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Sexual Assault: Jokes and Desensitisation

by Delia Toh, Change Maker


AssaultJust a few weeks ago, popular American Youtuber Sam Pepper uploaded a video of himself pinching the bottoms of women on the streets as a prank. Most women in the video expressed discomfort, but he laughed it off and insisted it was “just a prank”. Closer to home, at a social event I attended, two men enacted a rape scene on stage in an attempt to amuse the audience. Last year, men were up in arms about Ministry of Defence’s ban of a verse about a soldier threatening to gang rape his girlfriend.

As a 22 year old woman, I can attest to the fact that the fear of sexual assault is very real. From a young age, we have been told never to dress provocatively or walk home alone at night. I am fortunate to have never experienced sexual assault, but I have heard many harrowing accounts from my friends, some of whom are victims of sexual assault. The issue of sexual assault is and will always be a part of my life – when it happens to loved ones, when women subconsciously fear for our safety, when women accept taking added precautions to prevent sexual assault as part and parcel of our daily lives.

Sexual assault is a serious matter. Rapists are most likely someone the victims know and trust. Contrary to popular belief, the rapist who leaps out of bushes to rape women passing by at 2 o’clock in the morning is the rarest kind of rapist. As such, when people make light of sexual assault among friends or on social media, it normalises the idea of sexual assault. Someone who already has the intention to violate another person will only receive further validation from these jokes.

Victims of sexual assault rarely seek the help they need because of the stigma and victim blaming they have to endure if they choose to speak out about their experiences. Without a supportive environment, they would only suffer further, especially if people, even their loved ones and peers, treat their experiences as a source of entertainment. I believe people generally refrain from joking about murder victims – it is time we extended that basic respect to victims of sexual assault.

Ultimately, a joke is not merely a joke – it can reflect dangerous attitudes. It is not about whether or not the person making the joke would act on it; it is about the kind of environment we’d like our future generations to grow up in. It is time we treated sexual assault as the grave and inhumane crime that it is.

deliaAbout the author: Delia is a second year Chemical Engineering undergraduate at University College London. She has enjoyed blogging since her secondary school days. She would now like to move on from raving about school work to raising awareness through her writing. She strongly believes people are more different than similar, and that individuals ought to be valued for who they are inside.

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Cinderella: Fable or Foe?

by Change Maker, Foo Jun Kit

Recently, in history lessons, I came across “Poisonous Mushroom”, a propaganda book written by the Nazis to propagate anti-Semitism in German minds. It is targeted at children and taught them “the dangers of Jews” as well as encouraged discrimination against them. For the Nazis, this was a very powerful tool as the indoctrinated children would grow up to help the Nazis with their cause. This got me thinking about the role of books in our lives, especially books for children. Used right, it could educate children and spur the world forward; used wrongly, it could introduce problematic thoughts in young minds. I reflected on books I came across so far and my thoughts rested on a story I read ages ago – Cinderella. Even if the subtly reinforced gender stereotypes in this story may exist unintentionally, I felt it right to point them out.

1. Only women are responsible for household chores.

Walt-Disney-Screencaps-Princess-Cinderella-walt-disney-characters-34016742-4374-3240Cinderella is forbidden from attending the ball because she must finish all the household chores. She is forced to mop the floor, wipe tables and dust furniture instead. Oh, you say that a female character forced to do household chores is merely a coincidence? I say it was due to gender stereotypes the author internalised. Furthermore, the name “Cinderella” came from the word “cinders” because she spent most of what little rest time she had near the cinders of the fire.

2. Women have to look good to be deemed worthy of a partner.

Cinderella is poor and dresses in shabby clothes, and it is made clear to the reader that she would be turned away if she went for the ball in this state. Only when a fairy godmother appears to grant her wish to be pretty, can she enter the ball. Why is there this need to sexually objectify females? Must they look a certain way to be accepted by others?  Who are we to dictate what women wear?

3. Women should be subservient to men.

The Prince falls in love with Cinderella, but she runs away at the stroke of midnight.  The only trace she leaves behind is her glass slipper on the steps of the entrance. Naturally, the Prince decrees that all women in the country must try on the glass slipper until a perfect match be found. Meanwhile, Cinderella waits helplessly at home for her Prince to come and get her. Portraying women to be submissive to men and their desires robs them of their sense of agency.

