Friday, November 15, 2013

AWARE and Purple Light's "rape"

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) recently shared an update on Facebook (
Ever wonder if speaking up about sexism really creates change? Here's one case where it has!

Earlier this year, AWARE learned of "Purple Light", a marching song sung by many NSmen, which included the lines: 
"Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man 
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me."

We were troubled that NSmen were bonding over misogynist lyrics about committing sexual violence against women. So we raised our concerns with MINDEF and SAF.

And now we have excellent news: MINDEF and SAF have confirmed that they took steps to investigate. They will "immediately halt" the singing of these lyrics, which they describe as "contrary to the values of [their] organisation".

It's really encouraging that MINDEF and SAF are prepared to listen to feedback, recognise this as an issue and take action on it. Thumbs up!
Before I provide a *gasp* short comment (in less than my usual 2,000 words), I like to say that when I did my Basic Military Training (BMT) in 2002, there was such a song sung with the above lyrics.

Any way, I think it is important to support this because it is not about women's rights or protection from violence. It is about G/gender and how we continue to construct it.

First, I believe AWARE should be applauded and supported for raising this. It has been a blindside to many folks when it comes to partaking in seemingly silly or trivial singalongs that in the process normalises sexual violence.

I do have my gripe against advocates who border on "feminazi" when it comes to policing the word "rape" such that even the boundaries of commentary and satire with the most self-aware and conscientious intent get controlled. I feel it is important that everyone gets involved in the discourse on rape, including the most offensive. But any way, I don't intend to discuss that in this post.

The abovementioned army singalong talks about revenge on infidelity using sexual assault or rape. It is mentioned in the context of serving in the military and losing your girlfriend, and coping with the perpetual sense of loneliness in the midst of service. But (as some have still yet to understand...) the context still does not justify sexual assault, or "she deserves it" kind of rape (in layman speak).

Looking at the lyrics in isolation, disregarding the context, I still feel it is still an unnecessary remark. Does it make you more capable of coping in the army? Does rape or joking about it make you closer with your army mates so you can serve the nation better? I'm sure there are other ways of creating camaraderie and building a team, apart from the ritualistic normalisation of rape that was/is (?) rampant in the army.

Why "ritualistic"? Well, people think nothing of it after saying it or being part of it, or they end up reasoning "Nah, it's nothing much really. Don't take it too seriously."

Now let's look at the singalong with respect to creating the desirable male in the military. Traditionally (and maybe some of it still hold true today), men in the military, in order to be more "man" enough to serve, are either exposed to or indulge themselves (or both) in misogyny, homophobia, racism, swearing and so on.

Any way, I recall one episode of unnecessary racism when I was doing my in-camp reservist training this year. One of the instructors made a remark about recording long names, and said something along the lines of "pretty easy... unless it's an Indian name, because they're damn long". I uttered "fuck" in disgust, while an ethnic Indian battalion mate seated near me looked down and said "WTF, that's fucking racist" (see, we cursed). We later registered our complaint, but on hindsight, we should have stood up and called the guy out in front of everyone and told him what he said was unnecessary and has offended some of us.

Racism is a different animal from sexism and misogyny, but there are folks who are aware and conscious enough. In the same reservist training, another instructor, in the context of explaining how to subdue a threat, said "...gang bang him", but apologised before and after saying it. It was strange, but I got the impression that while he wanted to convey a concept that everyone else already understood, he was conscious of it. I honestly didn't see it as an attempt to trivialise the situation or the metaphor. So is that correct? Will people on different points on the feminist spectrum have the same view on this?

From this episode, it did show, for me, that there is already some degree of (de)sensitisation towards sexual violence such that such terms and metaphors used in the context of military training resonates with the folks receiving them.

It is not because these men are disrespectful towards women which is still not the issue by the way. It is that after many generations of conditioning, it appears that men or male-bodied persons are facing greater challenges in defining, constructing and reinforcing their masculinity, and maybe impress and impose it on others too.

I have to keep emphasising: It's not about the feelings or rights of women or females here, but about men and males and their "masculinity".

