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LIE-LEE

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Regarding the new "Bebot" videos by the Black Eyed Peas [Aug. 23rd, 2006|02:48 am]
LIE-LEE
any comments about the letter or the videos themselves? i really want to hear from yall. i'll write my person response soon.

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Note: Regarding the new "Bebot" videos by the Black Eyed Peas, especially concerning the generation two video and the representation of Filipinas.

[please comment and/or forward widely]

To Apl.de.Ap, Patricio Ginelsa/KidHeroes, and Xylophone Films:

We, the undersigned, would like to register our deep disappointment at the
portrayal of Filipinas and other women in the new music videos for the Black
Eyed Peas' song, "Bebot." We want to make it clear that we appreciate your
efforts to bring Filipina/o Americans into the mainstream and applaud your
support of the Little Manila of Stockton. However, as Filipina/o and
Filipina/o American artists, academics, and community activists, we are
utterly dismayed by the portrayal of hypersexualized Filipina "hoochie-mama"
dancers, specifically in the Generation 2 version, the type of
representation of women so unfortunately prevalent in today's hip-hop and
rap music videos. The depiction of the 1930s "dime dancers" was also cast
in an unproblematized light, as these women seem to exist solely for the
sexual pleasure of the manongs.

In general, we value Apl.de.Ap's willingness to be so openly and richly
Filipino, especially when there are other Filipina/o Americans in positions
of visibility who do not do the same, and we appreciate the work that he has
done with the folks at Xylophone Films; we like their previous video for
"The Apl Song," and we even like the fact that the Generation 1 version of
"Bebot" attempts to provide a "history lesson" about some Filipino men in
the 1930s. However, the Generation 2 version truly misses the mark on
accurate Filipina/o representation, for the following reasons:

1) The video uses three very limited stereotypes of Filipina women: the
virgin, the whore, and the shrill mother. We find a double standard in the
depiction of the virgin and whore figures, both of which are highly
sexualized. Amidst the crowd of midriff-baring, skinny, light-skinned,
peroxided Pinays ­ some practically falling out of their halter tops ­ there
is the little sister played by Jasmine Trias, from whom big brother Apl is
constantly fending off Pinoy "playas." The overprotectiveness is strange
considering his idealization of the bebot or "hot chick." The mother
character was also particularly troublesome, but for very different reasons
She seems to play a dehumanized figure, the perpetual foreigner with her
exaggerated accent, but on top of that, she is robbed of her femininity in
her embarrassingly indelicate treatment of her son and his friends. She is
not like a tough or strong mother, but almost like a coarse asexual mother,
and it is telling that she is the only female character in the video with a
full figure.

2) We feel that these problematic female representations might have to do
with the use of the word "Bebot." We are of course not advocating that Apl
change the title of his song, yet we are confused about why a song that has
to do with pride in his ethnic/national identity would be titled "Bebot," a
word that suggests male ownership of the sexualized woman ­ the "hot chick."
What does Filipino pride have to do with bebots? The song seems to be about
immigrant experience yet the chorus says "ikaw ang aking bebot" (you are my
hot chick). It is actually very disturbing that one's ethnic/national
identity is determined by one's ownership of women. This system not only
turns women into mere symbols but it also excludes women from feeling the
same kind of ethnic/national identity. It does not bring down just
Filipinas; it brings down all women.

3) Given the unfortunate connection made in this video between Filipino
pride and the sexualized female body both lyrically and visually, we can't
help but conclude that the video was created strictly for a heterosexual
man's pleasure. This straight, masculinist perspective is the link that we
find between the Generation 1 and Generation 2 videos. The fact that the
Pinoy men are surrounded by "hot chicks" both then and now makes this link
plain. Yet such a portrayal not only obscures the "real" message about the
Little Manila Foundation; it also reduces Pinoy men's hopes, dreams, and
motivations to a single-minded pursuit of sex.

