On Sotto’s ‘na-ano’
Not even a respectable woman was spared by a senator from a sexist joke.
During the bicameral Commission on Appointments hearing on the appointment of Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Sen. Tito Sotto asked her about her status as a single mother. Admitting she is, she replied that she has two daughters. Then, the senator remarked: “In street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag doon ay ‘na-ano lang’.” The people in the room burst into laughter.
Na-ano is a loaded word. It suggests that one has been “used” for sex or had casual and accidental sex. Na-ano devalues sexual intimacy. By na-ano, the senator implied that Taguiwalo got into a sexual act, but not in expression of mutual love and without thought of any responsibility. This is why the word na-ano is offensive.
The senator’s joke, supposedly meant to get on the “lighter side” of the hearing, was not only uncalled for and in bad taste, it was in itself a form of harassment.
Taguiwalo is a solo parent. She never denied it. And she is able to manage, cope and carry on with the multitasks of being a solo parent, an academician, a community organizer, a social worker, and a nationalist activist—all at the same time. Her being a solo parent had never been a hindrance to her performing her responsibilities. Certainly, through it all, she has experienced difficulties, just like many single parents, especially those coming from the most marginalized sectors in our society.
Taguiwalo is not a conventional woman. She is not one who allows herself to be imprisoned by patriarchal norms, in the cage of traditional gender-roles. As a solo parent, she represents many women who, because of peculiar circumstances in our society, have chosen to be single or to be a single parent. Regardless of what led them to that decision, they should be respected and supported.
Senator Sotto’s remark was irrelevant to the task at hand. His misbehavior was yet another showcase of how an elected government official regards so lightly a public office and cheapen it with sexism. Machismo is deeply embedded in the patriarchal system, as demonstrated by Senator Sotto’s loose language. While he apologized later after receiving a barrage of criticisms, he stood pat on his sexism by claiming that the critics are just “overly sensitive.”
Indeed women, too often, are subjected to various forms of harassment, but when they file complaints, they are simply brushed off as being too sensitive. On the other hand, if these women don’t complain, they are seen to be enjoying the harassment.
The senator should welcome a public that is aware that the devaluation of women brought about by sexism and machismo is still prevalent. We must encourage more people, especially our youth, to continue to protect the rights of women, and to expose publicly any violation of these rights. Sexism is definitely unacceptable.
Admirably, Taguiwalo was so professional and dignified in her reaction by telling the senator: “I teach women’s studies in UP so we respect all kinds of families, and that includes solo parents. Thank you.”
NORMA P. DOLLAGA,
Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan,
Kasimbayan Women’s Collective,
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