It was previously done with generous doses (even if they meant it or not) of misogyny, sexism, aggression/violence (or threats of violence), homophobia, transphobia, racism, even class and so on. Yup, the act of "being a man" traditionally involved (partly or fully depending on the individual concerned) putting others down. In the historical context of military and war, perhaps it helped soldiers (who already had some prejudices) cope? Perhaps they needed some rhetoric that resonated with their prejudices, for example, towards female sexuality or race? I don't know. But in today's context, we can do without these.

Back to "being a man" or "manning up", more attention should be focused on how we continue to define, construct and reinforce the flimsy (singular) idea that is masculinity/manhood - i.e. we aspire towards a certain behaviour, a certain body type and a certain social relationship with our environment and other people, just to prove we're "a/the man".

Once we strip the unnecessary isms and phobias from the construction of all things "manly", we will soon realise that there are a lot of traits that are not exclusive to males (and females). Here, binarism is fucked (ah, violent language with implications of sexual assault).

I don't speak for AWARE, but as how I see it, they do their advocacy in the context of a generally ignorant and gendered population, and sometimes, the issues they address do not immediately reveal the overarching themes they champion or fight against, because I do not believe many people will be able to understand them. Even if the AWARE activists and volunteers articulate these, it will still be lost on some.

Not everyone is sensitive to Gender (capital letter there), so things have to move at the pace of, with all due respect, the lowest common denominator in a gendered society. That is why some men and even women have taken this advocacy to be something that is "all about women's rights", when it is actually about how in the process to guarding our manliness/womanliness and maleness/femaleness and their supposed (dichotomous) distinctions, we end up using violence and oppressing others.

Lowest common denominator... If there's a better term, please let me know. In the process of advocating same-sex marriage, there are some factions within the LGBT, feminist and intellectual communities who argue that such a movement is complicit in heteronormality with its prized trait of monogamy, and somehow goes against the grain of sexual diversity (emphasis on consensual) for instance.

Again, it is not as if same-sex marriage advocates are all shallow or dumb, but they are merely dumbing down the message for others to understand enough to have a change in mindset. In the process of doing so, they use themes that resonate with their preexisting biases (is preexisting bias a tautology?). It appears less confrontational. It's like deflecting a punch instead of blocking it stiffly at a right angle.

If we turned the spotlight on masculinity and how we define and mould our maleness or manliness, there will be lots of people who say "that's natural, what!" or "that's how/what men should be". It'll be lost of them and nothing changes. It's not that "women's rights" is the low hanging fruit, but the issues discussed so far have indicated greater accessibility to a larger number of Singaporeans, and hopefully, it'll lead to greater reflection on masculinity and Gender in general.

The mundane always appear to be the most innocent, when in fact, it plays a role in reinforcing harmful prejudices. AWARE did the right thing, and well, it is never too late to call MINDEF/SAF out on this. I support this.


lee said...

Then pray tell,what does singapore do to infidelous women?If u can come up with a truthful and deserving punishment for them that is enforced by the law,yes,vigilantism shpouldnt be condoned.By as ive seen so manyh commneted,the singapore law has been neutered by feminists n is thus biased against men.In that,why must the unfaithful woman get away scotfree?That she doesnt deserve it?Then men who cheat on their wives also dont deserve to have to pay a single cent of alimony,if u apply the same standards.why should ex wives be pitied upon n granted alimony as compensation for the betrayal?Do u even hear what u are saying that goes against all forms of equality,the way u subtlely advocate "the women dont deserve it" but "the man had it coming"?What rubbish.
U applaud aware for this?I mock them,n im disapointed with the govt for making a mockery of itself by listening to them.I thought our ministers n commanders had more grit than to submit to a whim;to let those who havent even contributed a second of their time to the army or set foot on pulau tekong even once to interfere n meddle in their affairs,while us nsmen's voices are very much left unheard;we who have sacrificed our youth and comfort to give to the defense of this country.
I advise u to watch some mainstream anime n tell me if they are promoting the right message to the young audience.You at least can agree with me that graphic depiction is so much more imperative an influence than a mere word,right?In the movie "17 again",it is advocated that a daughter can slap her father,and get her peers to join in the demeaning of her own father as well.what has feminists said about that?If the gender roles reversed n its the son n boys who slapped his mother,do u think ur lot of people would have stayed silent?Your arguments are soo heinously one sided i dont have to read ur entire content to come to this conclusion.

lee said...

