Wicked Wednesday–Advert “Don’t Get Rubbed the Wrong Way”

Very little bothers me when it comes to using sex to sell things. Yes, I often find it annoying and pandering to the male gaze, but I have bigger battles to fight. Objectification is a microagression that is worth calling out, but it doesn’t make me so mad I can’t see straight.  However, several years ago there was an advertisement here in Singapore that got me very angry.

Singapore Ad

I was minding my own business, walking through a mall, when I saw the poster above taking up an entire wall. I stopped. I gaped. I tooka picture of the poster and sent it to the Facebook chat my two closest friends in Singapore and I have going 24/7 with the following comment:

What the actual fuck?

I wasn’t the only person who noticed and got mad. The ad went viral, showing up in US and European media. Slutwalk Singapore complained to the relevant government agency and got the following answer in return

Many thanks for taking time to read our NCPC adverts developed for our festive season crime prevention campaign.

In response to SlutWalker Singapore x Kuala Lumpur’s comment on the outrage of modesty (OM) poster, we would like to share that the messages were crafted to address the public in general. Through this advertising campaign, we hope to
remind people to take extra precaution so that they do not become victims of crime during this festive season. This same approach is taken for our other messages – burglary, pickpocketing & housebreaking.

We hope that we have addressed your concerns.

We wish to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year.

NCPC Administrative


(emphasis mine)

The reductive message that getting groped is somehow the victim’s fault for wearing the wrong thing in public is unacceptable. Nor is using  “humor” to make light of what it’s like to be groped. Being groped can be anything from an unwanted pat on the ass or touch on your breast to full-fledged sexual assault. It’s not something to make light of, or blame the victim for.

There are many things I like about Singapore. But the entrenched sexism and victim blaming isn’t one of them

On the microaggression level, when I was giving Ms 7 her practice spelling test for this week, these were the following example sentences given for the words prince and princess. I’m from Massachusetts, which is one of the more progressive states in the US–as a former teacher I can tell you these example sentences would not be considered acceptable.

Prince—The prince saved the princess from the fire-breathing dragon. (I changed princess to prisoner.)

Princess–The princess screamed helpless form the tower. (I drew a line through it and changed it to “The princess saved herself.”)

But in Singapore, we have so many big issues that the microagressions are the least of our problems.

In Singapore, it’s not rape if it’s forced oral, anal, if anything other than a penis enters a vagina, or if the person doing the raping is your husband. Men/boys can’t be raped under the law.

This week a fourteen year old boy was accused of raping a girl. The police questioned him at length (at which point I learned that in Singapore a minor may be interrogated without a parent/guardian/representation) until he finally said he did it. That night he told his mother he only confessed because the police made him feel as though he had no other choice. Then he committed suicide by jumping out of his window on the fourteenth story of the building. The coverage and comments either paint him as an the victim of a slutty girl or an evil rapist or her as a slut as either a virgin or a slut who “wanted it”. There is no understanding that there could be two victims in this case.

Singapore is a conservative patriarchy. As a liberal feminist and the mother of two girls, I often find myself at odds with the establishment here. I’m fortunate that many of my friends are activists, so I see the grassroots resistance that is growing with each year. As a Permanent Resident (the equivalent of a green card holder in the US) I have the right to join with my friends at events like Slutwalk Singapore, Pink Dot, and the like. I am trying to be a good ally to Singaporeans resisting the dominant culture. But there are days and moments like this that I wonder if I’m making the right choice in raising them here as opposed to Boston. (Disclaimer, the US is hardly awesome on women’s issues, but by comparison…)

When I see an advertisement that uses sex to sell a car or beer or an ISP, I could care less.

But advertisements like this one? Ads that warn me not to get groped, or raped? These are worth getting furious over. These actively reinforce rape culture. Those make me outraged.

wicked wednesday

5 Responses

  1. I totally agree with you: NO to reinforcing rape culture!

    Rebel xox

  2. I completely agree with you and the examples the school sent home would have had me raging too


  3. Wow, yes, I can see how examples such as these could make you much less bothered about advertising in the West. And I love your spelling test amends!

  4. That advert is super squicky. I don’t have so much a problem with the prince example because it’s a fairly archetypal fairy tale plot. Of course, I’m from the southern U.S. So I’d say this area is a smidge less progressive than New England. I do agree that the princess could be doing something other than screaming helpless. That’s just an awkward sentence anyway.

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