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Catcalling

By Samira Lourdi

In October 2014, a video of a woman who walked the streets of New York City and encountered ten hours of sexual harassment and catcalling went viral. The only thing more worrisome than the video were the comments that came subsequently. Some said she was “asking for it” and others thought she should feel lucky. This demonstrates anew that some people just don’t get it – but it’s not just that. According to some opinions, girls shouldn’t get upset about getting catcalled: It’s just a compliment, so why get upset? While I think that it’s okay that some girls don’t mind getting catcalled, I have to disagree with their reasoning. It’s not a compliment – at least that’s not the aim of the people who do it.

The belief that women should enjoy catcalling is pretty strange because it entails that catcalling is done with respect. It suggests that when a guy sees a girl walking down the street and shouts something at her about her body, he’s doing so because he thinks it will make her day better. That’s utterly false.

Let us take a specific example: catcalling in France. In recent times, street harassment of women in France has been highlighted as a huge problem. In a study done in France in 2015, 100% of the women surveyed said they had experienced harassment in the streets. Feminists in France are doing their best to tackle and lessen the amount of sexual harassment that happens in public spaces.

Walking home alone (late) at night is still a problem for women. Walking home alone in France (late) at night is still a problem for me. I am French and I live in a suburb of the Paris region. I came back to France after spending a few years abroad, notably in the United Kingdom.

I say good-bye to my friends before starting my walk home and my friends tell me to be wary in the dimly lit street. Shortly afterwards, a stranger approaches me attempting to get my attention. I don’t turn around, I keep walking as the man hurls insults after me. Feeling anxious and fearful, I finally get to my front door with the feeling of relief. Thanks to this man, I now don’t feel as safe in ‘my’ area as I did previously. I manage to stay very calm and collected. Why is it always the victim in these situations who must remain rational and in control?  Whenever I step out of my front door, I wear invisible blinkers as a survival strategy. The defensive bubble around me protects me from intrusive behaviour. Without this bubble I wouldn’t be able to face going outside alone. It’s a coping mechanism. It means not making eye contact with people, dressing in a manner that does not stand out from the crowd, etc. This is sad as it restricts women’s freedom. This happens to me. This happens to many women, to many girls – every day.

The following short film by French director Maxime Gaudet is called ‘Au bout de la rue’ (Down the Road). It’s a brief video that helps people understand how women feel when they find themselves walking alone on the street at night.

But why is this happening in France more than in the UK? This is not an issue specific to France. Yet, my French friends who have spent time in the UK and British friends currently living in France are all in agreement that the issue is much worse in my country.

Could it just be that attitudes towards women are different in France than they are in the UK? In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013 rankings, the UK came 18th and France came in 45th, Germany 14th and Spain 17th, so at a sociopolitical/policy level at least, France is way behind its neighbours. I’m not suggesting that street harassment is a thing of the past in the UK but the work of campaigns such as Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates has opened up a dialogue. In the UK, catcalling and other forms of street harassment can no longer be passed off as a little bit of fun or just lads having a laugh.

France is starting to have this conversation too. In May 2012, a Ministry for Women’s Rights was created in France. The French government has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens are safe – all its citizens.

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Volunteers Open Call: White Ribbon Campaign 2016/7

We Can! Singapore has an exciting opportunity for volunteers and we hope you’ll come on board!

If you’re a boy or man (of any age), and would like to be part of an important and transformative journey to end gender-based violence, we hope you’ll come be part of our upcoming White Ribbon Campaign! The White Ribbon Campaign is a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.

Please read on for more details:

WHITE RIBBON CAMPAIGN 2016/17 ORGANISING TEAM

We Can! Singapore is gearing up to begin preparations for our White Ribbon Campaign 2016/7! The campaign will begin sometime between November 2016 to February 2017. The White Ribbon Campaign is a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls. We Can! is looking for men and boys of all ages to join our organising team for our upcoming campaign!

Last year, the organising team put together thought-provoking videos about gender-based violence and a social media campaign, as well as organised a motorbike rally where male volunteers took to the streets to raise awareness about the campaign and distribute white ribbon pins to the public.

