We are a nation careless with words.
It is what we are calling out Vice Ganda on, the fact that she even thought to use the rape of a woman as a joke, not a fictional but a real one: Jessica Soho.
Likewise, making fun of her weight is to fall into the concept of beauty according to mainstream capitalist discourse. A woman becomes pretty or ugly as she gains or loses weight.
It is ABS-CBN that put Vice Ganda on that stage and allowed her to get the crowd rolling in laughter at the expense of a woman who is a powerful icon in the rival network. Moreover, she is by all counts intelligent and credible, everything that is not Vice Ganda. That joke was about Jessica’s weight, and the TV network rivalry in this country. Just watch ABS-CBN’s Charo Santos-Concio laughing her head off at Vice Ganda’s jokes, right there on the front row.
To use a title like “The Rape of Jessica Soho,” meanwhile, on a piece that by all counts is taking the side of Jessica, does not do us any better. It is sad that the same essay that critiques Vice Ganda for both the joke and the apology is just as complicit in the victimization of Jessica as joke, if not as raped.
There was no reason to use that title on an essay that is about Vice Ganda. There is every reason to problematize a title that in the end ascertains that doing a google search on Jessica Soho will mean “the rape of” right beside it. There is every reason to believe that this was self-proclaimed “new media” website like Rappler.com going all sensationalist on us, letting its columnist Patricia Evangelista get away with the further victimization of Jessica.
St. Scho alumni Risa, Mutya and Jordan have created a Facebook community page called Kulasas for Pol Medina Jr., where they end up insisting that the St. Scho community is “onion-skinned about being singled out,” asserting that time should be spent instead answering the questions: “Is being a lesbian a bad thing? Is trying to find your true identity something that needs to be a shameful secret?” The three also assert that this was about “satirical humor,” something that too many have also asserted about Medina.
All these of course fail to consider the fact that Medina did his apology properly so soon after it dawned on him that he did go too far. If the artist himself has admitted to his mistake, then why would we expect his newspaper to stand by him? In relation to what exactly? Too, if the artist has apologized for a mistake, how then is this still a discussion about free speech?
Medina had it in himself to reassess that strip and find it wanting. He was not a coward, hiding behind his right to free speech. He was being the responsible komikero that he should be, admitting that yes, he had gone too far. To not listen to him is to fail him completely, too.
But, too, we fail an educational institution like St. Scho, whether we went to school there or not, when we insist that this was all just a joke, and was in fact satirical. Yes, Medina does satire, and the community of Pugad Baboy is a satirical one. But this strip by itself, was far far from satirical. In fact, what it had were two characters from the satirical community, talking out to the real world, looking out of the panels of that strip, and delivering not so much a punchline, but a grand sweeping declaration about the students and nuns of St. Scho.