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Thank you, marketers and advertising creatives, for helping spur discussions around racism

Advocacy, Communities, Pinoy, The body

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In some ways, I’m glad that marketers occasionally adopt a “do whatever it takes to sell the product that we’ve been hired to sell” approach. Because when they get it wrong, they bring to the surface various unspoken resentments and tensions in the cultural landscape. Take the following skin whitening ads by Philippine cosmetics company Belo:

When the inevitable backlash erupted, I thought to myself, “Finally! Filipinos can start having a public discussion about the largely unspoken understanding that the color/lightness of your skin determines how you will be perceived and valued in (Philippine) society.” (The recent controversy over Bayo’s ad campaign helped.)

The timing couldn’t have been better for one organization I support, the United Philippine Amerasians, who are actively engaging the public about the issues that their community faces:

To date, there are more than 50,000 known Fil-Amerasians in the Philippines, mostly only from the northern Philippine island of Luzon. There could be tens of thousands more in the entire archipelago. Virtually all of these Fil-Amerasians people from toddlers to seniors live in abject poverty because of social discrimination and the non-recognition and non-support of their military fathers. The Fil-Amerasian phenomenon is the result of the presence of the military bases in the past decades and the continued presence of US troops in the country by way of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Aside from the neglect, the presence of US troops also exacerbates prostitution with the host provinces virtually becoming the soldiers’ “sex playground.” The Filipino-Amerasian phenomenon has deep social, political, and cultural repercussions among this segment of the Filipino society that now requires proactive intervention in terms of change in public opinion and state policy. Tens of thousands of Amerasians are unable to participate freely in everyday life because of racist sentiments. Applying for work, going to school, making friends, are arduous engagements for them.

I don’t care much for the tepid, apolitical apology that Belo has issued. “If we feel that it’s a sensitive topic right now, we’re going to park [the ad campaign] a bit and see where it goes,” a Belo representative was quoted as saying.As apologies go, this one is a big fail. It’s like telling your friend, “I’m sorry I said you were unattractive. If you’re sensitive about it now, I’ll take a break and see how you do with that. I’ll probably get back to insulting you once you stop complaining.”

At any rate, thank you, marketers and advertising creatives, for helping spur discussions around racism. And thank you, Belo. No, really. Thank you.

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Why I’m participating in Occupy Vancouver

Advocacy, Communities, The body, Vancouver

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Occupy Vancouver (like many of the Occupy movements worldwide) is inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. As the National Post observes,

Participants are united by a common grievance: that a small group of corporations hold massive amounts of wealth and decision-making power, while the majority of the population suffers from enormous debt, unemployment and unaffordable health care and housing. The movement still lacks concrete demands, but protesters seem to pride themselves more in the process than the outcome. General assemblies, where decisions about the occupation are made through consensus, are held twice a day.

The movement “challenge[s] corporate greed, corruption, and the collusion between corporate power and government… and oppose[s] systemic inequality, militarization, environmental destruction, and the erosion of civil liberties and human rights.”

Over the past few days I’ve been asking my (middle-class, university educated) friends and colleagues whether they were going to participate in Occupy Vancouver. I was surprised that many of those that I assumed would go weren’t planning to, and some of the reasons that I got were interesting: “It makes sense to occupy Wall Street, but Canada is different from the USA, and we have a stable economy… Vancouver is a great place to live, what’s wrong with it?… It seems that movement is led mostly by white men… We’re already on illegally occupied Coast Salish land… I’m not really the protesting type even though I think the movement is important…” Some of the objections were general and based on not having been part of the first general assembly.

I have are four main reasons for participating in Occupy Vancouver.

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Help! We need a name for a project!

Advocacy, Communities

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I’ve been working with WeDpro to put together a proposal for a project for the National Endowment for Democracy, and while we’ve been successful at putting together the actual content, we can’t think of an evocative, catchy working title for the project!! We need your help!

Some keywords are: human rights, democracy, Philippines, women, youth, discrimination, marginalization, exploitation, oppression, expression, creativity, communication, leadership, advocacy, Angeles City, Olongapo City.