What will we do this year to raise awareness about gender-based violence? It’s up to you! If you’re a man and would like to be part of this important and transformative experience, we invite you to join our organising team! Your ideas and contributions will drive the upcoming White Ribbon Campaign and bring it to life.

No experience is necessary, just a heart for social change. (If you enjoy photography, videography, graphic design or are an avid social media user, that would be a bonus.) The organising team will start the planning process sometime in September 2016.

We can’t wait to hear your ideas—if you’re interested to join or need more details, please contact Gracia at [email protected] as soon as possible. We’d appreciate it if you spread the word to friends who might be interested as well. Thank you!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Free muralling workshop for the public!

PROGRAMME

We Can! Singapore and EtiquetteSG are organising FREE muralling workshops for the public! The 3-session workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to learn a new art form as well as express their unique identities and stories through it.

These interactive workshops run by experienced artists and facilitators are designed to create safe and stimulating spaces for people to have conversations about various aspects of their identity, share experiences and bond.

DETAILS

Duration: Three 2.5-hour sessions

Dates: 16, 23, 30 August 2016

Time: 4 – 6.30pm

Venue: AWARE Centre

Cost: FREE

Sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/qTBCI7x5uco8WSLB3

Feel free to contact Gracia at [email protected] for more information.

Don’t wait any longer–sign up now! 🙂

 

Registration closes: 14 August 2016
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News & Updates

Free muralling workshops!

mural

 

PROGRAMME

We Can! Singapore and EtiquetteSG are organising FREE muralling workshops for the community! The 4-session workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to learn a new art form as well as express their unique identities and stories through it.

These interactive workshops run by experienced artists and facilitators are designed to create safe and stimulating spaces for people to have conversations about various aspects of their identity, share experiences and bond. The content can also be easily customised to fit the needs of a particular group.

DETAILS

Duration: Four 2-hour sessions

Pax: 10 – 20 participants

Venue: Your centre/space

Needed: A wall space for muralling (preferably indoors)

Cost: FREE

Feel free to contact Gracia at [email protected] for more information.

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Language and how it is used against women

Written by Sriraksha Raghavan

J.K. Rowling once said that language is our most inexhaustible source of magic. There is a profundity to this statement that escapes people who engage in cavalier reading. We use words to convey what we mean, but in today’s world, language has been systematically used to convey what we wish to imply but not explicitly say. I say “systematic” because establishments and corporations use the technique of tweaking words to imply meanings that suit their agenda.

hillary

For example, consider the upcoming presidential campaign in America. A woman, Hillary Clinton, is one of the prime contenders for the job. When she is torn down, it is for reasons such as “she is manly”, “she is bossy”, “she is domineering” etc. I’d like to ask you to consider the three words “manly”, “bossy” and “domineering”. Apart from the obvious negativity in those words, they have no correlation with her work! She is not being criticised for being bad at her job. She is being criticised for being a woman trying to do a “man’s” job.words

This does not just pertain to high profile jobs and the top strata of society. Women from all areas of society are subjected to the consequences of sexist vocabulary. This goes on to create the economic inequality we see in the world today. Men are paid more because people are of the opinion that men work better—an opinion they derive from what they read and know. This is by no means the sole reason for the economic divide, but it is a contributing factor.

This poses a bigger problem to women in the lower strata of society because being paid less than men in a job like manual labour—which already has a salary that might be too low to cover basic expenses—means that the women have nearly nothing. In third world and developing countries, where a large number of men below the poverty line suffer from alcoholism, the highest earning member of the family—his wife—is shelling out money to satiate his addiction and care for the family on her salary alone, despite both of them working. This has led to women taking on multiple jobs, which might be beyond their physical and mental capacity.

One might argue that the poor barely have exposure to corporations and urban establishments that use this method of phrasing their words in a way that misrepresents women. But much like the river branching into tributaries and distributaries, and ultimately into streams that flow everywhere, the influence of words from the most powerful people in society percolates until it reaches the most powerless parts, where the intersectional clout of sexism creates many negative consequences in people’s lives.

About the author: Sriraksha is a student with a passion for learning and believes that if you learn anything in depth, a passion for it will follow. She thinks that the best way to enrich one’s life is to enrich that of others and hopes to do that for a living one day.

