Categorised | Letters to the Editor

Against FHM and Red FM ‘s sexualisation of women

(Source: fhmmalaysia.blogspot.com)

(Source: fhmmalaysia.blogspot.com)

RECENTLY, Red FM conducted a video interview for FHM ‘s Girls Next Door competition. The video was, in my opinion, sexist and explicitly derogatory towards women. I have tried contacting both the radio station and the magazine but to no avail. I left comments on their YouTube and Facebook accounts, and even tried emailing the radio station. My comments have been deleted, and my emails to Red FM have bounced. FHM has also banned me from their Facebook page. Neither party seems interested in acknowledging or responding to my complaints.

I understand FHM ‘s image as a plastic softcore porn magazine, but it should not be the prerogative of a public radio station like Red FM to sexualise women in this manner. It’s no wonder that women’s rights in Malaysia are in such a state. The following is the email that I tried sending to Red FM.

Dear Red FM,

I am writing to you with regard to your FHM Girl Next Door interview, which was uploaded on Youtube. I had left a comment as “starranise”, but since I did not receive a response and my comment has been deleted, I am making it a point to email you to make sure that my message comes across clearly.

Earlier, I had a friend who joined the competition, and I had asked DJ Jeremy if Red FM would be kind enough to organise a phone interview with her as she would not be in KL for your video interview. He complied, and I was very appreciative of this. However, upon watching the online video, I was quite relieved that my friend did not make the interview after all.

I understand that it is FHM ‘s way to subject these women to their lame stereotypes, but I fail to understand why Red FM had to play along. I should think that DJ Han would have known better than to treat these women so appallingly. It wasn’t just that he had asked them to dance or crawl on the table. What shocked me most was that he provided vegetables to the contestants and asked them which vegetable “satisfies them most”, as a kind of “personality test”. Was DJ Han implying that you are what you put in your vagina? I would like to know who approved this idea.

The video horrified me. Women don’t do that to men, do they? Ask men what fruit or vegetable they would like to insert or have inserted into their privates, and then post it on the internet? These girls have jobs and families. Would Red FM take responsibility for the repercussions? Or is this just competition procedure?

I am not a prude, but surely many people would agree with me that this behaviour is uncalled for. These women were put on the spot and made to answer your DJ’s questions. Sexual harassment is a serious offence. I strongly urge that Red FM apologise to the FHM girls, your female staff, as well as to your listeners for objectifying these poor women.

Maybe I will be the only person to complain. Maybe the girls in FHM Girls Next Door will defend you and say you were “just joking”. But you are a radio station. You are the voice of our nation. Ours is a nation where women have been caned for having illicit sex and drinking beer, or have suffered various forms of sexual abuse. These are instances that many good, hardworking people are struggling to reverse.

I would have expected your radio station to help set the bar in propagating the rights of women in Malaysia, but I was mistaken. The media has a long history of impacting on the self-esteem of women. You took a few steps backwards and made me, a woman, have a good, hard think about how even educated Malaysian men regard women.

I’ve experienced verbal sexual harassment many a time in my life. I just didn’t think that a radio station would stoop so low in this day and age. It’s such a rookie mistake.

Does Red FM care about Malaysia’s women? This incident has made me wonder. It is my sincerest hope that your station will make the proper amends to those you have offended.

Nadira Ilana
14 January 2011

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30 Responses to “Against FHM and Red FM ‘s sexualisation of women”

  1. TC Ang says:

    Look darling, from the video link, it looked like they were all laughing and had no intent of walking out. If anything, they all seemed to be enjoying the attention.

    So don’t blame the DJ, he was doing his job. Blame the parents of these girls for allowing their daughters to behave this way.

    The global human population is, and always will be, a bell curve of intelligence. Just be glad that you are on the upside of the curve, instead of the downside like these people.

    • Kate Green, Zombie Shooter says:

      This kind of language normalizes sexual harassment and places the blame on the female.