U uttered "fuck"?way to go to "teach" people morals,when ur own ones are in question.So "fuck" is less vulgar to u than "rape"?why dont u go about redefining every word in the english language,if u are going to be this presumptious?
U fems are going overboard.Lastime,it was only women in general whom u declare shouldnt be seen as "deserving it".Next u try to protect indecently dressed women.Now u try protecting who committ immoral betrayal.What next?that women can rape men n get away with it?huh??U know what?Such lowdown women dont even deserve to be raped,because the man who is a victim of their betrayal is tainting himself by raping her,hence getting into close intimate contact on a bodily level.It defiles the man,NOT the woman,as ur sexist narrow mind always think.The man shouldnt even have to suffer raping the slut just to "get even",the law should be taking care of it by putting HER into jail to serve her time.jus because she gets a free pass from serving,she thinks its alright for her throw her suffering bf in army further down the well?ever wondered why male suicide rates are higher than females,thus resulting in male average lifespan being lower than females'?Maybe we arent taking care of our men well enough,what with women rights this,women rights that,NEVER EVER thinking of how the men feel or if they are alright?Seriously,among girltalk,do u think they dont make sexist remarks against men?I've read some magazines indictating that they do.Why dont u go after those as well,unless u are an admitted misandrist?One magazine even remarked that,"when women in their male-bashing mode,nothning u(the man) say can change their line of conversation,so its best to take the path of least resistance n just tune out;and then after that tell them that their conversation 'was lovely',now 'can i join back in?'"Unless u tell me that is a distorted depiction of women,does it not show which gender is more likely to gang up in a sexist manner against the other?If it were a distorted depiction,why dont u fems raise a complaint against it?My guess is that it isnt a distorted version,but rather an accurate description in certain circumstances,that neither of u can deny.why must men suffer being bashed in conversation by women without fighting back?why shouldnt we band together also and combat this sexism with countersexism?until at least they see sense and stop their nonsense,just like how aware should stop theirs too,if they even want to earn a sliver of respect from the men.

Sam Ho said...

still, those issues, which are legit, do not diminish the seriousness of the issue concerning normalisation of rape and sexual violence.

i'm more focused on the scope of the issue.

any way, in other blog entries, i'm concerned about body image and body confidence, as well as hypersexualisation of women and men.

feminism is not about women being equal as men, or women being perceived to be "more equal" than men. it's about dealing with gender oppression. and all of us are susceptible to it. as men, we fight fat-shaming, the stereotype of certain high-risk behaviours (drinking, smoking to be cool), body image and long hair in the 70s, mannerisms (cannot be lembek or gerek), etc. feminism fights this too.

if a woman is adulterous, and there's no legal protection for the man, then we'll campaign separately to address this legal loophole. is threat of violence or rape justified as retaliation for infidelity?

i'm in touch with folks from AWARE and civil society organisations. i also know the email addresses of the newspapers and the government feedback channels. i can raise your concerns on your behalf if you wish.

any way the whole issue here, again, is about normalisation of rape. it may figure in the wider discourse of gender equality, but i prefer to discuss it specifically. so, i'm really sorry if i couldn't accommodate those points you wanted to read about, as it was written during lunch time on a weekday.

lee said...

u campaign for equality for male victims of infidelity?then how come ive not even seen a single article in aware addressing that?any thing which has anything to do with impeaching women,abeit the bad ones,or putting more responsibilities on women,has gotten swept under the rug all these years.Sure,i believed u lot when u said u were supportive of women servoing ns,but what ahs been done?nothing,and aware has not even made a concerted effort in long do u fems think u can continue this ruse of pretending to be fair while squeezing the men out of every possible right?
So much of today's young women behaving n dressing promiscously these days n u do NOT discourage them from doing so,instead u say "its their right".while u condone the calling out of men who wear short shorts as "gay",even though they really arent homosexual at allthe society has given women a disproportionate amount of rights,including of that to expose.tell me where is the equality in that?
and while im at this,i see so many women in the CBD wearing really revealing tops n miniskirts,yet til now no man has vere been allowed to wear tailored shorts to work,we CANNOT report to work in anything less than full long pants.why is that so?wolmen have the right to expose,but men dont?

lee said...

