Tng Ying Hui
Recently the internet has been abuzz with news of a scantily clad woman who was molested at Sentosa Siloso beach party by four men. Bystanders, instead of taking action whipped out their phones for an exciting scoop (Read more here), mistaking such pejoration for a vignette. There has been speculation that the 'woman' in question was in fact, a transvestite, but this would be to gloss over the real story.
First truth : Video voyeurism
The truth is that we are increasingly obsessed with digital media. The hours spent on internet increases drastically with each generation, with online social networking through Youtube(ing) and Facebook(ing) becoming part and parcel of our lives. These habits are supplemented by our increasingly sophisticated handphones, which unfortunately have also been increasingly abused to exploit the vulnerability of others. Perhaps it is time to pause and reflect on the decadence that has plagued our society.
Addiction to video voyeurism masquerading as affirmative “citizen journalism” is a reflection of a distasteful social psyche. Our privacy, once sacred, now trembles on the precipice. Guard the new age weapon – camera phones! Erratically alive with a variety of clips, the internet has become a platform to upload anything of interest to us, but we abuse it by neglecting the feelings of those involved in the clip. We should be prudent in our decisions, bearing in mind the decency and privacy of the subjects of our impromptu videos before we unveil them for all to see on the internet.
An unwise decision could outrage another person's fundamental right to privacy. Citizen journalism in Singapore plays an extremely important role by expanding our civic space, especially since the mainstream media and the government are engaged in a dysfunctional embrace that has stifled freedom of expression. Being a journalist is about doing Journalism, but mere voyeurism will only stultify the maturation of real journalism.
Through such instances of video voyeurism, it is revealing that our right to privacy has been increasingly infringed upon and respect trespassed. Technology advances were meant to increase the convenience of our lives, but instead we suffer from the inconveniences when it is abused.
Second Truth: Victims are not culpable
In this particular case, outrageously unwarranted attention has been on the woman. Party goers have claimed that the woman was a willing party; she had no modesty and so this case cannot be considered an outrage of modesty.
Regardless of what really ensued, the comments made by interviewees (before the rumour that she is actually a transvestite circulated), such as “She deserved it”, “It’s normal”, have reflected the worst of Singapore youths. (I breathed a sigh of relief when there was one guy who commented: “It’s disgusting”). Hefty censorship by Razor TV cannot be neglected. By editing the video favourable to them, they are able to elicit certain impact, making it newsworthy. But regardless, the words were not a fig of anyone’s imagination, they were real.
From the comments, it implied that despite her vulnerability having been exploited, she was deemed culpable as a victim. I am not contending that her decision to dress skimpily was wise, but the focus of attention should have been on the men who groped her, the lack of respect and dignity from those who choose to engage in video voyeurism and those who blamed her entirely for the unfortunate incident.
Her situation as a victim has been consigned to oblivion. By casting moral judgements on her, we are condoning molestation as the norm and implying that she ought to be blamed for unheeding it. But as Mathia Lee, social activist says, “The responsibility is not the victim’s to bear, because it is a basic human right to have a safe public environment. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure the environment is safe.”
We all remember Tammy. Tammy from Nanyang Polytechnic, whose video of her boyfriend and her having sex was leaked, when her hand phone was stolen. It created such uproar, with unrelenting debates on pre-marital sex, but nothing much was said of the person who leaked the video. She was blameless, despite trampling on another’s privacy. The colloquial name conferred - “Tammy’s sex video” left her in the spotlight, alone, her other half blameless and nameless. We all remember Tammy’s act, but not her psychological state in the aftermath. What has happened to her? Do we even care?
Third Truth: Patriarchy perpetuated
This patriarchal society has percolated a mindset somewhat demeaning towards women, something which has seeped subtly into our consciousness. Nonchalance towards instances of molest in the clubs, by sadly relegating such instances as the norm, suggests a deeper problem of unbalanced power between the male and female entrenched within society.
To focus a large amount of attention on the female club goers, construing them to stereotypes, would only further augment and canonize the power of the male. We are entrapped in the mindset that males should be given some slack as they have higher incidences of molesting, but the females are at fault for disregarding that “social norm”. Have we forgotten that as human beings we should always treat each other with dignity and respect? Meaning, in no circumstances should either gender be overstepping boundaries that make another uncomfortable.
The environment of a club – alcohol, raging hormones, and suggestive signals – presents a complex issue here. But if we could treat one another as human beings, to love and respect, we will go the extent to prevent ourselves from denying someone else that. If there is even a slight possibility, that we may commit a mistake, should we not truncate all chances of that occurrence? And the fact that under the influence of alcohol our inhibitions are lessened is not an excuse for “mistakes”, but rather, to be more intentional in ensuring respect for oneself and others.
Patriarchy has been perpetuated because we accept certain stereotypes about woman, and disrespectful behaviours of men towards woman as the “norm”. But when all abide by the most important norm – respect – social ills such as video voyeurism and unequal power between males and females will see a decline, achieving a mature society.
“Men are respectable only as they respect”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson