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Let’s Unite! to end violence against women

Every act on every level counts! #16DaysSG

 

You might be wondering after #MeToo, #NowWhat?

Through the recent online movement, #MeToo, thousands of women around the world – and in Singapore – came forward to have open and honest conversations about their experiences of surviving sexual violence. #MeToo has not only foregrounded the prevalence of sexual violence in Singapore, but also the silence surrounding the issue. At the end of the day, a hashtag can only go so far: the onus lies on us to take action every day.

We Can! Singapore invites you to be a part of Let’s Unite, a 16-day campaign* to end violence against women. Start taking action these 16 Days, between 25th Nov – 10th Dec 2017 so we can galvanise everyone’s efforts and show that we are building a strong community of support.

If you start saying ‘violence against women happens in Singapore’ → More people will learn about it → Others will say it too → Perpetrators’ behaviours will not be excused → More survivors will seek help → State and social support for survivors will be improved → Violence against women will be on its way out

Tell others that you want to end violence against women – and encourage them to join you!

Start your #16DaysSG journey below.

 

 

 

 

 

*16 Days of Activism is a global campaign that calls on individuals, groups and organisations to stand together against violence against women by pledging their support and taking action from 25 November, the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

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How to have difficult conversations

This post was originally published as a Change Maker newsletter in January 2016. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates and tips, take the Change Maker pledge here!

Effective conversations

Conversation is key to making change. With useful dialogue about gender equality, we can start to alter beliefs, clarify misconceptions, and change society.

It is also tricky: sometimes, we focus too much on getting our points across and neglect to listen and understand the person we talk to. Conversations can become painful and ineffective.

What makes an effective conversation? Is it when we influence someone’s ideas? Or is it a mutual and respectful exchange of knowledge and ideas? How do we achieve it?


1. Opening up a dialogue

You’re with some friends and someone makes a sexist comment. What do you consider before you lurch into a conversation about their words? Perhaps think about your bandwidth for dialogue: do you have enough time and energy to exchange ideas? It’s okay if you don’t – we are not obliged to advocate when we don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so. We might also feel ill-equipped with facts. But there are other ways to put across our opinions besides rattling off stats and quoting studies. Even a simple “I feel uncomfortable with what you just said” can be useful in starting to call out casual sexism and other prejudices.
2. Acknowledging privilege 

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

We come from all walks of life, each carrying our own experiences and views. And what we say is affected by this. Even the well-worn “Just work harder!” retort that marginalised people often receive comes with its own baggage: privileged individuals have access to more opportunities, which might shape their beliefs about effort. Navigating this within ourselves is important. What do you tend to overlook or take for granted, and how does this harm effective dialogue?

3. Listening and responding

Effective conversations are not just about putting your points across, but also listening to others. So often we are so intent on bringing the other person to where we are, that we forget where they are.  One way to actively listen is to acknowledge other people’s ideas. This could be clarification (“What did you mean by…”), or you could allow them room to ask you questions and clarify their doubts. Active listening gives us the chance to engage with others collaboratively, and move the conversation forward.

4. Lather, rinse, repeat!

These conversations can be time-consuming and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is about challenging prejudices that affect our own lives. But an effective conversation can only occur when everyone, including you, is comfortable and prepared to talk. And change can’t happen overnight. We may not be able to change minds with just a few words, but with thoughtful, compassionate conversations, we can, hopefully, plant the seeds of progress.
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Change making in real life

Written by Sumithri Venketasubramanian, Change Maker

A couple oScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.30 pmf days ago, I was scrolling through Everyday Feminism – as you do – and I came across a blog post: “You Don’t Need to Be Leading Marches for Your Activism to Matter – Here Are 5 Reasons Why”. It got me thinking about how the concepts of space and place influence our involvement in creating positive change.

