Gutter language

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2016 - 10:00am

If the defense of the use of “gutter language as part of being manly or as being the language of the poor, can be attributed solely  to the  familiar behavior of one presidential candidate, it would  not really be worth writing a column.

But I have been bewildered by the number of people, even in so-called educated circles, who have defended the explanation for the use of “gutter language” as totally acceptable because it is supposedly “how the poor speak”. This is such a condescending statement that only someone with an elitist view of life can espouse.

Gutter language is defined as “profanity and obscenity; scabrous speech.”  Gutter language or profanity or obscenity have many synonyms. You can call this also as bad language, coarse language, foul language, bad words, vulgar language, lewd language, swearing, cursing or using expletives.

First, the use of gutter language is not limited to the poor since I have heard many of the rich in the most exclusive subdivisions in the country use profane or obscene language. The one difference is that the educated class may swear in English or Taglish while the poor will swear in the vernacular. But, in any language, lewd language should be condemned.

Another synonym for gutter language is “scabrous speech” which is an adjective that is considered shocking or offensive because of the way sex is described or shown. Rape fantasies, whether expressed in English or Filipino, is still vulgar and perverse.  It also reveals the person – whoever he is – has no respect for women because he considers them primarily as sex objects.

Second, I strongly object to the belief that the poor use gutter language as part of their everyday language – that vulgarity is part of the culture of being poor. This is such a demeaning view of the poor. I have met people who work with the poor every day – public school teachers, parish priests, social workers. They have told me that there is no difference between rich and poor in the use of language. There are those who are vulgar and lewd; and, there are those who are polite and respectful – in the urban poor areas and in the exclusive subdivisions.

Third, the idea that being vulgar and obscene is an attribute of manliness is also totally false. It means that heroes and people ready to sacrifice their lives for others and for a cause are only those who have the capability of using  “gutter language” or profanity as part of their daily language. This diminishes and demeans the stature of martyrs and heroes who have led decent lives, used respectful language and found the courage to give up their lives for a religion or a people or a cause.

Gutter language is profanity and obscenity – in any language or culture. It is not acceptable by any culture that teaches everyone to respect each other regardless of race, gender and social class.

Culture of rape

I just read an open letter addressed to Duterte from the famous singer and stage thespian Monique Wilson. The letter is too long to reproduce entirely here. But I would encourage everyone to get a copy and read this open letter. Here are excerpts:

“ Mayor Duterte, RAPE is RAPE. I don’t have to tell you what that means. But you need to understand the full gravity of RAPE and RAPE Culture. And where your actions play a part in perpetuating that. Rape culture is denying the weight and seriousness of the crime by joking about it. It doesn’t matter that you tell us later on what the context of the story was – all that matters is that you made light of it and allowed your followers at that rally to laugh along – diminishing the gravity of the rape. Words are important Mayor. You cannot throw them out playfully and casually and not look at the consequences of what your words do.

Rape culture is allowed to exist when you first say Jaqueline Hamil (an Australian missionary) was “beautiful and looked like an American actress.” You could have mentioned she was a missionary, there to help and serve. Instead of noting her physical attributes, which commodifies and objectifies her. Which treats her as an OBJECT, instead of as a woman, a person with more than just looks.

Rape culture is then further perpetuated when you say your most criminal words: to paraphrase: “that she is so beautiful, it’s a shame – the mayor should have been first.” You meant first  to rape her...first right over her. Again, it does not matter that your words come out of rage as you said later. Think of what you are saying here Mayor. The Mayor should have been the first to rape her. To me that is not rage. That is again, chauvinist, sexist, misogynist male privilege. And more seriously, it is a diminishing of the act of rape. It is trivializing of rape, it is the normalizing of rape...NOTHING JUSTIFIES RAPE AS A JOKE.”

In her open letter, Monique Wilson talks about her own father, about the comfort women and asked how Mayor would react if Jacqueline had been his daughter and someone else had said the same joke about her. But she ends with this plea to Duterte and, I think to all men:

“ Please allow humility to deepen your education and understanding of rape. And please, please use your privilege, your influence and your power to end rape culture.”

Summer creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout : April 23, 30, May 21, 28 and June 4 (10:30am-12nn except June 4, 1:30pm-3pm)

Wonder of Words Workshop:  May 2, 4, 6, 10, 11 and 13 (1:30-3:30pm for 7-10 years old and 4-6pm for 11-17 years old) with guest authors, Manix Abrera and Mina Esguerra.

Classes will be held at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.  For registration and fee details, 0917-6240196 / writethingsph@gmail.com

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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