These three gender stereotypes from children stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Impressionable children would accept such stereotypes without much consideration, without realizing that they could be damaging. Without sensible reflection of these internalised ideas introduced to them when they were young, these stereotypes would remain with them as they grow older. To avoid this undesirable situation, I present to you the story of Ella, a woman living in a world of responsible people.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Ella. Her parents passed away when she was 10, and she lived with her grandparents.  Her grandparents were very kind towards her and made sure she lived comfortably. When Ella graduated, she started working at a car repair workshop to earn a living.  They all lived very happily.  

On the day the Prince turned 21, he held a ball and invited all the girls in the country. Ella was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the Prince and decided to go for the ball. Upon hearing this, her grandparents were very excited as well. Ella’s grandma sewed her a gown and her grandpa gave her a pair of earrings. Ella was absolutely delighted and could not thank her grandparents enough! Off she went with a skip in her step towards the castle.

The majestic castle was enormous! It looked big enough for elephants to hold five soccer matches in it! Ella entered the ballroom and caught her breath; it was beautiful.  Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, bouquets of fresh flowers stood everywhere, even the walls were painted with a fresh coat of gold paint. There were people dancing on the floor, musicians playing in a band and magicians pulling rabbits out of hats. Ella headed for the large buffet and took her fill, but not before saying hi to the Prince.

The Prince immediately fell in love with Ella and danced with her for the rest of the night.  Both Ella and the Prince had a great time. Before Ella left, the Prince asked for her address, but Ella refused to disclose that information and left the castle. Furious and desperate to find her, the Prince commanded his soldiers to bring Ella to him.

The next day, Ella peered out of her room window and saw soldiers marching down her street.  She realised what was happening and burst into tears. She did not want to belong to the Prince.

All of a sudden, there was a clap of thunder and a streak of bright light, and a plump lady appeared in her room.  Ella looked up and asked,

“Who are you?”

“Why,  I am your fairy godmother, and I am here to help!”

“Oh fairy godmother, I am scared to death. The Prince is here to bring me back to the castle!”

“But Ella, isn’t that the most fortunate thing?”

“Oh no, fairy godmother, he may be the Prince, but I do not like him!”

“Oh dear, then I must offer you my assistance. Would you like me to keep him and his soldiers away from you?”

“Yes please, fairy godmother, I will be so glad if you do so!”

With another clap of thunder and streak of bright light, her fairy godmother was gone. Ella looked out of the window and saw that the street was empty.  There were no soldiers in sight!  Just then, she noticed a note on her bed, which read:

A magical sphere has been established around you, and the Prince and his soldiers cannot enter this sphere without your permission.

Ella knew then that she was free from the Prince, and lay on her bed in relief.  She returned to work at the car workshop and continued living her happy and carefree life with her grandparents.  

The End.

And that was the story of Ella. If you ever find yourself in the position of the Prince, be careful not to abuse your privilege to take advantage of others. Instead, you can be a fairy godmother to others and take a stand against violence against women!  Empower women with options and respect their choices. Help build a better world for women to live in.

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Beyond the Facade

by Change Maker, Michelle Shobana

It has never been a norm for my family to talk about issues of gender stereotypes, sexual orientation, body shaming and dating violence. Of course, this does not mean that these issues were not faced; it just meant that no one could ever talk about it in the house.

mich1Having spent my childhood around my elder sisters, I grew up quickly. At a young age, I observed in silence the issues they faced. When my sister was physically assaulted by her partner, I couldn’t understand why she still wanted to stay with him so badly. But I remember holding her hand and telling her she deserved better. The rest of my family preferred a different approach, hitting her as well as threatening to disown her. I know this is never a good way to solve any problem; my sister left him eventually and that was what they wanted.

During my own adolescence, I had to face my own issues. I became aware that my sexual orientation differed from other girls. I felt differently and could never quite find the words to say when they talked about boys, I just nodded and smiled. It was also around this time that I found myself comparing my body with other girls. I was always a chubby child and never though much of it until then. This was when things started to change.

I picked up the habit of vomiting after a meal. It never really made much of a difference to my body, but I always felt better after doing it. This was a habit of mine for three years. In addition to this, I started self-harming and did it every day before school started. Because I did not know how to, I never talked about these issues to anyone.

I knew my sexual orientation would never sit well with my family, because they had expressed such strong negative sentiments towards anyone from the LGBT community. This intensified my other issues, and my eating disorder and self-harming continued.

