Police have nightmare about boobs

Because this is a global thing, it is very sensitive, the police officer told an organiser of SlutWalk Singapore, scheduled for 4 December 2011. His boss wanted to know more about the nature of the event, he added. He would “help” the organisers, he assured them, and provide “advice”. Perhaps that advice might be to cancel the whole thing, give up and crawl back into our timid, patriarchal shells?

Plenty of cities around the world have organised SlutWalks. There is more than enough material on the web — pictures, news commentary, etc — to show us what the movement is about. It’s a peaceful reiteration of women’s right not to be seen stereotypically as sex objects. Yet, instead of being assured by the trove of information out there, the information sends our police into panic. “Beacuse this is a global thing,” the police said.

The gospel is that joining the world is disaster for Singapore.

Already, SlutWalk Singapore was not planning anything particularly ambitious. They would have a gathering and performances at Hong Lim Park, just like Pink Dot. There are no plans to spill out onto the streets and march by the thousands (like in the photo above, from SlutWalk Johannesburg). It’s all within the rules that have been laid out. It doesn’t go further than what other groups have already done.

But maybe our senior civil servants can’t get past the word “slut” and have begun to hyperventilate, imagining bare-breasted women masturbating on sidewalks all the way to Parliament House. Too much blood might be pouring into their penises, there’s not enough left upstairs in their brains.

Over the last week or so, the organisers were asked to apply for a police permit under the Public Order Act. Why should we?  responded the organisers. Indeed, if what they are planning is within the exemption for Hong Lim Park, and no different from other events held there, why should they?

Reaching for an excuse — any excuse, whatever excuse that comes to mind will do — the police officer interfacing with the organisers then said that there was the issue of foreigners.Yes indeed, the sight of European or African boobs would be explosive. And they would be European and African boobs even at Singapore’s SlutWalk wouldn’t they? Singaporean and Asian women would not be so brazen, surely, to associate themselves with anything called “slut”, bare their breasts and masturbate in public view.

The organisers reiterated that all the slutwalk organizers are Singaporeans, and would not be showing any “lewd, obscene, and violent” images, but this statement was not enough to cut through the lurid mental images playing wildly in their minds. But foreigners are not allowed in Hong Lim Park, the police guy said, and suggested that foreigners be asked to stand to one side.

Did foreigners stand to one side at Pink Dot? At the the Save the Dolphins Concert? At anti-death penalty events? Why should SlutWalk be any different?

SlutWalk then explained again that this was intended as an event for rape/sexual assault survivors and their supporters to seek solidarity and empowerment. It was an event to stress the need to uphold the law against assault,  so why was the police  imposing so many regulations? Apparently, the police officer was rather “freaked out”  at this point (the impression an organiser got) and said that he’d “get back” on the points they had raised.

The next thing the organisers heard from the police was in the form of an email that did not address anything from their previous conversation, but instead, threw down a list of questions regarding the nature of SlutWalk.
They are also facing problems with the fringe events, but it is not necessary for me to go into detail about them.
* * * * *

This panicky reaction tells us a lot about Singapore. The two buttons pressed by the very thought of SlutWalk in police birdbrains are these: Sex and Global.

The notion that people are coming out to make an issue about sex is a frightening one, perhaps because the authorities are fearful of the sex-phobic, patriarchal conservatives  responding in kind. Then there will be a (gasp!) controversy in which the government will be caught in a dilemma. They would have to either appease the conservatives by clamping down on the liberals, which might be bad for Singapore’s international image and hurt our GDP (oh, what terror!) or they would have to tell the conservatives (especially the Christian and Muslim ones) to shut up, which would be unthinkable because the conservatives are the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) vote bank.

You can go hoarse telling them that this has nothing to do with sex, and that the very point of SlutWalk is to stress that rape and assault is not about sex but about power and domination and the manner in which people dismiss the seriousness of it. But too late — European and African boobs have landed on police faces; they can’t breathe, they can’t think anymore. More importantly, these civil servants are in a panic because they fear a scolding from their political masters for not nipping a controversy in the bud.

Controversy we must not have. Least of all about sex, which (in the minds of conservatives and the authorities) equates with morality. And they don’t know how to deal with debates about morality beyond stressing that Singapore is a multi-racial society (as if that has anything to do with it).

Global is the other button. That it is a panic button springs from the PAP’s fear of losing power. They are acutely aware that they are running a small city-state in a less-than-democratic way that does not much meet with approval from countries, e.g. US, Australia, they so yearn admiration from. Our smallness and the brittleness from a less-than-democratic governing style make our government a little paranoid about being overtaken by trends and forces greater than them. Global is thus a scary idea. The very notion of external movements making inroads into Singapore consciousness is seen as a threat to their political control. They must be the ones SETTING THE AGENDA; no one else.

* * * * *

They are so caught up in their small-minded fears, they don’t see the bigger picture and how much damage they inflict on Singapore as a whole. One cannot get all restrictive about a small matter like SlutWalk without wider ramifications, because the public will take the cue from the authorities’  defensiveness. The message that flows out is that threatening existing political interests and disrupting existing ways of thinking invite heavy-handed reactions. But all change and progress necessitate contestation and experimentation, whether one is speaking of public health practices, technological innovation or the growth of media and the arts. By imprinting an aversion to contestation and experimentation, we handicap Singapore’s ability to keep up and stay relevant to the times.

