By DOMINIQUE NATHANIELLE M. MULI
IF THERE is anything prominent about President Rodrigo Duterte’s traits, aside from his blatant disregard for human rights, it is his spite for women. By now, it is already clear: holding a high ranking position does not stop him from making sexist remarks.
Nikki Luna’s display at 1335Mabini titled This is how to be a woman of the world? is dedicated to sharing sexual harassment stories of women from different parts of the world and how they are still victimized by injustices perpetuated by the same old sexist mentality.
Upon entering the all-white exhibit, a full-length mirror with a rusty frame catches all eyes.
The president’s infamous statement saying that there are many rape cases in Davao because the city has “many beautiful women” takes center stage in the exhibit, reflecting how rape culture is prevalent in the Philippines.
Luna also casted clothes of victims of sexual assault in resin, a task that requires hard work, creating a wardrobe that tells the story of the violence done against them.
For instance, the first piece of clothing is the skirt of Emma Sulkowicz, a victim of rape inside her dorm room along with a few more women. The assailant was found not guilty, so as a form of protest, she carried her mattress around campus for more than a year until the assailant’s graduation.
This was how to be a woman of the world: constantly fighting and striving for justice.
To represent the younger casualties, the artist casted her daughter’s dress seven times and hung it at the exhibit to say that seven out of ten children get sexually assaulted.
Former president of Chile and inaugural executive director of United Nations Women Michelle Bachelet once said that whether it be walking city streets, using public transport, going to school, or selling goods at the market, women and girls are subject to the threat of sexual harassment and violence.
Despite this, harassment against women and girls in public spaces remains a largely neglected issue, with few laws or policies in place to address it.
In fact, in 2017, United States President Donald Trump hosted a meeting with 30 men—no women involved—to discuss women’s rights, birth control, maternity care, and abortion.
Another one of Luna’s works is a series of hangers casted in ceramic. Hung in nylon strings and formed into a pyramid, the artwork symbolizes the fragility of women and of the laws that support them.
For example, in 2015, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the Reproductive Health Law against two specific contraceptives. This also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration from granting registration and recertification to some contraceptives, which will eventually lead to a shortage of contraceptives that will affect the millions of women who rely on it.
Among the works in the exhibit is marble shaped into a perfume bottle. Engraved on it is the president’s reply to a reporter who asked about his health: “How is the vagina of your wife? Is it smelly? Or is it not smelly?”
Duterte once said that he preferred Filipinas compared to foreigners because they are fragrant down there. This is not a compliment; yet, these remarks from the president still get applauded and instill an ugly mentality.
The next piece points to a system that continues to fail women.
The 26 wooden handmade shoes on the wall, identical to the shoes former first lady Imelda Marcos wore during the inauguration of her husband Ferdinand, reminds Filipinos that no one flourishes under a dictatorship; martial law victims continue to be neglected and criminals still roam free.
The shoes were arranged to form an inverted pyramid, emphasizing that the citizens, especially the poor, should be the top priority of the government. All the shoes used were only the left pair to represent the leftists.
Overall, the exhibit serves as a tribute to how women have resisted regimes of abuse and misogyny and how they continue to struggle against this unjust system.
This is not the first time that Luna has taken the president’s misogynistic remarks and juiced from them an artistic protest, and it will definitely not be the last. For as long as he is in power, she vows to carry this load. F
“This is how to be a woman of the world?” is on display until Jan. 19, 2019 at 1335Mabini located at C01 Karrivin Plaza Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City.