Female Objectification in the Digital Age: A Classic Display of Misogynist Culture

Photo from Flickr

The Philippine media has never been known for its reverence toward women, particularly with the current administration. But female objectification takes a new form with what can only be described as overt male debauchery on social media.

Earlier this year, the activities of a “dating company” called Pick-up Artists (PUA) Academy came under fire following the complaints of enraged netizens.

The Academy is set up like an actual class with teachers and students, except the lessons focus on how to pick up women, techniques to get laid, and every dubious activity in between, such as posting nude and lewd photos of women without their express consent.

Yes, such an online group exists and is very much active.

The members refer to the whole process – from getting a woman’s attention to luring her into sex – as a “game”, and women are considered “sets”. Sharing is the name of the game. There are so-called “lay reports”, where the members discuss the details of their escapade on the group’s Facebook page.

As of April 30, 2018, the account has more than 26,000 followers, helming a shit-show of female objectification and mockery that further pushes the misogynist agenda. But there’s more where that came from.

A Delicatessen of Women

Image from Pexels

PUA Academy is just one of the many online groups of a similar cause. In 2017, Facebook group Pastor Hokage Bible Study was publicly chastised for posting and rating illicit images of women and children.

Senator Risa Hontiveros called to “prosecute them (group members) to the full extent of the law and hold them accountable”. The page has been shut down since.

The members of the “Bible Study” used the word “amen” to approve obscene photos of women posted on the page. A member would make an “alay” in the form of a woman’s photo, and other members would either accept or decline.

In a different Facebook page, called Philippine Pie R-18, the admin posts images of random women, sometimes fully clad, sometimes in a bikini. The majority of these women are not affiliated with the group in any way. It can easily be your sister, your friend, a friend of a friend.

The real kicker is the barrage of heinous, unspeakable comments under each thread. The page feels almost like an all-you-can-view deli, where men can scroll down and gawk at innocent women, with tongues wet and dangling from their mouth, possibly hands inside their pants.

It’s a heady image to think about. But it’s the only thing to deduce from the unapologetic, unfiltered manner they deride the voiceless women on these pages.

Alarming, Yes. Shocking, Only a Little

Image from Pexels

The effort that goes into forming and running these Facebook pages is notable, if not impressive. But what I found disheartening, on a truly personal level, is that learning about their existence is less shocking and more of a reality check.

The local climate has bred a culture of misogyny for a while now, further normalized by the men currently in power. This culture is like that grime in the corner of your room that you know always existed, that has now suddenly materialized into an actual display of grossness.

It’s alarming, but not totally surprising. Perhaps, the complete demolition of PUA Academy and everything it stands for starts with the unlearning of this mindset.

Just Men Being Men

Photo from Flickr

To no one’s surprise, the concept of “ganyan talaga mga lalaki” is not far removed from the justification of PUA Academy and its peers. It has been set in stone that since the dawn of time, men have enjoyed ogling and talking about women – why should this be any different? No harm, no foul.

To some extent, the reasoning does apply. These sites thrive precisely because of men who behave like men: stubborn and presumptuous.

Stubborn because they refuse to acknowledge the importance of express consent, and presumptuous because they think anything else outside the act of physically forcing themselves on someone is technically okay.

Many of the photos posted on the pages have been from clueless women; women who may or may not have engaged in sexual activity with the poster or totally random Instagram and Facebook users who got their pics lifted and posted on the page for the members’ viewing pleasure.

Lesson 1 for Men: Don’t assume that posting pictures of anyone, regardless of whether their account is private or public, intimate relationship or not, is okay. Without their permission, third-party posting is off-limits. Under any circumstance.

To rub salt to the wound, the comments on the photos range from cringe-y to downright vile.

(Warning: offensive language ahead)

Comments under a photo of a woman in a bikini (screenshot by the author from Philippine Pie R-18)

Comment thread under a photo of a woman posing with a group of men (screenshot by the author from Philippine Pie R-18)

Meanwhile, PUA Academy cultivates the mindset that “no doesn’t always mean no.” It’s a classic case of “it’s not rape if she secretly wants it.” Secretly being the keyword. Men are still under the assumption that most women are hiding behind a façade of ladylike resistance.

Lesson 2 for Men: Regardless of whether she’s playing hard-to-get or actually throwing up at the thought of engaging with you, no means no.

The sooner men admit that they’re stubborn and presumptuous, the sooner we solve the systemic sexist problem.

The alarming thing is that, despite the awareness and tenacious outcry of young people, the list of PUA and Hokage-like sites is expanding.

Esquire Mag has collated a compilation of “Pastor Sites”, which sadly hasn’t been updated since July 2017. The Facebook group Catcalled in the Philippines has also published its own list.

It makes you think what steps we can take to leave behind the years of “ganyan talaga ang mga lalaki” and pave the way for a cultural mindset that condemns those very words.

Loud and vocal denunciation? Using social media to amplify the female voice? Maybe a little more active assistance from mainstream media?

It’s a long and bumpy road ahead of us. For now, we can keep reporting these pages, make the effort to call out indecent acts, and bring to power the people who will fight for our cause. Or at least, people who don’t encourage shooting women in their private parts.

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