By: Ng Yi Shu
Three women experience different sorts of gender stereotyping and gender violence in three different settings in Singapore.
Iris, a mother having financial difficulties paying her rent, is abused both at home (by her husband Paul) and in the office (by gossiping office ladies and the boss, Mr Tan). She faces a difficult situation being sexually harassed by the boss as misunderstandings between her and he colleagues grow.
Sophia, a colleague of Iris, heads home after work to find a hostile mother-in-law and husband, who continually blame her for not fulfilling her duties as a wife and mother. Her mother-in-law finds her inability to cook something to nag about continually, while her husband continually accuses her of being an inept mother.
Agnes, Sophia’s daughter, finds herself date-raped after a party with Ryan, her crush. Ryan slips her a date rape drug after his buddies bet that he could not ‘get laid’ on his 21st birthday.
All three situations depicted a situation where women were the weaker parties. The forum theatre, set up by both AWARE and Drama Box for the We Can! Campaign to end violence against women, had participants try to come up to resolve each situation for a better ending. Participants in the room tended to resolve the issue from the perspective of prevention, but a growing number of views (or ‘interventions’) tended towards having the men change their perceptions. Rachel Chung, who played the housewife Sophia, says of the interventions: “I think there is a roughly equal amount of people replacing the women and men, simply because we recognize that while we need to change the behaviours of perpetrators, victims need to be empowered to make a change too.”
Amongst the participants, however, a strong belief in change remained, along with changing perceptions of gender roles. As a participant proclaimed in an intervention, “Being a man is not about the number of girls you have slept with, being a man is about doing the right (and responsible) thing (with women).” Asked about how the forum theatre would empower participants to intervene in real-life when they saw gender violence, Rachel says, “I believe that (when participants have) the chance to intervene in a 'safe environment' where they will not be 'punished' for any 'wrong choices made and cheered for the right ones, they would be empowered to intervene in real life,” adding, “They would also understand that making certain choices have certain impact on outcomes, and hopefully this would help in real life interventions.”
When asked if more men should participate, Rachel says: “Definitely… Feminists or people pushing for women's rights are not men haters. We simply want to end violence in its different forms against women and restore our rights. Having men participate will help them understand that their actions, no matter how unintentional, would have an impact. Violence against women is not just a women's issue. It is an issue that should be addressed by both men and women.”
The group aims to bring the play out to the community in order to educate and engage adults and youngsters on gender issues and gender violence.
For more information on the theatre, contact [email protected]