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How “Neneng B” Reflects Women in the Music Industry

“Neneng B” is just one of the examples that vividly elaborates on the sexuality of women – not in an empowering manner which celebrates the spectrum of the female gender, but in an openly degrading stint.

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Screengrab from Neneng B (feat. Raf Davis) official music video

Just recently, the song “Neneng B” by Nik Makino is receiving a legal backfire not for the reasons most people would highly assume and would likely prefer; rather for illegally acquiring the beat of the song from a European music producer, Roko Tensei. Though many clamor for it to be taken down over its hypersexually explicit lyrics, copyright issues may be the best chance for the removal of this song in the music industry – a compromise that people would gladly not take for granted.

It is worth noting that ever since the song rose to its popularity, dialogues on the issues of objectification and sexualism had been circulating the internet. Still, it managed to get at this point wherein children are blindly singing along with its lyrics without careful thought, and even procured dance moves that might downplay its real issue (and its actual purpose) to mere entertainment. 

This is not a new territory which people would trudge on as these issues that obliterate the sexuality of women has been highlighted for various international artists. It doesn’t mean, however, that it excludes the Philippine music scene. “Neneng B” is just one of the examples that vividly elaborates on the sexuality of women – not in an empowering manner which celebrates the spectrum of the female gender, but in an openly degrading stint.

Using the “Boys will be boys” Card

For years, the music industry has been blatantly harsh on women. It has been putting up transparent barriers that let women sit still and be policed by the so-called standards. This, in itself, allows objectification to pile up in the community. It is no surprise, however, for the industry has been contained in a male-saturated patronage.

For instance, the issue on Taylor Swift and her music being prohibited by two men – who are heads of the record label in which she used to be part of – says a lot about women being seen as mere catapults to the success of men. 

This does not mean to turn its back on the considerable struggles that men in the music industry is also going through. It takes into account all discriminatory regards towards both genders. In retrospect, however, the scales tip more on women being the frequent receiving end, and most of the time, it is shunned by moguls that focus more on providing quantitative measures, more so in a patriarchal system. 

Now, with the issue of Makino, in an artistic aspect, it could be claimed as a way of creatively expressing his art in a free medium that strips off any political or social undertones. However, this very action, whether it is fought to be a creative expression, intends to put harm on a group of persons, blatantly attacking and obliterating their freedom of expression.

It should be known that songs like these give free passes by charging it to the “boys will be boys” notion and openly allow men to determine according to their liking how women should be regarded in this society. 

Changing the Narrative

In a generation gearing towards neutral liberalism, women are making active and loud choices to voice out their experiences. This may give insight on changing perspectives of women. 

For instance, Bethany Consentino, the other half of an American rock duo Best Coast, called out the restless magnification of sexualism in the music scene through an essay. She voiced out how during gigs, overtly sexual phrases are still being used, which she refuses to be used on her and every woman in the industry.

“I am supposed to not only stand there and take it but also digest it as a compliment to add to my fierce arsenal of sexy confidence,” Consentino adds in disappointment. 

“I’ve had guys outwardly tell me it’s different because you’re a girl.” Becky Bloomfield, frontwoman of punk rock band Milk Teeth, also recounted her experiences of gender discrimination in the music scene. She even pointed out how it was surprising for her male colleagues to know how much she was literate in the technical language of a concert gig. Unsurprisingly though, this just confirms the degrading image of women in the industry. 

Some are small, yet sure steps taken. There are noticeably shifts in the rose-colored notions of allowing men to overpower women through the empowerment given by the media, speaking up when the situation calls for it. These small steps become the very foundation of an ideology that seeks not only to empower the female spectrum, but all persons regardless of their gender. 

Even with such empowering acts that spring up from this situation, it is still important to note that they do not counteract the damages done and those who should be held accountable as prime proliferators or accessories to this issue must still be recognized. And women, surely, are not ready to back out just yet.

It is concerning how misogyny is still blatant and harsh these days despite how many are outspoken about the issue on hand. The world will never achieve equality if they never give way for change, especially when it comes to music – an important art form that the people stick to their hearts.

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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