This month, we here at Preen are determined to work on our fitness. Be our witness (see what we did there?) by checking out our motivational #fitspo stories on new workout routines, the low-down on healthy eating, and the latest in athleisure every week—you know, just about everything you need to get those pulses racing.
Welcome to Ask Poppy! I’m Poppy, your go-to girl for all of life’s woes. And when I say ALL, I MEAN IT. I’m not an expert on anything except maybe for being me, which makes me totally qualified to do this.
I work out. A lot. Like, six times a week a lot. And while my body doesn’t look like Hannah Bronfman’s (#fitspo), I have to say that I’m quite proud of it. Underneath my jiggly tummy are six-pack abs just waiting to be uncovered, but even though that hasn’t happened yet, I proudly walk around the locker room without a top on, and stride into yoga class wearing just my tights and a sports bra.
In my gym, there’s a really friendly cleaning lady who just hangs out in the locker room. On more than one occasion, she’s taken it upon herself to comment on my body:
“Ma’am, bawasan niyo siguro rice niyo para mas-sumeksi kayo!” she advises. (Thanks?)
“Ma’am, parang masikip na damit niyo! Bumili na kayo ng bago!” she offers. (Ouch.)
“Siguro ma’am, kung nag-lose pa kayo ng 10 pounds, pwede na kayong mag-Miss Universe!” she says. (No.)
And on and on it goes. I know she means well, and for the record, I’m only a little offended—honestly, there’s another dimension to this that truly bothers me: I know that this habit of offering unsolicited opinions on a person’s appearance is a very Filipino thing, and that this behavioral trait isn’t just the sole territory of titas. I’m also aware that on top of this being a cultural thing, it’s an educational thing, too.
When I told my fellow gym buddy about it, she just said, “Ang mga ganung tao, makikitid ang utak.” That may be true, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the cleaning lady’s fault. I mean, how do you expect someone to grasp the politics of body-shaming if they didn’t go to college? That it goes far beyond plain rudeness? (For the record, her level of educational attainment is a generalized assumption. If it comes off as matapobre, my bad.)
On top of that, we can’t ignore how people are brain-washed here by the media—the overriding message here is that if you’re not a stick-thin mestiza with long, black hair, you’re not beautiful. Unlike other parts of the world, like the US, the ideas of body-positivity, gender fluidity, and diversity aren’t yet embraced by the mainstream here in the Philippines.
And that’s why I have no idea how to bring this up with her. I want to enlighten her, but there are just so many levels to this that I don’t know how break it down for her. (Also, is it even my place to? Maybe it would be best to bring it up with management? But I don’t want her to get into trouble!) I’m also conscious of the Filipino emotional crutch called “hiya.” I’m worried that if I do bring it up, she’ll feel ashamed or think I’m reprimanding her, and we won’t be able to make small talk in the locker room like we used to. I mean, apart from her commentary on appearance, I do enjoy talking to her. She’s really sweet.
So maybe this whole thing is better left alone? Worse, is this a conyo problem? Oh, God.
You look fine as hell tonight, sexy mama. I really don’t have an idea about the whole gym culture because I mostly confine myself at home. What is a gym, even? I’m like, IDK. Just thinking about it makes me severely exhausted.
Misha, there’s a lot of layers in your letter that I feel we should explore further, but I’m going to tell you what I think right here, right now: Yeah, I think you should let this one slide off. You’ve said it yourself: she’s sweet and she’s just looking out for you. She can lose her job if you run this through management. If she does get fired, would that restore the balance in the universe? Nope.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of why I want you to react this way. Personally, I don’t think that this is an educational thing. You dosound matapobre (just a bit). I mean, what does college have to do with anything? These are values that are learned from living life as it is. Like, respect others and don’t talk crap about them. Know your boundaries. Learn when to stop or like, gauge how others are feeling. I feel like this cleaning lady does mean well with her remarks. I honestly think that you’re not the only one who are getting these comments. You should try asking around in your gym. Not to make a big deal out of it, but just to find out if this is the cleaning lady’s thing or she’s just putting you right in the center of her crosshairs.