We do understand that Filipino America faces a persistent problem of
invisibility in this country. Moreover, as the song is all in Tagalog (a
fact that we love, by the way), you face an uphill battle in getting the
song and music video(s) into mainstream circulation. However, remedying the
invisibility of Filipina/os in the United States should not come at the cost
of the dignity and self-respect of at least half the population of Filipino
America. Before deciding to write this letter, we felt an incredible amount
of ambivalence about speaking out on this issue because, on the one hand, we
recognized that this song and video are a milestone for Filipina/os in
mainstream media and American pop culture, but on the other hand, we were
deeply disturbed by the images of women the video propagates.

In the end we decided that we could not remain silent while seeing image
after image of Pinays portrayed as hypersexual beings or as shrill,
dehumanized, asexual mother-figures who embarrass their children with their
overblown accents and coarseness. The Filipino American community is made up
of women with Filipino pride as well, yet there is little room in these
videos for us to share this voice and this commitment; instead, the message
we get is that we are expected to stand aside and allow ourselves to be
exploited for our sexuality while the men go about making their nationalist
statements.

While this may sound quite harsh, we believe it is necessary to point out
that such depictions make it seem as if you are selling out Filipina women
for the sake of gaining mainstream popularity within the United States.
Given the already horrific representations of Filipinas all over the world
as willing prostitutes, exotic dancers, or domestic servants who are
available for sex with their employers, the representation of Pinays in
these particular videos can only feed into such stereotypes. We also find
it puzzling, given your apparent commitment to preserving the history and
dignity of Filipina/os in the United States, because we assume that you also
consider such stereotypes offensive to Filipino men as well as women.

Again, we want to reiterate our appreciation for the positive aspects of
these videos ­ the history lesson of the 1936 version, the commitment to
community, and the effort to foster a larger awareness of Filipino America
in the mainstream ­ but we ask for your honest attempt to offer more
full-spectrum representations of both Filipino men and Filipina women, now
and in the future. We would not be writing this letter to you if we did not
believe you could make it happen.

Respectfully,

Lucy Burns
Assistant Professor
Asian American Studies / World Arts and Cultures, UCLA

Fritzie De Mata
Independent scholar

Diana Halog
Undergraduate
UC Berkeley

Luisa A. Igloria
Associate Professor
Creative Writing Program
& Department of English
Old Dominion University

Veronica Montes
Writer

Gladys Nubla
Doctoral student
English, UC Berkeley

Barbara Jane Reyes
Poet and author

Joanne L. Rondilla
Doctoral candidate
Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Rolando B. Tolentino
Visiting Fellow, National University of Singapore
Associate Professor, University of the Philippines Film Institute

Benito Vergara
Asian American Studies / Anthropology, San Francisco State University
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: fetus_karate
2006-08-23 12:33 pm (UTC)
haha i know a couple people in that video too.

i thought that caricature of the filipina mom was a bit overdone. i mean, it's partly true and all, but come on. margaret cho got by making fun of asian mothers, and by now it's just gotten old.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: yellowfist
2006-08-23 02:51 pm (UTC)

my reply.

Hi all,

I'd like to thank everyone who drafted this letter to Apl, Patricio Ginelsa of Kid Heroes, and Xylophone. I completely agree with the points made in the letter. I believe that the issues brought up strike at the heart of contradictions that have unfortunately embedded themselves in the FilAm identity.

I will keep this short and just say that dialogue (intergenerational, between those in the academy and not, between artists/practioners and not, and between FilAm communities in different regions, etc.) is imperative. In reading the letter (which no doubt was drafted to present complicated points as informally as possible), there exists a danger of two things: 1) skating the ultimate issue of the song and the videos as a form of patriarchal, hetereosexist, sexual violence and not indicting Apl, Partricio and Xyl fully and 2) skating the issue that it literally "took a village" to create those videos and thus many people consented to this abuse of power and control.

