It was disingenuous of Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman to claim that Shell had exploited women. A multinational company such as Shell would have obtained the consent of the 25-year-old Shell employee, Nor Shafila Khairusalleh, whose image was featured in its adverts. Shell would not make the silly mistake of using an image without permission, and then become embroiled in a massive lawsuit, for taking advantage of its employee.
The most disturbing of Isma’s many assertions is Abdullah Zaik’s contention that it was “natural” for men to be aroused, when looking at women.
He has just confirmed what many people have been trying to point-out in cases of rape and sexual harassment, in Malaysia and elsewhere; it is not women who are the problem but the men, who cannot keep a check on their behaviour.
The woman in the Shell poster was fully clothed and her head was covered. In the past, women have been wrongfully accused of “inviting” rape because they were scantily clad.
If Isma were to be in charge of making advertisements, be prepared for companies to become bankrupt and close shop. No attractive woman will be used in the adverts, only old and ugly women would be shown.
Companies do and will expect advertising to produce returns, just like any other investment. We buy a product because the advert is actually a call to action. Old, ugly, diseased, and defective images do not sell. That is the bottom line.
Last week, Shell took evasive action, when its cardboard cut-out started to attract sexual perverts, and become associated with negative reactions and sexual connotations. Once the tiny band of men had sexually exploited the cardboard cut-out, it became judicious for Shell to pull the advert, rather than let it run. Adverts are about positive images, and not negative ones.
Previously, when someone reported a rape, it was common for our police chiefs to say that the woman was dressed indecently, and invited rape, with her short skirt or figure hugging top.
Other feeble excuses for the sexual molestation of women are that the women had gone out at night, had frequented a nightclub or got drunk. These people, who lay the blame on the women, refuse to focus on the act of rape itself, and forget that men had committed the crime.
One of the men, who was shown kissing and groping the Shell cardboard, is Shahril Azmi Abdul Shukor. His video went viral and he was criticised for his crudity. He has since apologised for his actions.
He admitted that he was only joking, and said that he had “… let the excitement get the better of me…,” before pleading with internet users to give him a break, as their comments had hurt his feelings.
For years, it was convenient for men (and some women) to blame women for inviting trouble because they did not cover-up and “tutup aurat”. So when will they acknowledge that it is NOT women who are at fault? Men are! It is time Malay mothers educated their sons to be more respectful of women.
In the west, the women do not dress as conservatively as the women in the Far East, Middle-East or Southeast Asia, but we do not find many western men outraging the modesty of these “scantily” clad women. Nor do the men openly grope cardboard cut-outs.
Isma should not descend into the blame game, but help those uneducated and ignorant men, to respect women. This should start when they are children.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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