The Story Behind the Viral Post of Online Seller "Toyo ni Misis"

One of the owners explains how they came about the name.

PHOTO BY Toyo ni Misis ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) Establishing a small business is no easy feat. Aside from coming up and perfecting the product itself, it’s also important to know how to market your goods. You need to be able to stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on customers—which is why many purveyors turn to employing humor and wit on their branding. The catch in doing so? Not everyone may find it funny, or the jokes may in fact be rooted in oppressive beliefs.

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Independent online seller Toyo ni Misis recently went viral on social media for this reason. Their name alludes to the connotation of the word toyo: not being in the mood, or being unreasonably irritated or angry. While some found this funny, others found that it only perpetuated the stereotype of women being moody or crazy.

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Moreover, in a Facebook post, Toyo ni Misis listed three variants of their homemade toyomansi with chili garlic: Topak (mild), which they deemed “kaya pa sa lambing”; Sayad (spicy), which they deemed “masarap tirisin”; and Tililing (extra spicy), which they deemed “sarap sapakin” followed by “joke lang po ‘di ko gagawin.” Toyo ni Misis has since edited “masarap tirisin” to “masarap yakapin” and “sarap sapakin” to “masarap mahalin”, but as we all know, the Internet never forgets. Many were quick to point out how the original labels (still visible through the post's edit history) trivialized domestic violence—a very serious matter, especially in the Philippines.

Others also pointed out their use of Bitmoji characters in the logo, which is not permitted as per Bitmoji’s brand guidelines.

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Toyo ni Misis has issued an apology, where they clarified that they did not intend to promote domestic violence. “If this has offended anyone we apologise and pray for your understanding,” they write. “Our intention [is to] promote our startup business based on our experience and humor as a married couple.”

On one hand, the owners had no ill intentions. “My husband and I love sawsawan,” the one-half of the couple—who wishes to remain anonymous—explains to us in a private message. “I like to put calamansi on everything and he loves chili since he is from Bicol. We were [displaced] during this pandemic and we want to start selling something with low production cost since we lack capital.”

“We've been together for 15 years. Toyo, sumpong, [and] tampuhan [have] been part of our relationship. Actually, idea ko ‘yung Toyo ni Misis since naging biruan nga namin. As for the toyo levels, since we have different tolerance for spiciness, [we] created levels para mas maraming maka-enjoy no'ng product.”

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The names, she explains, were based on the names her husband would jokingly call her different moods. “We laughed about it, showed it to our friends and natuwa naman sila, maybe because they know us as a couple na mahilig mag-asaran. Or we have the same point of view. We never thought na offensive pala sa iba 'yong terms na ginamit namin. Plus, the description, which they view as promoting violence. So we [edited] out that caption and just retained the spiciness levels.”

Violence against women and the perpetuation of women’s stereotypes are very serious matters. According to the UN Women Global Database on Violence Against Women, 148% of ever-married women aged 15 to 49 have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, while 55% of ever-married women aged 15 to 49 years experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence in the last 12 months in 2018. The current lockdown has made these numbers rise, with women’s organization Gabriela reporting 3,700 cases of abuse against women in June.

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Gender stereotypes also greatly affect the way women view themselves as well as how they’re treated. In particular, the belief about women being “crazy” otherizes and shames them, reducing women’s true struggles into mere mood swings. It also lessens the chances that women can be taken seriously and dismisses legitimate emotions as irrational outbursts.

In 2020, it’s only fair to expect brands (and everyone, really) to be aware of these issues and the possible consequences of their actions. Still, it must be said that the best way to combat misinformation is to educate, not spread hate—especially considering that is also a small business just looking to make ends meet in the midst of a pandemic.

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