I believe that in this case, between indictment and consent is a unique opportunity to go to the source. Has there been any direct contact with Apl, Pat, folks in Xyl? Have comments been sought from anyone in the video? Kiwi?
Bambu? Rhett? In regards to the song and the videos, we know in what direction the best intentions went. Again, I thank you for the letter, which is vigilant and true. What direct action and personal contact is being made to open up the possibility for change? What responsibilities are you charging the FilAm community with through this letter?

peace,
Marlon

Marlon Unas Esguerra
Poet & Teacher
Chicago, IL
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lainerz
2006-08-23 04:35 pm (UTC)
thanks for posting this. this is so important to me, i'm gonna write a whole blog about it.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: beelizabub
2006-08-25 07:25 am (UTC)

When I find time to blog, me too!

I'm actually having my students watch the videos for one of my classes and write up reviews of the videos, then having them read the open letter and responding to the ideas:
http://www.smccd.net/accounts/erpelol/Courses/fall06/engl110ak/assign.html
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kathleenlee
2006-08-23 05:27 pm (UTC)
you already know my take on this.

i don't know, elpeezee. i'm waiting for your response. you do, after all, know the people who made/contributed to the video VERY WELL (ie patricio, aj, um, your sister... ;P)...

i wanna how they feel about it. personally, i've always been very critical of um, critics. haaa. i just went around in a circle there.

-k
(Reply) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: kathleenlee
2006-08-23 06:56 pm (UTC)
dammet aives that was a good for discourse too!

-k
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[User Picture]From: kiwizzo
2006-08-24 12:07 am (UTC)
Let me say first of all that I completely agree with the letter. Filipina/o pride aside, I don't think anyone can justify the way Filipina women (and women in general) were represented in those videos. Sadly, I anticipate many folks responding with "you're making a big deal out of it" or even going as far as attacking the folks who wrote the letter. But the fact is, we still live in a sexist society, and Pinays are still the ones most impacted when we talk about struggle and injustice in the Filipino community here, in the Philippines, and worldwide. So, I really don't feel that we have the luxury to poke fun at or depict Filipina women in a way that perpetuates this oppression. Instead, we have a responsibility to create spaces, in even the most minimal instances, where women can be empowered and recognized as the leaders and contributors they truly are.

So why was I in the “Bebot” video? Well, it was a personal invite by a good friend involved with the video, and the same company is also working on a video for Native Guns (for FREE), so I appreciated the gesture and felt obligated to go. In their defense, from my understanding (don't quote me on this) Xylophone originally turned down the offer to do the video, and finally negotiated a deal where they were able to mellow down (yes, mellow down) the hoochie-ness, as well as do a second version (“Generation One”) that had more of a community awareness/historical concept (Little Manila/Stockton). My general observation is that Xylophone has, on a few occasions, demonstrated an effort to do videos & films that reflect community issues as accurately as possible. That said, gender awareness and women's empowerment is still something that seriously needs to be taken into consideration and addressed in creation of these projects.

On a larger level, I feel that there (still) needs to be questions raised to the entire Filipino community about gender issues and patriarchy. Filipino culture, at least from my perspective, is patriarchal on all levels, so what has our progress been with that? What else are we doing, beyond just reacting to high-profile stuff, to continually raise awareness about and really challenge the gender issues that occur within our community on a daily basis? Within social justice and “activist” organizations even? What are we doing within our own circles, amongst friends and family, to end sexism and male supremacy?

I would like to hope that I am doing as much as possible to challenge patriarchy through my music, my political work, and my personal interactions with folks. I also want to acknowledge organizations such as babae and Gabriela Network for being at the forefront of the fight for Filipina women's rights. I really feel they have been laying the groundwork for us to be even having this discussion. I hope that we can continue to have dialogue, but more importantly, begin to create that space for us all to be able to challenge our own thinking and conditioning around gender, and strategize ways for us to be true allies to our sisters in the struggle.

