Feb 17, 2015

About the Bench Brouhaha

I'm happy to see the billboards on EDSA. I love the "Love All Kinds of Love" campaign. I'm happy that the people behind the campaign pushed through with it, even under the circumstances.

The fact that a local company as big as Bench has taken steps into promoting the visibility of the LGBT is something to take pride in. Last year they did the B/Proud campaign while Human featured LGBT couples in their billboard ads (although they weren't holding hands or showing any "too gay" affections of love). While it's not as all-encompassing as an LGBT campaign hopes to be (disregarding the poor LGBT of the country in their interview series, etc.) it is a step towards positive LGBT visibility.

Understandably, as a business, they took the opportunity to advertise to a ridiculed minority. They might have taken note of The Untapped Power of the Pink Peso or they were just big dumbasses who wanted to get ahead of the competition by stirring up "controversial" ads to get people's attention.

But that's not exactly a 100% bad thing.

It's shitty how they washed their own hands after the whole shebang, yes. But isn't the uproar in support of the unblemished photo what the LGBT community needs? At least that's what I thought.

If it weren't for the #LoveAllKindsOfLove campaign and the blurred photo they submitted to the ASC and used for their billboards, would we have learned about the #PaintTheirHandsBack people who are ready to support our "kind of" love? Forgive me for seeing a silver lining.

The #PaintTheirHandsBack campaign is, for an LGBT youth who has been scared of coming out due to the bigotry and hate in this world, a sigh of relief. The campaign is a truly touching, heartwarming act. It basically said: "We are the Filipino people (artists, non-artists, straight allies, LGBT members, media people, etc.) who will help fight for your right to show your love. No matter how scared you are, know that there are people like us who will be willing to 'paint your hands back' whenever someone tries to deface and devalue your love."

For a country that has been dubbed "gay-friendly," for a country that has been at most mediocre in its efforts to promote equality and protection for its LGBT people, it's sad to think that we still cannot erase the kind of hate that is embedded in the "Filipino traditional values."

It's sad that businesses and companies are still afraid of blatantly showing support for the LGBT community. (Trust me, I've heard a lot of "We'd love to help but it's in our company policy not to get into advocacy campaigns that may put us in a bad light when it comes to our traditional Catholic audience" responses when doing last year's #ComeOutForLove campaign.) It's disappointing that most big businesses can easily shove the LGBT community down the list of advocacy priorities because "hello, there's world peace, hunger, education, climate change and other advocacies that need our support." It's disappointing that we're put at the back burner and only when it feels convenient for them do they say "okay just for one campaign lang and here are the restrictions" for an LGBT advocacy related project. Again, we're not asking you to disregard other advocacies and focus on us. We're not even comparing our fights. We just want to be treated equally - as people who deserve the same rights as every other heterosexual human being, and that includes going all out when you say you're 'championing a cause you believe in'. 

What Bench did is not 100% bad. What they didn't do is what is. It's shitty how they (supposedly) masterminded the whole thing but (yes, there's a but) I wouldn't dismiss them easily. There are so many layers that an advocacy campaign goes through and while we deserve better, smarter advertising, we also have to take into consideration the society we live in. If a Pro-LGBT billboard is out there, right smack in the middle of the busiest avenue in the country, chances are, hateful bigots can see them, closeted LGBT youth can see them, parents, relatives of LGBT people can see them and they are all given a peek at how the LGBT love is not at all different from heterosexual love. 

So fuck you for not standing up for us, Bench. But thanks for putting us out there, too.

PS. While the Ad Standards Council says that they did not request for Bench to "blur" the images, I ask: Would you have accepted it otherwise?