Many of us have circles in which we feel comfortable talking about feminism and social justice, and these conversations often enrich our views on the inequalities of the world, at times giving us a sense of empowerment. And then there are those spaces where we choose to stay silent when jokes are cracked about women belonging in the kitchen – we might even feel pressured to give a little smile, just so as to not draw attention to yourself (“Why aren’t you laughing? Are you some kind of feminist or something?”). There are certain places where feminist discourse is encouraged,and others where it is jeered at.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.41 pmThere’s a phrase that goes “if you’re not fighting something, you’re enabling it”. That is, unless we’re making active efforts to go out into the world and advocate for big changes, breaking down injustices in the system and opening up the minds of society, we’re actually contributing to the discrimination and prejudices that certain people suffer as a result of due to how integrated these systems are with our everyday lives. So it would seem that if we really wanted to contribute to the battle against oppression, we would have to dedicate our lives to full-time advocacy and/or activism. But does this mean that we’ll have to stick to working with feminist organisations and groups which are influential in the women’s empowerment field? What about those feminists who have dreamed of being scientists for so much of their lives, or those who may want to open up their own bakery? Do we have to give up all of our personal (read: “selfish”) aspirations for the greater good?

The short answer is: no. The long answer is that it is not solely feminist bodies and lobby groups that can make a difference. In fact, it is in non-feminist spaces that have the greatest potential for change. As more overt forms of sexism are being increasingly frowned upon by society (though they still are very much in existence), prejudices begin to present themselves in the form of microaggressions – subtle comments and actions that are telling of the biases that one holds on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, class, appearance and/or other traits. And microaggressions are something which all of us experience – be it comments about how weak women are, or the dismissal of a woman’s anger because “she’s just on her period, don’t mind her”. The best part is: we all have the potential to make a difference.

Men’s role in gender advocacy

wrc_profilepicture_sAnd why should the burden (or honour, depending on how you see it) of ridding the world of gender-based injustices lie merely on those who suffer from them? After all, it is the privileged who have the power and means to influence systems in place which attempt to keep certain groups of people down.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a call by men around the world to their fellows, encouraging them to take a stand against violence against women. Movements like these are important, because they don’t attempt to hijack organisations and campaigns by women fighting for rights and opportunities. Rather, they attempt to take the spaces men already yield so much power and influence in and make them more feminist. It is in this approach to advocacy that institutionalised and systemic discrimination are challenged.

Feminism doesn’t just have to be about running a full-time social justice blog, or educating the masses about gender and sexism. Feminism is also in asking “wait, why is [the sexist joke that was just told] funny?”, and in speaking up against workplace harassment. Feminism is about feminism, wherever and whenever it is.

About the author: Sumithri is in a place in life where she knows what she wants to do, but also has yet to figure it out. Whatever it is, she hopes the world she leaves will be more just than the one she was born into.

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‘Ally’ is a verb, not a noun.

This post was originally published as a Change Maker newsletter in June 2015. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates and tips, take the Change Maker pledge here!

unnamedAllyship does not stop at being “pro-gender equality”. To be active allies for gender equality, we need to embrace challenges and lessons along the way.

As allies, we want to amplify and celebrate the voices of individuals and groups we support. While our experiences of being allies are significant to our own learning (and unlearning) about the issue of gender inequality, we also should not dominate the very conversations that we want to start.

Allyship is not meant to be comfortable.

Being an ally sometimes means being confronted by perspectives that we have been taught to ignore or ideas that have been made invisible. This may mean that we can get confused, defensive or upset, especially when we believe strongly in our own good intentions.

However, allyship is not meant to make us feel comfortable with how we have been thinking. It is a learning journey towards listening to, understanding and respecting other people’s views, stories and lived experiences.

It means that most of the time, we have to listen more than speak out.

What’s one thing you are ready to do to be an ally for gender equality?

unnamed (1)5 Ways Allies Can Make Change

1. As our ally, Etiquette SG, puts it, “We believe (change) starts with conversation. And we believe that art starts great conversation.” The arts can be a cool way to bring innovative ideas that have strong social messages to your communities.

2. Learn more about the subject by talking to other advocates, and also victims of sexism, homophobia, or transphobia (but only if they feel comfortable sharing their experiences!).

3. Create a support system by amplifying other groups’ causes as well – just like how Jejaka, a support organisation for queer Muslim men in Singapore, brought the Change Maker workshop to its group last month!

