Political Power and Sexism
Fr. Shay Cullen
Fury, anger and outspoken protest was registered by a group of French
women politicians in France demanding an end to the sexual harassment
and sexism among male politicians and government officials which they
themselves were subjected to.
They directed their sharp criticism at an enduring attitude and what
could be described as male political entitlement to sexually harass
female politicians and journalists.
A few weeks ago, they stood outside the French parliament with placards
and megaphones and riot police on standby demanding a stop to the daily
practice of male politicians- their colleagues- physically touching,
groping, harassing them with sexist talk and in some cases, sexual
assault by the male politicians.
But that is not all. Last 2015, a group of female journalists spoke out
in public demanding the same respect for their status, dignity and
rights. Many have come out openly describing they were sexually
assaulted by male colleagues.
At least 40 of the female journalists wrote an open letter to the
Libération newspaper to protest the abuse and outrageous sexism of
French officials and politicians who tell them, “It was just a joke.”
In 2011, French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn was
charged in New York for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid.
After weeks of humiliating court appearances, the charges were dropped
by out of court agreement.
The female politicians signed an open letter condemning the practice so
prevalent as if it is a machismo right for males to behave in that way.
In this day and age when we have recently celebrated International
Women’s Day, this behavior in the presumably civilized and sophisticated
French capital is truly outrageous. The abuse by male politicians of
their positions of power challenges all of us to review our own
attitudes and what values we hold regarding the respect for the dignity
and rights of women in all of society.
We need to reflect and find an understanding of what is behind male
domination besides crass ignorance and disregard for the dignity and
rights of women.
The first possible explanation is not reason, not rational, but it is
desire and the demanding nature by some insecure and appetite-driven men
to have sexual gratification whenever they want. The sexist remarks,
touching and harassment is a foreplay and crude invitation for the
female to cooperate and satisfy their desires.
When rebuffed child-like, they can resort to retaliatory measures and
get what they want by assault and even rape. They tend to belittle and
downgrade women as punishment for failing to gratify their appetites for
sexual stimulation. The drive to gain political power may also be
motivated by the same basic instinct to have domination over others and women
in particular. It’s more animal instinct, it seems, than human rational
that is at work in the abusive politicians.
Philippine Catholic Bishops and family life advocates were shocked and
at disbelief when the presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, mayor
of Davao City, that when he would be president it would cost the state
nothing to maintain his three mistresses since he kept them in cheap
boarding houses and took them to cheap hotels to have sex. That just
gives the go signal and presidential approval to the Philippine male
population “to do as I do.” It impact on an increase in broken families
and abandoned children has yet to be seen.
His next contribution to the joke arena did not
go down so well. Some think that he is the hope for women’s rights in
the country, others abhor his disparaging attitude and remarks to women
when he told a group of women rights advocates, “You go to hell!” after
they filed charges against him in the Commission on Human Rights.
They did so after his remarks when he viewed the body of a murdered
and raped Australian Missionary who died in a prison riot in Davao. “She
was so beautiful, as mayor I wish I had been first,” he told a laughing
crowd. But it was only a tasteless joke he said later and apologized
The protesting Filipino women did not appreciate the joke. They wrote a
letter to the commissioner on behalf of all members of their
respective organizations. They said in the letter of complaint that
“women (were) insulted, shocked and outraged” by the sexist joke of
the mayor and that he was allegedly violating the Magna Carta of Women.
This attitude, they said in their letter, put “in peril the future of
many children and young women who are potential victims of violence
against women.” They also wrote: “What protection and redress would
they expect in a society where men tolerate such violation?”
The Philippines and Southeast Asia is the target for the sex tourists
the world over. The tolerance and cooperation of politicians is
outrageous. They grant operating permits to thousands of joints, sex
bars, massage parlors which are fronts for both child prostitution and
human trafficking. Young women and children are forced into these
The politicians have the power to stop it but do not have the interest,
respect and political will to act against them. Instead they foster and
promote them. Again the sexist attitude of the male species dominates
and exploits. That’s what they want and that is what they get no matter
This we must oppose united and determined. Otherwise there
will never be true gender equality but together we can help change it.