people coming together to unpack it from its glitz and glamour, its dirty, oppressive, and discriminating practices are now revealed and thrown in the spotlight.
Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, Paolo Ballesteros, Jose Manalo are icons of comedy and patriarchy – the symbols of our broken, discriminating society. So help them God.
So help us God.
Originally published in Rappler.