However, it started to become clear that my issues were affecting me.  I had constant headaches that would last for weeks at a time and had no medication that could alleviate it. My poor physical health affected my grades. My family found out about my bulimic and self-harming behaviour and called me attention-seeking. I was beaten up for my issues and because they saw my behaviour as an act of disobedience. They threatened to disown me if I did not fix myself.

By this time, I knew I couldn’t tell anyone else because being hit by your parents is used as a common “disciplining” tool in Singapore. When I voiced these issues to my family, I got hit even more and was told that I was not an “American”, but an Indian and I should stop thinking of freedom. This comment still affects me today because it shows how narrow their idea of my future is, without any consideration of individual expression or freedom.

mich2Gender stereotypes also play a part throughout my life. Till today, I am forced to put on makeup so that people wouldn’t be put off and will have a good impression of me. The shorter my hair got, the more makeup I had to apply. The more I was forced to apply makeup, the more I refused to do so. So caught up with what people would think and say, my family refused to see the possibility of actual happiness as a diverse family, with each member being able to express themselves freely and help one another achieve their dreams. I hated the idea of living in a box. That was not me.

I only stopped my bulimic behaviour and self-harming when I was enrolled in tertiary education, and I met the woman who put my life back on track. She threw away my blade and applauded when I finished my meals. She told me I look better without make up, and ensured that I always did my best in everything I did. We fell in love, which made me stronger than ever. It was then I realised I had to fight for freedom, no matter how small the scale.

There is little to no talk about gender stereotypes, sexual orientation, body shaming and dating violence within families. Any attempt to discuss these is met with awkward excuses, negative comments or even violence. As Change Makers, we need to break the taboo and make it communicable to individuals from varying backgrounds. Violence is not necessarily physical, it can be emotional abuse too. Victims face all sorts of emotional turmoil when unable to communicate their feelings to their family.

I know because I have been there.

michelleAbout the Author: My name is Michelle, doing my 2nd Year of Information Technology in Republic Polytechnic. I aim to be a teacher, to help individuals in their education academically, and through self-awareness. I see a future where my partner and I can live happily, without being called out for being different. In my spare time, I listen to rock music and take each day at a time. 

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The Day I Became a Change Maker

by Foo Jun Kit, Change Maker

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for the Change Maker Workshop. Prior to this, I thought violence only referred to physical and sexual abuse. I expected a lecture on the severity of rape and tips on how to deal with rape cases, but walked out of the room gaining much more than that.

My initial notions on violence against women were already proven wrong right from the start. Violence is much more than physical and sexual abuse; it includes many other aspects such emotional abuse, intimidation and economic abuse.  During the workshop, we were exposed to several scenarios, demonstrating how gender-based violence can occur all around us without us being aware. Gender-based violence could happen in a workplace, a party, or even at home! It happens everywhere, and we should be able to identify them and intervene if possible.

What struck me most was learning about victim blaming. I never knew that such an issue was so relevant to me. Victim blaming, as the name suggests, refers to wrongly shifting the blame onto a victim. This makes them feel worse about what they went through when we should be offering support and assistance to them instead. After all, they have experienced something traumatic. This idea of victim blaming may sound foreign to some, but common phrases such as “why didn’t you…” or “you could have…” are examples of victim blaming.

In fact, instead of additionally pressurising an already distressed victim, it is only right to help them by offering them options and respecting her decision. For example, support the rape victim’s decision not to seek professional advice. It is very easy for a bystander to tell her to make a police report, but we are often unable to fully comprehend the situation and the feelings of the victim. If we impose our opinions on the victim instead of helping her, it may cause her further emotional stress because our decisions may not be entirely suitable for her situation. Therefore, think twice before blaming a victim for an incident or instructing her on what action to take. Rather, talk to her and support her decisions.  This is crucial because the first person the victim consults impacts her decisions the most.

BSA_molest_FA_pathSome recent events also perpetuate violence against women, especially victim blaming. Just last year, the Singapore Police Force put up a poster addressing molestation with the tagline “Don’t get rubbed the wrong way.” This advertisement is a perfect example of victim blaming.  By instructing women to “have someone escort you home when it is late”, “avoid walking through dimly lit and secluded areas alone” and “shout for help and call 999, don’t be a silent victim”, molesters are absolved of   blame. The message seems to imply that it is the victim’s fault for getting molested because she did not protect herself well. This should not be the case. While these crime prevention posters have good intentions, they should really be targeting the molesters instead of telling victims to prevent sexual assault. That way, victims can be assured that being molested was not their fault.

