YouTube sexism

Written by Rhyhan Astha, Change Maker

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 Yet, in Singapore, many of these videos frequently and tactlessly use outdated sexist tropes for distasteful comedic effect.

Sexist Video #1: Guys vs Girls: Teenagers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Open letter to those who have internalised misogyny

by Kimberly Jow, Change Maker

Hey you,

Here is a tweet I saw you retweeting, which inspired my letter to you.

girls are so annoying tweet

Internalised misogyny is upsettingly common. The words flash in my head like the visual representation of a siren whenever I hear the words, “I am not like other girls.” So no, you are not alone, and here is why that is a problem.

The composing of this tweet was deliberate. Social media lulls you into a false sense of anonymity, as if you can truly escape responsibility for the things you say on Twitter. In truth, tweeting something offensive is pretty much akin to inviting all your followers into a conference room and shouting your tweets at them through a megaphone. For the person running the above account, that comprises many, many people, most of whom she probably doesn’t know in real life. For us non-famous Twitter users, though, the conference room may be smaller, but remains valid. Composing a tweet like this lets all your Twitter followers know that you find girls annoying, and that you hate the fact that you are one. It tells them many things: that you are ashamed of your own gender, that girls are to be hated, and most importantly, that it is perfectly fine to shame girls – all girls – for one apparently unforgivable quality that you think should be called out. Tweeting the less than 140 characters invites your barest online acquaintances to collectively witness your spitting on your entire gender.

i hate girls and i am a girl tweetRetweeting this is close to writing the tweet. I barely know you, but I can tell from your tweets that you think this is funny, and it’s just a joke. To a tiny extent, it is. But that doesn’t make it harmless. The fact that you retweeted it allows your followers to see that you, an acquaintance of theirs, agree with its contents. This is no longer an “American thing”, nor is it that far off from their reality, because there you are, their classmate, their friend from church, or their neighbour, agreeing that girls are annoying and it’s terrible to be one. Suddenly, the tweet is no longer just hers. It is also yours. You have endorsed it and what it stands for.

A woman’s validation of misogynistic comments is oftentimes used by sexist people to fuel their sexism, allowing them to generalise your acceptance of sexism to everyone.

Common usages of such validation includes the infamous words, “I have a female friend who agrees that…”. (At this point, I’m not too sure if people do say this elsewhere, or the exceptions who say this are just constantly around me, but the prevalence of this phrase in my social circle shrouds me like a suffocating cloud of unprocessed raw wool from some kind of sexist sheep.) Sexists who see your retweets can and have used it as validation of their own problematic attitudes. For example, a man could tell a woman that girls are all annoying, and bring your retweet up as evidence in the face of rebuttals.

I know you didn’t mean to do all that. But intent is not impact. The fact that you have attempted to alienate yourself from the rest of your gender suggests that you think your gender is not worth standing up for, and have invited others to attack them. This stands true whether or not you really meant to do so.

Feminist Taylor Swift tweet
You go, Feminist T. Swift.

The above may sound accusatory and didactic, or unnecessarily harsh, but you have indeed accidentally done all of this. While my words are not coming from a place of anger nor blame, I do want to reach out to you and tell you the effects of your actions. I think it is time you put aside your desire to tell girls in short skirts that they are sluts, or your love for books as something other girls don’t have that makes them stupid. I also think it is time you stop seeing men’s approval as the ultimate goal for everyone, nor seeing misogyny as a tool to be more relatable to men. The road to eradicate sexism seems daunting, but small steps like changing your attitude towards fellow women is actually a great leap.

I am sorry that I never dared to actually tell you any of this, but I know it isn’t too late. I am happy that we can keep working to fight for your right to stand amongst men as equals, and I can only hope that one day you will join us.

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.



by Nicole Seah, Change Maker

woman-low-self-esteemI think it’s safe to say that Instagram is the most addictive app I’ve ever downloaded. I’m addicted to staying in the loop. The nationwide obsession with Instagram is definitely on the steep incline, with most of my friends posting almost daily, obsessing over their Instagram feeds, and finding out which ‘vsco’ edits to use for their selfie. Despite Instagram making me feel bad about myself, I still continue to scroll through the endless pages of impeccable compositions and perfect bodies. I double tap often, begrudgingly admitting that I ‘liked’ their photo.

Instagram, that sneaky little app, now makes me obsess over the number of ‘likes’ I get on a picture. If it doesn’t go above a certain number of ‘likes’ in 20 minutes, I seriously (no joke) consider deleting the photo, or ponder incessantly about why so-and-so scrolled past the well edited, square-cropped photo of my lunch.

Embarrassingly, I have yet to mention the amount of ‘fitspiration’ and ‘fitness gurus’ that I follow on Instagram. Sporting long, lean legs and a flat, toned tummy, their bodies are tapered and sleek, fit for a Victoria’s Secret Model. I follow around 40-50 fitness icons and supermodels, just to sneak a peek into their glamorous lives, prodding my insistent insecurities and questions: What can I do to achieve that body? Those legs? If I starve myself for a couple of weeks maybe it’ll reduce the size of my thighs by a couple inches so it can look like theirs?

Sometimes, when models post food photos I get insanely jealous: if they can eat that and stay so thin why can’t I? Life is so unfair! I’m sure this resonates with a number of people. Instagram is like the alcohol of social media: we know the stigma attached to being obsessed with this sort of app, but we do it anyways.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.51.26 pmInstagram can also promote jealousy and negativity. Many comments on popular pages nowadays range from snide to outright disrespectful. Girls anonymously say hurtful things to spite others, such as ‘she’s too fat’ or ‘she’s too thin’ on photos of strangers beaming in bikinis. Shouldn’t girls be respectful to other girls? Be supportive of other girls? Rather, the ideal girl has been portrayed so many times on Instagram that everyone develops a “critical eye”. Social media, coupled with the patriarchal society we live in, pits girls against each other, waging a war with the number of followers they have, what kind of edits they used, and their life in general.