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The Women of Hip-Hop

Written by Sriraksha Raghavan

Hip-hop music is considered a highly misogynistic and the lyrics do often portray women in poor light some going as far as making rape references. The genre comes under fire regularly for this reason. This has created a very poor reputation for the genre, which initially emerged as a way for people to voice their struggle, make it an art form. In light of all this bad press it is fitting to mention some pioneers in this area of music. We can thus clarify that which Hip-Hop has some problematic musicians, it is not a problematic genre. It has a fascinating body of work. Here are some women who have contributed to it.

1. MC Lyte

mclyteMC Lyte is the first female rapper to put out a full length solo album. Her songs are in-your-face cheeky and she is hailed as a feminist icon for her hard core rap with a no nonsense persona. She is the founder of the “Hip Hop Sisters Network Foundation” whose tagline reads ‘Redefining the essence of women through Unity and Empowerment’. The foundation works to promote a better image of women from different ethnicities, apart from providing all sorts of assistance, support and even a scholarship to women of colour. Her work clearly speaks for her more than any description can.

2. Lauryn Hill

laurynhillShe was extremely popular as a member of the hip-hop band the Fugees. The name of the band is from the root word Refugee and their music was largely about black empowerment making it highly relevant today. It was however with the release of her first and only solo album that Lauryn sky-rocketed to stratospheric acclaim. The album was called ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’. Apart from being a body of work that brilliantly elucidated what it is to be a woman, the album is also a juggernaut of technicality, showcasing her unbelievable artistry. She went on to win five Grammy awards for this album including album of the year.

3. Queen Latifah

Jan. 8, 2014 - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - QUEEN LATIFAH attends the 2014 People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. (Credit Image: � D. Long/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Queen Latifah requires no introduction because she is jack of all trades and master of them all. Her musical beginnings were with beat boxing for a hip hop group that caught the attention of major label executives leading to her first album. She is famous for rapping about sensitive subjects like domestic violence, street harassment and harassment in relationships.

4. The Lady of Rage

The Lady of RageBorn Robin Yvette Allen, The Lady of Rage is known for her work with fellow rappers Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg. Her style of rapping has earned her critical acclaim. She is known for having a deep understanding of poetry, its delivery and flow and wordplay. Her contribution to Paul Edward’s book ‘How to Rap’ shows how much of work and study she puts into her vocation.

5. Yo-Yo

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.29.07 pmTo summarize what kind of trailblazer YoY o is, she called her team IBWC which stood for ‘Intelligent Black Women’s Coalition.’ She says that her heavy interest in poetry was channelized into rap after watching a performance by Roxanne Shante’. She made a successful transition into movies in 2000s while continuing to work on her music.  

 

About the Author: Sriraksha is a student with a passion for learning and believes that if you learn anything in depth, a passion for it will follow. She thinks that the best way to enrich one’s life is to enrich that of others and hopes to do that for a living one day. 

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Purple-haired slut

Written by Tammy Lim, Change Maker

1I always aspired to be a purple-haired unicorn once I was done with Junior College. It was only after A-levels that I could reclaim my body as an individual, since the idea of ridiculously strict dress codes will not apply in my life (for the time being). After highlighting my hair a brilliant purple (I wanted to dye my whole head purple but my parents said it would be ‘weird’), I was then still called ‘weird’ by several of my male classmates. I casually brushed the comments off, until it escalated to the point that it became slut-shaming.

One day, when my brother’s friends were over, I joined them for dinner. My brother, one of the few people who thought my purple hair was cool, excitedly told his friends that I had dyed my hair. That friend of his commented, “Well, at least you’re not like the other girls who dye their hair.” That statement raised a red flag in my mind, so in response, I prompted, “What do you mean by ‘the other girls’?”. To which he replied in a strangely matter-of-fact way, “They’re sluts.” That answer caused an eruption of laughter among my brother and his friends, while it left my mouth hanging open, blood boiling and very appalled.

It seemed like an incredibly innocuous incident that girls with dyed hair would encounter, but I found it extremely disturbing instead.

