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The scourge of cyber harassment

By Kimberly Lim, Change Maker

According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults had witnessed some form of cyber harassment in 2014 alone. Widespread cyber harassment has prompted individuals like Monica Lewinsky to commit themselves to ending cyber bullying. However, the issue of cyber harassment is multifaceted and women are disproportionately the victims of cyber-harassment.huffpost

1.  Stalking

Perhaps one of the most well-known forms of cyber harassment is stalking. Today, personal information like email addresses and photographs is easily accessible online. It is also possible to obtain private information illegally through hacking, as seen from the recent leak of nude celebrity photographs on the imageboard 4chan. But more than often, it is not celebrities, but ordinary people who are targeted—one of the most famous cases is that of Randi Barber in the 1990s, whose stalker revealed her home address on sex chat lines and online advertisements, putting her in danger. Such stories are no longer uncommon in today’s context, as seen from movies like “Cyber Stalker”, where protagonist Aiden Ashley’s online stalker broke into her home.

2.  Slut-shaming

know your memeIncreasingly, the proliferation of social media and the ability to hide behind anonymity have fuelled malicious attacks on individuals perceived as sexually promiscuous. In 2013, the hashtag #slanegirl was particularly infamous, as Twitter users collectively denounced a girl caught performing oral sex at a concert venue, with some even going to the extent of publishing her full name and age on online public spaces. More recently, schools in USA are facing protests after humiliating students who were perceived to be inappropriately dressed by forcing them to wear loose fitting “shame suits”. Such behavior, however, irresponsibly perpetuates the damaging outlook that victims are responsible for their own plight, while removing responsibility from perpetrators.

3.  Revenge “Porn”

The non-consensual distribution of sexual images has also become worryingly common. This usually occurs after a breakup, where intimate pictures or videos are posted as a form of retaliation. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 1 in 10 have threatened to post explicit material implicating their former partners, while 93% of victims have undergone extreme emotional distress. Only recently have lawmakers begun to formulate specific legislation tackling revenge porn; under California’s new anti-revenge porn laws, Noe Iniguez was the first to be sentenced in December 2014.

4.  Rape Videos

telegraphThe glorification of rape has also, unfortunately, emerged as part of the culture of violence online. Underscoring the popular hashtag #Jadapose is the cruel mockery of 16 year old Jada, whose rapists posted pictures of her online. In Russia, with intolerance towards the LGBT community on the rise, videos featuring vigilantes humiliating and physically hurting homosexuals have become widespread as well.

Underscoring all forms of cyber harassment is the common theme of violence, lack of empathy and the erosion of human dignity. In Singapore, we have recently proposed new anti-harassment laws, encompassed in the Protection from Harassment Act. However, the extent to which legislation can combat entrenched anti-social behaviour remains to be fully seen. Nonetheless, we can remain optimistic that with recognition from the law that cyber harassment is undesirable, social paradigms may likewise shift in a more positive direction as well.

About the Author:

Kimberly is a recent junior college graduate. She has a fascination for history and an unhealthy obsession over fluffy things. Currently, she is enjoying her life after the A Levels and is trying her hand at felt knitting, constantly leaving traces of wool in her wake, much to the chagrin to her friends and family.

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Some Reassembly Required: An Interview with Chris Khor

Interview conducted by Sing Rue, Change Maker

Christopher Khor is a transgender man who has been making headlines in Singapore with his upcoming documentary “Some Reassembly Required”. The film will document his reconstruction and is the first film on transgender men in Singapore. His team raised over $14,000 through crowdfunding earlier in the year for the documentary. We talk to Chris about his thoughts on transgender visibility in Singapore, and globally, gender diversity and what we can expect from the film.

Sing Rue: Can you tell me more about some of the misconceptions you intend to address in this documentary? What are some of the important things people need to understand?

Chris Khor: I think the biggest misconception about transgender people is that people can’t be transgender and gay/lesbian. I get that it’s confusing – I’ve had trouble explaining it to my family members myself. But it’s important to know that being transgender relates to your gender identity, and gay to your sexual orientation, so they’re very separate things. As for me, I identify as a straight transgender man.

