Time to #SpeakUp
When the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements swept Hollywood last year, Filipino pundits wondered whether such a campaign against sexual molesters could ever prosper in the local entertainment industry — a world that’s populated by characters notorious for inappropriate entanglements and indiscretions as well.
In the United States, once-powerful molesters like producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey were unmasked and chased out of town by the persons they abused. Closer to home, in South Korea, the entertainment industry was also rocked by accusations of misdeeds committed by prominent directors and actors.
But will such a game-changing movement ever flourish in the Philippines?
As a netizen bluntly put it: Filipinos are much too meek and forgiving to defy their abusers. We need not look further than post-Edsa politics to verify this sad fact.
The first step, however, comes with speaking up against abuse.
The Inquirer Foundation, Tony Moly and Gabriela teamed up in March to spearhead the #SpeakUp campaign — in time for Women’s Month.
According to its organizers, the movement seeks to erase the stigma that victims endure as a result of rape, harassment and molestation.
As its name implies, the program aims to encourage victims to speak out, seek help and find comfort and strength in fellow survivors’ stories.
Said Tony Moly’s Andrea Amado, an organizer of #SpeakUp: “One of the best ways to deal with the problem of abuse is to talk about it.
We live in a society wherein we blame the victim: ‘Your clothes are too sexy,’ ‘You had too much to drink,’ or ‘You were too friendly.’
The victims of abuse need to understand that it’s not their fault and that there are other people out there who are willing to listen.”
The #SpeakUp crusade is envisioned as the beginning of such a dialogue.
“We want the issue of rape and abuse to be discussed openly — so we can start improving our laws, change the way people think, and protect the victims,” said Amado.
In interviews with the Inquirer on their own experience of sexual abuse, actress-host Kat Alano and former model Hans Montenegro candidly presented the various challenges confronting survivors who come forward.
As Alano pointed out, the reality of rape requires a two-pronged approach that must address legal and cultural complications.
Fortunately, the law has been amended to reflect the changing times. Rape, as outlined in Republic Act No. 8353, or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, is no longer considered a “crime against chastity” and is now defined as a “crime against persons.”
But there is a need to initiate an educational campaign to inform people of their rights and the protection that the law offers. Alano remarked that education is key, that “we should teach people the correct information about rape.”
Montenegro, who is now a human resources officer in a multinational corporation, asserted that “change needs to come from the top.”
He added: “We need our most senior leaders to deliver a very strong message that any form of discrimination will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.” Gender sensitivity should be practiced every day — in every sector and industry. There should be zero tolerance for rape jokes and other sexually charged comments, he said.
The interviews with Alano and Montenegro sparked a vigorous discussion in cyberspace that generated mature and level-headed opinions apart from a few asinine and antiquated views.
The most stirring reactions were posted by people who came out to share their own #MeToo stories with the public. On top of this list is US-based producer-host G Töngi, who started out as an actress-model in her youth.
In a Facebook post, Töngi commended Alano and Montenegro for their courage, wistfully adding that she hoped to find in herself the same bravery to deal with her own “inner struggles.”
In a subsequent interview with the Inquirer, Töngi confirmed that she, too, had her own experience with abuse in show business when she was only a teenager.
Clearly, the candor of Alano and Montenegro inspired another show biz “survivor” to emerge from the shadows and shine a light on a disturbing social reality.
As Töngi declared in another Facebook post, no matter how “uncomfortable” it is, this discussion needs to restart and continue. Now.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.