4. UWC Tampines students are working on a Youth Forum to start a dialogue on gender with young people in Singapore. If you’re still in school, work with like-minded peers to support a cause you’re passionate about!

5. Cultivate friendships with other advocates. Having supportive friends can help us become more dedicated allies and make informed choices about the kind of change we want to create.

Get involved

Click here if you are interested in our focus group for male allies! Want to be a volunteer in other ways? Email [email protected]

Updates

You get to choose what kind of guy you are. This year, we are mobilising male Change Makers through various programmes and events. Find out more here! ​

Consent Revolution are collecting experiences of sex education in Singapore. Got a story fit for “SG Sex Ed Fails”? Submit it here!

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Men’s leadership for gender equality

This post was originally published as a Change Maker newsletter in October 2015. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates and tips, take the Change Maker pledge here!

I’m a guy, and I care about sexism. What can I do?

We’ve heard it before, many times, in different ways: men are an important part of the movement for gender equality. But how exactly can boys and men make a real difference?
Here are some ideas from us!

1. INTERRUPT: Sexism and “guy talk”

bigstock-hand-making-a-stop-signal-sign-162901311Catch-ups with your National Service buddies, soccer hang-outs, or just drinks with guys you like to hang out with – these traditionally “boys-only” spaces provide a lot of potential for allies to interrupt sexism should it arise.
What can you do if your best friend makes a rape joke? Or if someone makes an offhand comment about a girl’s body or dressing? There are many ways you can interrupt these instances of sexism, show that you don’t approve and get people to reflect. Humour, questions, sarcasm, or a sincere show of discomfort – any of these could work! How would you interrupt sexism in the boys’ club?
2. ENGAGE: With men, women and good ideas
other_conversation_review_comment_bubble_talk-512People aren’t always going to pat us on the back for speaking up. In order to spark real change, men need to be okay with starting conversations that nobody wants to have, and dealing with discomfort. You need to listen keenly to women’s experiences and take them seriously. Read about and follow broader discussions on gender issues that are happening now. Learning requires humility and willingness to unlearn male privilege. Speaking up is taking a risk. Are you ready for it?
3. ADVOCATE: For change, equal spaces and diversity
AdvocateNetwork-Tab1dThink about the communities you are already a part of and how you can make a difference there. In specific, think of the spaces where you have leadership and a strong voice. This might be at home, on an online space, in an interest group or a work team. For example, if an organising team you are in wants to invite a group of experts for a panel discussion, what are the factors you would consider? Is there equal representation of men and women on the panel? Are there people dominating the conversations and decision-making processes? How much of a role do women play in organising and participating?  How major are these roles and how much are women acknowledged or credited for them?
There are many strategies we can adopt if we want to shake up a system that benefits one group of people over others – so observe how these systems work in your own context, and work to dismantle them!
Get involved!
– Join Yes, All Men and SGRainbow in talking about consent in social and sexual settings. Register for the dialogue session HERE!
– Volunteer for the We Can! Arts Fest – email us at [email protected] if you want to RALLY with us on 6 December!

 

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Boys will be boys: Five perspectives on manhood

Written by Change Makers, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]re.org.sg!

4ee5c8fa73c9ed50e09669eda7481766When I was younger, my parents used to tell me to stop crying whenever I cried, the sole reason being that I was a boy. At my kindergarten, children were treated differently based on gender. Even at that age, I felt a distinct sense of unease. Being a child who was not as raucous and outgoing as most other boys, I often felt like I did not belong. In one incident that I remember, I wore my sister’s old shoes to school as my usual pair was damaged. The shoes was mostly white, but had a pink lining. Almost immediately, a boy inquired about the reason for my wearing “pink-coloured shoes”.

I was also often told that I had to get a well-paying job because I would be a man in the future. I’m sure most people have had similar experiences being judged by others. Ironically, it is often family that enforces gender norms most harshly, causing conflict and anguish.

Why can’t people, regardless of gender, be looked upon as what they are – people?

In my view, things are improving. But there is still a lot to be done, and it starts with every single person.