But police higher-ups may not be interested in Singapore. They are only interested in protecting themselves from a scolding. If self-protection means getting all paranoid and throwing weight around to intimidate others, that’s all that matters. As a small country, we must keep our minds small.



26 Responses to “Police have nightmare about boobs”

  1. 1 Thor 13 November 2011 at 15:46

    One minor observation. It seems that after the GE, most of our ministers have taken to use civil servants to test the waters. Controversial policies are now released by unnamed spokespersons for the ministries. Another reason is the fear of having your own words coming back to haunt you. Like VB or LSS.

  2. 2 Yujuan 13 November 2011 at 15:51

    Relax, there are only 2 possibilities.
    One, the Police force are mainly hot blooded males, just as sexily excited as other males, and confronted with such an event, dun know how to react.
    Next, they take orders from above, the Govt, and if they take it cool and calm and allow this slut walk to proceed without harassment, the conservative Govt, being paranoid with anything related to a gathering, would censor the Force for not doing their job, and would lead to a black mark on the Police head’s report book, thus affecting his promotion prospects. This possibility is more likely. Nothing to do with boobs’ showing.

  3. 3 Crystal 13 November 2011 at 17:16

    For the record, as a foreigner who did attend Pink Dot…we technically DID stand off to one side and observe during the formation of the pink dot. if you look at PD’s website, you’ll see muktiple requests to that effect as foreigners can’t engage in “political” actions.t

  4. 4 AgreeToDisagree 14 November 2011 at 05:56

    I loled. Wow that makes Singapore twice as brittle as, somehow car modders are equally oppressed in USA, Australia and SIngapore which I managed to mention in as single breath for being oppressive.


    So what if people do take to nudism, or masturbating and having sex in the public (it’s called dogging, though I think a designated zone like a Red Light District or ‘Sex Booth’ be more appropriate for a start – it’s not much different a bodily function than breast feeding which is already allowed in public . . . ). As long as they leave no mess, like owners of dogs being taken for walks taking a dump on that same sidewalk who clean up, whats to complain about except about the eyesore. which nudists have long gotten over? Mentally weak so they hide behind ‘morality’.

    • 5 SN 14 November 2011 at 20:16

      “So what if people do take to nudism, or masturbating and having sex in the public (it’s called dogging, though I think a designated zone like a Red Light District or ‘Sex Booth’ be more appropriate for a start – it’s not much different a bodily function than breast feeding which is already allowed in public . . . ).”

      A serious question: I’d be interested to hear what you make of defecating in public, which is just another “bodily function” by the lights of your comment.


  5. 6 digitzen 14 November 2011 at 08:16

    The teachers teach Moral Education to
    The Police enforces Moral Education on
    It is all about Moral lah.

    • 7 Puzzled 15 November 2011 at 12:10

      I am really puzzled. If the government is so Moral, why they allow casino? Two some more…. In USA, casino is legalised only in 2 states. In Singapore, our small island has 2 casino. If gambling such as casino can be operate by private operator, why Singapore Pools (government owned) still operate themselves? Can sell their business to private company or not?

      I am very stupid. Perhaps you can enlighten me with the logic?

  6. 9 Old Singaporean 14 November 2011 at 09:26

    It is standard tactics by those in authority, i.e., get your subordinate to be the fall guy. Your subordinate will do as told if they value their rice bowls. This also implies that those in authority will prefer subordinates with integrity/values/ethics/morality as long as those integrity/values/thics/morality don’t interfere with their agenda. This will allow those in authority to pontificate about values etc without having to really subscribe to them.

  7. 10 Old Singaporean 14 November 2011 at 09:29

    “This also implies that those in authority will prefer subordinates with integrity/values/ethics/morality as long as those integrity/values/thics/morality don’t interfere with their agenda.”
    I.e., the subordinates should be smart enough to know when to put aside such high grounds.

  8. 11 dolphin81 14 November 2011 at 10:19

    Who are the people not happy about this slutwalk in SG?

    Likely to be patriarchial religious conservatives who privately feel that women should just shut up & sit down.

    The PAP is increasingly pro-religion & anti-liberal (except immigration) in holding on to power. This is becos religious institutions tend to be pro-incumbent authority.

    This is simply PAP making the religious folks happy.

  9. 12 GOOD COP BAD COP 14 November 2011 at 11:09

    Talking about Singapore Police Force,did you guys see a lot of our cops are just young boys, [unnecessary mention of ethnicity deleted by Yawning Bread]
    I have no problem with they putting themselves at risks to earn a living.But I am concerned they are trigger happy and put innocent citizens at risk.
    Are they mature to handle a gun and used it.judiciously.

    • 13 Desmond Lim 16 November 2011 at 08:44

      We had a talk with some foreigners yesterday and their take on Singapore’s police is this (mind you they told us what they thought, we didn’t even think of it that way), they would only show up quickly to “crimes” that are safe to them. Crimes that might cause them bodily harm or puts them in a “bad” situation (like domestic violence, which we know our police cannot do anything unless the parter is warded), they would take their time.

