Asia-Pacific, Philippines, Human Rights, Opinion

Materialism and Objectification… Through Memes?

A few weeks before the release of the iPhone 7, tons of memes with sexual implication proliferated on Filipino social media. The content features both genders, women most of the time, involved in the extortion of money.

Aside that the memes contain actual photos of real people or caricature of them, some feature objects that, symbolize the difference between a “pure” woman from an “extortionist” one with the tag “before and after iPhone 7″.

The main proposition: iPhone 7 is so expensive that to get it, people rely on consensual intercourse.

For the Sake of the iPhone 7
For the Sake of the iPhone 7

While it may be true that extortion exists, it is a deeply rooted issue that results in the degradation of morals through objectification of both genders. However, through social media, the audacity of the matter is greatly simplified and reduced to something funny and more acceptable: memes.


Why do we find this “problematic”?

First, it confirms society’s ideals on gender roles and inequality


Usually, it is the women who are subjected into the less powerful role in a relationship. The memes do not only suggest that women cannot afford things for themselves but they are also reduced from their humane state into that of an object of pleasure.

It implies that a woman’s power lies into how she uses her body to get what she wants. Therefore, she looks at herself as a commodity rather than a functional member of society.

As the American Psychological Association (APA) reiterates, a.woman’s perception of herself is honed by how the world looks at her. By being exposed to the media that, sexualize women, girls tend to become self conscious and they view themselves according to how others view them. The Learned Helplessness Theory even states that due to an individual’s limited control over physical looks, one develops depression.

This conditioning led to the development of the idea that woman’s physical appearance dictates success, power, and respect. But in this context, an iPhone 7 that confirms membership as “sosyal” or one of the social elites.


Of course, this messed up ideology on how gender dictates societal roles also applies to men.

The memes position them as the stronger persona in the form of the provider. Though it may be a good thing, a deeper analysis of the context of the picture would tell that men are also deemed as an abusive and a controlled gender.

We are not saying that they are, but abusive in accordance to the memes because they take advantage of the power of money to make people do as they wish. That instead of looking at women as their partners, they look at them as their property that they can shower with lavish gifts after using them.

“Controlled” because though it seems that these memes project men as more powerful, it emphasizes men’s limiting masculine roles. They must be the breadwinners of the family and that their power is dependent on their pockets.

In short, these memes somehow tell us that men without money are useless and that the relationship they are involved in are solely based on financial status.

All of us hate the concepts that sexism has categorized us into: males as the dominant, women as the submissive, him the warrior, her the seductress. Nevertheless, we still propagate these ideas through puns and jokes to get even with each other. We are so loud in our claims to create gender equity yet we do not stop creating reminders of how we think our privileges and responsibilities are dictated by our biological states.

By allowing social media to disseminate these negative images, we are somehow tolerating the extortionist behavior by making it appear as normal. Eventually people might accept it as part of our system.


Secondly, it shows the judgmental side toward uncommon relationships.

What kind of relationship do we deem ideal? The men able to provide well for the family, the woman able to maintain a good home and raise kids and that wherein the couple’s ages are close to one another.

We cannot deny that this is the model family we aim to see but people have different backgrounds that we have to consider. They have varying choices, presumptions, and preferences that shape the kind of family they want to raise.

Of course, we cannot put a specific measure as to what must and must not be acceptable as acceptable, behavior is relative. With this, we must allow ourselves to have a broader perspective when it comes to love and relationships. Just because a relationship does not look normal to you, it doesn’t mean that it involves extortion.

Societal Status

So, what do these memes reflect about our society?

While we can laugh about them and though we cannot deny that extortion does happen, it is not hypocrisy if we make it’s social media circulation stop.

First, it is insulting. We are not saying that all of us are as what these memes suggest, but women must not be degraded. They also have the ability to finance and take care of themselves.

Men must not also think of themselves too highly. They need to accept that they have emotions, too.

Also, we must stop objectifying each other. That is looking at both genders as sexual objects.

We hate it. We all want equality as well as equity but instead of correcting misconceptions, we laugh at them and we degrade “others” who we think fit the memetical “description.”

Second, it affirms the gravity of unequal financial status in the country as well as the decreasing morals of the current generation.

Though our source of income could be a matter of choice, that doesn’t mean we have to glorify or justify negative resources just because it is the millennium age.

We are not aiming to hide the problem regarding self respect, but by publicizing it, we are aggravating an issue that we can resolve internally.

Allowing outsiders to see gives them the freedom to judge us even before we can act toward it. It does not only make us a laughing stock, but it doubles what we need to do. First, the resolution of the degrading morality we have, and second, the mitigation of a maligned Filipino image.


In sum, by circulating these maligning memes we personally attack each other.

If we want sexism to stop, if we want self harm and misconceptions to cease, we must start choosing which to talk about in laughter — that is if we want to talk about a social issue. We talk about it to weaken the risks and to alleviate the root cause rather than to talk about it just to pass the time and point fingers.

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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