SR: Recently, transgender women such as Laverne Cox are gaining visibility, but not so much for transgender men. Why do you think this is so? How do we bring about greater visibility for transgender men?

CK: I think the reality is that transgender men often can fade into the shadows. A lot of transmen that I know do not want to seen. Transmen are men, but there is still a lot of workplace discrimination, and there’s always that fear that someone will view you differently. I think the best way to bring about visibility is to create a safe environment in which they are willing to not be stealth, without having to fear jaundiced eyes and discrimination. Of course, then it’s up to them.

SR: As a gender non-conforming person myself, I am incredibly grateful to you for coming out in such a public way to share your story. What prompted your decision to do so? How is the response so far and how do you feel?

CK: We decided to make this documentary after a chance encounter with a transgender man in San Francisco. Geraldine tells this story better, but in essence, he was the first transgender man I’d met in person. And he’d just gotten married, and his wife is lovely. I think it gave me the first semblance of the life I could live, and that was encouraging to me on a personal level.

After that, Geraldine and I began talking a lot more about what being transgender meant to me, and we realised we had a great story. Still, it took me months after that to agree to being the subject of my own film!

It’s a privilege to be in this position, to educate and bring hope. The response has been overwhelming. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone’s support. But the best part has been getting messages from other transguys, looking for advice and sharing their experiences. It’s so important that we start to build a community that isn’t afraid to reach out to one another, especially since it’s so much easier to just “be stealth”.

SR: You seem to be very comfortable with your gender identity and who you are as a person. Is there anything you would recommend to people who are currently struggling with their gender identity and are not in such a good place as you are?

CK: Oh, it helps that I’ve always known I was a boy. There was never any doubt in that regard. I struggled a lot with not being able to accept the body that I have, even after surgery. The best advice I have, in this regard, is that you are bigger than your body. That your soul is more valuable that anything that people see. And you deserve to be loved. That’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. Sometimes, that self-love is the only thing we’ve got.

SR: There are some who have come to a place of self-acceptance with regards to their gender identity, but still face opposition from society. Do you have any advice for them? What were some support systems you had that helped you?

CK: I was very fortunate to have the support of my lecturers when I came out in university, and when I worked at a cafe when I was younger. I’ve found that support tends to spill down from the top. A lot of it, I think, is knowing your own worth, and realising that you can walk away from people that don’t treat you with respect. I’ve found that some of these relationships can be unhealthy, like tumours, and you should get rid of them, like…tumors.

SR: What steps do you think we need to take as a community to continue an open dialogue about gender identity, diversity and acceptance? What are some actions we can take as individuals for positive change?

CK: I think we need to talk to each other, instead of talking at each other. Dialogue can only be had if people are listening, and respectful. This applies for communities and individuals. Be kind. Give more love. Be slow to respond in anger. Be willing to talk, to understand different perspectives, and do not fear being wrong. This all sounds extremely airy fairy but it’s true. When we see each other as humans, rather than labels, then the world will be a happier place.

So, to put those things into practice: be respectful when talking to others. Make no assumptions because of people’s labels. Understand that everyone is different, and that’s okay. These are not battles to be won – these are people to be loved.

SR: I can’t wait for your film to be completed! In the meantime, do you have an exclusive teaser to share with those of us who just can’t bear the wait?

CK: We’re in the early stages of production, so we’ve just started lining up interviews. Look forward to our web content though! It’s mad season at work, but we’ll have a video going up pretty soon!

—–

Check out more information on Some Reassembly Required here: http://www.somereassemblyrequired.com/

‘Like’ their Facebook page to get more updates here: https://www.facebook.com/somereassemblyrequired

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Stop Sexist Behaviour Online

by Delia Toh, Change Maker

Halloween has just passed. I actually considered going to a party as an Internet troll just for laughs (my costume would be a cardboard face mask to symbolise anonymity and a neon jacket to symbolise obnoxiousness). However, it is slightly discouraging that Internet trolls are not merely fantasy or a source of harmless entertainment like our beloved Halloween character, the Frankenstein’s monster. Internet trolls are very real and they are everywhere. Anyone active on online spaces can attest to that.

it_photo_108658Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow people to hide behind the cloak of anonymity without being accountable for their actions. Furthermore, increasingly complicated privacy settings make it more difficult for users to control access to their personal information. Women in particular bear the brunt of cyber harassment that sometimes borders on outright cruelty. Famous blogger Xiaxue encountered her fair share of online trolls who called her degrading names for sharing her thoughts on politics in 2012 (but we’ve got to love that she gave the online misogynists a taste of their own medicine).