      Have you ever been in an uncomfortable situation where you have to laugh because you need to ‘earn’ something? Maybe your boss is telling a racist joke that you don’t find funny? If I joined the Girl Next Door competition, I would laugh along because I want to win! Maybe the girls involved weren’t offended, but the point is you cannot judge a girl’s comfort level by how she seems to go along with a joke in a situation where her refusal to ‘play along’ might result in unpleasant repercussions.

      Anyway I don’t know what the video was like, but the questions asked sound just tacky and quite gross, not sexy. Stay classy FHM / RedFM.

    • meng says:

      I recall a game show on TV3, where the host made fun of a Chinese boy’s eyes with an excessively put-on mock Chinese accent. Everyone was laughing, including the boy. It’s clearly a racist joke, and being made fun of in reference to a stereotype of his race. But the poor boy just laughed along. After all, what else could he do? Protest, become a ‘spoilsport’ and lose the game?

      So look, dear boy (trying to find an equivalent to ‘darling’ here), instead of putting the blame on parents of these girls and dismissing a woman who speaks up when a programme like that normalises sexual harassment, why not be on the upside of the bell curve of intelligence to recognise sexism when it happens?

    • feistgeist says:

      Women don’t asked to be sexually harassed, which is a common excuse from sexual predators.

      The girls still looked a bit uncomfortable to me. Yes, they answered the question but it doesn’t mean that they wanted to. Coming from a woman’s perspective I can understand that the circumstances may have been different because they were competing against one another. Certainly it would have been more difficult to judge for themselves how they should have reacted to the surprise question.

      DJ Han had a responsibility over his content. There are certain codes and ethics that are followed within the media industry to avoid messes like these.

      Knowing your rights does not necessarily mean that you can prevent them from being violated. Often times, people don’t know how to draw these boundaries for themselves because they learn from experience and by then, it’s too late. Because the program was controlled by Red FM, it was the radio station’s responsibility to make sure that their programs these do not hurt their guests or audience.

  2. fadh says:

    I didn’t tune into this programme myself, but Ms Nadira’s argument seems quite reasonable. The radio station should at least answer in a similiar reasonable manner.

  3. Sonia says:

    Let’s not forget who the bosses are. RedFM is owned by Star Publications, which in turn is owned by MCA. MCA has defended political party ownership of the media on the grounds that it ensures, or helps to ensure, ‘ethical’ reporting – though I would argue that political party ownership of the media means that reporting is necessarily going to be lowest common denominator (ie sex and violence).

    Perhaps readers who are offended by the Red FM coverage (and I agree that it is offensive) could also write to the Star in particular to ask if they support this debasement of women and the standard of media ethics it implies.

    Sonia

    • Andrew I says:

      “Let’s not forget who the bosses are. RedFM is owned by Star Publications, which in turn is owned by MCA.”

      Boss and MCA. Reminds you of something?

  4. Sparks says:

    I agree with you. I’ve always thought FHM to be a male bimbo magazine for guys who stuff nothing into their heads but sex. But to play the devil’s advocate, [in this case] it’s demand and supply, no? Maybe women should be educated on their rights and honour. And by this, I don’t mean by an ad-hoc advertising campaign; [rather, they should be educated during their growing up years] … to find validation from their immediate surroundings that is loving and nurturing. I realise that a lot of values are blurred in our country, thus such a campaign [as FHM's] is acceptable. Why? Because no one stood up and said no from the beginning.

    You have my support.

    • Anonymous Coward says:

      In the same vein, shouldn’t Cosmo and its ilk be condemned for the content that they peddle?

      • Sparks says:

        Well, if we take out the gender form, and look at the content objectively, then I suppose it doesn’t matter whether it’s a male or female magazine. Raunchy news is also a form of news and that’s FHM’s prerogative I suppose, it’s their brand. Like I said, I think the lines are blurred. It’s good to have different opinions standing up for cases like this.

  5. Juana Jaafar says:

    Nadira, the video has been taken down so we can’t watch it. However, as a Malaysian I take pride in the fact that you have written this letter. In a way I’m glad I was not tuned-in to this programme as it would have pissed me off just as much.

    I hope to hear of female contestants telling off deejays who are rude, and better still if on live radio or television.

    Thank you for this letter.