To give you an idea, here’s the introduction of the proposal:

The proposed project aims to empower marginalized women and youth in two sites in the Philippines through three linked strategies: enhancing their awareness of and reflectiveness around human rights and democratic processes; supporting their ability to creatively communicate their lived experiences; and capacitating their ability to speak on and advocate for human rights and democratic processes within and outside their respective communities. Each strategy is translated into specific objectives that are tangible and measurable; each objective is defined by a set of activities. Ultimately, the project aims to enable marginalized youth to tell their stories and communicate how their rights-claiming posture has helped them overcome their difficulties, in the hope of inspiring others.

In consultation with local community leaders and school administrators, WeDpro would selected  a total of 30 women leaders, out-of-school, and in-school youth from urban poor communities in two cities—Olongapo City in the province of Zambales, and Angeles City in the province of Pampanga— to participate in discussions and guided reflections around human rights. Twenty individuals would then be selected to participate in storytelling and digital media creation workshops which would enable them to express their experiences of human rights violations and communicate how their rights-claiming posture have helped them overcome their difficulties, in the hope of inspiring others. A leaders’ pool would be developed from among the participants; they would be capacitated to do speaking tours in the project sites and other areas in the National Capital Region to bring the message of why it is important to defend human rights and democratic processes.

Thanks!

:)

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Indigenous peoples in Canada make extensive use of social media

Academia, Advocacy, Blog, Communities, ICT4D

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The headline this morning on The Tyee by a colleague and friend of mine touches on the widespread use of social media among the First Nations of Canada, who are widely scattered across this large country. Many First Nations territories were never ceded to Canada’s European colonizers, and thus remain illegally occupied. The article touches on the risks that corporately-controlled social media pose.

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The Wixarika People and Vancouver-based mining company First Majestic

Advocacy, Blog, Communities

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The letter below landed in my inbox this morning. Concerned, I googled the issue and saw that this was a well-known issue. The Council of Canadians and Intercontinental Cry, among other organizations, have reported on this. Tellingly, searches for “Wirikuta”, “Wixarika”, or “Huichol” on the First Majestic website revealed nothing.

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Stuff to see in Vancouver

Advocacy, Art, Blog, Communities, Dance, Food, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, Vancouver

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As the social events coordinator at the GSA SIAT, it’s my job to organize events for the grad students. It also give me a chance to advertise cool things being put on by friends and colleagues. Here’s a few of them.

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An apple in a truck of tropical fruit: Some thoughts on Vancouver and new media art

Art, Blog, Communities, New Media, Technology, Vancouver

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My friend and dance colleague Melanie Kuxdorf recently filed a report on OpenFile.ca (a “collaborative local news site” which assigns reporters to stories that are suggested by the public) about the informal dance+theatre+technology meetup that I recently organized. The article accurately highlights my motivations for organizing the event, and I have nothing more to add to it that I haven’t mentioned elsewhere, but I did want to comment on one section from the article:

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Cordillera Day 2011: Land, Life, Honour

Advocacy, Communities

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This invite landed in my inbox today. I was at the 2010 Cordillera Day, and it was inspiring. I loved the group dancing that happened—to the sound of traditional gangsa (gongs)—somewhat spontaneously in the end. Cordillera dancing often features small stomping motions, as if the dancers were gently compacting tilled soil. It has has a really grounded feel to it which is very different from, say, highland dancing. So… yeah. I’m pretty excited about this next one!

The Canada- Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) INVITES YOU to

CORDILLERA DAY 2011
“Live Out Our Glorious History of Struggle; Fight for Land, Life and Honour!”

The first celebration of Cordillera Day was held in Sadanga, Mountain Province, Philippines in 1985. Thousands from all across the country and the world attend this event that affirms the Cordillera people’s unity in their struggle for self-determination and national democracy. This year, Cordillera Day focuses on the impact of large-scale mining, and the militarization of indigenous people’s lands where a number of Canadian mining corporations are also operating.

The celebration will take place in the Philippines from April 26-27, with the ultimate goal of forging a regional pact among the different tribes and communities to protect their ancestral lands, culture, and economic sustenance.

Cordillera Day 2011 solidarity activity in Vancouver takes place on:

Saturday, April 23, 2011, 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Lakeview Multicultural united Church
2776 Semlin Drive, Vancouver, BC

We welcome community POTLUCK
Dinner served at 7:30 p.m.