Come spend a bit of your time to find out more about victim blaming and other pertinent gender-based violence issues such as rape culture and privilege.  Schedules for the monthly Change Maker workshops can be found at the We Can! Singapore website.  I assure you, your time will be very well spent!

jun kitAbout the Author: Jun Kit is a Year 4 student at Raffles Institution, although often mistaken to be primary school student due to his massive height.  He is an avid fan of football but enjoys playing badminton too. Maybe one day, he’ll represent Singapore at the World Cup and lead the country to glory.  Besides playing sports, he is also a fan of writing and has his own blog page, albeit filled with football content. But at the moment, he’s focused on his studies and is all pumped up for the upcoming O Level Higher Chinese Examinations. Right.

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Beauty and Body

by Charmaine Teh, Change Maker

rbk-empowering-illustrations-carol-rossetti-whitney-deWe live in a society where our appearances are constantly under close scrutiny. Due to rigid societal standards, picking on someone for their weight, whether they are plus size or skinny, is common. The media portrays the perfect female body as a skinny physique with killer abs or a flat tummy with the infamous thigh gap, and for the guys, a chiseled, muscular body. This sends the message that these features would automatically make you happier, more popular and more desirable.

Beauty is constantly being redefined. Currently, the media equates skinny to beautiful; and if you aren’t skinny, you can’t possibly comply with society’s standards of beauty. Anything other than that, you are not fitting in. It has become so ingrained in us that we may find ourselves alienating or disliking a person simply because he or she is fat. And if you are not skinny, you may be called names like ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’, which are meant as insults.

I used to be a victim of ridicule because I was chubby and stood out from my group of friends like a sore thumb. I had thighs that rubbed together when I walked and a tummy that bulged out when I sat down. Someone thought I was “ugly”, and saw fit to ridicule me. I was constantly humiliated for my size and it was a huge blow to my self-esteem. Even though I weighed 51kg standing at 1.57m, I started feeling ugly and believed that I was severely overweight. I turned to starvation by surviving on only one meal per day. On days when I felt ugly and fat, I would binge on food and then exercise excessively to account for the calories I had consumed. I became increasingly self-conscious about my body. I would never leave home in clothes that could not conceal the extra bulges I was trying to hide.

Although I was never medically diagnosed with any eating disorders, it did not mean that I was not harming my body. Within a month, I became obsessed with losing weight. I ate nothing but a plain toast for breakfast and drank water to stave off my hunger for the rest of the day. I felt weak all over but I saw it as something I had to overcome in order to lose weight. To make things worse, I was participating in intensive trainings for my extracurricular activity thrice a week. I was constantly hungry after training sessions but reminded myself that the only way to be skinny was to stick to my strict regime of excessive dieting and exercising.

body image2Why did I allow my beauty to be defined by anyone else but myself? I thought that by being skinnier, I would become a happier and more beautiful person but I only felt depressed and disgusted at myself all the time. I had forgotten that I am an unique individual who deserves to feel beautiful because I am born beautiful, regardless of how I look.

What I am trying to say is that no one should feel ashamed of their body simply because they are not as skinny or muscular. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable in their own skin even if they do not conform to societal standards of beauty.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, not just the body type the media portrays. Therefore, my message to anyone out there who feels insecure about their body is that the next time you feel inferior because you do not have rock-solid muscles or a thigh gap, just remember that your body is unique and that you are beautiful. Don’t let the media or society tell you otherwise.

photo (2)About the Author: Charmaine is a final year student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic pursuing Psychology Studies. Her interest in gender equality first sparked when she mentioned that her ex-netball coach was a male and someone had exclaimed ‘Guys can play netball too?’ She holds strong to the belief that no matter how big or small a change is, it is still something significant and thus we should never stop trying to advocate change in the society.

 

 

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#whatyounevertaught: Five Ways To Make Sex Ed Better For Boys

by Change Maker, Robert

whatyounevertaught

The other day, on Twitter, I joined in a conversation on the hashtag #whatyounevertaught. Started by @siwanclark, the hashtag discussed experiences with sexual and reproductive health education (i.e. sex-ed), what people wished they had learned and what could’ve been done better. It reminded me of the first time I saw a naked woman.

