Just a little bit of context: AWARE Singapore (a women’s rights group in Singapore) was alerted by seven National Service (NS) men to a verse of Purple Light, an army marching song, that went like:
“Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me.”
AWARE then brought it up with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and MINDEF, who then investigated and decided that they would stop their men from singing this “offensive” verse.
This sparked an outcry among NS men – most of whom are serving the army full-time as part of their compulsory 2-year National Service in accordance to Singapore law. They all but bombarded the AWARE Facebook post and the comment pages on all the local news outlets that reported on the issue.
There were many comments, most of which were incoherent. But from what I could gather, these are some of the top reasons why they say it should be okay for NS men to sing about rape.
1. NS sucks, so NS men deserve the right to sing about anything they want – including rape.
2. Not only does military training suck, but NS men also run the risk of losing the girlfriends while they’re stuck in camp – which happens a lot. So they deserve the right to vent against these evil girlfriends – even if it means singing about raping them.
3. Most of the time, it’s foreigners’ faults that they’re losing their girlfriends – life is horribly unfair to these NS men. So they should be able to vent and sing about anything they want, which includes rape.
4. AWARE is simply overreacting! IT’S JUST A SONG. AND NS MEN ARE SUFFERING GOD DAMNIT! LET THEM SING ABOUT RAPE! NS sufferings > Idea of rape. Get over it!
5. Singing about rape doesn’t make you a rapist. “Grow the fuck up and live in the real world!”
6. AWARE is a bloody hypocrite! They protect women but don’t seem to care about men! Gender equality my arse!
7. Military men singing about rape as a form of bonding experience is such a “trivial” issue, compared to the hard work and suffering the men go through to protect our country.
8. This song has been around for DECADES – you’re messing with tradition! Fact is: this song is HARMLESS.
I was interested to find out if similar incidences happened in other countries and how people reacted to them. And I found the St. Mary’s University (Canada) case where a rape chant during orientation week caused some controversy.
The rape chant went like this: “SMU boys we like them young … Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass.”
There are the obvious similarities: like this SAF case, it was a seemingly “harmless” setting. Just a bunch of people having fun, and blowing off some steam. But in the Canadian case, it was around 400 people who were chanting, whereas in this Singapore situation, the numbers run into the tens or hundreds of thousands – seeing that the Singapore army is about 500,000 strong. Granted, there are other versions of the army song that don’t include the word “rape” but I would think the number of guys who know and sing this version is pretty significant.
In the Canadian case, it was a big issue party because it was a Roman Catholic school. And here in Singapore, I would think it’d be a big issue as well, seeing that this is our national army we’re talking about.
The biggest difference between the St Mary’s situation and the SAF one, is that after they got called out, the student leaders in St Mary’s were apologetic and the reactions from the public (from what I could see) were mostly outrage at how this could’ve been going on for years without getting caught.
In Singapore, however, our comments were mostly by NS men who are actually upset that the lyrics got banned. Far from being apologetic or glad that the song should no longer see the light of day, they are angered and obstinate about continuing with singing the verse.
Even more mindblowingly, women were commenting and saying “I sing this with my boyfriend and I think it’s perfectly fine.”
I wouldn’t be upset if there were the occasional dissenting voice about freedom of speech and censorship. But it honestly scares me that the side supporting the use of the song overwhelms the other by a drastic amount.
It just makes me so incredibly sad.
How anyone can argue that singing about rape is harmless is completely beyond me. Normally I could just write this off with “OMG I really hate people.” Or “Singaporeans are so stupid.” But this is actually really really disturbing. And I’m just really hoping that someone somehow can convince these NS men and occasional bimbo how singing about raping a cheating girlfriend with a rifle and buddy is definitely a no-no in any context.
Because I would think it’s completely self-explanatory. And I really have no idea how to make it plainer that banning it is absolutely the right move.
Thankfully, Conventionally.wordpress.com puts it across much clearer than I ever could. And if you’re open to listening to the women’s side of the story, and finding out why the verse should be banned, please give her blog a read.
*Edit* This blog offers a great explanation on why singing about rape should be taken seriously, and why it’s so offensive: Verse of Army Song “Purple Light” Banned: The importance of shaping culture
*Edit2* For all the comments I’ve gotten. This latest one from this guy I shall dub “Exasperated Roy” got me most annoyed. My reply to him was my most organised one, and one that I actually bothered to research for. So I’m just gonna bring it up here for anyone who cares to read.
Thanks to everyone else for your comments! I feel a lot better that the argument now seems a lot more balanced than before when it was just “You girls don’t know what we go through in NS. Stop making mountains out of mole hills. blah blah blah”
Everyone is entitled to their opinions – we just need to be respectful of each other.