On rape and degrading portrayals of women

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
On ‘Naked Truth’ fashion show and rape statement shirt
23 September 2014

“I wish to express my thoughts on two disturbing online photographs depicting women in a degrading manner that were recently brought to my attention by our friends from social media.

“The first is from the ‘The Naked Truth’ denim and underwear fashion show sponsored by the popular clothing line, Bench, which was held last September 20 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay. A sequence of photos from the event that were posted on fashion websites and blogs showed a woman model wearing skimpy clothing being walked on all fours — like a dog — and tied to a leash that was being held by a fully dressed Coco Martin, a popular young actor, as they moved on the runway. Online articles that came out about the show described that sequence as a ‘crowd screamer moment’ where Mr. Martin played master to his ‘pet.’

“I immediately raised this issue to Ben Chan, Chairman and CEO of Bench – who I happen to know personally. I told him that while I respect the artistic license of the team that conceptualized the fashion show, the derogatory portrayal of women is offensive and should not be tolerated. Such portrayals reinforce society’s sexist view of women, instead of contributing to the gender education of our people, especially of our youth.

“Mr. Chan assured me that his company would immediately issue a public apology – which they did this afternoon. I commend Mr. Chan for taking a hands-on approach on this issue and for showing his sense of social responsibility. Being one of the country’s most successful global brands, their commitment to uphold the dignity of women sets the right example.

“Another controversial photograph that has gone viral shows a t-shirt that glorifies rape. The controversial shirt had big bold letters declaring: ‘It’s not rape, it’s a snuggle with a struggle.’

“A photo of the shirt posted online by Karen Kunawicz, a writer and women’s advocate, has triggered online protests demanding SM to pull out the shirt and issue a public apology. I raised this issue during the hearing of the budget of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) this afternoon. ‘Statement shirts,’ as we call it, have become popular among the youth. In fact, the controversial shirt was reportedly being sold at SM’s Boys section and thus were being marketed to male teenagers. And so I asked school presidents and administrators to take the lead in promoting gender sensitivity among their students, and also with members of their faculty and staff.

“That being said, I welcome the statement posted this afternoon by SM saying that it has ordered the pullout of the controversial t-shirt and will conduct a probe on how the said merchandise was included in their stock of assorted t-shirts for sale. Rape is a sensitive and serious matter that our society continues to struggle against. Rape can never be justified regardless of the circumstances — and much less trivialized on a statement t-shirt.

“The gestures shown by these two major retailers indicate their professionalism, sensitivity to gender issues and willingness to own up to their responsibilities as corporate citizens.” #

PHOTO: SM and Bench statements posted online

Link to Bench statement
Link to SM Supermalls statement

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