I was in Primary Four, and it was a shock. Here, in my house, was a book with an actual, naked woman on the cover! I remember my parents were in the kitchen making dinner when I slipped it from its glass-fronted shelf and under my bed.

I can’t remember what the book was called, but it turned out to be a sex-ed book for women. I’d like to think my parents started preparing for my education before I was conceived, with the end result being them buying this book just in case they’d had a cis girl. Over the next few nights, I learnt about periods and pregnancy, the anatomy of a cis woman’s genitals, and a lot about contraception and safe sex.

I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like if I’d encountered a book meant for boys and men instead though. Perhaps I’d have learned that getting an erection doesn’t necessarily mean ejaculating (something I was deathly afraid of during puberty). Perhaps I’d have learned that male virginity wasn’t something shameful and neither was male sexual desire. Perhaps I’d have learned to handle my first, extremely unhealthy relationship better.

You see, we don’t teach boys enough about sex. Nobody teaches boys to get consent (or that it’s okay not to give it). Nobody teaches boys that they don’t need to lose their virginity to be men. Nobody teaches boys that they are more than their bodies, that their attractiveness is not solely based on their physical appearance. Boys internalise sexism, coercion and body-shame as they grow up. Their relationships are modelled after unhealthy ideals they see frequently in the media. They often become Nice Guys™ or abusers. They suffer in silence when victimised by their partners.

I’ve had enough of this. Boys and men should not be learning about sex and relationships the hard way. So, here are five ways we could make sex ed better for boys:

1. Sex and body positive, consent-focused education. Sex-positivity means not treating sex as shameful or seeing it as an obligation, while body-positivity means accepting a range of body types. Consent-focused education, meanwhile, would look like teaching boys that only yes means yes (and that they have the ability and right to say no too).

2. The acknowledgement of gender identities and sexual orientations beyond cisgender and heterosexual people. In the context of sex-ed for boys, this would mean teaching boys and men that transgender and non-binary (neither/both male or female) people exist and that it’s okay, that it’s normal to be attracted to people of any gender, and that it is okay to be attracted to more than one gender at once.

3. Teaching safer sex. This would mean more than just shouting “abstinence!” at boys. This would also mean more than just teaching boys how to use condoms or about the birth control pill; it would include alternative forms of contraception and non-penetrative forms of sex.

choice4. Reproductive choice education. For boys, this would involve removing anti-choice messages from the curriculum (for example, “Tiny Tim”, an unrealistic portrayal of abortion as forced childbirth). This would involve teaching boys that everyone has a right to decide what they do with their body, and that a decision on abortion is ultimately up to the person who is pregnant.

5. Teaching boys about emotional health in relationships and breaking up. We need to teach them about their emotions (and that it’s okay to be emotional!) and what they could possibly feel before, during and after a relationship. We need to bust the myths that boys are supposed to be stoic and unemotional, that boys are or should only be looking for physical intimacy in a relationship, and that rejection or a failed relationship is unacceptable.

Unlike me, not every boy has the privilege of learning from a comprehensive, shame-free book on sex-ed (even if it’s written for cis women). Like me, most boys don’t have healthy sex-ed syllabi tailored specifically for them, and end up internalising problematic behaviours. I’m not an expert on sex-ed, but I’m a young man who’s lived through the system and came out in one piece. This list isn’t complete, but we need to help our less privileged brothers out.

This is how we start.

About the Author: Robert Bivouac is a 20-year-old writer and spoken word poet from Singapore. He enjoys Singaporean food, music and literature, and lives mostly on the internet where he pretends to be cool.

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Because Love Shouldn’t Have to Hurt

by Carolyn Chan, Change Maker

People are often very quick to blame someone for staying in an abusive relationship. In my opinion, they have no right to judge victims of abuse until they have had firsthand experience. These people tend to be quick to assume that victims do not do enough to walk away from abuse when they do not view the situation through the same lens survivors do.

I was in two abusive relationships. I am in my twenties now, and I am shaped by these experiences I had as a teen and young adult. Even as I write this, I can’t help but feel that twinge of shame despite knowing that abusive behaviour can manifest in any relationship.

