Filipinos humor themselves out of difficult situations. Jokes break the ice but no punchline elicits the strongest reactions as one that tackles women and sex. Why do people, especially men, still do it?
Simply because men can, backed by a patriarchal society, said Alex Castro, lawyer and founder of Youth Against Sexual Harassment (YASH).
"They grew up in a culture where that’s how the powerplay is. The power to make these sex and rape jokes are tilted in favor men," Castro told reportr.
"Whenever you make sex and rape jokes, it reinforces an existing culture eh. That’s the difficult thing about it, it normalizes sexist and misogynistic comments because it gets repeated over and over again," she said.
Why Women Don't Find It Funny
Keeping the sexist jokes going "sends the wrong signal that it's okay to do this," said Jean Encinas-Franco, a political science professor at UP Diliman.
Public officials should be especially careful, as cracking such jokes normalizes sexist behavior, she said.
Women don't joke about sex because they are the usual victims. Roughly eight in 10 women experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, according to a study. This includes catcalling, wolf-whistling, misogynistic and transphobic slurs, unwanted sexual advances, rape, or even death.
"You can’t expect them to joke about something that has disempowered them completely, if at all," Castro said.
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Is there a way to hold them accountable?
Learning how to make light of a serious issue that victimizes real people doesn't just happen overnight. It's one that's repeated and normalized, analysts said. However, there is a way to unlearn this.
While there are existing laws against harassment, there are not enough safeguards against verbal abuse, analysts said. In the Safe Spaces Act, there's the burden of having a "complainant" which proves hard for rape jokes that often do not have specific targets.
For government officials, administrative sanctions may apply.
"At the end of the day, the best way to counter a culture is to create a new one," Castro said. Education is the most powerful tool to correct sexism and violence against women, she said.
"We need to educate our peers na mali. There has to be public clamor because it matters. We’ve seen how these kinds of movements have affected the actions of public officials before. We’ve seen how it has changed certain policies," she said.