In the United Nations headquarters in New York, Harry Potter actress Emma Watson is giving an impassioned speech about gender equality, and why objectification needs to be stopped.
Halfway around the world, Ikaw Lamang actor Coco Martin is walking around a runway in Manila with a woman on all fours wearing a leash.
Two strikingly contrasting events, happening on the same day in different parts of the globe. This says so much about real state of popular culture, and how grossly immersed it is in hypersexualization in order to sell.
And I’m not even talking about the nudity, as perhaps that is a discussion for another post. This is not about prudence. In fact, promoting women empowerment is not about castigating trends in however women wish to identify themselves with, including fashion. However, there is a fine line between sexuality as an expression, and objectification. And in Bench’s “The Naked Truth”, it was the latter masquerading as the former.
Many wonder why I am a feminist. They say that it is no longer relevant in these times when women are now part of the work force, and are given the same rights under law. I have had discussions with friends who supported parts of the discourse on feminism, yet somehow balk at the idea of being considered a “feminist”.
Being part of a sorority that promotes the goal of uplift of women, among other reasons, this is perhaps the advocacy I feel most strongly about. While we are lucky to be in a country that affords women the same rights, real equality remains bleak when it comes to opportunities. Until now, domestic violence against women and rape remain commonplace, and women are still discriminated against when it comes to jobs because of a prevalent belief that there are certain things men can do that women cannot.
And it is exactly this, the manifestation of this desensitization of the portrayal of women— the pseudo-lesbian kissing, the S&M stint at the Naked Truth, the “Snuggle with a Struggle” shirt, The Fappening, the leakage of Ellen Adarna photos from Esquire, among a plethora of other things, is precisely why female empowerment remains more relevant than ever. In the midst of an age where we can have female leaders and rights of suffrage, yet continue to reduce women to mere sexual stereotypes in the media, there still exists a paradox lurking in the facade of so-called equality.
I have heard different views on the issue— some defending it in the name of art, some dismissing it and saying it’s “not a big deal”. But then, that’s failing to look at the big picture. By saying that this is not a big deal, we say that it is okay to portray women as sexual objects. We say that it is okay to make fun of rape and make rape jokes, because it was her fault anyway that she put herself in a vulnerable position. We say that it is okay to leak photos and videos of naked women taken in their own privacy, since “she should have known the risks” and “she was taking them for someone anyway, so same difference”. By saying that the objectifying portrayal of women is okay, we are saying that it is okay to take advantage of these women, sexual manner or otherwise, and perpetrate victim-blaming.
This is not a call to arms to wage war against men. This is not a call to subvert the patriarchy and proclaim women as the real “stronger sex”. This is a call to arms to wake up and smell the inequality, to stop pandering to male-directed fantasies, and treat every human, regardless of gender, the way they should be treated: equal.
Why? It’s simple. As an audience, we deserve better. And that, my friends, is the naked truth. #
*I recognize that male and female are not the only genders people identify with; I subscribe to the belief that gender is a spectrum, rather than being binary, and I do not dismiss the fact that other genders experience marginalization as well.
**If I had a son in the future, god forbid that he actually grows up to think rape is anything like snuggling.