– Chin Jia Yi

2086479_manliness_jpeg44eb71191e545dedf378e9a7121db56cHow many times have you ever been told to “be a man” or to “man up”? Being a man in today’s society entails being strong, independent and successful. Being a man to me has always simply been being of the male sex but to some it means so much more. People expect men to be leaders. Advertisements everywhere teach us from a very young age what the ‘ideal man’ should look like. Pictures of muscled men with six-pack abs are all too common on fashion magazines and billboards. An ideal man has defined muscles and rugged good looks.

However, the reality remains that some men are unable to conform to these expectations. There is more to being a man than being strong, dominant and emotionless. I have experienced first-hand many of my peers trying to fit in, constantly feeling insecure about themselves. Why do we have to behave and look just like everyone else?

– Aahan Gopinath Achar 

I do not try to change what other people think of me regarding my gender. I do not care unless it negatively affects my relationships with others, nor do I try to preach my views every time someone made an offhand remark. It is not worth the effort and usually fails anyway, so it is not worth the trouble. But if someone else feels upset because of an inappropriate comment, I will readily speak up against gender stereotyping and take a stand.

Nguyen Nhat Minh

On countless occasions, I am told to “man up”, to not show weakness. I think people who say that are hypocrites who twist the truth of manhood to fit their warped idea of who they think a man should be. There is no single definition of man no matter how hard we think, agonize and struggle over this abstract concept. So then why do we continue to impose these gender roles on others?

– Joshua Sum

There is societal pressure for men to put on a strong front in spite of hardship, reinforcing a pretty but false picture where men are more rational than women simply because they are men. I still remember when crying in school was looked down upon, since “boys don’t cry”. When men show vulnerability among their peers, they are subject to judgment. I just happen to be male. If expressing human emotion is only natural, why is there a double standard?

– Muhammad Syazwan Bin Ramli

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“Those are the real problems.”

Written by Kimberly Jow, Change Maker

A common, almost ubiquitous comment in my social circle with reference to talks about feminism are stories about women in other countries who face brutal violence, followed by the words, “those are the real problems”, with the word “real” expertly italicised in real life.

First World Feminism.jpegI understand where this is coming from. They acknowledge the problems faced by other women in countries who seem to “need it more”, and apparently nobly recognises their privilege. The small problems we face here, rape threats on Twitter, stereotypes – they don’t hold a candle to the many girls being forced into child marriages, or the honor killing of women. What about those problems? Those are the real problems.

This “those are the real problems” argument, aside from the time taken to type it, is troublesome in and of itself. First off, it is dismissive of the problems faced by women in a first-world society. That argument essentially says that certain problems don’t matter because they are not all of the same magnitude.

Why do women have to have a constant fear of death before their concerns can be validated? Problems faced by women in the first-world continue to remain relevant. The oppressive structure does not get a free pass for its actions just because other people have it worse. Anyone using the hashtag “#FirstWorldProblems” have perhaps felt silly for complaining about their daily minor inconveniences, but there is generally no expectation for them to act like they suffer the same as those, for example, below the poverty line. One may expect them to feel empathy and help out, but not live according to the standards of everyone who has had it worse than they have.

Secondly, the “those are the real problems (TATRP, for the tired typist)” argument, derails the fight for equality in first-world societies, which is a problematic move.

For many people of my social circle, the “TATRP” argument and those of its ilk are commonly used to rebut discussions of feminism. The purpose appears to be to guilt trip women into not speaking out about their struggles. Even if it were unintended, the fact remains that a conversation like this will either be derailed or avoided. This affects everyone’s ability to understand the experiences of each gender, thus impeding our progress towards equality.

Tank top VS acidAt the risk of simplifying the issue, I would appeal to the users of the “TATRP” argument to stop. By using victims of violence to silence feminists, you are using real people, with real experiences and emotions as a tool, an object to get your way. They may not directly experience your flippant cruelty, but it shuts down any form of viable discussion with members of your own society. I understand that it may not have been your intent, but I would ask that you hesitate before you adopt a “TATRP” tone; devaluing one’s struggles does not help alleviate the other.

