A voice against sexual assault and survivor shaming of women in Asia
#DontTellMeHowToDress is an exhibition which questions society’s position that a survivor is somehow responsible for instigating sexual violence because of the way she acts or dresses, and seeks to show how sexual violence may be inflicted on anyone, regardless of how they are dressed.
With support from the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and its Aim For Zero campaign to end sexual violence, on exhibit are typical items of clothing worn by survivors of sexual violence in Singapore. Most survivors do not own clothes from the time of the incidents as it does not support their journey of recovery and some articles of clothing are submitted as evidence when they lodge a police report. Also on exhibit will be portraits of celebrities and luminaries who support the cause, and other interactive elements that tackle the theme of sexual assault and the subsequent shaming of these survivors locally and across Asia.
AWARE has fought for gender equality for 34 years through dedicated research, advocacy, and support services for women in need. This exhibition would not have been possible but for the support and cooperation of AWARE, who connected the organizers with the survivors featured in #DontTellMeHowtoDress.
"I am deeply grateful for the important truths that this exhibition can potentially illuminate. There are many myths around sexual violence, many of them rooted in shaming and blaming survivors, and attire is one disturbing aspect of this. The truth is, we need to destigmatize sexual violence and re-focus the discussion towards understanding and practicing consent. We, together as a people, need to realize that sexual violence has always been everybody's issue, it is important for every community, no one is an exception. I believe that as a society we can do better. It is within our power to leave the world a safer, more caring place for ourselves and the children that will come after us. The survivors involved in this exhibition are thankful for the support each of us received from AWARE."
- Pamela Ng, one of the featured survivors.
Singapore is the third country to host this exhibition, following the hugely positive reception and public endorsement in Thailand and the Philippines.
The exhibition is the physical component of the larger #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign on social media, started by Ms. Cindy Sirinya Bishop, a model and actress in Thailand, most well known across Asia as the host of “Asia’s Next Top Model” – the hit reality series.
Herself a survivor of sexual harassment, Ms. Bishop was appalled by the Thai government’s directive for women to either dress appropriately or risk sexual violence. She believes that women should have the right to choose how they dress and remain safe at the same time. In response to the Thai government’s directive, she started #DontTellMeHowToDress. The campaign as a whole serves as a platform for survivors’ stories to be heard, and an avenue to educate that help is available.
“Sexual harassment and assault are huge issues in our society that no one really talks about… There are many myths, stereotypes, and culture of victim blaming when it comes to women who have been assaulted. Women who do report sexual harassment and violence tell us they need better support by friends, colleagues, families, and communities.”
- Cindy Sirinya Bishop, Founder of #DontTellMeHowToDress
Ms. Bishop has partnered with Beam Artistes to bring her exhibition into Singapore. Just like in Thailand and the Philippines, the exhibition is launched in collaboration with a UN Women network organization. Here in Singapore, the collaboration is with the Singapore Committee for UN Women.
“All too often, women who have suffered physical abuse and sexual assault are shamed, or worse still, made to feel that they are responsible for the attack. And as such, they don’t speak up. Under no circumstances should women ever be subjected to sexual assault and violence. Ending the culture of silence around sexual harassment and violence can only happen when this is discussed openly and when victims can speak out and receive immediate support.”
- Georgette Tan, President of the Singapore Committee for UN Women
The exhibition will be held at NomadX (Level 3, Plaza Singapura) from 28th March to 21st April, 10 am – 10 pm daily.
Singapore celebrities who have pledged their support for the project include Paul Foster (Actor, Host & Model), Wallace Ang (Actor, Host & Singer), Gina Tan (Actress, Model & Singer), May Wan (Actress & Host), Choy Wan (Actress & Host), Christabel Chua (Influencer), Sylvia Chan (Co-Founder of Night Owl Cinematics, Forbes 30 under 30), Charina (Managing Director of Digital Fashion Week), Becca D’Bus (Drag performer), Sonia Chew (Radio/TV Personality), Eunice Olsen (TV Presenter/Media Entrepreneur) and more.
#DontTellMeHowToDress (Singapore) is headed by Cindy Sirinya Bishop and organized by Beam Artistes, with the strong support and endorsement by AWARE, UNWomen, the High Commission of Canada in Singapore, Women on a Mission, NomadX, Cocoloco, 7th Capital, Vintage Studio, Collabtive, Loud Kitchen, Digital Negative, Firefly Photography, Laneige, HERA, Mamonde, Love Blush, Print Lab and Violet Foo Styling.
Video by Seed Image
About Beam Artistes:
Beam Artistes is Singapore’s premier talent agency which proudly represents established celebrities and promising up and coming new talents. Through their rigorous talent process, they ensure a constant supply of the best talents in Singapore for a wide range of products that includes motion pictures, television programmes, commercials, endorsements, industrial videos, print work, and events. More information on our artistes may be found at www.beam.com.sg.
About the Singapore Committee for UN Women:
The Singapore Committee for UN Women is a self-funded non-profit organization working towards women's empowerment and gender equality. The organization supports the general mission of UN Women by raising awareness and funding for Ending Violence Against Women, Economic Empowerment, and Governance and Leadership Programmes in Singapore and the region. www.unwomen.org.sg
About AWARE and AimForZero:
AWARE is Singapore’s leading women’s rights and gender-equality advocacy group. It works to identify and eliminate gender-based barriers through research, advocacy, education, training, and support services.
Aim For Zero is AWARE's national campaign to press for collective support for survivors of all forms of sexual violence. This campaign calls on people from all walks of life – employers, parents, social workers, educators, bystanders – to build a culture of support and ensure that their communities have zero tolerance towards sexual violence.
In November 2018, Aim For Zero kicked off with a powerful video featuring 10 survivors sharing their stories. Outside of contributing their clothing to this exhibit, those survivors continue to serve as campaign ambassadors, courageously speaking up to advocate change. aimforzero.sg, #aimforzerosg