I loved my first boyfriend unconditionally and forgave all of his mistakes, even when he kept reminding me that he was the best I was ever going to get. Once, he abandoned me in a part of town I wasn’t familiar with over a small argument. He found fault with me at every turn and blamed me for everything. After several months, I grew increasingly unhappy and I knew things were getting worse. The only reprieve I had was during the school holidays when I spent a week at home to think about how I wanted to proceed with this relationship.

Screenshot_2One evening, I picked up the phone to end the relationship once and for all. It was one of the hardest and most painful things I had to do. He did not make it easy for me and threatened to throw away all the belongings I kept at his apartment. It wasn’t easy and I cried for days but it was worth it. I was never physically abused by him, but even now with my current partner, there are moments when I think to myself, “Why is my boyfriend being so nice to me?”, “Why does he understand?” or “Why isn’t he getting mad at me?”. I was conditioned into thinking being treated badly was the norm.

The second relationship I was involved in was more physically abusive. I was strangled on several occasions and sexually coerced into doing things I didn’t want to. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone this. I did everything he asked because I thought I owed it to him. I was his girlfriend, why would I say no to sex with him for no good reason?

I cheated on him with a colleague and guilt-ridden, came clean to him about it. The hostility I was met with was nothing I had ever expected. I was looked at with contempt and anger and called all kinds of names like slut, dirty whore, and bitch etc. He barricaded me in his room and refused to let me leave to take a breather or a walk. I felt horrible, as though I had committed one of the gravest crimes in the world. I cried the whole day I was at his house.

Before I returned home, he told me never to tell any of my friends or family about this. When I left, I sought help from a counsellor and poured my heart out. I told her every shameful thing that he ever did to me. It was the first time I ever opened up to anyone about it, and it was such a relief! I knew on a deeper level that I deserved better than him. After he had crossed the line, I could no longer trust him anymore. He had lost my trust a lot earlier, but I just didn’t know it at the time.

I know my story isn’t an uncommon one, even my friends and family members have powerful tales of anger, sadness, frustration and betrayal. There are far too many teenagers and young adults who have gone through what I have.

When you are young, it’s sometimes hard to know what you need. Sometimes you don’t know your own worth. We are always taught to respect others, school property and yourself, but we are rarely taught that we deserve respect from others, especially from the men or women we hold dear in our lives.

carolynAbout the Author: Carolyn is a twenty-four year old horse-mad, salsa dance-loving, feminist who recently moved back to Singapore after spending seven years studying overseas in Canada. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Waterloo. She credits her undergraduate experience for igniting her passion for women’s rights especially young women. She is devoted to helping create a world free from inequality and violence. 

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Call out for We Can! Arts Fest 2014: Breakthrough

BREAKTHROUGHplaceholder This December, We Can! Arts Fest returns, this time celebrating diversity and the freedom to be you, with Breakthrough. And we want YOU to be involved!

Last year, we brought you the The Silence of Violence, with local artists, activists and survivors exploring the less visible forms of violence against women in our society. Attended by 300 members of the public, the event was an effort to use art, media and performance to interrogate and shift social attitudes that tolerate gender-based violence.

This year, with a focus on youth, Breakthrough is looking to feature young artists, performers, youth groups and students coming together to showcase their original art, share personal stories, and start critical discussions on gender stereotypes, stigma and the different forms of violence that affect youth in our society.

We want to use the powerful media of art, performance and conversation to challenge the expectations and pressures that youth face in their peer groups because of their gender, spark ideas for change and celebrate a youth culture that is inclusive, supportive and safe for everyone. Are you a young person or youth group passionate about change? Speak up, take a stand and break the box with us.

We invite your voice, your ideas and your art for this exciting event. Send in your proposals to [email protected] If you don’t have a fully fleshed out proposal with everything figured out, that’s fine too! Just email us your rough ideas and we can work with you to develop it.

Date: 6 December 2014 (Saturday)
Time: 10am – 8pm
Venue: SMU (Singapore Management University), 81 Victoria Street
Theme: Breakthrough: Behave yourself. Shatter stereotypes.
Deadline for proposals: 10 October 2014

Want to send in a proposal? Click here to find out more about what you should include.

About We Can! Youth
We Can! Youth is the We Can! campaign’s special focus in 2014. This year, we hope to get more youth involved in taking a stand against gender-based violence in their everyday lives. We are reaching out to young Change Makers, learning from their personal experiences and starting conversations on gender stereotypes, sexual consent, rights and healthy dating relationships. Youth Change Makers are young people committed to making positive social change in their communities. Through their actions, they can help make schools, cyberspace and social events safe spaces for young people regardless of their gender or sexual expression.