Sincerely,
Kiwi (Native Guns)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: yellowfist
2006-08-24 04:16 am (UTC)
peace, Kiwi. thanks for this response.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: huong
2006-08-24 01:48 pm (UTC)
mr. L,

oooh, i have not seen this video! interesting indeed. i've just listened to the song years ago. in any case, i was wonderings if you could be so kind as to send me the ACTION PICS at the beach and all the other shots of sunday too! i am missing the bay SO MUCH so any pics would be loooovely. ::twitch:: see? it's kinda bad. :(

thankyee!

huong
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-24 11:03 pm (UTC)

I was there...

Would it be less disappointing if the video were made by non-filipinos? Would we be so mad? What if there was a point where the video was going to be made without us(Pat and crew)? Gen 1 idea would be trashed and it would've only been that hoochier video...but more hoochies and shiny cars.

From what I know:
after successfully completing "The Apl Song" video, it was last year when Pat had this idea to use this song "Bebot" to make this video, mainly having to do with Stockon Farmworkers in the 1930s and the Rizal Social club and the feel good house parties of today. It was 1 idea. It was a damn good idea. But, due to music industry politics and a year of give and take with the label, it turned into two videos and a COMPLETE compromise for Pat and the rest of the production crew. Pat had a vision for this video. It was feel good and exciting. It was fun and everyone was going to be invited. His original intention was NOT to only have hoochies dancing, and import cars. Granted there were attractive women on set, they weren't wearing turtlenecks and overalls. I was there, I didn't object, but I also didn't approve. But I believed in the Gen 1 video idea so much, that I wasn't going to let an industry interference scare us away from a REALLY GOOD idea. It was there. Gen 1 is the reason why I work with Pat. I'd give out a hundred million bottles of water to crew people and hours of volunteering, so that Pat can see his vision. The letter sent made Pat out to be like a pervert or something. They made us (his crew) look amateur and ignored the countless other projects we have worked on for the community. If you check out our website we have made numerous videos for Fil Am bands, musicians, singers from our community(FOR FREE), and our hardwork is reduced down to a bunch lip and leg shots, sexy dancing and an overplayed Filipina Auntie. We/he is being judged by 1 video, when our body of work should speak differently.

I really appreciate that we can tell our own stories whether it's MTV fluff or the deepest most historically memorable story idea. It's artistic expression. It's THAT director's vision. What I find impressive with this project, is how limited our budget was. We could have spent everything on the video the Label wanted us to make, instead of squeezing out a second with a strong historical tie to our heritage. Pat WANTED to make his 1930s themed video, no matter what. Even with money coming out of his own pocket. (Costumes from that era aren't cheap.) No Mainstream record label was going to pay us to make a video about Fil Am history, they were going to pay us to make a video about hoochies and import cars. That's what this industry comes down to. No one was offering us thousands of dollars to make videos, and no one has been. Maybe someday, we'll have enough money so that we can truly, honestly make our own movies/videos/projects. We can continue to truly represent who we are, and how we want to be portrayed. As of now, negotiating with Hollywood about culture, remains an outside "INDIE" job.

As a pinay, as a member of the Filipino American Community, as a film maker, as an activist, as an artist, as a member of 8th wonder, as a former Gab member, as a member of Kid Heroes/Xylophone Films, as a sister, as a friend, as a person trying to make change, as an imperfect person...these are my views and only my views. People can scrutinize every little detail of my statements in this comment, but it cannot be interpreted as the views of the director individually or of the crew.


much love to my peeps supporting and critiquing,
Lily Prijoles
part time producer/part time PA/full time supporter
Kid Heroes Productions


ps.
Many of the strong Pinays invited were probably at the FAHNS conference...but that's just me.

pps:
in the kidheroes mailing list, we sent out an email of support for Benito Vergara. I guess he didn't get the email.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-24 11:14 pm (UTC)

I was there... (cont)

oh yea... send your complaints about this posting to:


hoboflips@yahoo.com
Lily P
(Reply) (Thread)
From: shuttie_uppie
2006-08-25 07:26 am (UTC)

my two cents

Now that you mentioned it, I realized that those two videos did objectify Pinays, ESPECIALLY when they decided to use the colonized ideals of beauty, i.e. fair-skinned, bleach-blonde, import model stereotypical Pinay. Whenever I go back home to P.I., I'm bombarded by Spanish-era neocolonial patriarchal standards of beauty, i.e. the Kris Aquino billboard for Kissa whitening soap: "Mas maputi, mas kissable." (The more white you are, the more kissable.) And, as a proud F.A.T. (fabulous and thick) progressive woman, I did NOT see any dark skinned Pinays nor any curvy ones. Again, that's feeding into the Orientalist ideals of beauty.