Contacts: Beth Dollaga 604.320.0285, Bootz Estella 778.709.4744

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Cinema Sundays at the Organizing Centre

Advocacy, Communities, Learning, Teaching

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I caught the last 15 minutes of the film, Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden, at the beautiful intimate space of the Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice in Vancouver, on Broadway just off Fraser. They hold movie screenings every Sunday at 1:00 pm. Entrance is by donation, and kids are welcome! There were about 5 or 6 running around there yesterday, plus a super cute dog. Entrance is by donation, which gets you popcorn and coffee. (Coffeeeeeee.) The next two films are going to be about social medicine and agriculture/food. It’s a really great way to spend a meaningful Sunday with your kids.

The film was set in India’s northernmost state of Ladakh, and illustrates the pitfalls of “Western-style” education and makes links between language, culture, globalization, and colonialism. I have to admit that I love much of the knowledge I have gained in my history of studying in Western educational institutions, but that’s because I love and value all kinds of knowledge. But I also value other kinds of ways of knowing. As one young student from Ladakh recounted, “If a student speaks Ladakhi or Hindi [instead of English], they get punished.” After the screening, we had a round of feedback from the audience, some of whom spoke powerfully and eloquently about damage they or their ancestors have sustained from colonialist educational experiences.

Here’s the trailer from that movie. (By the way, you can host a screening of Schooling the World, and I believe it’s affordable to do so. It’s also worth reading the comments on the welcome section of the movie’s blog, where a small and thoughtful discussion took place in the comments section.)

Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden trailer from lost people films on Vimeo.

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De-gaying the Philippines? That’s like de-wetting the ocean.

Advocacy, Communities

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My friend and colleague, Eric Manalastas, wrote what he calls a “nerdy” (i.e., erudite) letter to the president of the Psychological Association of the Philippines on a Filipino clinical psychologist who claimed on Philippine public television that “gay people could turn straight if they wanted to, that they would have happier lives if they did, and that therapy could de-gay them”.

His letter is worth sharing in full.

Update (2011-04-16): The PAP responded, and they responded well! Their letter after Eric’s.

9 March 2011

Maria Caridad H. Tarroja PhD
President
Psychological Association of the Philippines
PSSC Center, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City

Dear Ma’am Caring,

I would like to bring to your attention a recent incident involving unprofessional, scientifically misleading, and potentially harmful professional remarks made by a PAP-certified clinical psychologist on national television.

On Tuesday 22 February 2011, the live ABS-CBN morning show Umagang Kay Ganda invited Dr Ma. Estrella Tiongson-Magno as a clinical psychologist and expert resource person to answer questions regarding sexual orientation, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) concerns, and appropriate psychological services for LGBT clients.  In particular, Dr Magno made the claim that lesbians and gay men could change their sexual orientation via therapy and that indeed, this is the recommended psychological response to lesbian and gay sexualities.

During the interview, when the host Alex Santos asked Dr Magno about the nature of being gay/lesbian, she responded:

“The thing is, pwede naman nilang palitan ang kanilang lifestyle or ang kanilang sexuality kung gustuhin nila.  Kasi there’s such a thing as self-mastery… yung iba, they seek help kasi gusto nilang magkapamilya.  And it happens.  We also have literature that says… yung mga nagtiyaga, yung mga talagang may plano sa buhay, ginawa nila lahat ng dapat nilang gawin.  Nagpa-therapy sila… At nakamit nila ang family life, atsaka they’re happy and they wrote about it.” (lines 110-123, emphasis added)

I am attaching a transcript of the interview for your perusal.  The segment featuring this interview may be viewed here: <http://www.pinoypride.net/video/93313/Umagang-Kay-Ganda-Feb-22-P15>

Central to Dr Magno’s statement that being lesbian or gay can be addressed with therapy towards outcomes like a positive family life and increased well-being are two claims:

(1)   that being gay or lesbian is somehow pathological or psychologically unhealthy, and

(2)   that SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) are effective and safe.

