Monday, April 28, 2008

Homophobia and stereotypes perpetuated by MDA?

I sent the following letter to the Straits Times Forum editor. Looks like it is not published. It is very important that know whether if the authorities would prefer to depict gay people frivolously and abnormally, since positive and normal depictions are disallowed.

We are sending mixed signals to sexual minorities, welcoming them in the civil service and the economy, but denying their existence with media content regulation which censors them, replacing their representation with stereotypical and sometimes wrongful portrayals.

(Unpublished - Apr 25, 2008)

Homophobia and stereotypes perpetuated by MDA?

Dear Editor,

I refer to the recent $15,000 fine on MediaCorp by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

MediaCorp had aired a Channel 5 programme ‘Find and Design’, which featured a gay couple and their adopted baby. It contravenes MDA’s guidelines which restrict the “normalisation of the gay lifestyle” on free-to-air television.

If MDA does not condone what it deems to be the promotion, justification or glorification of the gay lifestyle, is it actually encouraging exclusively negative and stereotypical depictions of homosexuality?

The government and most Singaporeans may have made small steps over the years to integrate sexual minorities into the economy, but more can be done for their social integration.

The deliberate censorship and omission of positive representations of various segments of our community runs contrary to our development as a diverse society.

As such, media content regulation should be in tandem with how we are maturing as a people.

MDA should make genuine and progressive attempts to prove that Singapore is a place where minorities are not marginalised, underrepresented or misrepresented, especially so in the mainstream media.

The role of the media has time and again been marked by leaders to be integral in nation-building. Why should nation-building involve underrepresentation, exclusion, and the perpetuation of stereotypes?

Furthermore, depiction and representation do not equate to promotion or glorification of, in this case, homosexuality.

We are already steeped into reducing homosexuality to a lifestyle, popularly believed to be a reversible rational choice and hence can be discarded.

There already exists a stereotype enshrined within the regulatory system, and this is something we have to address.

MDA may claim that they represent the interests and values of the majority, which consists of people who identify themselves as normal and heterosexual. They should also bear in mind that I too am part of that majority.

We cannot let the definition of "normal" and "abnormal" be monopolised by one dominant group.

At the same time, media content regulation should not be entirely based on outdated media theories which posit that the media can directly and wholly influence people’s behaviour and sexuality.

Moreover, this belief will divert attention away from the inequalities and social injustice perpetuated against minority groups by dominant groups of relatively larger political influence.

Censorship of real and positive depictions of minorities will not bode well for media regulation in an era of increasing media literacy.

Media regulation should instead ensure fair and proper representation of various peoples.

Ho Chi Sam


Molly Meek said...

They would rather publish that Jacelyn Chan's bigoted letter than yours. I originally wanted to say that it's a shame. But after some thoughts, it's probably more appropriate to say that it's shameless...

Sam Ho said...

shit happens. i think it's a matter of rotation of names. ST has already published my letters twice in April, so they cannot possibly do it too often. they won't look credible.

there are a lot of moral and religious "experts" out there who know what's best for society, so these champions of "morality" will number by the dozens. the same voices in the wilderness can't be heard too often.

KT said...

Hi Sam, thank you very much for voicing out for us. It's a pity ST thought your letter wasn't worth the editorial space. They're just trapping themselves and the entire nation in their own conservative and irrational shell. I'm thankful we have the internet so people from all over get to come here and read what you have written.

I just hope there can be more activism in Singapore, and that things can actually change.

Sam Ho said...

thank you. change in mindsets will be very slow. as a community/society, we can't simply ditch one kind of rationality for another overnight.

the only thing we can do at the moment is ask questions and point out inconsistencies. but unfortunately, the establishment and people in comfortable positions of power will see it as subversion and whiny complaints.

minority and underprivileged peoples' well-being and interests are always under threat because that's the way things are. all the privileged bunch of people have to do is deny the existence of "minority" and "underprivileged", in the process denying responsibility to actively engage them. because the privilege see meaningful engagement as detrimental to their position of comfort and power.

laws and beliefs should be questioned, because they have to be justified time and again. hopefully, we will have a more open and caring society in time to come.

Molly Meek said...

Then again, it doesn't look very well on them them to rotate names just so that the same names won't appear too often either, especially when they have not officially stated such a policy.

Indeed, there are many champions of "morality" out there. But I would think that many of these would just keep quiet about the fine rather than write in to applaud it. And even bigotry need not sound as absurd as the abovementioned letter and others that the ST has published... Maybe there's a chance they are publishing the stupidest letters so that people would write in response.

Sam Ho said...

from what i heard, ST forum publishes at most 3 letters per name in the paper. i'm not sure about their limit for online letters. i may be wrong.

you raised an interesting point. the editorial policy of the straits times is secretive and might not even be codified. so we will never know if they intentionally published "flame-baits" to generate interest in the papers and readership.

there's always the occasional insensitive, inflammatory and sweeping letter that is published. it would help if SPH is open with their editorial policies, otherwise people like us will try to deduce it based on observation.