There are many ways the Internet can make a woman fear for her own safety. Women might have experienced one or more of the following online:

  1. Rape and/or death threats after sharing her opinion online.
  2. Being cyber stalked by people who abuse their personal information in order to harass them. This could also be in the form of persistent unwelcome comments and messages on social media.
  3. Having their Facebook or Instagram photographs stolen and used for malicious purposes.
  4. Find themselves the target of a group of online trolls who rallied against them. These groups work together to write nasty comments that are usually of a sexual nature, including and not limited to their appearance or desirability to men.

cyber-bully-3-finalCyber harassment affects many internet users today, but women in particular are targeted simply for the fact that they are women. It targets their very personhood – either for the purposes of sexual objectification or humiliation. This is not only disrespectful but damaging to the victim’s emotional and physical health.

As much as we value the freedom of speech, we cannot allow it if people do not practise responsibility of speech as well. A good way to start would be to educate people on sensitivity and respecting boundaries. In a world where sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry are very much rampant, we can take positive steps with our actions and words online. Calling out rude, hostile and bullying behaviour towards women online definitely sends a powerful message that women deserve a safe and respectful environment.

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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Breakthrough: The Programme

Programme

WORKSHOPS

Oh The Places You’ll Go…
11AM – 12.30PM  |  Function Room
Creative Writing workshop

A creative writing, creative thinking workshop based on the Dr. Seuss short story “Oh the places you’ll go”: a story about falling down and getting back up again, following your dreams and in the process discovering things you never thought possible. This workshop is designed to stimulate stories of personal discovery, of healing and of positive change and progression. It will explore the different ways of writing to create verse, prose and short stories. We will use these and combining techniques from the writing of Dr. Seuss; Repetition, patterns and positivity, to make our own unique stories of the places we’ll go. Facilitated by Jeni-Louise.
PRE-REGISTER FOR A SPOT HERE.

“Rescuing” Princesses & Pontianaks
11AM – 1.30PM  |  University Lounge
Creative Writing Workshop

Myths, folk-tales and stories impact who we are and how we behave​ ​as a society. In this workshop we will discuss and analyze some popular​ ​tales from different cultures, and invite you to re-write a story of your choice in a gender​ ​balanced way. Come be part of the conversation on how to create​ ​stories that positively influence the next generation. Facilitated by Raksha Mahtani and Radhika Pandya.
PRE-REGISTER FOR A SPOT HERE. 

DISCUSSIONS

Human Library
12.45PM – 2.15PM  |  Function Room
Discussion

At the Human Library, attendees will have the opportunity to hear stories and have conversations with participants who will be sharing their personal experiences of gender-based violence and marginalisation as young people in Singapore. Many of these stories, like surviving dating violence as a teenager, battling misogyny in the army, being a domestic worker at fifteen and navigating Singapore society as a genderqueer person, often go unseen and unheard. Participants will also be sharing their ideas for ways forward and the role that you can play in making change. Through this event, we hope to encourage empathy for different struggles and lived experiences, and build community support around specific issues that youth care about. Register at the door.

Body Image: Privilege, Shame, Autonomy
2.30PM – 3.30PM  |  Function Room
Panel

This panel aims to create a safe space for youth to discuss and brainstorm solutions to address harmful societal discourses on body image and its associated violences (such as bullying, misogyny, racism) and harmful practices (such as disordered eating). The panel will feature four engaging speakers sharing a range of academic, theoretical and personal perspectives on these issues. Register at the door.

Featured Speakers: Teng Qian Xi, Sangeetha Thanapal, Chua Sing Rue, Sudev Suthendran

Reel Stories
3.45PM – 5PM  |  Function Room
Film Screening and Discussion

We will be screening two short films by local filmmakers, “Kristy” and “Unheard Voices of the Red Light District”. The following discussion will extract and examine the issues the films unravel, their real-life implications and  how we can respond to them so as to bring positive change. The discussion will be facilitated by Vanessa Ho, the coordinator of Project X, a social initiative advocating sex workers’ rights in Singapore, and Marcia Ong, director and cinematographer of Kristy. The session will be moderated by Alex Tan, a youth Change Maker.