Just my reminder to ANY girls – or boys for that matter – who are reading this: Instagram, or social media in general, is all done by choice. People are hidden behind a shiny iPhone 6 and glamorised by good lighting and layered effects. ‘Perfect’ people on Instagram only show you what they want you to see.

I am not saying delete Instagram, because many people (including yours truly) find it a nightly guilty ritual, scrolling through the colourful pages. But be aware. Be wary of what is real and what isn’t. There is always an angle, a backstory and a flaw. We are human beings and we are stitched with flaws, they’re what make us who we are. Teenagers are arguably at one of the most rocky and most raw parts of our journeys towards self-perception, and nothing hurts more than society telling us that other people are “better than you”. Believe me I know. Remember to be proud of what you are.

You are worth more than a hashtag, or 1000 likes. Do not let Instagram – or anyone else – determine your worth.

About the Author: Nicole is a professional sloth, yoga enthusiast and avid bookworm who has no sense of direction whatsoever. She likes to surprise people with her audacity and her supremely horrible puns, and is a little too obsessed with frozen yoghurt.


What I learnt from my cyber-bullying experience

by Hazel Que Miaoye, Change Maker

I had always examined cyber-bullying from an outsider’s perspective, with a considerable degree of detachment. Even after engaging in extensive class discussions and readings, subconsciously, I safely assumed that I would never become a victim of online harassment.

cyber-bullyingI wasn’t until one year ago that I realized how wrong I was. Back then, I was involved in a project that aims to promote internship opportunities across high schools in Singapore. To understand the extent of student participation in internships and analyze the types of internships undertaken, my team crafted a detailed set of survey questions for high schoolers to answer. I posted the survey on my Facebook timeline, and among all the responses – responses that should be academic, professional and unrelated to sex at all – one made the exception and overwhelmed me with horrifying disbelief – under please describe the internship you’ve participated in, ‘F*ck Miaoye’ was the title, while sexually explicit scenes filled the space below details of your internship. As if that’s not insulting enough, the respondent bombarded me with slut-shaming slurs at the end, with all the steps done anonymously. Only my friends in real life had access to my Facebook account. So who did it? Why did he/she direct such threatening messages to me, when I did not even do anything that deserved it? I was clueless. It was betrayal, disrespect and hurt all rolled into one – a distasteful combination I could barely digest.

Fortunately, the initial phase of anxiety and bitter disappointment did not last long. As my emotions took a backseat to reason, I turned to my peers for support and advice. However, after listening to my encounter, they conveniently brushed me off with casual remarks such as “Maybe it’s just a prank”. One member even suggested deleting that particular survey response, so that those words would not reappear while I was collecting other results and I could “forget about it and move on”.

I was genuinely disturbed by their words, which reflected the (unfortunately still) widespread belief that sexual oppression towards girls is common and should not be taken seriously; that victims are supposed to deal with everything, while the wrongdoers are free from responsibility, condemnation and guilt. It is precisely this dangerous tendency to trivialize physical and/or psychological harm that’s silencing women and perpetuating sexism and gender-related violence. I never felt as compelled to make a meaningful difference through my actions, however insignificant they might seem to be.

My first instinct was to confront the perpetrator, telling him/her outright that how much a loser he/she is (I’m not going to make assumptions about the person’s gender, but whether the person is a male or not, my experience is a sobering reminder that sexual harassment is disproportionately aimed at women), which was completely impractical due to the anonymity. I even considered posting a Facebook message addressed to him/her as a warning, but the plan was soon dismissed because I thought it would not be effective. Is there any other way I could connect to them at all? No.

think beforeThe most I could do was to prepare for what I felt was the worst-case scenario. For that, I looked for my Economics teacher (who’s more like a friend) the next day. She was outraged by the insensitive act and promised to protect me if the person attempts to hurt me in real life. The ugly episode brought the feminist out of both of us. We talked about how some boys are perpetuating chauvinism (and other ‘-ism’s as they translate masculinity into superiority) in class, and how the others – especially the girls, who are more affected by gender inequality – should never hesitate to challenge sexism manifested in every facet of our daily lives.

The conversation became the inspiration for me to continue to promote awareness of feminist issues, even after the incident faded away. The person’s identity and intentions, though still a mystery, no longer concern me anymore; I only think about how to reduce, if not eradicate the injustice, prejudices and harm that are inflicted on women and men alike, as a result of gender inequality and gender stereotypes. So, in the spirit of feminism, I have a few tips regarding cyber-bullying to offer (which may seem like common sense, but are often forgotten in the cases of real harassment):

  •  If you are a victim, it is natural to be afraid. However, if you feel like you are able to do so safely and are comfortable in doing so, you should speak up about your experiences.
  • If you are a friend of a victim, show some care and empathy; it’s never too much to offer your friends love and protection during their tough times.
  • If you intend to cause harm, or have bullied, harassed or abused someone online for whatever reason, acknowledge and own your actions. It’s not too late to change yet. Think about how your casual actions are ruining someone’s life, and how you would hate to be in that someone’s position; apologize if you can. It’s really not that hard to make a meaningful difference.

IMG_6094 2About the author: Hazel is proudly bisexual, unwaveringly feminist and almost turned completely anarchist after reading Noam Chomsky’s book. She seems to defy all your stereotypes about China girls, but well, stereotypes are stupid anyway.


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.


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.


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.