Philippines: ‘Desperate Housewives’ Uproar Continues

SFist reports on Saturday that the Desperate Housewives scandal involving purported racist remarks against Philippine medical school continues.

For several weeks now, the Filipino-American online petition has not stopped drawing support, with signatures now reaching 121,793 and counting. is unconvinced of the arguments of those who claim that the continuing protests are “going overboard”. He lists the main arguments of those who oppose the protests and rebutts each of them:

1. Filipinos are too onion-skinned/ over-sensitive. I really don’t know how people can see this as an over reaction. Philippine-trained doctors were maligned for millions of people to see. This could have very real and palpable effects on the practice of Pinoy doctors who work in the US. People will fight when they are being aggrieved and that is what some doctors are doing. And assuming without conceding that we are OVERLY SENSITIVE, so what? I’d rather be in a group of people who would defend their pride as opposed to a group who would simply act like pushovers when they’re being ridiculed in a grand stage. It’s not about being good sports – the people being dissed didn’t sign up to be the targets of unsubstantiated comments regarding their competence.

2. Filipinos are racists too. Isn’t this a gross generalization as well? Assuming without conceding that we are racist, does this mean that we give up our right to fight back whenever we are subjected to what we consider as racial profiling? This issue has nothing to do with the entire discussion because it doesn’t prove or disprove anything. Calling the entire Filipino community is a stretch in itself, but even if it were true, it doesn’t remove our right to feel offended and ask for legal reparations .

3. There are more important issues. It is the issue NOW. Deal with it. Try pushing your other advocacies on other blogs that push for it. Profiling and discrimination are just as important as any issue. Also, not the state and society’s inability to police whatever problem you forward does not remove the right of people to be passionate in other things.

4. The Philippine Education System SUCKS. Assuming without conceding that it is true, the products of the Philippine Education System will still be subject to the regulations and requirements set by the regulatory boards in the US. They will take the same licensure examinations as the US-educated medical graduates. In short, they’ll be assessed using the same standards. Ergo, even if the school system is bad, there are existing checks in the system that could weed out those who are mediocre.

Taking a different tack from other bloggers, asks:

Did Manny Pacquiao’s win over Marco Antonio Barrera give countless Filipinos the courage to speak up about the Desperate Housewives issue?

expressions calls for more accountability in media in light of this episode:

People behind TV shows should be more sensitive in conceptualizing each episodes that they produce. Television shows should be more responsible and discern social responsibility that is of great public interest.

According to

Many middle-class Filipinos in the country and abroad find it convenient to tolerate Gloria Arroyo’s fake presidency believing that they are not affected by it. The Desperate Housewives incident proves the overwhelming extent of the disrepute that Arroyo has brought to the Filipino nation.

Fears of an anti-Filipino backlash from within Hollywood appear to be unfounded, according to a Philippine Star report. The Bayanihan Blog Network also confirms this. analyzes the issue as a media critic:

Who’s going to be targeted usually depends on who’s the US’ perceived enemy of the hour, and while the latter may currently include North Koreans, the current disfavor of the month are Arabs, particularly Iranians.

US pop culture is not pro-actively sensitive. Most of the time it reflects the attitudes, biases, fears and beliefs of the majority. And why not? Its writers, directors, and producers are themselves children of the same majority culture.

Right now the majority is not so much concerned with Filipinos as with “the enemy within”—meaning the Muslims and Arabs living in the homeland. As for Filipinos, well, they’re certainly not the enemy, being from a country that’s been so supportive of US policies and so ingratiating in its mendicancy it’s way past embarrassing.

and points to what could be the real reason behind the continuing protests:

That’s what made the remark about Philippine med schools particularly painful. Like the government they thought they’ve left behind, Filipinos in the US work hard to be accepted. They keep their mouths shut when other minority groups are insulted and injured. They vote Republican in US elections to dispel any suggestion no matter how faint of “radical” views. They work at their long A’s and O’s and try to speak with a twang. They prohibit their children from speaking Filipino.

It’s a shock to discover that despite it all, despite the effort at deculturizing themselves, and despite the smiles and the patronizing, seeming acceptance of the white majority, they remain outsiders in a culture that, regarding itself as superior, disdains others.

Elsewhere, the Philippine Anti-Defamation Coalition explains why it is easy to miss the point about the outrage, and laments that other Holywood watchdogs didn't get the point either. It says the issue gives Filipino American History Month this October in the US a fresh angle to combat racism and bigotry and to promote understanding amid diversity.


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  • Chris

    I understand why certain Filipino-Americans and Filipinos have been offended by the off-hand and disparaging remark uttered by Terri Hatcher’s character on one episode of Desperate Housewives about the quality of Filipino medical schools; however, I believe the protestors have misunderstood what really was presented. Terri Hatcher’s character has consistently been portrayed during the entire series of Desperate Housewives as an annoying, ditzy, narrow-minded, and often socially awkward individual. On a typical episode, she usually puts her foot in her mouth and manages to insult or offend another character or even a whole group of individuals. When her character made the throw-away comment about Filipino medical schools, the remark was not intended to be a statement that the audience should take as fact as to the quality of Filipino medical schools; rather it was supposed to reflect the ignorance of Terri Hatcher’s character about the medical community and to reflect her apprehension about getting a medical exam from her new neighbor. Quite frankly, the Desperate Housewive characters are not meant to be role models, one or the other of the women has uttered a disparaging or unflattering remark against almost every ethnic group or type of individuals. Furthermore, I think if any group has a right to be offended about how they have been potrayed by the show, it would be gays and lesbians. Every gay character has been shown either has a target for violence (at least one early episode made a vicious joke about gay bashing), a cheap stereotype played for cruel laughs (for example, the character of Edie Brit in one episode makes a nasty comment about what a fellow gay realtor supposedly did the hot tub of a home he was trying to sell), or as a crazy sociopath (the son of character Bree Van De Kamp, Andrew, spent the first two seasons of the series running over old ladies, black-mailing and mentally torturing his mother, and basically behaving as a despicable individual). Where were Filipino-Americans and Filipinos when Desperate Housewives insulted and defamed their gay friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, coworkers, etc? Either we all need to learn to have thicker skin and realize that what some silly characters say and do on satirical t.v. show is not meant to be taken seriously, or else if hurtful comments are to be challenged, then they should be challenged when uttered against any group of individuals, not just the group to which we ourselves belong. Finally, I think any American who has had even minimal contact with the nation’s health care system realizes the invaluable role that Filipino-Americans and Filipino nationals play in the U.S. healthcare system. As a boy growing up in Indianapolis, a city which does NOT have a large Filipino community, the Filipino-American father of a friend and fellow classmate was the head of Cardiology for one of the largest and most prestigious hospitals in the city–and even that many years ago, no one would have ever have thought to question his medical credentials; in fact, he was highly respected and well-liked.

  • migs

    “Who’s going to be targeted usually depends on who’s the US’ perceived enemy of the hour, and while the latter may currently include North Koreans, the current disfavor of the month are Arabs, particularly Iranians.”

    and in the first place, iranians are NOT arabs.

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