  6. The girl in the red Ferrari says:

    I will not touch on this issue as it has been covered to death!

    My point of view comes from branding – if Red FM and FHM had done damage control when the writer sent them comments and emails by calling her, replying to her emails/comments, or even just a simple verbal apology by an individual from either party, or on behalf of, she would not have publicised her thoughts and most people would not even know about the incident, much less the existence of the video clip and its almost-pornographic contents.

    Food for thought for corporations who should not just ignore the voice of the consumer, even if they belong to the minority. You’re bound to step on some toes, so always try to contain the fire before it spreads.

    In this case, will Red FM’s listenership (is that a valid word?) decrease and can they afford that, what with JD and Dilly jumping ship? Will FHM’s sales suffer? Probably not, but with the Internet and social media being at the tips of everyone’s fingers, you probably don’t want to find out the hard way.

  7. hanna says:

    You can watch the videos here

    http://www.ohbulan.com/video-red-fm-persendakan-bahagian-sulit-wanita-dengan-buah-buahan/#more-11388

    By the way, I agree with everything that you’ve written.

  8. Munira Mustaffa says:

    “Which vegetable is the most satisfying?”

    Maybe I’m overreacting, but Nurin Jazlin’s murder is still fresh in some of our hearts. Never mind it was a sophomoric attempt at sexualising the participants (what a laugh). It was terribly tasteless and demeaning, even more so when these vacuous women allowed themselves to be subjected as such.

    Oh, how sexy!

    Who wrote the script?

    Why remove the video? Dah rasa malu ke, Red FM?

  9. Red FM says:

    Thank you for your feedback, we have removed the videos.

    • feistgeist says:

      Are we not going to get an apology?

    • the acrobat says:

      I believe RedFM still owes an apology and clarification on its apparent degradation of women by allowing such a broadcast. There is no mention of this on your website or Facebook page.

    • Lainie says:

      I request an apology from Red FM, and a promise that women will be better treated on air.

      I’d like to know Red FM is working towards a long-term solution to ensure anything of this nature doesn’t happen again.

    • kayjen says:

      Still no apology? I feel disgusted after watching the video. So ashamed of you.

  10. feistgeist says:

    May I also refer Red FM to the following links?

    Frequency and brutality of rapes alarming – http://www.thenutgraph.com/frequency-and-brutality-of-rapes-alarming/

    “The use of mobile phones and other devices is also frequently being abused for sexual exploitation… it is possible to surmise that in Malaysia, approximately one person is raped every 15 minutes.”

    In Memory of Nurin Jazlin – http://nurinjazlin.blogspot.com

    I hope that you and FHM understand that we are not prudes. If either party refuses to apologise for whatever reason, well, I guess we will know where your radio station and magazine stand.

  11. Amy Li says:

    Dear Nadira Ilana,

    Pls file a complaint with SKMM (MCMC).

    • KeyboardWarrior says:

      Why do you have to ask her to file a report when you can do it yourself? If you are offended, by all means, go on and report wherever. Don’t pass the buck to someone else.

  12. Bigjoe says:

    The problem is that we, as a people, do not deal with relationships and sexuality well — we are repressed, oppressed, conflicted and unpractised in relationships with the opposite sex and with sex itself. This is true of the ones that came up with the programme; it’s true of the ones that ran and participated in the programme; it’s true even of those that have complained about it.

    The issue is not so much that the girls were demeaned, but that they were victims because of problems we have as a culture and people. And yet we go about our merry way ignoring it…

  13. Mr. Potato says:

    For the record, let me just put it out there that as a guy myself, I find that the sexual innuendo that the ‘veggies’ were supposed to insinuate is extremely tacky and perverse. Yes, we (ok, most men) admittedly like to see sexy girls cavorting provocatively in lad magazines, but no self-aware or self-respecting guy would go out of their way to subject women to public humiliation as described.

    Whether the DJ was just doing his job or not, I wonder if any of them actually took time to filter their thoughts or questions.

    Come on fellas (organisers), in the future – show some class. Don’t get carried away by the presence of sexy chicks to the point where you embarrass yourself and the rest of us of the male gender. [...] You make all of us look bad.

