Published in Manila Standard Today on 10 March 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
IF YOU were a man doing your job in a room full of women and one of them came up to you clad only in her underwear, then another stood beside you, looked down on your crotch and said, “Hmmm… I think you’re four inches!” and all the other women laughed hard, what would you feel?
Would you not, at the very least feel embarrassed? Would you think that such actions are normal, and thus, acceptable?
Certainly, at the very least, you will feel that something is wrong. Certainly, there will be some discomfort there even if you’re a man.
But wait! Such was virtually the same thing that happened to Cristy Ramos when in the performance of her duties as Match Commissioner to the friendly football game between the Philippines and Malaysia, she and another official went to the Azkals’ changing room, as scheduled, to check on the team.
Ramos, in her complaint letter said that she was subjected to sexist and demeaning behavior by players Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado.
The first came up to her, stood beside her and remarked loudly that she “must be a B cup” apparently referring to her bra size, and my words now, by extension, her breasts. Guirado, when it was his turn to be checked, stood in front of Ramos only in his briefs. As these happened, the men in the room were laughing hard, obviously, at her expense.
Ramos filed a sexual harassment complaint against the two players of the very popular Azkals team.
For some days, people were seriously discussing the case on Twitter. I observed that while a number of men accepted that what happened was sexual harassment, it was the women who readily identified with Ramos, and thus, were more passionate about the issue. Other men were skeptical, even questioning if what happened was indeed harassment.
It was obvious that at least a number of the women in the discussion knew first hand where Ramos was coming from. One said that she experienced sexual harassment and yelled and lashed at the perpetrator. Another said that she tends to freeze in such a situation. This is how rampant sexual harassment is.
Indeed, women react in different ways when subjected to this. Some instantly fight back, others freeze but act later, but most tend to keep quiet and suffer in silence. Because, really, what would a woman gain if she speaks up? In a culture like ours where victim blaming is common, it is difficult to complain.
Women, even as they are abused, are directly or indirectly blamed for abuse committed against them.
I remember in a rape trial, the complainant was asked questions like, “Why were you wearing shorts?” and “Why were you outside at that hour of night?” In cases like rape and sexual harassment, it is common for the woman’s reputation to be assailed. As if, if one is not virginal, one cannot claim that she was harassed or raped. In other words, the woman is at fault, she asked for it.
On Twitter, another guy reacted that sometimes, women complain because they want to get back at the man.
In my decades of experience working on gender-based violence, women tend to take as much abuse as they can because of the huge sense of “hiya” in exposing one’s self to ridicule.
In sexual harassment cases, the law is quite strict. There are many conditions that must be fulfilled for a case to prosper.
Many of those who initially complain later decide to abandon their cases because of the many difficulties they face. I know of women who were harassed and got terminated from employment. This is because often, women go against men in higher positions, and thus, are richer and more influential. Power is at play here.
Thus, it is not easy for a woman to complain and succeed even if her motive is revenge.
In Ramos’ case, what motive could she possibly have to untruthfully complain against these popular players? She is no ordinary woman, being a former President’s daughter. She has nothing to gain but much to lose. There is no reason for her to do this if she was not harassed.
To the Azkals: Hindi kayo mga asong kalye na pwedeng mag-asal kalye. Umayos nga kayo!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter