The Real Face and Power of Stereotypes

by Jennifer Ngo

First impressions go a long way in Filipino culture, and this is not to say that Filipinos are judgmental. As a matter of fact, Dyer believes that “most of our knowledge about the people we encounter is based on the evidence in front of us, what they do and how they do it, what they say and how they say it, how they dress, mannerisms, where they live and so on” (as cited in Durham and Kellner, 2006, p.354), and this applies to both men and women, and the homosexuals as well.

The Philippine entertainment industry was astounded by the emergence of a new “supermodel” in the person of BB Gandanghari. To those who are unaware, BB Gandanghari is the “reincarnated” Rustom Padilla, a then famous matinee idol belonging to the macho clan of the Padillas.

In all of her interviews, BB (short for Binibini) talked about Rustom in the third person, and she does so consistently without apology (San Diego, 2009). “Rustom is dead,” she says, “I am a woman” (BB Gandanghari's Journey to Self-Discovery).

Sociological theory analyzes character in four different ways: role, individual, type and member. However, according to Dyer, he prefers to use the broader term type to discuss character construction. Within types exists stereotypes, social types, and member types. The first two refer to a concept of normalcy while the latter one refers to inclusion in a historically or culturally determined social group.

Social types include those who live by the rules of society while stereotypes include those who are excluded. In other words, stereotypes rob people of freedom and exclude them once they go beyond the boundaries of normalcy. In Dyers’ words, “The establishment of normalcy through stereotypes is one aspect of the habit of ruling groups … to attempt to fashion the whole of society according tot heir own world-view, value-system, sensibility and ideology. So right is this world-view for the ruling groups, that they make it appear as 'natural' and 'inevitable' – and, in so far as they succeed, they establish their hegemony… However, hegemony is an active concept – it is something that must be ceaselessly built and rebuilt in the face of both implicit and explicit challenges to it” (as cited in Durham and Kellner, 2006, p. 356).

In a progressive liberating society like the Philippines, closet gays are still the norm but not the trend. Despite this, the country has yet to abandon its binary classification of gender; hence, the conservatives still possess the hegemonic rule. As much as politics is involved, the dominating class permits a little bit of resistance to maintain their status quo, and in this case, the conservatives allow gay men to dress, act, and live the life of women. In his interview with PDI’s Bayani San Diego, talked about how his perspectives on women changed after his self-discovery. If that alone can enlighten men on how it is to be a woman and what goes on their minds, then maybe being homosexual isn’t so bad after all. However, whatever freedom homosexuals are granted must be contained in limits, OR ELSE they’ll ruin the “natural order” of things embedded in human relations, and things can never be right or wrong.

BB relates that she goes to the ladies’ room to pee in America, and that “it is more scandalous for BB to use the men’s room.” (San Diego, 2009). Having romantic relationships with the same sex might be pretty common nowadays, BUT having sexual relationships with the same sex is still definitely taboo. When asked if she’s ready to take things farther to the next level, that is, to have a sex change to possess a female reproductive system), she answered, “Well, Binabalaan ko na kayo!” (San Diego, 2009).

BB Gandanghari’s coming out definitely challenges the ideological representation of gay men as established by the ruling class. If we are to follow Dyer’s train of thought, BB is not anymore just an individual identifying with a stereotype but a member belonging to a social group outside the present cultural hegemony (Dyer, as cited in Durham and Kellner, 2006, p.363). Because of this, everything now becomes problematic. Where should gay men pee? Going to either of the men or ladies’ room will surely make people uncomfortable. Should gay men be allowed to alter their God-given bodies to fully achieve womanhood? The thought is very disturbing.

It is not so much the accuracy of the stereotypical representation that should be questioned; rather, “what we should be attacking in stereotypes is the attempt of heterosexual society to define us for ourselves, in terms that inevitably fall short of the ‘ideal’ of heterosexuality (that is, taken to be the norm of being human), and to pass this definition off as necessary and natural” (as cited in Durham and Kellner 2006, p. 357), and how resistance, when pushed to the limit, can destroy a forever-existing ideology, pose more questions than answers, and create confusion in exchange for freedom.

To know more about BB Gandanghari and her transformation, click on The Buzz True Confessions. For the complete transcript of her interview with Mr. San Diego, click on BB, what a big surprise!.


Durham, M.G. and Kellner, D. (2006). Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works. USA: Blackwell Publishing.

San Diego, B. (2009, February 14). BB, what a nig surprise! Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20090214-189353/BB-what-a-big-surprise

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