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The ‘joke’ that falls flat on women’s dignity

Such jokes could give a misplaced idea to some male members of our society that women are sexual objects to be exploited by men


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To still make a joke out of rape, especially when such cheap jest has incurred the wrath of many concerned Malaysians, particularly women in recent times, is to display raw arrogance or sheer stupidity. Or even both.

A recording of a TV talk show Rumah 107 on Astro Warna that featured actor Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nawawi went viral on social media recently.

In it, he was seen describing the purported pleasure he had when he acted in a rape scene with actress Raja Farah Raja Aziz in a 2007 movie called Anak Halal.

As if to enhance the audience’s excitement, he was egged on to share the gory details of the scene by the show’s hosts and guests, all having their version of a good time.

The 48-year-old actor appeared excited over his vicarious experience of rape, judging from the way he narrated his story with much vigour.

Mind you, this is a violation of a woman’s body and dignity that was made into entertainment material in the show.

You would think that, as an actor who was involved in movies having segments of sexual crimes and misconduct such as rape and incest, Fauzi would have wanted to caution about, say, the transgression of human dignity and the physical and emotional scar that victims have to endure possibly for the rest of their lives.

Such commentary would be beneficial to the audience, instead of sharing the ‘pleasure’ of acting out rape, which is offensive.

Anyway, following the controversial talk show, a storm of protests emerged, especially from women’s groups in the country.

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Eventually, Fauzi had to offer his public apology for his crude impropriety.

But the actor’s off-colour joke suggests that the society has not learnt a lesson from previous incidents of a similar nature.

In particular, there was a case involving teenager Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, who listened to an alleged rape joke cracked by her male teacher in the classroom. She called her teacher out, but received backlash instead from certain other teachers as well as students, which is obviously disturbing.

It appears that misogyny is still rampant in our society, so that some men make repeated sexist jokes to the point of making such banter dangerously normal. Such jokes could give a misplaced idea to some male members of our society that women are sexual objects to be exploited by men as playthings and not as human beings worthy of respect.

Such a worrying phenomenon requires more efforts by women and men to stem male chauvinism.

People with a large following or influence can play a role in raising awareness of gender equality, exploitation of women and patriarchy.

Actors, in particular, are in a position to make a difference to society if they present themselves as role models worthy of emulation by their fans.

In fact, local actors and celebrities can also take up other social causes that would have a positive impact on ordinary people and society.

For instance, domestic violence and child abuse are areas of concern in which actors can raise awareness of the public.

They could also promote forest conservation, given the rape of rainforests that has taken place at a fast pace over the years in the country. The dangers of climate change should alert them.

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Western celebrities have taken up several causes worthy of mention here.

For example, Hollywood movie star Angelina Jolie became an influential advocate on refugee and displacement matters.

French actress Brigette Bardot has become an animal rights activist after retiring from the movie world.

Dolly Parton, American singer-songwriter, founded the so-called Imagination Library to stimulate a love for reading in children in the US. This idea subsequently caught on in the UK.

Actors and celebrities are not merely entertainers. They also can play an important and serious role in society without having to crack silly and sexist jokes. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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