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Sotto is low hanging fruit

The next time you hear a man preface a disparaging remark with “on the lighter side”—meaning he’s just joking no matter how offensive his next words are—I hope you bop him in the head and give him an honest-to-goodness bukol.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for Social Welfare Secretary “designate” (a term now in favor among Duterte-era politicians) Judy Taguiwalo for the way she responded to Sen. Tito Sotto’s “light” reference to her, a single mother of two girls, as “na-ano lang.” Sotto explained away the term as street slang, but apparently, many in the gallery got the undertones of this as they erupted in laughter.

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It’s difficult to put one’s finger on the exact meaning of “na-ano lang,” a vague reference to an accidental and casual meeting that in some cases resulted in a pregnancy.

Expectedly netizens, many of them single mothers themselves or else raised by single mothers, erupted in hurt, outrage and cutting remarks, including mentioning two of the senator’s daughters who are now living separately from their children’s fathers, thus making them single mothers. Taguiwalo herself explained that given the times—she was an activist and detainee during martial law—there was just no recourse to the conventional martial setup for her. And as a professor of women’s studies, she added, she taught her students “to respect all kinds of families and that includes solo parents.” News reports didn’t say if her gentle but pointed rejoinder was met with applause, but I’m putting my hands together and raising my fists at Taguiwalo’s gentle but gutsy reactions.

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Actually, as someone in social media pointed out, it’s too easy to target Sotto for his treatment of and attitude towards women. Given his long history of offensive remarks and behavior both as an entertainer and public figure, Sotto is low-hanging fruit indeed.

More cause for concern, I believe, would be the people watching the confirmation proceedings who saw nothing wrong with, indeed, who erupted in glee, at the way a respected official of Taguiwalo’s mettle was publicly shamed and denigrated.

But this is no longer so shocking. Even after then-presidential candidate Duterte made clear his views on the role of women in society, that is, as sex objects and pleasure toys, so many of his adherents saw nothing wrong or unseemly at this. That so many among them were women, and as public opinion polls now show, many of them belong to the upper echelons of society as well, simply proves that sexism runs deep in our society.

The President loves to mask his misogyny and dirty mouth with an affiliation with the poor, saying he has no time to worry about social niceties since he’s too busy working to improve the lot of the poor. But poor people themselves refuse to take Mr. Duterte a role model, and indeed, the latest polls show an eroding base of support for him from the poorer sectors of society.

So is Senator Sotto but a symptom of the crudity now prevailing in our public life? Or has he been given free rein by the general atmosphere of behavioral laissez faire set by the President?

Proud “tita” moment: Congratulations to my niece Florianne Marie Lucindo Jimenez, whom we all called “Bo-peep” in her childhood but now goes by the more “adult” appellation of “Bo,” for the latest of her many achievements.

Bo most recently received the “Walker Gibson Award” from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which is presented each year for the “best essay on a subject in Composition and Rhetoric.” The certificate was signed by Randall Knoper, chair of the Department of English in Amherst.

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A graduate student and instructor, Bo graduated from UP Diliman and is the daughter of lawyer Jim and psychiatrist Peewee. If I remember right, she won the Palanca award for Kabataan (Youth) Essay while she was still a student, and taught literature and college writing for a while in UP. She is now pursuing a PhD in rhetoric and composition at UMass Amherst. Thank you, Bo, for proving that the “writing gene” still runs strong in the Jimenez bloodline, and for bringing your love for the written word to new heights!

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