Friday ∗ 24 Nov 2017

Pinay call-out culture: the good, bad, ugly

Without a doubt, there is power to be had in having social media, through which we can articulate our grievances, question our leaders, call out oppressors, demand accountability. Here is a medium that cradles our voice, and depending on what it is we’re talking about, we find allies in other voices, named and anonymous, supporting what we say, adding onto our narratives. It’s a sense of community, sure. It’s a sense of belonging, absolutely. It is power, undeniably.

This is at the heart of the Twitter thread of Adrienne Onday that wanted to talk about “misogyny, sexism, and predatory / manipulative behavior in the local independent music scene in my experience.” I myself had read the first set of tweets, which was her speaking in broad strokes — nothing specific, no names, and heavily contextualized when she was doing the gig scene regularly enough to become friends with the bands she idolized.

But soon enough I found that she had started naming names, and it had escalated to her being attacked, which she handled well, as she stood her ground, insisting this was based on her experience, that the system itself is patriarchal, so she didn’t feel she could voice out her discomfort right when things happened.

Onday sets foot on unstable ground though the moment she shared anonymous accusations sent to her privately, about the members of the bands she mentioned in the thread. There was a clear shift here from personal experience to other people’s allegations, which transformed the thread into a list of accusations from nameless sources.

Onday also didn’t practice restraint in posting these allegations. There was no sense that a distinction was being made between a claim of alleged rape (as there is against a Jensen and the Flips member), and claims of “malandi ang banda” or “two timers silang lahat” or “touchy siya” (mostly in that thread about the bandmembers of Sud).

Here lies the crisis. Rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment are crimes that are for the police and courts to handle. To put kalandian, or pagiging touchy, or pagiging two-timer on the same level not only puts into question those crimes against women, but also makes criminals out of the misbehaving men who commit the latter misdemeanors. Which is unfair, both to the women victimized by sexual abuse, predation, and systemic misogyny, and to the men who are being made into criminals for having behaved badly.

Because that is what two-timing is about. It’s a boy misbehaving, borne of patriarchy sure, but certainly not falling under the same umbrella as sexual predation or sexual harassment. And what of kalandian? How do we — as women — even define that? What is malandi to you, might be malambing to me, and vice versa. What I might take offense at, might not be what’s offensive to the next woman, and herein lies the need be clear about the words we use, to define things better for us and for the spaces we move in. In this thread, malandi was interchanged with touchy, was interchanged with what was being defined as manyak, interchanged with akbay, and yakap, and the articulation of “ang gaganda niyo naman!” And while the offense against all those things are valid, the presumption that it is a measure of who these boys are, and that they are criminals like those who attempt rape are, is unstable at best. To paint kalandian, or “being touchy” as purely male or patriarchal is also false. Neither of those fall easily under the umbrella of misogyny, too.

It is thus no surprise that the thread devolved from serious allegations of abuse and systemic misogyny to accusations against “dudes who three-timed-women and treated them like they’re disposable.” It became a free-for-all, where girls could claim harassment and misconduct against band members and musicians, without having to name themselves, without having to contextualize what they say, without having to take responsibility for their allegations.

Later on in the thread, called out for the thread’s lack of control, implicating as it did even musicians who had nothing to do with the misconduct of members; and Onday herself irresponsibly dropping *hints* of sexual misconduct about other acts with: “may nalaman ako and <Ang Bandang> Shirley is cancelled” and “can confirm from anonymous informant, Bullet is kinda gross,” she decides to stop the thread, and says:

“I really did not make this to shame people. It was to demand accountability sana from bands and empower the women who are still scared to come out kasi baka siraan sila o awayin ng fans. I genuinely just wanted to share my experience in the scene and how I wish it was better.”

First: this thread ceased to be about sharing one’s experience the moment you started sharing other people’s experiences to corroborate your own.

Second: demanding accountability from bands need not happen in such a public way. Call-out culture — which is what this Twitter thread takes from — has its origins in Black femme resistance against daily forms of harassment and threats of rape and death. Hypervisibility was the only way these women could keep safe, could fight their attackers, could demand accountability. That is a fight and struggle so distinct. It is not the same for the rest of us — certainly not all women — certainly not the women in this thread. 

This, here, there were many ways of handling this differently, even if it is two, three years since. There’s such a thing as calling-in, working to change things from within — if that is the goal — by talking to people concerned. Specifically in this instance, Onday was saying she was scared before, but wasn’t scared anymore, ergo the thread. So why was first recourse social media? Why couldn’t it be talking to these people she considered “friends” at some point? That might make it more difficult sure, but given the backlash and lack of control on a Twitter thread, one imagines talking to band managers and band members themselves might have at least been a more productive first step in this instance. There is equal fear in calling a person out one-on-one, and in calling them out publicly. There are fewer repercussions all around when first done privately.

And guess what: if you do it privately first, you also have moral highground later on, when you do decide to go public with your allegations. You can actually say you tried to call them in, discuss the matter, but alas, nothing changed.

Sure, this is about sisterhood, as it is about feminism. And yes we want to empower girls and women to speak out. But we also want to teach ourselves to be responsible about the accusations and allegations we throw around, we want to make sure that we aren’t turning into the misogynists we hate, turning the violence around just because we now have the power (and social media apps) to do so. There is a great deal of responsibility that goes with call-out culture, and its roots are borne of a struggle that is far deeper, far more important, than how the word “tara!” made us feel, or how “that three-timing dude” treated us like we are “disposable.”

Different battles demand that we use different weapons. Having been made paasa by that bandmember, an uncomfortable akbay we could call them out on right away, a drunk lead singer articulating that we are beautiful — those are battles that demand different weapons. To use call-out culture on that — when there is rape, sexual harassment, death threats, silencing of women critics, oppression of women in the workplace, the violence of homelessness, joblessness, landlessness against countless other women — is to risk losing the latter battles altogether.

Lastly: wishing the indie scene better should’ve started by not using “the indie music scene” as category for this thread. That is a whole set of OPM bands, cutting across generations, that this label already implicates in this “negative experience” by default, which is unfair and misleading.

Social media has allowed us this power to speak up, shout, scream at the top of our lungs. It is what we use for the causes that we hold dear.

It is also what has put Mocha in power. That is a timely reminder. ***

NOTES: Part about landi-lambing fleshed out after discussions with @highreaching on Twitter, and part about calling-in after comments from @jasonmagbanua, @annasshole, @Deadbalagtas.

Posted in: arts and culture, internet, kalalakihan, kawomenan, kultura, sarili, tugtugan

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