    We’re not all pervs, you know.

  14. Munira Mustaffa says:

    FHM Malaysia labelled their contestants as sex workers. Don’t even deny it, it’s clear as day on their Facebook profile. If you guys are thinking about removing that post [...] the screen capture has been made. Tongue-in-cheek humour? I don’t think so. The sad thing is, this is an unsettling example of how most Malaysian men truly view their womenfolk. Yeah, sure, FHM Malaysia is a “lad’s mag”, but that’s not an excuse to be disrespectful to women.

    Well ladies, isn’t it nice to be viewed as “sex workers” instead of “The Girl Next Door contestants”? I hope the experience was worth the loss of dignity.

    Why pull down the video, RedFM? Just because it’s not there, you can deny its existence? Well, guess what? You guys have royally screwed up. Pulling down the video is not going to pacify us. The reason we’re angry is not only because the video was uploaded. We’re outraged at the manner the interview was conducted. Why don’t you lads man up and admit what you did was wrong and offensive, eh? A formal apology issued would be nice.

    “Thank you for your feedback, we have removed the videos.”

    Wow. Just like that, you think you’ve fixed the issue.

    Stay classy, RedFM.

  15. Mikazuki says:

    Kudos to Nadira for bring up this issue. It might get swept down the carpet if Nadira didn’t bring up this issue on TNG. I’m just appalled that this kind of content which is so degrading to woman can be aired.

  16. kamal says:

    Agreed with the author of the letter — it’s offensive. Watching the clip on the link provided by one of the comments, it appeared clear enough to me that the participants were uncomfortable. Turning the question on vegetables into a personality type (eg. from the girl who said she is like the cili padi) was, in my opinion, clearly saying she wasn’t going to participate in the sexual innuendo — and the DJ appears to have recognised this as well.

    Perhaps, as others have commented here, the DJ and Red FM (and their owners, presumably the Star and MCA) should apologise. It was unnecessary, immature and disrespectful of women. I am sure members of these organisations recognise that it wasn’t in good fun. If you ask me, even the DJ looked slightly uncomfortable.

  17. RealWorld says:

    There are people (men and women) who degrade themselves for quick money.

    Think of Hugh Hefner’s teenage “girlfriends”, who take part in group sex twice a week [...] they then go on to bigger (not requiring silicone), better things.

    The winner of this girl next door, Esther, some business development manager, seems to be quite pleased with herself and the possible new “modeling” opportunities that’s come her way. That’s greed, plain and simple. Why work your ass off when you can shake it? [...] And I have to disagree with Kate. In my opinion, what happened here is different from dealing with a creepy boss – when you’re expecting a pay check at the end of the month. In this case, the participant could have just said. “Screw you, I’m not taking part in this dumb competition”, and left.

    I’ve been in situations (with people much more powerful than some backwater DJ) where I’d been asked to get involved in practices that I deemed unethical, then firmly and politely told them to shove it. And I know many men and women who’ve done the same.

  18. tze yeng says:

    Thank you so much Nadira for speaking out on the normalisation of sexual harassment on a national radio station. I once wrote to Red FM to complain about [one of their daytime deejays] making an extremely gender insensitive remark. I got no response. I take a lesson from you to be more persistent and strategic in airing such bad broadcasting practice in the future.

  19. Kay says:

    Nadira – Thank you for speaking up about this. I watched the video at http://www.ohbulan.com/video-red-fm-persendakan-bahagian-sulit-wanita-dengan-buah-buahan/#more-11388 and was horrified that the RedFM DJ and the programme were allowed to go on air.

    TC Ang – If you look at the girls next to the one being interviewed, you will notice that they ARE looking uncomfortable. But because they are put on the spot in a competition and on TV, they just go along with it.

    If you have a sister, cousin or girlfriend, would you want them to be put on the spot like that?

    I cannot imagine how the late Nurlin Jazmin’s parents and family would feel if they had to see this horrible video.

    Is the RedFM team so out of ideas that the best they could come up with is THIS?


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