Dear Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, or more fondly known as Ku Nan,
Your recent appaling advice to a female participant who raise her concerns about the current lack of safety during the National Transformation 2015 (TN50) forum on May 17 was: “The next time you go out, wear more comot (shabby) clothes”.
Oh, dear Ku Nan. That was just plain ignorant of you.
After the inevitable backlash to your misogynistic, victim-blaming comment, you attempted to dismiss your remark as a joke. You were quoted as saying that the Opposition had deliberately ‘twisted your words’, and was ‘looking to create trouble’.
“The last time, I made a joke with a young lady that I knew, I was joking, in my heart I was joking, I told her that if she dressed prettily — not seductively, she would attract unwanted attention.”
By now, everyone would have heard about how you made the above comment when an unidentified Puteri Umno member shared with the crowd how she felt scared whenever she walked around her area, due to rampant kidnapping and robberies. “Even in shopping malls, people disturb me. Even security guards disturb me.”
It is no surprise that this insensitive remark has gotten you into hot water again. This time, it’s boiling hot.
We would like to set a few things straight, Ku Nan:
Women should be respected for who they are, not for – or the lack thereof – the clothing that they wear. In simple words, your comment was embarrassing and abhorrent because it implied that ‘beautiful women’ should expect to be harassed or should tolerate harassment because of what they wear in public.
We should not tolerate this victim shaming and blaming culture in this day and age. The blame of sexual harassment should be placed squarely upon the shoulders of the perpetrator, and not the victim. More efforts should be put into dismantling the attitudes that continue to reinforce the culture of victim blaming and instead, educating on the culture of mutual respect between the sexes.
he main underlying problem lies in how men view and objectify women, not how women dress. Telling women that they should dress or behave modestly to avoid being sexually harassed on the streets creates a false sense of security for us. The truth is, even when we are dressed modestly, we still receive unwelcomed cat calls or wolf whistles that make us feel uneasy and distressed! Women should be viewed as equals and treated with respect.
Ministers like you who seek to downplay or dismiss this inexcusable remark as a joke made at a public forum, should apologise or resign – because essentially, you made a remark that created an atmosphere that tolerates and downplays sexual harassment.
Ku Nan, if only you could step into our shoes for just one day to see what it’s like to be unable to walk freely without having lustful eyes lingering inappropriately at private areas of our bodies and unwanted cat calls or lewd comments thrown across the street.
Enlighten us. How are we supposed to progress as a nation when a Federal Territories Minister like yourself, makes a remark like this at a TN50 townhall session that is intended to discuss the attributes of a developed nation and to record the aspirations that citizens have for Malaysia in the years leading up to 2050?
Instead of teaching our future generation how to avoid being a victim of sexual harassment, how about we tackle the pervasive culture that creates such predators in the first place?
SARAH-ANN YONG JENLEE
Ambassador of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)