I’ve had some time to chew on the issue, and I think I’ve finally sorted out what I think about the whole thing. Basically, people here are raising hell about the recently concluded fashion show by Bench, a Philippine clothing company. The show mainly features underwear and denim, but naturally, the underwear bit gets many people excited. How many chances do they get to see their favorite celebrities in nothing but underwear, after all?
Prior to the show, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines has already expressed outrage over the taglines on the billboards announcing the event, like “Come play” or “Bare your soul,” prompting the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to make the rounds of all such billboards to cover the “offensive” lines in red.
There were some comments about the show expressing dismay that the celebs and models were baring their bodies, which I find laughable. The show is mostly an underwear fashion show, after all, and I don’t know how effective it would be if the celebs and models who were modeling underwear were fully clothed.
The part of the show that really had people shaking with rage was the one where actor Coco Martin was leading a woman onstage on a leash. Women’s groups, among others, condemned this as demeaning, dehumanizing, and objectifying. In the face of such outrage, Bench issued an apology and promise to do better and be sensitive next time.
Personally, the only thing I think they should apologize for are the more or less homogeneous body types during the show, poorly designed clothing, and for thinking it was a good idea to have Coco Martin pretend to be a dom.
Years ago, I would have joined in the condemnation of Bench for their show and that specific portion with Coco. Today, I just find it mildly amusing, as I’m aware that all it has are mere inexpertly applied tones of BDSM, as the real thing would most likely shock people. (And if someone tells me that that sort of thing should not have been done because we’re a good, conservative, Catholic country, please do me a favor and shut up. For a good, conservative, Catholic country, people are strangely unafraid of committing abuse and being unfaithful, and our politicians are perfectly happy to rob us and kill their opponents).
And if people really want to get angry about the objectification of women, get mad at car shows where women are needlessly put on display alongside cars. Get mad at the annual FHM 100 Sexiest event, where a lot of the models look stunned and slightly afraid in the spotlight, and where they engage in many acts specifically geared to satisfy the male audience. Get mad at beauty pageants for still forcing women to compete on the basis of their looks, and stop calling the candidates role models and stunning examples of what Filipinas should be like.
But let’s not stop there. Get mad at commercials too for telling women that their underarms are too dark, that their hair isn’t long, black, and straight enough, that their skin is too dark and they should have a rosy white glow. A brief moment of onstage dom/sub play-acting—or indeed an underwear show that lasted less than three hours—is less dangerous than the messages being forced down our throats every day.