Unheard Voices of the Red Light District is a film that brings us deeper into the lives of Singaporean sex workers. Volunteers from Project X gathered interviews from 11 sex workers and together with artists Dixie Chan and Felicia Low, have created a film that hopes to raise awareness on issues faced by Singaporean sex workers in Singapore.

Kristy is a film about an 8-year old tomboy who loves to wear her favourite t-shirt. Her mother, however, would prefer her in dresses. The two go head-to-head in this touching tale of individuality, identity, and independence.

Death Wears A Dress
6PM – 7PM  |  Function Room
Panel

How do traditional gender roles play a part in the how women are imagined in the realms of horror and myth? How are these imaginings premised upon everyday assumptions regarding a woman’s place in society? Death Wears a Dress is a panel discussion put together by We Can! Singapore and EtiquetteSG, comprising writers and academics interested in the intersections of gender, culture, myth and monstrosity.

Featured Speakers: Nurul H., Ad Maulod and Zarina Muhammad. // Moderated by Tania De Rozario
PRE-REGISTER HERE.

PERFORMANCES

Boys Will Be Boys
2PM – 3.15PM |  University Lounge
Interactive theatre

Boys Will Be Boys is a Theatre-in-Education programe, scripted in the overlooked male perspective. It portrays commonly seen gender stereotypes and their effects on individuals. It is designed to explore how the pressure on boys and men to be masculine in certain ways can impact violence against women and other men. The piece intends to empower men and boys to challenge and break this cycle. Shoes Theatre is an applied theatre collective formed in 2014. Focusing on the participatory nature of drama, its programmes focus on local issues, in hopes to impact a positive change.

Reflection Affection
3.30PM – 4PM |  University Lounge
Dance performance
This dance, curated by youth Change Makers from Because I’m A Girl, a campus group from UWC East, communicates the struggles girls face everyday regarding their body image. It explores complex themes such anorexia, peer pressure and the importance of self acceptance. 

Till Death Sets Us Apart
1.30PM and 5PM |  University Lounge
Dance performance 

Margueritte Vermersch is a 15-year-old dancer who has been dancing for 8 years. She will be performing a piece titled Till Death Sets Us Apart, about a young girl who is going through abuse at the hands of someone close to her, and how she decides to let go. She believes that sending a message of passion is the best way to make the audience feel what the artist is saying.

Who Am I?
4.30PM – 5PM |  University Lounge
Dance performance

This dance piece, titled Who Am I?, will be performed by 12 Contemporary dancers, all students at United World College (East Campus), using movements, speech and visuals exploring the idea of gender stereotypes and bullying. The dancers portray various ‘accepted’ gender roles as well as roles that are frowned upon thus evoking internal conflict and pressure within themselves. The dancers take you on their journey through solos, duets and group work and leaves the audience questioning the actions and words of society.

Missed Connections Performance
5.15PM – 5.45PM  |  Function Room
Mixed Media Performance

Interrobang’s performance aims to explore the relationship between the sights, sounds and words of gender-based violence. Through an experimental fusion of sonic art, film and spoken word, this performance intends to challenge the status quo, and microaggressions which are so deeply concealed in our everyday lives that we are oftentimes unaware of their existence and how they contribute to gender-based violence.

Shh…Diam!
5.45PM and 8PM |  University Lounge
Live Music

Shh…Diam! is a queer feminist band from Kuala Lumpur and consists of Yon on guitar, Farah/Faris on guitar and vocals, Yoyo on bass and Jellene on drums. They aren’t athletes. Established since 2009, they plan to expand into a line of bespoke clothing that speaks the language of the soul. Until then, you can buy their t-shirts. Check them out at facebook.com/shhdiam.music

Body/Language
7PM – 8.15PM |  University Lounge
Spoken word performance

Body/Language was a series of creative writing workshops co-developed by WE CAN Singapore and Etiquette SG for the Singapore Writers Festival. The workshops aimed to engage participants in an effort to unpick prevailing notions of gender and to uncover experiences and stories of their own bodies through poetry. This presentation will showcase some of the work developed by workshop participants, who come from diverse backgrounds, as well as spoken word pieces by talented youth Change Makers who have written especially for Breakthrough, Hannah Bedford, and Ananya Sood.