I’m not a statistician, nor am I an expert, but I do think that people who belong in the demographic are mostly educated by mass media. In the Philippines, it’s visual medium like television and films that are making an impact in our culture. #AlDub? Millions and millions of tweets. You can band hundreds of thousands of people together to make one thing trend on Twitter, but the things they tweet about are mostly so fucking showbiz, that it truly hurts.
But then you look around and this is their reality.
Having beauty standards and brainwashing the public into believing that this is what encompasses “beauty” is not solely a Filipino thing. I mean, sure, they’re gunning for the “stick-thin, mestiza” girls that you’re talking about here in the country, but all over the world, there are countries who are all imposing strict beauty standards. It’s not just our media―it’sbeing shoved down our throats by mass media in general. It took me a long time to accept the fact that the only Kardashian that I am going to look like if I try real hard is Kim’s ass.
Don’t believe what America shows you, Misha. No matter how body positive and diverse they might seem, they’re still pretty much as fucked up as we are. I remember reading a piece that Heather Matarazzo wrote last year about how she got kicked out of a role that’s been hers for two years because the investors thought that she was “unf*ckable.” Heather doesn’t want your penis anyway because she’s a proud lesbian, but goddamn, being told that you’re “unf*ckable” would’ve shattered me. I loved her in Welcome to the Dollhouse, where she played Dawn Weiner, a girl who was always teased because of her looks. If you haven’t seen it, well they call her Weiner-Dog. In one scene, Dawn asks, “Why do you hate me?” to which a pretty character replied, “Because you’re ugly.” In another, a character tells Dawn to get ready because he’s going to rape her after school. Playing an “ugly character” took a toll on the then-13-year old Heather, especially when interviewers were asking her how it felt like being cast as an “ugly duckling”
“I had to really look at myself and see my beauty,” Heather wrote in her piece for AfterEllen.com. “Once I could accept the harsh reality that I was indeed, not only f*ckable, but f*cking beautiful, everything started to change. ”
This whole getting-up-in-your-business may be a cultural thing, and yeah, I think that mass media has contributed a lot to making people think that this is an okay thing. Well, it’s not okay to make okray. People don’t realize just how powerful words are, but if you look at the media that they consume, you’ll see how this culture of pang-o-okray has risen to the surface during the last few years.
Take a look at the highest-grossing Filipino films during the last five years and you’ll see how it’s all from Vice Ganda. People are wildly in love with Vice Ganda’s brand of comedy. Its brash and sarcastic, and well, mean. I know this because I’ve seen all of Vice’s movies.
For the past five years, Vice was crowned as the Phenomenal Box Office Star, a category that was pretty much made up for the actor who made more money than the Box-Office King and Queen. Ganda has this schtick of verbally harassing people for comedic effect. Making okray for laughs. In Beauty and the Bestie, she’s comparing her friend’s face to the surface of the moon and makes fun of Coco Martin’s lisp. It feels powerful to have someone who is frequently deemed as ugly be in control.
I’m not saying that Vice Ganda is behind all of this, but his movies are being seen by the millions, making some sort of impact for those who choose to gain insight from what mass media is offering. People think it’s funny, making them think that it’s A-okay to act the same. I laugh when I watch his movies, but they sometimes overdo it and it amplifies this whole culture of calling out someone for their flaws.
I think that you’re better off focusing on your own goals, Misha. Don’t let her playful comments bring you down or maybe stop perceiving it as something that’s hurtful. I really think that this cleaning lady is just trying to motivate you even though she’s being a total bitch about it. It’s not her fault that she feels that this is an appropriate way to keep you going.
I really don’t have a solution to change the way our culture moves, nor do I have the expertise to back up and explain why we act the way we do. That’s a tough job to accomplish because we’re talking about a mindset of a nation here. You can try by starting with the cleaning lady. Try to explain to her why her brand of motivation can sometimes hurt your feelings. You can always get away with something if you’re seemingly nice. I mean, if you act kindly and be well-intentioned, I’m sure this cleaning lady would understand.
Oh, and please, don’t be matapobre.
Got a question for Poppy? From love and relationships to weird questions you dare not ask even your psychologist, Poppy is ready to answer them all. Send in your questions to [email protected] or post your question over Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #AskPoppy, and you just might get the answer you are looking for.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.