Such comments could have been said to express helplessness at the many anti-women outages all over the world. In which case I would recommend a donation at https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/, and encourage you to rest assured that we can still help to improve the world.

About the Author: Kimberly is a somewhat ambitious NUS undergraduate who has always dreamed of writing her own About the Author section. She retains much hope for eventual equality, and is willing to fight the currents to get there.

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The top two man-made myths debunked!

rosie-the-riveter-hed-2013

Written by Nicole Seah, Change Maker, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

  • Boys can’t <insert misconception here> like girls can.

Did you know that gender-neutral clothing was popular up to the mid 1980s?

If that is the case, why are there so many associations between colour and gender and sexuality? When did the colour blue become associated with manliness and when did the color pink begin to represent femininity? Children and parents alike are bombarded with this pervasive and unsettling idea that a colour can represent a gender or someone’s identity.

So what if boys want to wear pink dresses? I say let them! Let the children of our generation learn how to express themselves. If your little boy chooses to wear a dress and play with a Barbie doll and you are horrified by this idea, try to think logically about what these icons symbolise. Does this child understand the connotations of wearing pink and the public disapproval of donning a skirt as a boy, or is it just your own opinion that has been built into you from years of indoctrination?

Rather than concerning ourselves with silly speculations about what colour means, society should be more concerned about bringing children up to be a mature, compassionate adults. Does it really matter what they wear if they have kind souls and big hearts? If society has stooped so low to think that children must conform to gender norms, something is clearly wrong. Why does a boy wanting to wear a pink shirt bother some parents more than the violence associated with the guns he plays with? Isn’t it funny that in the eyes of so many, blue and pink aren’t simply blue and pink? They’re guns and ponies; trucks and frills.

  • Men don’t cry and other fascinating characteristics

An archetypal masculine man does not cry! He does not shed a drop of emotion onto his gleaming torso of pure muscle. Brooding, he punches a wall, because violence in the face of emotional distress is more ‘manly’ than crying.

Hopefully that sarcasm wasn’t wasted on you. I’ve never heard of a sillier idea than that men cannot be emotional. Being sad and being overtly happy are all ‘danger zones’ on the masculinity scale. Fathers teach their sons to mask their feelings in times of extreme grief. Seeking relief from one’s emotions is a definite no-no when you are a man, even if it is only natural to do so.

More recently, a few psychological studies such as the ‘androgyny study’ were done to show that feminine and masculine characteristics are not polar opposites, rather, characteristics that should work together. One who has an equal amount of both, are considered psychologically androgynous. For example, a male doctor is both compassionate and acts like a leader in their field, a leading woman engineer is both analytical and could also be soft spoken! A fact that I read was that androgynous people tend to be happier and more successful.

However, this androgyny study also shows us how gender is stereotyped and ridiculed in our society, and shows us that characteristics shouldn’t be gendered; rather they should be valued for what they are. Being gentle is a great characteristic for both men and women: so why is it that they are stereotyped as being ‘womanly’? An androgynous person has roughly an equal amount of characteristics associated with each gender, and this tends to be a good balance!

So what does ‘being a man’ mean to me? Well, nothing much really. Man or woman, there is no ‘battle of the sexes’. There should be no preconception of what being a man should mean at all!

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A Change Maker’s perspective on change

Written by Jolanda Nava, Change Maker

Daryl Yang is a 22-year-old enrolled in the Yale-NUS/NUS Law Double Degree Programme. He is also the President of Yale-NUS’ Gender & Sexuality Alliance. I decided to interview him to find out what he thinks about change and change-making.

10847393_673306239461821_5085795308324159513_oWhat do you think are some of the problems that you see with gender around you?

Generally there is a lack of conversation and understanding of this very complex idea of gender. As a result, most people have very fixed ideas about what a boy or a girl should be and this leads to people who don’t fit into these boxes to be considered deviants, “problems” that need to be fixed.