ACTIVITIES 

Pretty Ugly
3.30PM and 5PM  |  University Lounge, Studio Room 1
Interactive Performance Art

Society’s unending preoccupation with women’s physical beauty has serious consequences on women’s health, body image and morale. Impossible standards of beauty inflicted by the media, culture and society are a form of everyday violence that women and girls have to grapple with. Explore conventional ideas of beauty through this performance art piece where two artistes give you the unusual opportunity to “beautify” and “uglify” them with the items presented. Each performance will last 20 minutes. Audience members are invited to use the products available on the artistes, who present as a canvas for your expression.

Stepping Stones
Ongoing  |  University Lounge
Interactive Installation

Build a growing installation using pebbles and words to create a path towards a society free of gender inequality, oppression and violence. The stepping stones to change can be written or drawn on, signed or anonymous. Put down words or images that represent positive change, better alternatives, moments of growth, new perspectives and experiences of healing that may have happened in your life of someone else’s. The Path is made stronger with every stone added.

When Bellies Speak
2.15PM and 5PM  |  Patio
Activity facilitated by Dana Lam

The belly, the part of the body below the breastbone containing the stomach and the bowels, is the acknowledged storehouse of personal strength and creativity in many cultures. At When Bellies Speak, you will learn to make a plaster cast and turn your belly into an objet d’art representing your inspiration, your hope, your joy, your life’s stories. You will strengthen the connection with your personal powerhouse and have a work of art unique to you. With your permission, your stories may be recorded and edited for inclusion in installation of the casts. This activity will be facilitated by Dana Lam. Dana Lam is a published author and artist. Her work includes She Shapes a Nation (2009) , a short film of women’s voices. She is a former president of AWARE and teaches part-time at LASALLE College of the Arts.  When Bellies Speak is inspired by the joy, the courage, the labour and camaraderie of women. It is supported by The Arts Fund.

Breakthrough
Ongoing |  University Lounge
Installation

A seemingly harmless advertisement can adversely influence our personal idea of what an ideal body type should be. With present-day media being the highly influential medium that it is, we may feel the need to conform to body stereotypes portrayed by the media. But we don’t have to. Join us at our ‘Breakthrough’ booth. Together, we can break away from the boxes that the media put us in and be the unique individual that we all are.

Seeing The Unseen
Ongoing  |  University Lounge
Photography Installation

Often abuse and violence are associated with overt physical scars and visual signs of exploitation. However there are a other forms of abuse including using derogatory language, strict gender roles, pshycological abuse and narrow notions of beauty that are often not acknowledged by society. The aim of this exhibition is to help people to acknowledge that there are other forms of violence. We need to challenge our acceptance of violence instead of normalising it. This exhibition is presented by Maria Shah and Nisha, students from Because I’m A Girl, UWC Tampines.

Missed Connections Installation
Ongoing  |  University Lounge, Studio Room 2
Interactive Installation

At this interactive installation by Interrobang, visitors will write down their individual commitment to help end gender-based violence, pose with their commitment and have their pictures taken against photographs of settings where gender-based violence occurs. Part of the installation is a scrapbook of findings when the group went around to various places in Singapore to interview members of the public from all walks of life, asking them about forms of gender-based violence they had experienced and the ways in which their gender identities are policed by society. Through this installation, we hope to allow audiences to identify everyday forms of gender-based violence and to empower them to make a change in their community.

 

PLUS booths by UN WomenRed Pencil and Star Shelter.

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Nursery Rhymes

by Change Maker, Foo Jun Kit

pumpkinPeter, Peter, pumpkin eater,

Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;

He put her in a pumpkin shell

And there he kept her very well

A couple of questions must have crossed your mind after reading that poem. Firstly, what on Earth is the poet trying to say; that women are meant to be domesticated and cannot roam around freely? Secondly, doesn’t this poem sound familiar?