I have a petition wrt letting men dress confortably in the hot singapore weather.Unfortunately i cannot paste the whole article ive written about it as there is a damned limit to the no of words i can enter in comments:

Sam Ho said...

interesting link.

the issue of men being forced into conforming to a narrow set of dress standards run pretty deep.

maybe that's good inspiration for a blog entry.

lee said...

To me its either this--the women go back to wearing proper knee length or beyond skirts and shoes,and at least a not so revealing top,or if their privilege of wearing miniskirts,atnk tops and flipflops remain,i insist that we men at least be allowed to wear shortpants in place of long pants,if the shirt and shoes are to stay.Now u go looking in stores u dont even see a single formal short being made.Instead u see designer dress shorts for women.Just "incredible".
As for street wear,u see the clothes made for men,u see our "shorts" are just about knee length,hardly any is shorter than that,but when u get ointo the women's,bang!u see hotpants and all sorts of microshorts,dwafting even the number of miniskirts.That truly isnt equality.If u want i can link u to sites which promote the calling of men who insist on wearing hotpants and microshorts as being "gay" which is so entirely stupid,and insulting to our gender.In a way,it even seems that giving women the right vtyo wear pants have allowed them to rob the men of our rights to wear our own clothes.Why should we allow women to plunder the design of our shorts and slap down the label as their own,and then cut us off from them?There are shops which sells certain shortpants which would look alright on men,but they claim to be "serving women only" and hence refuse to let men into their changing rooms.I doubt to find a shop which only caters to men n bar women from the rooms.

Sam Ho said...

well, there's a whole economy that caters to materialism and women, and it creates unhealthy levels of body confidence and social conformity in women.

as for men, there's also the threat of not being masculine. being a "proper" man has actually quite a narrow set of requirements. grow your hair long, wear short shorts, wear v-neck shirt, be househusband and cook food for family haha, all these things threaten construction of manliness.

i think it's not a zero sum, in terms of dressing between men and women.

women's problem is due to masculinist and partriarchal hypersexualisation, objectification and commodification of female bodies. ya, i would encourage young women to be mindful of these processes.

men's problem is due to a historically narrow set of gender and masculinity rules being ascribed to male bodies, and concurrently subscribed to by men themselves - for example, propensity for violence (hence associated with military and war), the need to be disassociated with anything deemed "feminine" (which is subjective across time and space), and the constant threat of be seen as non-masculine (i.e. being associated with "undesirable traits" such as infertility/impotence, homosexuality, and being girly/woman/sissy).

i serve NS and many reservist cycles. i have 2 young kids. i wear whatever i wear. i also choose to work for an employer that doesn't give 2 hoots about what i wear to office. i would dress formally when meeting people (men and women alike) who have certain biases on what decorum ad style are, because i wouldn't bother investing my time in changing their prejudices since i have to do my job.

i also exercise like mad at home, not because i want to have that manly body and look good in certain fitting t-shirts. i do so, so that i am fit enough to be a father and play a supporting role to my wife. looking good is a bonus.

lee said...

Yes,its indeed good to work for a boss who lets u choose what u'd consider as a dignified n presentable dresscode without resorting to these stereotypes.But uve to admit it exists widely,n bosses who are enlightened enough to see past that are few n far between.the fact of the matter being women are allowed various degrees of underdressed and still not scolded for doing so at work,while for men its "put on ur longs or get out" attitute.Hardly seems fair or equal at all.Despite what aware claims of men earning more,i dont see that at all.In fact,due to men's 2.5 years of NS i see men's late entry into the workforce n hence lag in pay n position.
Do look at aware's blog page about the slutwalk,n u'd see how when some men went in to express concern about what theyre promoting,their supporters went n bombarded those men without even trying to u nderstand their point of view,outrightly calling them out as sexist n 'objectifying women',when all they did was to use an analogy of a home unlocked.Do they not understand the purpose of an analogy?i dont think so,they just want tyo paint the men's words in the worst light possible so they need not reason with them civilly.

