Here we go again. By now you’ve probably heard about the offensive poll concerning female Islamic teachers on social media platform MeWe.
The post blatantly asks “which ustazah should be gangbanged?”, followed by names and photos of ustazah (female Islamic religious teachers). Screenshots of the poll show a list of least 12 ustazah, with about 1,000 people participating in the poll.
Unsurprisingly, many people have spoken out against it, calling for those who created and participated in the poll to be held responsible. Some netizens have alleged that those who started the poll were students studying to become asatizah (Islamic religious teachers) – if true, the Asatizah Recognition Board has said that it would not hesitate to take stern action against them. It’s probably why the post has since been taken down together with the offender’s entire account.
Many prominent figures, including President Halimah, have stepped in to condemn the post.
If this all sounds familiar, then you probably remember what happened just last year which rings a similar bell, except instead of being a social media post, it was a podcast called OKLETSGO (OLG).
Objectification and misogyny
Last year’s issue with OLG involved inappropriate “locker room talk” among the hosts, using humour to mask blatantly offensive, humiliating, and misogynistic remarks towards women. Topics included objectifying women’s bodies (ie. talking about breast size and other body parts), degrading the LGBTQ community, and of course, sex.
In the now-privatised OLG Telegram group, users see the objectification of women as mere locker-room talk. Some even tried to defend themselves by saying that women have always been sex objects since the days of Adam and Eve, and that ladies know it well. One post that stood out inferred that some women weren’t “pretty enough to be gangraped”.
The word “gangraped” was thrown around casually. The offensive social media poll on MeWe also used the word “gangbanged” to suggest sexual attractiveness. It suggests a relationship between “rape” and a measure of beauty. But rape is never about beauty – it’s about a show of power and oppression. These men don’t appreciate women – they disrespect women because women are nothing but sexual objects to them.
When posts of this nature receive backlash, the most common responses are either “it’s a joke” or “if you’re offended, don’t read/listen” or “it’s a guy thing”.
Even if these things are said or posted to cater to a particular group, privatised or not, it’s always going to be accessible to a wider audience.
Workers’ Party MP Raeesah Khan stressed that such a post is harmful and abusive, given how what often starts as a joke or quip may end up in one of various forms that sexual violence can take on. Their idea of a “joke” is to objectify women as rape victims as “a guy thing” – this not only perpetuates what other men think, but it can also influence younger men (and boys) into thinking the same.
Men teach other men this dangerous, sexist behaviour. We don’t need to refer to research to know that sexist men create problematic marriages, and their boys will grow up with the same mindset. The cycle repeats, and nobody emerges a winner.
They still don’t get it
The topic of the offensive WeMe poll made its way to Hardwarezone, and the comments prove that some men still don’t understand the wider implications of posts like that. Comments ranged from “Forever finding things to be offended over. Cannot get offended will die is it?” to “I felt aroused already with the word ‘gang bang’.”
In OLG’s case, the three hosts said they came “from an industry that has peddled in these norms for a very long time, both on and off screen”. It’s a pity that they didn’t break that cycle.
Before anyone comes up in defense of polls like these – by comparing them to beauty pageants or the like – remember that the women in the poll never consented to having their privacy invaded.
The poll is offensive all women, not just to ustazah. Fatin Afika, a well-known ustazah, posted in her IG Story: “there are a lot of more ‘sexy’ women photos online with seductive poses but you chose or asatizahs, who are dressed moderately.” However, this sort of behaviour cannot and should not be blamed on clothing – just because women wear skimpy clothing, it doesn’t mean they’re “asking for it.” It’s putting blame on the victims.
How many times do we need to have this sort of conversation before change happens? Do we constantly need President Halimah to speak out, or receive a legal threat in order to spark change?