In fact, this is a nursery rhyme, “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”, which was played on my radio at home countless times when I was younger. It is short and very easy to remember, yet paints such a clearly horrifying picture of a woman being controlled by another man. Young, impressionable children should not be exposed to such nursery rhymes, for they may internalise these problematic ideas as they grow.

I do admire the ability of the poet to depict scenes and I had no trouble with imagination. Yet, I feel that the poet’s ability is so disappointingly misused; of the thousand and one things he could write about, he chose to portray women as weak creatures and puppets of men. What makes it worse is that this poem is meant to be for children.

After digesting this nursery rhyme, I had no difficulty identifying the problem with it, but obviously, young children would. In fact, I recited this nursery rhyme happily when I was young and only realised the implications when revisiting it recently. This clearly demonstrates the impressionability of a child’s mind. To us, the problematic stereotypes portrayed in the nursery rhyme seem obvious, but to the kids, they may be too subtle for them to detect.

Shockingly, it is relatively easy to identify another nursery rhyme with problematic gender stereotypes. The following stanzas are excerpts from a nursery rhyme entitled “Old Mother Hubbard”.

Old Mother Hubbard

Went to the cupboard

To get her poor dog a bone;

But when she came there

The cupboard was bare ,

And so the poor dog had none.

She went to the baker’s

To buy him some bread;

But when she came back

The poor dog was dead

She went to the joiner’s

To buy him a coffin;

But when she came back

The poor dog was laughing.

She went to the cobbler’s

To buy him some shoes;

But when she came back

He was reading the news.

The dame made a curtsey,

The dog made a bow;

The dame said, “Your servant,”

The dog said, “Bow-wow.”

047-004boney

The above nursery rhyme portrays men as masters of women with the power to order them around or demean them. The last stanza I cited portrays women as servants of men, and it doesn’t even make the slightest attempt to hide it. In fact, it uses the exact word “servant” to describe the dame. It is outrageous that kids are exposed to these nursery rhymes tainted with such problematic gender stereotypes and discrimination.

What’s worse is that I can still clearly remember the tune of this nursery rhyme. This shows how deep an impression this nursery rhyme has made on me since I was young. I wasn’t aware of the gender stereotypes portrayed in the song until I chanced upon a short critique of it. Even then, I could not believe it until I looked up the lyrics and saw how discriminatory they were.

I must reiterate that while these kinds of nursery rhymes introducing gender stereotypes to children may seem trivial, young children are often unable to decipher the hidden messages littered in nursery rhymes and unfortunately, these hidden messages all play a huge role in shaping their understanding and perceptions.  We must be mindful of what material we are sharing with our children and watch out for dangerous content like these. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice nursery rhyme, but there’s a whole lot wrong if a child is exposed to problematic material at such a young age.

Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.

That’s more like it.

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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Breakthrough: We Can! Arts Fest 2014

 

breakthroughlandscape2-small (1)
On 6 December, join We Can! for live music performances, film, dance, theatre, panel discussions, a station where you can design T-shirts, a photobooth with cool props and more… and it’s all FREE!

Organised by youth, for youth, Breakthrough is an innovative arts fest celebrating diversity and the freedom to be you..

Programme highlights include:

– Electrifying performances by ‘Shh…Diam!’, a queer feminist band bringing their happy hardcore music from Kuala Lumpur.

– ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, an interactive theatre performance exploring how social pressures to be “masculine” contribute to violence against women.

– Body/Language, a spoken word performance examining body image with pieces that had rave reviews at the Singapore Writers Festival.

– ‘“Rescuing” Princesses & Pontianaks’, a workshop on re-writing popular tales in a gender balanced way.

– Contemporary dance performances by student groups innovative exploring body image, gender stereotypes and gender-based violence

Check out the full festival programme here!

Speak up, take a stand and break the box with us. This event is created by youth, for youth!

Date: 6 December 2014 (Saturday)
Venue: SMU Admin Building, Level 6 (University Lounge)
Time: 11am – 8pm

We need your help in making the Arts Fest run smoothly! We are looking for stage managers, AV help, emcees, runners and general volunteers to ensure the festival goes as planned. If you can volunteer for the Arts Fest, drop Nabilah an email at [email protected]e.com.See you there!