It was disconcerting to me when my brother’s friends were laughing at how other girls with dyed hair were called ‘sluts’, because it reinforced the notion that it was perfectly acceptable and even  hilarious to call girls derogatory terms for their own pleasure, even though it made no sense. Also, them laughing stems from self-righteous behaviour: knowing that labelling others ‘sluts’ places themselves on a pedestal above girls who have many sexual partners (although it is truly alright to have many sexual partners). However, this present an ironic double standard as boys are celebrated for being sexual, since it is a sign of their supposed masculinity.

It was also strange that my brother’s friends made a mysterious correlation between having brightly coloured hair and being a slut – how does such brilliantly colourful hair even relate to a person having loads of sex? To me, they were being illogical and anyway, it is no one’s business to know if a person has loads of sex and much less condemn it. Though them spouting the common rhetoric that I’m “not like the other girls” was only said to make me feel like I’m the ‘special one’ who is exempted from the brutal ‘slut’ label, it does not make them any less offensive, because it is still sexist.

From this incident, I realized that slut-shaming has grown from bad to worse. It used to be an insult to girls who have sexual agency, but now, it has evolved to a derogatory umbrella term used to punish girls who deviate from the eye-pleasing and feminine ideal of a girl, even when it is completely unrelated to their sexuality. Imposing such an ideal on girls is not only harsh but also dehumanizing, as girls are expected to be sexy, but not sexual, which in itself is contradictory.

Since the incident, I have been trying to think of ways that I could have countered their misogynistic ways. It dawned upon me that it is much more difficult that simply telling them off: how was I supposed to educate a group of males who enjoyed degrading women in the most ridiculous ways? I still struggle to answer this question till today, but I believe the key is to show that feminism is not meant to police and oppress men (and women also), but rather that feminism liberates and benefits everyone, regardless of gender, through its inclusive nature.

To show others such problematic behaviour that is entrenched in their beliefs is akin to presenting themselves with a mirror and pointing out their flaws – something that is incredibly painful for them to recognise and change.

Slut-shaming is a pervasive form of sexist behaviour that should be eliminated. We all ought to think twice before we scream ‘slut’ at a girl who is simply choosing to take ownership of her body – we should simply respect that.

2About the Writer: Tammy is a recent A level graduate who occasionally writes about feminism and enjoys learning more about gender equality advocacy work, how to fight the patriarchy and being a better feminist. She is constantly with E.T pointing at a new horizon that is bright and full of gender equality.

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YouTube sexism

Written by Rhyhan Astha, Change Maker

YouTube videos. The drug of today’s youth. YouTubers clamour to gain subscribers, producing seemingly harmless comedic videos to give viewers a short chuckle. Yet, in Singapore, many of these videos frequently and tactlessly use outdated sexist tropes for distasteful comedic effect.

Sexist Video #1: Guys vs Girls: Teenagers

This video is by Jianhao Tan, a prominent YouTuber with over 430,000 subscribers and just over 85,000,000 views.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.04 pm

The scenario portrayed in the video deals with the different way men and women interact with friends of the same gender. The first segment features two guys hurling insults like “Stop being such a pussy” and “Don’t be such a dick” to each other during a conversation. Yet, the guy still believes his friend “is so great” despite the conversation that they had.

In contrast, the girl responds very differently to her friend. Her friend tells her “I’ll see you soon okay? Love you!” When her friend leaves, she says that her friend is “damn freaking fake”.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.17 pm

I find this video highly problematic in how it portrays men and women in these ways:

  • All men are emotionally stoic. Both men are unfazed by the insults they hurl at each other such as “pussy” and “dick”. The man takes these insults in his stride and even reaffirms the friendship by saying “Don’t you love him?” to his girl friend. One guy even says “He is so great” in response to these insults, which leaves the viewer thinking that the exchange of insults that is somehow integral to the friendship between both men. Phrases hurled between the both of them such “Don’t be such a pussy” serve to show that men are not supposed to express emotions which reflect their vulnerability. These portrayals normalise a culture of verbal abuse between men, alienating men who do feel hurt by such remarks.
  • Women are overly emotional and highly manipulative. On the other hand, the woman immediately thinks the worst of her friend, calling her “fake”, even though she said goodbye to her in a friendly manner. The video implies that women are only capable of using their emotions and instincts to make a judgment of someone. Her perception of her friend as “damn freaking fake” suggests that women tend to put up a facade for others and are always up to something. This implies that women frequently act maliciously towards each other, and it perpetuates a culture of girl-on-girl hate. Furthermore, her response also normalises misogyny amongst women, as she represents the caution that women should have towards each others behaviours and intentions.