As if that wasn't oppressive enough, I realized that this ideal completely feeds into the whole Orientalist Asiaphile fetishist fantasy that white males (and some men of color) internalize.

It's not cool to whore out your culture for the highest bidder just to be accepted into the Anglo mainstream. That's the same mindset as "better to have bad publicity than no publicity" that Hollywood seems to argue when minority media watchdog groups harangue them for lack of diversity and marginalized, stereotypical roles.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: conditionbronze
2006-08-25 08:46 am (UTC)

Re: my two cents

You know I too get very disheartened by what is presented as the feminine ideal on TV shows in the PI. My cousin is a soap opera director back home and he took me to the studio one day and I felt like the last black piece on the Othello board. All fair skinned, lots of mestiza, closer to white made right and you see that on Telemundo too.

And this -- "Kris Aquino billboard for Kissa whitening soap: "Mas maputi, mas kissable." (The more white you are, the more kissable.)"

That is effed up.

And you know what, you're right, where were the thick and beautiful women, where were the dark skinned women? That's a real party right there, all of us.

However to make this statement, "It's not cool to whore out your culture for the highest bidder just to be accepted into the Anglo mainstream" kinda comes off to me like you're calling the people involved in the video sellouts, and that's just mean.

Your context for the video is important because it comes up over and over again in the images we see in media, but there are people who put the work into this video, who are people, who are Pilipino/Pilipina people. And I'm pretty sure they weren't sitting around discussing the video saying to themselves, "You know, how can we best feed into the Orientalist Asiaphile fetishist fantasy and whore out our culture to the highest bidder to be accepted into the Anglo mainstream?"

And this is what gets me down about the letter. These are important things to discuss but it presumes guilt. And I've seen this approach taken time and time again. I've been on the receiving end and the giving end of it. We're all part of the same community and we should check each other, but we can do better than this. We can talk to each other without assumptions. With an understanding that we're all trying and we're not perfect, we can improve what we're doing, we can revise, we can reshape and that we're all in this together or whatever other cliches that are apropos.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pinoyidoljayr
2006-08-25 09:21 am (UTC)

My opinion...

Like I meantioned numerous times this would be a great SPEAK OUT! topic on TFC! Haha. "The Bebot Video"..."What do you have to say about it?".

Honestly, I've been working with these guys [Pat & everyone else] for the past 6 years. "The Debut" itself was a huge struggle! You had to be there to experience it. Why can't the people in general just appreciate what's out there for us? There are people trying put 'The Philippines' on the map and when it's finally out there, our own people don't even appreciate it? Could you have done a better job? These projects are made by the community and for the community. If we don't act up now and do something about it, when are we ever going to see/hear "Filipinos/as" in music, on television or even on the big screen? Do we have to wait for the next Rob Schneider movie, where he adds a Filipino twist to the script? Do we have to wait for the next WW2 movie with Cesar Montano? I mean...it's time to face the fear! We do live in a judgemental world where you can't please everybody. Being "Filipino" in American, alone is a struggle. We've been here for about a good 100 years, do we have to wait for another 100 years to make Filipinos visible and heard in mainstream America?

Both videos are different and both have something to offer, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. Everybody came together just to make these videos possible, all the hard work and perseverance they put into it. It's all love and support from the community, on top of that I believe no one got paid. So I applaud everybody for coming together and making this project happen!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: shuttie_uppie
2006-08-25 05:33 pm (UTC)

Re: My opinion...

