Slut-shaming at the K-pop concert

JANUARY 16 — The seemingly innocuous actions of K-pop stars hugging their Malay female fans at a mini-concert last Saturday exploded into a full-blown controversy, with Islamic authorities launching investigations for public indecency.

A video uploaded on Facebook, which showed three tudung-clad fans smiling and laughing as members of the K-pop band B1A4 embraced and kissed them on the forehead, was provocatively titled “Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop semalam” (Malay girls molested on stage by K-Pop artists last night).

There is nothing in the video to suggest that the young women were sexually assaulted on stage in front of a crowd.

A screenshot of the Sukan Star TV video, titled ‘Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop semalam’ (Malay girls molested on stage by K-Pop artists last night). — YouTube videograb
A screenshot of the Sukan Star TV video, titled ‘Perempuan melayu dicabul atas pentas oleh mat kpop semalam’ (Malay girls molested on stage by K-Pop artists last night). — YouTube videograb

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The concert organisers have also denied accusations of sexual harassment.

Despite the K-pop stars being accused of molest, the comments on the video do not contain outrage at the supposed sexual assault, but reek of slut-shaming and male entitlement instead.

The Malay girls were called "cheap" and vilified for allowing Korean men to embrace them. They were also accused of bringing shame to Islam.

“Korean men get to kiss for free... Malay men have to fork out RM15,000-RM20,000 to propose (to a Malay girl). This is haram jadah (nonsense),” a Facebook user had said.

Other social media users compared the Malay girls to prostitutes.

There’s even a cartoon uploaded on Sukan Star TV’s Facebook page comparing a veiled Muslim woman carrying an AK-47, with a text bubble saying “In Syria, women protect their honour and take up arms to defend Islam”, to a tudung-clad girl being hugged by a fair-skinned man with a text bubble that says, “While in Malaysia... they allow their honour to be dragged through the mud on stage.”

Is it more acceptable to commit violence in the name of Islam than to engage in a moment of non-sexual physical contact?

If the genders were reversed and it was female K-pop stars hugging Malay men, people wouldn't bat an eyelid.

The attacks against the female K-pop fans show a disconcerting rejection of women’s rights to self-determination over their own bodies.

It's as if Malay women should only give up their bodies to men from the same community who can gain access to them during marriage for a price. Marriage sounds like a sexual transaction then, not much different from prostitution, only longer-term.

Women have long fought for sexual agency and bodily autonomy.

The K-pop controversy illustrates the social (and perhaps, legal) cost of Malay women taking control of their own bodies. It also shows the entitlement that men have towards women in Malaysian society, where females are expected to gift one man – their husband — with their bodies.

No such expectations are held of men.

Enough with the slut-shaming.

A woman's honour should not be tied to her body. Women and men should be subject to the same standard of ethics.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.  

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