      After they said this, we Singaporeans went “wow, we didn’t even realise that”.

  10. 15 Angie in HK 14 November 2011 at 11:12

    … and I thought the ultra-conservative, religious groups in HK were bad enough! We support you, SlutWalk Singapore!

  11. 16 Goh Wee Shian 14 November 2011 at 13:10

    Dear Alex,

    I am a Singaporean student currently studying at Yale. I am enrolled in a class on LGBT studies taught by Professor Chauncey. One of our assignments require us to conduct interviews of people regarding perception of homosexuality in our home country. It would be great and an absolute privilege to have you as one of my interviewees. I would appreciate if you could reply within the next two days. I also would like to stress that it is perfectly fine if you are not willing to do so, just that it would be great if you could let me know that as well. Thank you!

  12. 17 Shirley 14 November 2011 at 13:59

    Very interesting read. I read some parts out to my 18 year old son who threw some questions back at me.

    – Why do you need a Public Order permit to have an event at Hong LIm Park?
    – What constitutes ‘foreigners’ in the eyes of the police? Would PR and new citizens of other races be considered foreigners?
    – What are they afraid of if the event is organised in a similar way as the Pink Dot?
    – Can’t they go online to read what SlutWalk is all about?

    I guess only the police department can answer such questions. Haven’t we been getting encouragement to go Global? Guess it is ok to go Global from here but not let Global come to us.

    • 18 Desmond Lim 16 November 2011 at 08:50

      Shirley, I can actually answer those questions (I’m not a policeman) :-

      1) To ensure that it can be rejected, so that even though it is a “free speech” area, the gagmen’s stand is free speech can still be censored.

      2) All non-NRIC holders are considered foreigners. This means that PR, according to the gahmen, are citizens.

      3) That, Alex has stated in the article, breast.

      4) Remember the gahmen have said time and time again, that the internet is just full of noise of things that are totally unreliable. You cannot believe anything that is said on the internet. On a more serious note, it would be so that if anything is “out of the scope” of what the police is told, the police can arrest the organiser and disband slutwalk. It is another form of control and censorship.

  13. 19 Chanel 14 November 2011 at 15:41

    You must realize that there are many police scholarships in the upper echelon who want to sail smoothly to Super-Scale ranks, and possibly to Parliament. So they hate surprises and unknowns that may harm their golden career path

  14. 20 sorekara 14 November 2011 at 17:40

    I don’t know about the other event, but for what it is worth, this is what the organizers of Pink Dot in fact said (pinkdotsg.blogspot.com) about foreigners.

    “According to the park’s terms and conditions, only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents may participate in a demonstration. While we do not consider Pink Dot to be a demonstration, the act of coming together to form a dot comes closest to being a “demonstration” as a category in the rules. Hence, non-Singaporeans and non-Permanent Residents cannot be within the dot formation when the time comes to form it. However, as Hong Lim Park is a public space, everyone can come for a picnic and enjoy the concert.”

    The foreigners were allowed to mingle with others, but were asked repeatedly not to participate in the forming of the Pink dot. There was also a space allocated for foreigners at the Pink Dot event.

    • 21 yawningbread 14 November 2011 at 23:42

      Except that SlutWalk, as far as I know, is not asking people to forming any kind of dot or formation. Just to enjoy the events and the performances. Just like Pink Dot minus the dot. Unless I am mistaken and there is more to the program that I do not know of.

  15. 23 georgelamb 14 November 2011 at 19:41

    Surely you guys don’t expect your rights to be served on a silver platter?

    An idea of what you have to do is right now taking place in some democracies in Europe and the US, such as Wall Street.

    No, I am not instigating anything, just pointing out the some everyday realities whether in the UK, US or the middle kingdom.

    Some stories that would rock you to your core about what purportedly happened to Falun Gong members in China:





  16. 24 Hayat Shah 15 November 2011 at 17:22

    Is SlutWalk really only about raising awareness and seeking solidarity? Really? Would 157d of the Evidence Act not have anything to do with it?

  17. 25 C 15 November 2011 at 23:10

    Singapore is being pathetic. First they complain about an advertisement being too sexual, now they have their knickers in a twist about a demonstration that protects women’s rights. Anytime people open their minds to basic civil and human rights, the government goes into a frenzy.

    SlutWalk has proven a successful peaceful demonstration in many countries so why should if be any different here? It’s not like Singapore’s version will be marching the streets and disturbing the peace because they aren’t legally allowed to do so! Apparently it’s being held in that Speaker’s Corner park. Not exactly a “walk” now is it? So what’s got the police and the government’s panties in a bunch? Is it because they are afraid that people are thinking for themselves? Or gods forbid broadening their horizons? If the Singaporean government wanted passive, subordinates that jumps at command, they should populate the country with robots, not people.

    • 26 T 20 November 2011 at 17:37

      “If the Singaporean government wanted passive, subordinates that jumps at command, they should populate the country with robots, not people.”

      *coughsInfluxofforeignerscoughs* 😀

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