A ST contributer actually proposed NS for women in nursing corps,but he was slammed by profeminists for being patriachial.One of the fems actually implied that u either conscript women into the SAME line of service as men,ie the army,or u dont conscript them AT ALL,else it'd amount to patriachy against women.They totally ignore the very important question,of whether the men even had a choice in the matter when NS was first introduced.The drafting was done on a needs basis,and back then the govt needed an army so the men were pulled in there.So now there isnt an imperative need for an increased armed forces,but there is a growing need for more nurses due to an ageing population,so why cant the young women be brought in on a needs basis,and NOT on a stereotyping women as nurse basis,like what a few of the fems tried to accuse the proposer of doing?

lee said...

masculinist patriachial ive no idea what it is,but i do know these young women had a choice of what they want to wear n how they should wear,n they choose to dress provocatively at work,n in rags during the weekends,or as storeattendants in shopping centres.there isnt an ounce of excuse for their behavior,n theyre showing very much disrespect to the men who dont get to dress to the extent that they do.
I have read certain blog articles with people expressing concern about how the girls dress to school,hence pushing for a school uniform or dresscode,then some women came in and outright declared that "men will gawp at women however they dress" and hence implying that since that is so,the girls might as well go all the way being indecent if they so wish.Is a mere speculation that things wont get better no matter what u do justification for refusing to better yourself or doing the right thing?Besides,that is a stereotype against men,claiming that all men are somewhat lewd,a stereotype that fems seem to love to dwell on to push 90% of the blame on men.I for one DO NOT like seeing women in any stage of underdress or being sexually explicit,why are the existence of men like me totally ignored in their view?Is that not a complete disrespect to honest men like myself?why must i live under the detrimental stereotype image of just a few black sheep?
The media of anime is on its own beautiful,but has been often misused to depict very undesirable themes.besides hentai,which i would totally NOT even want to look at,let alone elaborate on,many other popular anime tends to personify female dominance over male chars,to the extent of the males being mistreated even,all the while casting it in a way that trivialises it as a jokeLook at the anime in the link below:
The female lead not only drags the boy from his own world but proceeds to abuse him on an episodic basis,all through the hundreds of episodes.This anime,to my utter horror,has a strong following despite its immoral content.I really cant understand how many male fan can watch that and not be insulted thoroughly by it.If a mere word of rape can stimulate images of the deed,then tell me,would not the graphic depiction of girl abuse on boys even more so than ever promote such a deed,by a thousand times?why hasnt feminists said anything about the detrimental messages within anime,which is so popular with today's youths?and as u should know,anime oftens loves to depict women very underdressed as compared to males,thus further reinforcing such a stereotype inequality.I dont get why jap girls can wear miniskirts to school while boys have to wear full length black pants.and why is it during PE the boys are still wearing normal shorts while the girls are wearing something which looks exactly like briefs

lee said...
an interesting article all should look at.I wholeheartedly agree

lee said...
In retrospect,the above is proof of feministic extremist out there who condemn slut shaming,or whatever extended version of that that vtheir image is,but completely n utterly promoting gay shaming,ie calling out of men as being gay,not for being homosexual,but just for wearing short shorts,which shouldve been the right of men all along.shows just how "much" feminism's slutwalk worked out for men,as compared to least if they fought for equal rights,even if they pushed the boundaries of whats acceptable,i could just coin them as attemptying to bring about a new era.however,such disproportionate rights between men n women,in terms of what u fight for,shouldnt be condoned.slut shaming seems an utterly irrelevant point,since whats happening within society is totally counter to its notions.yet some fems still love bringing that point out,outdated though it is by several decades.

lee said...
here is more evidence of feministic hypocrisy.the asker claims that equality for both genders is stupid in that it tries to make soldiers out of women,but claims its sexist not to have a female president,and hence blames the men for come when men have problems n raise to the feminists they always claim its not their problem because "other men" are responsible for it;yet when its them who doesnt have sth they want they would straightaway blame the men without any proof?and why is it they can make such double standard statements,that equality as soldiers is stupid,but as president is to be desired?ewhy should a woman who hasnt served the country in the kost basic way possible be allowed to lead(which means the army under her too)?and if u refer to one of my previous links,they are apt to even oppose nursing as NS as being 'patriachal'.they have shown that all they want is POWER with none of the sweat.that AWARE would try to meddle in the affairs of the SAF and extend its influence further attestifies to my suspicion.

lee said...
So much for equality.See what this misandrist is advocating.Outrageous.She literally says men who wear shorts to work deserves to be assaulted.How different is that from women in miniskirts getting raped?She's literally calling out douche to anyone)male) who doesnt abide by her twisted standards,which of course she exempts herself n other girls from.