Respect People’s Right to Personal Space: Supporting Denden Lazaro

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Recently, volleyball star Denden Lazaro became the “talk of the town” after a video, where she seemingly snubbed a fan, went viral on social media.

In the video, you can see Lazaro walking towards a male fan to have their picture taken. The fan then tried to place his hand on Lazaro’s shoulder, which she quickly avoided by taking a step to her right. Lazaro still posed for the photo but left immediately, visibly uncomfortable.

The video received a variety of reactions from social media viewers. Many were annoyed and bashed the athlete for having a bad attitude; some expressed their sympathy to the fan and others defended Lazaro’s actions.

Lazaro addressed the issue by posting a short thread on Twitter where she emphasized how much she values her personal space. “There are certain situations that make a person feel uncomfortable like when random people invade one’s personal space. And to me personal space is something I highly value.”

She also apologized to those who were offended by her actions, and thanked those who are continuously supporting her and sending positive messages despite the issue.

“I apologize if I offended anybody with my action. But I don’t apologize for being me.

I’d like to thank everyone who has been sending me love & positivity. I really appreciate the support & understanding. To my friends & supporters, you are my rock.”

The video, which was posted on Facebook by user Marya Ge-Ann Matsunaga on November, 2017, already has 3.2 million views.

 

Netizens react

The video garnered mixed responses from netizens, with most comments talking about how much “attitude” (ill-mannered) the athlete has shown. Many got mad and offended that Denden avoided the fan’s hand, saying that she could’ve just posed for the photo as it takes a few seconds. Others attacked the athlete’s values, saying that she’s always had a bad attitude and has become vain due to her fame. There are also a few comments focusing on the fan and how humiliated he must have felt to be rejected that way.

Surprisingly, most of the comments and bashers in the video are females who attacked Denden for being nitpicky. They also attacked the athlete’s personality and physical appearance, saying that she shouldn’t be very choosy as she’s not that pretty to start with and that she should align her attitude with her physical appeal.

The sad thing is, these bashers are also the girls who complain non-stop and cry foul whenever they are catcalled and disrespected on Philippine streets, yet they have no problem telling another female to allow strangers to touch her despite being uncomfortable with it.  If they find verbal abuse and harassment spiteful, how can they expect someone else to be okay with physical contact?

Granted, there were also a few who understood why the fan’s action was wrong and defended the athlete against the accusations. Some even tried to reason with the bashers and explained the importance of personal space. According to them, Lazaro does not deserve the hate being thrown at her just because she feels uncomfortable when strangers touch her without her consent.  Despite her fame, the athlete still has the right to who can touch her and no one can tell her otherwise. 

It’s all about respect

While reading the comments, I realized that most of the hate Denden received is coming from the fact that she is “famous”. Most Pinoys think that since she’s in the limelight, she should start fixing her attitude and be more accommodating. This is somewhat understandable, since public personalities in the country are expected to be friendly and ready to mingle with the masses, especially with their fans. Commenters also shifted more blame onto Denden by saying that she “wanted” to be famous and if she didn’t want to be bothered by her supporters, she shouldn’t have tried to be “pa-famous” in the first place.

I understand their point, except that in Denden’s case, she is an athlete. Unlike actresses and showbiz socialites, she did not actually “choose” the fame. While it is true that she’s well-known in the country and has a large following, the role she’s expected to perform is still immensely different from the role of actresses. Mind you, actresses also have the right to their personal space. Just because they’re a public figure doesn’t mean we can invade their personal area and then send hate messages when they speak out against it.

I realize that it is easy to forget that we’re supposed to give celebrities their space.  We seldom consider that the celebrity we’re facing may be tired, uncomfortable, or internally screaming, especially in the Philippines where our artists rarely shoo away fans despite inappropriate actions. When people enter show business, we expect them to be ready for these situations. After all, being charismatic and approachable is a part of the job description. However, this is a very problematic way of thinking.

Regardless of the position of a person, whether they’re an artist, athlete, or an ordinary citizen, we should ask their permission before initiating physical contact. If you really want to touch them, hug them, or pose for a photo with your hands around them, then you have to ask for their permission. It would take three seconds to get their permission, and chances are they’d be more than willing to appease a fan. Isn’t that a much better approach compared to suddenly surprising them by your “hokage” moves?

Asking for consent before initiating contact is the most basic form of respect towards your idols.  Celebrities, like us, must be mindful of their reputation and how they deal with their fans. Let’s not make it harder for them by harassing and invading their rights to privacy and space.

 

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