Power without Force: The Feminization of Politics

Nestor Ravilas

“When you feminise politics, it loses its power!” Hearing this from one of the talks of the philosopher and political theorist, Yanis Varoufakis, made me wonder what he meant by this, until it occurred to me gender relation in our political culture.

President Rodrigo Duterte emerges in political time where those who are able to challenge his rule are mostly women. The vice presidency, the Supreme Court, and the Office of the Ombudsman are all occupied by women. This includes one staunch and feisty voice in the senate which is also owned by a woman. When the president started to show maleficence which is actually what is expected from him from the very beginning, these women stood up and challenged by calling out the president. They caused serious headache to the president. Nonetheless, despite their significant and numerous triumphs in the game of political intimidation and coercion, the president was able to prevail at the end by decapitating these women one by one.

As we all know, Senator Leila De Lima is now languishing in prison. Her voice at times might escape her cell, but it was diminished to almost a nil. Supreme Court chief justice Maria Lourdes Cereno was already replaced. Although remains free and occasionally appears in public, she is already neutralized. Vice President Leni Robredo luckily survived the election protest filed by Bongbong Marcos, but she remains stupefied by the tension whether to act as the voice of the people or be the face of the Liberal Party. With many jabs, on the other hand, endured by the president from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the president just patiently waited for July of 2018 where the term of Morales has ended.

Was Yanis Varoufakis right after all that once you feminize politics it loses its power that is why these women were easily neutralized, if not dismantled, despite the fact that they occupied such significant political positions?

What is staggering in the case of Senator De Lima is her illicit love affair with her driver that was maliciously used to imply guilt on accusation against her on assisting transport of drugs inside our national penitentiary . The fake sex videos intentionally escalated damaged her person more than her alleged connection to drug syndicates. The congressional inquiry on the said case went as low as to question sexual positions she and her lover performed. Such disparaging attack on her morality enough to convince the patriarchal and misogynistic Philippine society that the senator is most likely guilty of protecting drug lords.

Ours is a patriarchal and misogynist society that put, from the very start, women in a disadvantageous position. In many occasions the president himself and other male politicians admitted having affairs with women. But we have never been scandalized the way we puked in the case of De Lima. We applauded them many times when they bragged their misogyny and bravado images in the public. What almost destroyed Vice President Robredo is not the election protest filed by Marcos, but the rumor escalated that she was impregnated by another politician. It stuttered them for a while until verified that it was nothing but a malicious rumour. Gossip of coquetry never leaves her since then however.

It appears therefore that it is hard for women to prosper well in politics where they remain viewed as weak and subordinate member of our society. Although we celebrate that fact that we are one of the few Asian countries that allowed women to rule men, embedded however within the fabric of our culture the degenerated view of women. Trying to keep and perpetuate, therefore, this culture is to confer politics to women devoid of power that makes them vulnerable to the attack of misogynist people like the president, in which you expect the same misogynist audience to cheer and applaud the president in complete satisfaction of such public vilification.

The case of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is probably an exemption that seeks for another essay.