“Thank you and your delicious wife for the warm welcome.”
-- French President Emmanuel Macron at a press-con in Australia
ADDRESSED to Australian Prime Minister Malcom Trumball when French President Emmanuel Macron last week said farewell after his two-day visit in Sydney, the description of Trumball’s wife, “deliceux” which also means “delightful,” drew titters around the world.
It was what the French call “faux pas,” a social blunder, but maybe not the kind that reflects on values of the leader and the nation he represents.
Compare Macron’s comment with what U.S. President Trump said during the visit of Macron and his wife in July 2017 at the White House. Trump told Brigitte Macron, “You’re in such good shape,” and to her husband, “She’s in good shape physically. Beautiful.” Given Trump’s reputation for lechery and incidents where he demeaned women, many Americans across the world groaned.
Trump last month called news anchor Mika Brzezinski “bleeding from a facelift.” And more than once, he called her daughter Ivanka “voluptuous” whom he’d date if she were not his daughter.
And then there are innocent presidential slips, not for language inadequacy (as Macron’s was) or meanness or lust (as Trump’s sounded) but just rash judgment. Which anyone, even presidents, at times commit. Like when then president Obama in 2013 called a California woman lawyer “by far the best looking attorney general in the country.”
Presidents articulate foreign policies and display their country’s values. While paying tribute to a woman’s beauty is virtue in many cultures, it’s in bad taste in the U.S. and Europe when used as standard for a woman’s worth.
It was reported that when George Clooney’s wife Amal early this year vigorously spoke at the United Nations against atrocities of terrorists, the U.S. press reported on her baby bump instead of what she said. At least, media didn’t describe her as “delicious” or “in good shape.”
Our own contender
Our own contender, President Duterte, wouldn’t lag behind those presidents who get world attention because of what they said in public about women.
Compared to news giants like the U.S., French and Australian presidents, Duterte doesn’t get as much premium space or hour in world media unless he says something really atrocious. Such as: cursing Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, as “mother of a whore,” ordering soldiers not to kill NPA women rebels, “just shoot them in the vagina,” or wishing women Yolanda victims in Leyte weren’t so ugly.
He or Malacañang communicators would explain or walk back on his controversial statements but often he would double down on what he said. On the “shoot the vagina” order, made last Feb. 3, he said later that he’d repeat the “sarcastic” remarks anytime.
Duterte’s sister Jocelyn, in a Sept. 14, 2017 interview with Reuters, explained that her brother is “a chauvinist: when he sees a woman who fights him, it really gets to him.” Jocelyn mentioned Vice President Leni Robredo, Supreme Court chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Sen. Leila de Lima (who said Duterte is a “a misogynist,” minus the noun that goes with it).
Two of President Duterte’s controversial references to women, other than the memorable “shoot the vagina” classic, are about Filipina women’s smell and the mayor’s perk in group rape.
Last Feb. 6, he said the Filipina has the “best smell.” Compared to foreign women whose smell, he said, is “queer.” On April 12, 2016, Duterte got extensive press across the world when he talked about the mayor having the right to be the first of the pack in the gang rape of an Australian missionary.
What presidents have long learned is that they’re being watched and listened to all the time. Thus, when they say something interesting or gross, especially about women, it’s reported all over. And they cant complain against invasion of privacy or petty reporting.