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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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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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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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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Step In The Right Direction

By Akshita Vaidyanathan, Change Maker

“Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl and I wake up in the morning because I am a girl and that is not something I should be ashamed of” – Always #LikeAGirl advertisement

Why is it that the phrase “Like a girl” is an insult?

The new viral advertisement by Always speaks to this negative stereotype in quite a heartfelt and touching manner. Always brought together a group of people, both male and female, and told them to do things like ‘run like a girl’, ‘fight like a girl’, or ‘throw like a girl.’ All the older participants’ portrayals, male and female alike, were comic caricatures of what they thought that phrase meant. They didn’t run nor fight like a normal girl would. Their portrayals showed something that is deeply ingrained into society – a notion that if you do anything like a girl, you are weak, and the phrase “like a girl”, as one of the participants states, is said as if “someone is trying to humiliate you.”

Gender stereotypes and insults are strongest when they are most subtle. And because “like a girl” has such a strong negative connotation, we’re inherently saying that one gender is better than the other and perpetuating gender inequality at an extremely young age.

disturbing-life-lessons-learned-from-disney-movies2135738640-jan-31-2014-1-600x400Disney movies are another good example of gender stereotypes that young children, notably young girls, are exposed to. Cinderella teaches girls that they aren’t worthy of a prince unless they look beautiful, but also have all the domestic skills a women must have. This stereotype is reinforced in Snow White, as Snow stays at home to cook and clean while the dwarves go off to do “the real work.” I wouldn’t be the first person to note how Beauty and the Beast normalizes the existence of domestic abuse and violence within relationships.

And it’s not just Disney Movies. These stereotypes are widespread throughout the media, as voiced in the 2011 documentary “Miss Representation.” This documentary, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, illustrates the inaccurate representations of women in mainstream media. It discusses how media often fails to represent women in power in a favorable light, but very often represents women in a trivial, disparaging fashion. As we all know, we live in a world where media presence is so ubiquitous that this disparate portrayal of women has an extremely negative effect.

tumblr_mbcareFTtI1rfir01o1_500When a force, especially one that has as much social power as the media does, labels women with these stereotypes, they are perceived as real and can translate into real life environments. Women encounter the consequences of these stereotypes at the workplace, as they confront the glass ceiling while men glide up the glass escalator. They encounter these consequences in their own home, if they aren’t as domestic as they are “supposed to be”, or are unmarried, or don’t have children. In arguably one of the most violent ways, women encounter the consequences when they are blamed for their rape or assault because of the way they dress, or the way they act – because it wouldn’t have happened to them if they had done something differently, if they had somehow turned into the fictional women everyone sees on the media.

On the flipside, mass media has recently taken a step in the right direction. Television shows like  “Orange is the New Black,” “Orphan Black”, “American Horror Story: Coven”, “Girls,” and “Veep” reject such stereotypes of women, and have strong female leads. They aren’t beauty and romance-centric, something that is a definite change in the representation of women in the media. Although a few movies in Hollywood have strong female leads, we have yet to see this become widespread throughout the movie industry.

Website “Mic.com,” recently posted an article titled “23 Women Show Us Their Favorite Position,” using a pun on the innuendo in a much more empowering way. It shows women holding up their favorite positions on placards: reading “CEO,” “President,” “Engineer.”

Position

Of course, the Always advertisement does something very similar. In the second half of ad, we’re shown something that you don’t often see in advertising – something truthful. The younger female participants in the group are told the same things that the older participants were, but these girls don’t run comically. They run as fast as they can, they fight with grace and with strength and they throw their hardest. These young girls, run like themselves, fight like themselves, and show the strength than any girl has. As they should.

I urge you all to watch Always’ #LikeAGirl and help to rewrite what it means to be a girl.

imageAbout the Author: Akshita is currently an undergraduate student at Tufts University in Boston studying Psychology and English. She was born in India, but grew up in Singapore for most of her life and attended UWCSEA Dover. She has a keen interest for gender equality and women’s and hopes to play her part in bridging the gap in gender equality, both here in Singapore and worldwide. In her free time she loves reading, spending time with her friends, binge watching television, writing (both creatively and not), and her favourite pastime – reading curious articles and about interesting studies on the internet.