The Senator in question is, like many members of that boys’ club that is the Philippine Congress, a misogynistic, sexist, plagiarizing buffoon, an erstwhile comedian whose stock in trade is really not the law, but rather, alongside his brother and a long-time partner-in-laughs, comedy of the crudest, basest level which unfortunately has a significant swathe of the population in thrall and glued to their TV sets every noontime.
The Department Secretary, on the other hand, appears to be eminently qualified for the position for which she was being confirmed. An activist, an organizer and an educator, Judy graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Social Work, and obtained her Masters in Public Administration from Carleton University in Canada. In addition, she possesses a doctorate in Philippine Studies from UP Diliman.
As an academic, she began as a professor in the Department of Women and Development Studies in UP Diliman, and eventually served as director of the UP Center for Women’s Studies.
These are mere highlights of a resumé that is impressive by any measure. Yet all her accomplishments have been overshadowed by a single cavalier remark made by the comedian Senator, who seems to regard the Senate as an extension of his noontime variety show.
“In the [sic] street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag lang ay na-ano lang,” said the Senator with his signature off-key crassness, when she admitted she was a single mother.
In that statement he reduced a woman with significant achievements to nothing more than a woman who was unfortunately knocked up when she was younger, and ended up having children out of wedlock. That fact of single motherhood, to the Senator, was what defined her above all else.
So in one tone-deaf sentence he later passed off as a joke, not only did he attempt to slut-shame Judy for allowing herself to get knocked up without the benefit of marriage, implying that she was a woman of questionable morals, he also attempted to stigmatize her for her nonconformist family lifestyle choice. In doing so, he demonstrated to all who were watching that (1) he is a terrible comedian with little talent for anything apart from tasteless and inappropriate and actually unfunny jokes; (2) he is a crap Senator pathetically out of touch with the contemporary realities of family life faced by the people he is supposed to represent; (3) he is a shockingly proud unevolved male whose unrepentant sexist and misogynistic attitudes encourage the continued demeaning treatment of women, defined primarily by whom they may have slept with; and (4) he is a blathering idiot who cannot distinguish between substantial issues and sensationalism.
Delving on the Secretary’s family situation was irrelevant and unnecessary, yet if conducted with a modicum of intelligence and sensitivity by the Senator could have revealed her awareness of the challenges families like hers face, and her capability to lead her department to address these issues effectively and with compassion. Instead, he turned her into an undeserving punch line for a gross joke.
Worse, some laughed along with him.
In this day and age, there should be no stigma attached to single motherhood. Sh*t happens. Women have children, whether they are married or not. Circumstances change, marriages end, families split, and women are often left to raise children on their own. So f*cking what? Even the Senator’s own daughter is now a single mother. And lest we forget, the Senator’s own brother has done his fair share of sowing his seed in several women—some he married, some he cast aside, and some he allegedly raped, most he left to in a state of single motherhood.
We are, in fact, a nation of single mothers. Our history is replete with mothers widowed by war, human rights abuses, or the martyrdom of their husbands, from Gregoria de Jesus to Cory Aquino. Even today, our society is filled with mothers who are separated from or abandoned by their spouses, and mothers whose husbands have had to go abroad in search of better employment. Mothers who were raped, mothers who were “knocked up,” mothers whose boyfriends or lovers bailed on them once they got pregnant. They are not any less capable as mothers simply because they’re single.
And yet this joker keeps getting elected to the Senate. Go figure. Yes, we are a nation of single mothers. But the real tragedy is that we persist in living in an Eat Bulaga world.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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.