Actually, it's been over 100 years.

Do realize that Hollywood is run by ignorant, ridiculously wealthy Anglo Jews who completely missed the memo on the fact that people of color are HUMAN BEINGS!!! They fail completely in representing people of color (especially Asians and Pacific Islanders) in a positive, realistic light. So Hollywood can pretty much lick my bloody snatch for all I care! It's really all about the indie films...

That being said, I think that the efforts for the Pilipin@ community to be heard need to be more militant and much more aggressive. I'm talking about the true hardcore origins of grassroots mobilizing: teach-ins, student walk-outs, moratoriums, hunger strikes, the whole bit. I admire the use of film as a medium to have our voices heard.....BUT I think it's too passive of a resistance.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
Re: My opinion... - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: My opinion... - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: My opinion... - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-30 09:23 pm (UTC)

more responses...

Christina DeHaven made a statement (she's one of the producers) here:

http://www.xylophonefilms.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=xylobep;action=display;num=1156324705

I love that lady!

Ate Lily
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-30 10:26 pm (UTC)

Re: more responses...

OH YEA... Bebot on MTV News? An 'APL song' mention? RIGHT ON!...and patty in the background.
check it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s6_MbwqXD4
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pinoyidoljayr
2006-08-31 07:08 am (UTC)
Christina's comment was very well said. I was cracking up about the Patty in the background. Thanks for the updates! Hopfully that'll clear peoples thoughts and opinions.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: liquidzer0
2006-10-13 07:46 am (UTC)

Very long overdue

It took me a lot of time to actually watch the video, and well to be honest i'm still fleshing out my thoughts. Most of this really stems from the fact that for a few months i've just been re-evaluating myself, where do I see myself as an artist, an activist, an organizer, an academic, as a human being; and well this debate with the video really lends itself to me chosing a "side" to be on. Like I said I'm still coping with it.

In terms of the Gen 2 video, it was the one that made me hesitant to see either of them as I saw pics from the shooting before the video aired. I was somewhat aware of the difficulties that Pat and AJ went through in doing the video initially (no knowledge of the specific details) but I guess what was wanted from the "powers that be" (you could say) was more of a party video. So in my head I was thinking it was gonna be another hip pop video that's on BET except with brown folk on it.

So what did I think of it? I felt it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I've been to parties where women were wearing less, and a lot worse happened. In the video I didn't see any drugs, didn't see any liqs, didn't see any sex; while women were dancing suggestively, no one was hella grinding and shaking their booties like there was some machine inside. Yes I felt the women looked objectified in the video, but I don't feel it was Patricio's fault; the reason why they looked that way was because the video was about a house party. The fact that he was able make a video about the Manongs for Gen 1 with the lyrics that were in the song was a feat in itself, but to do the video utilizing the original lyrics lends itself it that kind of portrayal as seen in Gen 2. When you go to a club you're going to see women dressed in revealing clothes and you're going to see guys objectifying women. Does it make it right? No, it's never right. But that's just the truth of the young adult culture today, whether it be black, white, yellow, or brown folk.

The Gen 2 video I see it as an idealized portrayal of the Fil-Am youth today (like i said no sex, drugs, violence is seen in the vid). The hypersexualization of women as seen in the video is only a reflection of how we as a Fil-Am community are, therefore we as a community are responsible for any misportrayals. Does the video unintentionally perpetuate these stereotypes? Maybe, but it's up to the individual to analyze the stereotype and decide if they want to hold it as valid.

We as a culture and a community have a long way to go in fighting Patriarchy. I think a lot of the imagery as seen in the video has a lot to do with our double consciousness, pilipinas have been hypersexualized by so many sources so us pilipinos buy into that concept as well as the pilipinas themselves; creating that damn cycle of men objectifying women and women seeking to be objectified. Hell, we as a community have a long way to go in other areas too, and honestly my hesitancy is the fact that we have artists vs. academics vs. community fighting amongst each other when we all are trying to do what's best for our people.
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