The Singapore Armed Forces has banned the lyrics from the marching song Purple Light after a feminist group pointed out that it promotes sexual violence against women. The controversial verse of the song which is popular in the National Service makes reference to rape:
Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me.
The army immediately responded to the complaint of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE):
We understand that there have been some concerns about a ban on the popular marching song Purple Light because of an offensive verse. We would like to clarify that Purple Light has not been banned. However, steps have been taken to stop the offensive verse from being sung in the SAF, as it runs contrary to the values of our organisation and should not be condoned.
Aside from clarifying that the Purple Light song is not banned, the army also published the original version of the song:
Booking out, saw my girlfriend / Saw her with another man / Broken heart, back to Army / With my rifle and my buddy and me
The issue generated an intense online debate. Many people applauded the ban while others derided the ‘exaggerated’ reaction of feminist groups. AWARE addressed several of these criticisms:
Words are powerful. They shape social norms and our collective sense of what is acceptable. Our contention has never been that singing “rape my girlfriend” will by itself cause anyone to commit the deed. Rather, a society which treats mocking references to rape as entertainment then encourages rapists to view their acts as acceptable and causes rape victims to feel unsupported.
Typical, Really agreed that the song trivializes rape:
If singing about it “for fun” doesn’t trivialise rape, then what does? It’s worth keeping in mind that this is a song sung by thousands of men who don’t interact with anyone except other men for most of their waking hours for two years, and it’s very, very easy for even the most compassionate of people to lose sight of the humanity of those who aren’t actually in their sight.
Bay Ming Ching urged Singaporeans to fight patriarchy:
I seriously think that army misogyny does not just arise from the bottom; it is sponsored by state narratives on the in-viability of women's bodies to serve in the army and are more suited to stay at home and raise kids.
I see this as a minor victory for gender equality but I'm not celebrating because by banning the stupid verse, it doesn't address the root cause of the problem which is patriarchy.
I On Singapore appreciated the ban as a small step to change a culture which is biased against women:
National Service is a phase that all Singaporean men go through. It is important that the right values are instilled in young men while they are in service. In addition to values such as loyalty to country, leadership and discipline, effort should be made to instil respect for women as well.
Small steps like these help to shape culture and address wrong attitudes towards women at their root.
To sing songs with lyrics that advocate violence and sexual assault is an intrinsic wrong and deeply unbecoming of our young men. It is also deeply insensitive to victims of such sexual violence
Visa learned about the song during his National Service days and he supports the decision of the army to ban the controversial lyrics:
I served National Service (NS) too, I remember singing along to “kill the man, rape my girlfriend.”
To be honest, I didn’t think very much of it then. I was in a happy, healthy relationship, and rape just seemed too “far out” to possibly matter. Army boys joking about raping unfaithful girlfriends…it’s like girls joking about castrating unfaithful boyfriends, right? Harmless fun? Nobody gets hurt?
You see, Singaporean women do get raped. This happens way, way, WAY more regularly than most of us realise. We don’t often hear about this, because rape victims are silent and silenced. Many of us actually blame them for getting raped.
This isn’t a just-for-fun debate, we’re talking about something with real consequences, with real victims, with real pain and suffering.
But Benjamin Chiang is not quite happy with how AWARE raised the issue. He remembered how the song Purple Light inspired many soldiers:
Purple Light actually has rather moving lyrics. Crudness aside, after marching for 16km and singing these lyrics, I never felt more a soldier.
At the warfront,
There is where,
My Buddy dies,
If I die,
would you bury me?
With my rifle and my buddy and me….
And when it comes to protecting our women, we will do so even if it means giving up our lives.
Think about that AWARE.
Darryl Kang insisted that the song does not normalize rape:
I respectfully disagree with AWARE. I think AWARE, and a lot of people, are reading too much into this song. It is just a song. A nonsense song that soldiers sing during marching and route march to take their mind off their tiredness. It means nothing.
Singing this song does not mean that the men tolerate and normalise the violent sexual abuse of women. It does not justify rape as a punishment for infidelity.
For goodness sake, it is just a song. By saying that this song normalise rape is like saying First Person Shooter game normlise killing. And if that is the case, then maybe we should ban all violent games. And don’t stop there. There are tons of movies and TV series that have rape or violence in the story line.
Is this the kind of nanny state that you want to live in? Is this going to do anything to solve the problem? Wake up!
Natalie KSL got frustrated with Facebook comments that criticize the decision to ban the lyrics:
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.