I also find that gender in our society is defined by ideas of family and parenthood, in part because of the national campaign to increase birthrates. If you’re a woman, your “goal” should be to find a husband and have children; if you’re a man, you should be a breadwinner and take care of your household. This creates unfair and unrealistic expectations. I have friends who cannot accept that their girlfriends earn more than them, because of this idea that the man should be the breadwinner. Others feel like they have to keep up with this “I’m strong, I don’t have feelings” persona because they think that is what it means to be a man.

How then, do you start change?

“Change” is a big word and sometimes it feels scary to think about changing society. But I believe it is important we recognize that change does not happen quickly or overnight. It is going to take a long time before we can see the change we are advocating for, but we have to start somewhere, and spreading ideas is a good place to start from.

I think change starts with small things, like challenging stereotypes in your casual conversations with friends or just changing the language you use. It is about asking questions that can start a deeper reflection. When your friend tells you he doesn’t think he can accept it if his future wife earns more than him, ask them why they think so. Get them to think about where those ideas come from. It is about not saying things like “man up” or “don’t be such a girl”, because they perpetuate and reinforce negative stereotypes about what it means to be a guy or a girl.

We cannot be trapped by the idea that things have to change now, or we are going to feel discouraged and start thinking it is a lost battle. But every one of us can do small things to push a little, and we should recognize that each of us can only play a small yet important part. You have to put things into perspective.

Do you think that change starts with people, or with laws?

I think legal and social change have an interactive relationship. It is hard to say whether one should come before the other because there are pros and cons to either of them coming first. But they are not mutually exclusive, they should go hand in hand.

Different members of the community should advocate change in different areas of the community and at different levels. Personally, I am not yet able to advocate for legal change [Daryl is currently enrolled in the double degree of Liberal Arts + Law] but what I can do is influence the community and people around me.

G Spot LogoWhat do you do, personally, to start change?

I try to make myself someone that people can approach and talk to about these things. I want to achieve change through dialogue and conversations, so I try to be someone people can reach out to; I try to create a place around me where people can feel safe.

Sometimes we get angry when we face people that are ignorant or negative or pessimistic, and we respond in a way that does more harm than good. I think it is extremely important to develop the ability to put the anger aside and respond in a more helpful way. Shouting at someone will not help, we have to think about the kind of support we offer each other when we advocate change. The important question is: how are we helping the person in front of us to change?

Often we feel trapped within these social structures. Your friend might agree with you that what they are experiencing comes from social expectations, but they are still stuck in that position and they might find it impossible to escape. So it is important to help creating an environment that allows people to feel comfortable about themselves and to find a way out.

Is there an example of small changes that you have witnessed?

Two semesters ago we hosted a panel on gender, it was only a conversation about it. Yet, it led some people in the audience decide that they wanted to do something for the transgender community, which lead to a small project aimed at fundraising and raising awareness. Even if the panel was just people sharing their experiences, the ripple effects were many.

Most importantly, I think when you do something, no matter how small, it will help encourage and inspire people to do something too.

About the author: Jolanda is a university students learning about international relations and having fun with programming classes. She not-so-secretly enjoys challenging gender stereotypes and when she grows up she wants to be a superhero.

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What Makes a Man

Written by Leow Yangfa, Change Maker, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

Being a son means I am grateful for my parents’ loving support, good health and continued presence. Being a brother means I am fortunate enough to have two women with whom I will have life-long relationships. Being a nephew means I have aunts and uncles who are there to remind me I’m part of a larger family. Being an uncle means I have relationships with five very different young women whom I will risk my life to protect.

Being of Chinese-Hakka-Peranakan heritage means I am connected to a long history of culture, language and traditions. Being a Singlish-speaking Singaporean means I can be uptight, eccentric, arrogant, kiasu, kiasee and patriotic, all at the same time.

Being gay means I have an awareness of what it means to be feared, hated, demonised…and different. Being a survivor of suicide and sexual assault means I know how it feels to be vulnerable.

Being vegetarian means I would like to practise kindness in my daily habits. Being an atheist means I only have this life to live. Being a social worker means I am self-aware and seek purpose in my life.

Being a man to me means….all of the above.

About the Author: Leow Yangfa is the Executive Director of Oogachaga, a community-based professional counselling, support & personal development organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, couples & families.