Sexist Video #2: Morning Routine: Guys vs. Girls

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.28 pmAnother video, this time from Singaporean YouTube channel WahBanana!, also uses sexist tropes in its portrayal of men and women. In this video, they portray the difference between what men and women do when they wake up. These difference are inherently based on sexist stereotypes.

In this video, a girl is portrayed taking a few selfies to post on Instagram for her followers.

Immediately after, the girl’s actions are compared to a guy’s, who is shown to open up the Instagram app on his phone and ‘like’ the picture posted.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.45 pmOne of the most harmful messages being portrayed by the video is that the female body is solely for the consumption of others in society.

The video shows how the guy likes the girl’s picture on Instagram then scrolls past immediately. This seems to make acceptable the idea that images of woman are taken for men to feast their eyes at, almost as if women exist only for their looks and nothing else. This belief is highly damaging to women, who then model their appearances, whether they want to or not, on whether it can please the men in their life.

What I worry most about these videos is their widespread acceptance in Singaporean society. Are these videos a gruelling reminder of how despite being a nation at the forefront of many things, Singapore still remains unprogressive in how it thinks about gender equality?

We have to start talking about what the humour of these videos say about youth culture in Singapore. We should not be accepting this content into our daily lives  and excusing the stereotypes that it draws from because it is intended for humour. The things we laugh about and bond over ultimately shapes the identity of our community, and I do not wish for my generation to think that sexism is a topic to be taken lightly.

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How we internalise misogyny from stereotypes

Written by Sriraksha Raghavan

misogynist-01“Women are other women’s worst enemy” is a phrase so commonly heard that it has been reduced to an overused cliché. This statement finds its roots in women comparing themselves to one another, which often results in hate. Yet, even if women do not hate other women, it is common for women to be ranked below that of the male counterparts. Why? Because men are thought to be more capable than women. Ideally, we could count on universal sisterhood and unanimously deny that perception but reality is far from it. Instead, what we can do is to question why such perception exists. Why do women undermine other women?

Let’s start by taking a look at advertisements.

Turn on the television and a Nivea soap advertisement greets you. There is a woman. She strips and wets herself from the water spurting out from the shower head. With a soap on her body, she gushes over its miraculous abilities. She smiles at the camera and the advertisement ends.

Another advertisement follows. Men are cast to sell Movado watches. These watches symbolise “performance”, “strength” and “impact”, the advertisement says. In other words, masculinity is tied to success and power.

These two advertisements are just two examples of many. If you haven’t noticed by now, advertisements are gendered. On the one hand, they often use women to sell soaps, shampoos, home appliances – signaling the feminisation of the domestic sphere. On the other hand, men are cast to sell watches, cars, and other items – items that are symbolises power, fame and class.

On an everyday basis we are bombarded with stereotypes of what men and women are supposed to be like and we begin to believe it. What is more, it is easier to learn and internalise stereotypes when we start seeing these at a young age and do not know any better. Ultimately, media becomes a  standard by which people assess how to behave in the world and learn what is appropriate.

What has this got to do with women fighting with each other, you ask? Perhaps the phrase “internalised misogyny” may help.

Misogyny refers to the dislike or ingrained prejudice against women. Internalised misogyny would then translate to how this concept is accepted and subsequently incorporated into our psyches. In other words, the phrase refers to the internalisation of these sexist comments and gender stereotypes, the often subconscious belief that they are true.

8443610_f520In drama series, women talk ill about other women and are seen fighting over men. We know that such never-ending strings of fights seem unrealistic. Yet, we internalise and accept these images as the norm. In sum, we internalise the hate for other women.

