WE have exercised circumspection in offering our views on the now-infamous “stag party” put on by Liberal Party officials in Laguna last week, because everyone—except, naturally, the parties involved —has reacted to the story just as they should have reacted, with horrified outrage.
There is, of course, no justification for employing dancers to perform simulated sex acts in a public function, or anywhere else for that matter. In the wake of the scandal, the response of LP officials has just made their public image problems even worse. MMDA chairman and presumptive Senate candidate Francis Tolentino, who provided the “gift” of three dancing girls, went from “I didn’t do it” to “But I asked the girls to wear skirts” back to “I didn’t do it” in the space of about an hour last Wednesday evening after the salacious news saturated the local regular and social media. Other LP officials, after taking way too long to think about it, finally mustered the appropriate embarrassed approbation to express their disapproval and promise to “investigate” the affair the following day, and have been obviously trying to avoid the subject ever since.
But a large part of why we collectively reacted with revulsion to the LP event has nothing to do with the LP or its officials. As many have pointed out, the racy show was not the “isolated incident” LP stalwart and Senate President Frank Drilon claimed it was, and pictures and videos of other politicians (including some who were quick to condemn the LP’s behavior) at other events doing approximately the same thing quickly circulated online to prove the point. And that’s where the real problem lies: What bothers us is not so much the behavior of the individuals and organization involved, reprehensible as it is, but the unpleasant reminder that we still live in a society where this sort of thing is considered okay. For all our visible and audible respect for women—the Philippines is noted around the world for its number of women high government officials, for example—they are still discriminated and objectified, a source of entertainment to appeal to our basest animal instincts.
The LP’s sorry show in Laguna is little more than a by-product of an environment in which it is somehow considered normal and necessary to decorate a noontime variety show with a troupe of pointlessly gyrated, scantily-clad young ladies. It is the by-product of an environment in which the consumer market is oversaturated by the marketing of improbable standards of beauty and sexiness, and where a “pleasing appearance” is considered a legitimate job qualification, regardless of its relevance.
The Liberal Party and its officials who allowed this to happen deserve all the scorn we can heap on them. But it would be hypocritical not to reflect on the bigger problems that provide an atmosphere for it, and regard them with the same distaste.