The controversial apparel advert on Orchard Road.
BY: SAM HO
The Straits Times, faced with decreasing readership, can always bank on a few things to ensure a glimmer of hope for survival in changing media landscape.Other than it being almost a monopoly of the English daily market (hence the boast of being the most widely read English daily), it has the propensity to publish flame baits of letters from members of the public.
I refer to latest letter “Is this add too indecent for Orchard road?”by Ong Ker-Yu.
I only respect her statement that she feels the advertisement is “plain lewd”. That is her opinion, and that is fair enough. She further provides an assessment derived from her non-participant observation qualitative research to justify her statement. Fair enough, as she was in fact sharing her opinion.
But the statement which angered me the most was the last line saying “This is a matter of common decency, plain and simple”.
Maybe the editors might have done some corrections, but I will assume with such a flame bait oozing utter selfishness and self-righteousness, its pristine form would not have been desecrated by the Straits Times.
There are people who fear their opinion alone cannot change things. They eventually resort to the atomisation and simplification of diverse society, stuff their imperialist supremacist ideological catchphrases into every orifice of its, make the eventual proclamation of universality.
It is a fair approach to discuss the limitations and implications of an issue, but Ker-Yu’s sweeping statement is “plainly and simply” contrary to that. At least moral crusaders will hide behind their fragile idea of what the institution of children and family should be, and terrorise us with their “think about the children” rhetoric.
It is not about sexual repression, a point well and critically thought through by a possibly well-educated Ker-Yu, but about what I read to be the selfishness and arrogance in her concluding statement.
It is universalist claims like hers that further divide society, privileging those who happen to fall under the same ideological specifications as the claims, and marginalising the rest who may happen to have, in the case of the advertisement, a different opinion, morally and aesthetically.
The male form is often observed to be more offensive than the female form (historically too, due to physicality and sexual violence), hence (and ironically) the greater attention on how male bodies are to be presented, while gratuitous sexualisation of female bodies remain the default in our society.
Coming back to Ker-Yu. I believe she probably represents a segment of Singaporean society, ready to assume and embrace the role of the moral police, because any one can safely assume she would be the among the “good guys.”
This is where educated people become divided. Some abuse their privileges to further their ideological cause or, often times, the cause of the socio-religious groups of which they are members, at the expense of people who have other beliefs. It is all about creating a bigger space for comfort, and arming yourself with people who think like you, so you can conquer and colonise the minds of others who don’t.
Perhaps it is far too deep a reading into Ker-Yu’s letter, but it has aggrivated me enough. I feel misrepresented and insulted every time someone publicly expresses a point of view and passes it off as universal or as part of the “majority”.
In short, if you have a problem with something, say it in a personal capacity first and foremost. When you respect your boundaries, and the boundaries that separate you from people who may think differently from you, people will respect you for that.
You can have the right to be sexually repressed, but your self-righteousness is more in my face than the advertisement is in your face.