Monday, 20 February 2012

The Sexual Harassment Experiment - Are Singaporean Guys Non-Confrontational?

From my knowledge of statistical analysis, I am fully aware that for any kind of assumptions, generalizations or conclusions to be derived from an experiment, one needs to work with a valid sample size... so it would be wrong of me to draw any conclusions from the sexual harassment social experiment conducted and aired on Channel News Asia - there are only two scenarios on which to base our opinions.

I was, however, bewildered by the reaction of the unsuspecting male patrons of a bar who refused to stand up for a 'damsel (clearly) in distress'... I ask you - Is chivalry dead? Or other there other underlying factors at play here.

You're probably wondering to yourselves by now, dear readers... what the hell is Pete on about now? OK - fair enough, let me explain.

While I was away (yes, I'm back safely in Singapore with the family after a very fattening CNY), Episode 14 of Singapore's BlogTV was screened. In this pre-recorded episode which aired in early January, along with regular hosts, Tim and Cheryl, I was joined by organizer of 'Slutwalk SG', Vanessa Ho, Bar Manager of a well known Singapore establishment, Adrian Mah and (once) Miss Malaysia, Leng Yein.

The 'Sexual Harassment Social Experiment' was basically a couple of set up situations involving two actors - one female (the victim), one male (the perpetrator). The idea is to see how far witnesses (unsuspecting bar patrons) will allow the harassment to go before stepping into to rescue the distressed young lady.

In part 1, we look at what defines Sexual Harassment, and what is considered appropriate or inappropriate. The scenario, is the female actor is a new waitress in the bar, the male is intoxicated and acting way out of line.

The result is quite amazing - check it out for yourself... guys, would you have acted differently to these men? Would you allow it to continue or would you have stepped in? Or would you just sit by and ignore it?


In part 2, we pose the question of whether or not what someone wears should make the harassment more acceptable - for example, is such behaviour ok if the victim is wearing a short skirt or skimpy outfit?. The scenario this time, is the female actor is also a patron in the bar and is wearing a short dress. The producers go one step further to try and invoke a reaction by the male patrons - actually taking the harassment right up to their table and in their faces... still nobody stands up or offers help to this poor girl??

Finally, in part 3, the hosts make a telephone call to the one and only person who seemed to want to do something to stop the harassment of the poor bar waitress. Interestingly enough, this person is female and her objection and action is to take the matter up with management.

Cheryl asked me the question off-camera before the filming if I thought such a situation would draw a different reponse or reaction if it had occurred in Australia. I commented on this (section 2, I think) - I just could not imagine in any way, shape or form, that patrons of an Aussie bar would just let this happen without physically stepping in - especially when the harassment becomes physical.

What do you think? Is it something to do with culture, or did the experiment just happen to involve some not so confrontational men, and this is not indicative of Singaporean guys in general? It's certainly not for me to say from just this one experiment.

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