The belief of prejudice against women is involuntary. It is not a conscious decision to think this way but it is actually a response to all the preconceived notions about women that society perpetuates.

We often do not realize that we are being bombarded with such images because they are so subtle. American cartoonist Alison Bechdel used her cartoon to come up with a test which is now called the Bechdel test. It requires a work of fiction to fulfill three criteria:-

There must be two women in the said work of fiction

They must talk to each other

They must talk about something other than a man.

The number of works that will fail to satisfy this criteria is staggering. With subtleties that can be so easily overlooked, stereotypes have actively proliferated to the extent that people cannot see beyond it.

A worldwide experiment called the ‘Goldberg Paradigm’ was conducted to assess if gender bias is real. Participants were asked to read an article which was supposedly written by a man and then evaluate it. Then the same article was circulated under the name of a woman, and the same people (both men and women) were asked to evaluate it again. It was seen that people graded the article higher when they thought it was a man writing it than when they thought it was a woman.

As social creatures, we are conditioned to follow certain norms in order to fit in. Gender stereotypes portrayed in the media, albeit merely constructed by fellow humans, can easily be internalised and reinforced. We need to educate ourselves and become aware of the stereotypes we are upholding or subjecting others to. We need to question why is the norm a norm. We need to question the kinds of prejudices that exist today. Awareness and subsequently, a conscious effort to not perpetuate these stereotypes and prejudices are first steps to build a better and freer world for humans – men and women alike – to live in.

About the Author: Sriraksha is a student with a passion for learning and believes that if you learn anything in depth, a passion for it will follow. She thinks that the best way to enrich one’s life is to enrich that of others and hopes to do that for a living one day. 

 

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Not Anyone’s Girl

Written by Corrine Lin, Change Maker

 Unpublished+She+Said+Article.“I won’t want my girl to work in Marketing as it involves a lot of client entertainment. It’s best for you to stay in your current department now.”This was perhaps one of the most offensive statement I’ve come across in my career life when I requested for a transfer. At that time, I was working in a ‘male dominated’ industry where Marketing and Sales meant the same scope of work; to meet clients, get sales orders, have dinner, keep them entertained with drinks and party all night. It felt like a norm back then, that there was no choice but to accept being the lesser valued gender, being in a man’s industry.

Even when I was doing my diploma, we had only about four girls in a class of 40 guys in our course. When I started my first job, I was the only female employee working on-site for my company. Looking back, it was either inspiring or intimidating, especially to those who avoided the very industry I was entering. Due to this very reason, I have always felt taken care of by my colleagues and especially my bosses. They feared for my safety, especially in a site filled with hundreds of males. When I entered meeting rooms, the usual harsh tones and vulgarities became mellowed. Men’s conversations turn into awkward whispers when I came in to office. Although I was treated with respect and politeness, I always felt scrutinised, weak and never really belonged no matter how much I tried to fit in. It was a lot harder for me to break past this comfort barrier and challenge myself in my career progression.

While the statement above seemed like a protective move from my then boss, I was very much offended by it. Despite many justifications and enthusiasm in taking up the role, I was still denied the transfer. I was not evaluated based on my capability but by who I was. Furthermore, I am not anyone’s girl. To date, neither have my father nor my husband has introduced me as their girl. I am a daughter, I am a wife, but never anyone’s girl because I belong to me. Would any professionals refer their male subordinates as their boy? Even when I had a female boss, she has never demean her male subordinates with such labels. I quit the job not long later, after a three hour talk with my manager trying to persuade me to stay.

In any field of study or work, and especially life, it pays a lot more to prove our worth by accomplishing results with our commitment, efforts and intellect. We are all individuals with capabilities, personalities and characters or our own. All we need, is mutual respect.


Today, the male domination labels are slowly diminishing. Women like us have access to supportive and empowered environment; we are climbing up corporate boards, we have female Presidents and we are making positive dents in the world. For those of us who are still behind shadows, it’s time to break past this limiting barrier we think others are setting for us. The world is our oyster now.

 

About the Author

Profilepic3Corrine writes for L3 Hub (www.l3hub.org), a ​​space created for girls to come together, support and encourage each other, learn and develop themselves to be more confident and better individuals.