About We Can! Arts Fest 2013
Missed last year’s We Can! Arts Fest? Last year, we brought together artists, activists and Change Makers to meet others who are using their voices to speak up against the less visible forms of violence. We had art installations, music performances, spoken word, film screenings, theatre and more! Read more about We Can! Arts Fest 2013: The Silence of Violence here and take a look through our photo gallery here!

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Redefine Masculinity


The following is by the creators of this video, Change Makers Alex Tan, Arvind Soundarajan, Hu Bing Cheng and Jeriel Teo:

“Through this video, we aim to demonstrate the underlying prejudices that most men perpetuate. A variety of sources, from the media to our family upbringing, has ingrained certain concepts of what it means to be a man on a profound and subconscious level. We hope to provide our viewers with a valuable perspective on how men view themselves and other men. Most importantly, we hope viewers will recognize how both the media and society impose stereotypes that influence the way we live, act, and speak. Then during this process, reconsider what being a man means to themselves.

In the early stages of the video, we had the intention to mock narrow conceptions of masculinity. However, we realized this satirical intent assumes that viewers can already identify the rigidity of gender roles. Satire can be easily misunderstood without prior knowledge, and this video could then be misinterpreted as reinforcing traditional gendered expectations.

The very idea of “masculinity” is problematic because it excludes and discriminates against those who do not conform. Also, “masculinity” is always defined against and in opposition to “femininity”, which reinforces the inaccurate concept that men and women are essentially different because of the biological sex they might have been assigned at birth.

Our message is not to bash on anyone’s concept of masculinity, but to suggest that there are alternatives to what society has been drumming into us from the beginning. Redefining masculinity is about realising how gender stereotypes are imposed on us and then making an informed decision on who we want to be.”

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Disarm the Body Police

By Vincent Pak, Change Maker

Transitioning to a more relevant society today will, more often than not, be met with resistance, especially one with largely conservative Asian values such as Singapore. The dos and don’ts of how a woman should behave and carry herself is contested and policed everyday; they are incessantly subjected to the critique of the public. A woman’s right to her body is her own, but sexist societal standards still deem an open-backed dress as ‘slutty’, a short skirt as shameless.

Would we do the same to men? image

The week-old Takashimaya saga where a lady was shouted at by an older woman for dressing ‘inappropriately’ was the talk of the town. The older woman was angered by the lady’s open-backed top that revealed her bra, and warned her not to dress like that in public. A simple case of exacting personal moral judgement on the youths of Singapore.

The so-called appropriateness of a woman’s choice of clothes has been debated ad nauseam, but it is never acceptable to belittle her because of that. A browse through the comments on forums and Facebook will surface a common and disheartening sentiment amongst the peeved netizens: the lady should have covered up.image_4Imagine if it was a man wearing low cut jeans that revealed his briefs. I dare presume that the incident would never have happened. The double standards we enforce on girls and women harm them. We cite reasons like shame and modesty to police their bodies, and denigrate them when they fall out of our own standards. A woman who embraces her sexuality is frowned upon, while her male counterpart is cheered on for doing the same.

We place value on a woman’s body, and deduct it accordingly when she loses her virginity, or dresses revealingly. There is an inherent problem in the way we objectify and govern their bodies like it is our own. When will we realise that body-policing and body-shaming is simply another form of violence?

Alarmingly misinformed netizens went on to slut-shame the lady for inviting trouble with her revealing outfit.

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image_1image_2The freedom of opinion is a right, but we must be aware of the sexism that coats what we read, hear and watch. The lady’s outfit may have offended the older woman, but we should seek to understand that it is not in anyone’s jurisdiction to police someone else’s body. The incident reflects the prevailing sentiment that a woman must display decency and dignity, and that is a stereotype we have to unlearn.

The next time you label a woman solely based on how she dresses, remember it is her prerogative, not yours.

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About the author: Someone once told Vincent that liking pink as a favourite colour was perfectly fine. That was enough reason for him to subscribe to feminism, because it allowed him to drink strawberry milk with confidence. Still serving his National Service, Vincent enjoys the occasional fantasy that sexism is dead in the military, but stalwartly trusts that he won’t be in denial someday. He is passionate about naps, and prefers baby blue over pink now.