Our best scientific knowledge has long established and affirmed that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder (APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, 2009).  There is no scientific basis for inferring intrinsic maladjustment or psychopathology to homosexuality or bisexuality (APA, 2010).  Mental health professionals have known this as early as 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association, on the basis of scientific evidence, removed homosexuality from the DSM.  This recognition of same-sex sexual orientation as a normal variant of human sexuality is not limited to the West; similar recognition has been made by psychiatrists and psychologists in countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa, to name a few.  Dr Magno’s claim that being lesbian or gay is somehow linked to unhappiness, maladjustment, and a need for therapeutic intervention (indirectly made but nonetheless implicit in the professional opinions she gave as a clinical psychologist) is unscientific, irresponsible, and misleading.

Likewise, a recent review of research on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, sometimes known as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy”) conducted by the APA (2009) has shown that there is no evidence that such “therapies” are effective.  This review, which covers 83 studies published from 1960 to 2007, concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are “unlikely to be successful” (p. v).  In fact, the report even indicates that such “therapies” involve risk of harm, including iatrogenic effects such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality.  To recommend SOCE on public television is therefore not only unscientific and misleading, but unethical and potentially harmful.

According to Principle IV Professional and Scientific Responsibilities to Society of the PAP Code of Ethics (2009), Filipino psychologists are committed to increasing “scientific and professional knowledge in ways that allow promotion of the well-being of society and all its members” (IV.a).  In particular, as articulated in Standard V Advertisements and Public Statements, Filipino psychologists avoid false or deceptive statements and they exercise caution when providing expert opinion especially through mass media.  I submit that such false statements include scientifically inaccurate assertions about sexual orientation and potentially harmful advice such as recommending SOCE for lesbian or gay individuals on national television.

In 2009, the PAP instituted a system of certification of psychology specialists to properly recognize psychology professionals in the Philippines and to regulate the practice of psychology by Philippine psychologists.  According to the Primer on PAP Certification (2009), this system aims to “monitor the professional practice of psychologists in the various specialty areas, especially as regards the observance of proper ethical principles in the practice of psychology” (Objective 4).  These ethical principles include our professional responsibility to share our psychological expertise based on the best available scientific evidence, without doing harm.

In the spirit of our ethical commitments as well as the framework of the PAP certification system and the scientific research literature, I would like to request the PAP to take action on this matter, towards correcting any misconceptions, hurt, or harm resulting from this media incident involving a PAP-certified psychologist and towards the development of a scientifically accurate, professional, and truly ethical policy on sexual orientation and SOCE.

Yours truly,

Eric Julian Manalastas
Member, Psychological Association of the Philippines
Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology, UP Diliman

Attachments:

  1. Transcript Umagang Kay Ganda (Tue 22 Feb 2011)
  2. APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (2009). Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  3. American Psychological Association. (2010). Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/guidelines.aspx
  4. Psychological Association of the Philippines Scientific and Professional Ethics Committee. (2009). Code of ethics for Philippine psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.pap.org.ph/Pages/PAP_Code_of_Ethics.pdf
  5. Psychological Association of the Philippines. (2009). PAP certification of psychology specialists primer. Retrieved from http://www.pap.org.ph/Forms/PAP%20Certification%20of%20Psychology%20Specialists%20Primer.pdf

The response

March 20, 2011

Eric Julian Manalastas
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
UP Diliman

Dear Eric,

Good day!

As I have previously emailed you, the PAP Officers and Board Members appreciate your efforts to bring up relevant issues to our attention. Regarding your letter (dated March 9, 2011) about the UKG incident, the PAP Board of Directors discussed your letter and position on this matter in the last Board Meeting last March 12, 2011. As a result of the discussion, the PAP is taking the following action to address your concerns:

The position paper to be drafted which can be in consultation with the Public Interest Committee and the Clinical Psychology Division, once approved by the PAP Board, will be disseminated to the public. The Social Psychology Division will perhaps invite you to lend your expertise in this matter, given that you are an active PAP member and a strong advocate of LGBT issues. The Social Psychology Division, headed by Mr. Jay Yacat of the University of the Philippines, will write a position paper on LGBT issues to address some of the misinformation that resulted from the UKG show.

Thank you for your continuous support of PAP activities.

Sincerely,

Caring Tarroja PhD
PAP President

Photo credits: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Cynr

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