See More on Facebook

Opinion

Help Change the Narrative of Sexual Violence: Cindy Bishop

The host of Asia’s Next Top Model and feminist activist speaks about using video to spark important dialogues, and how social change starts with each of us.


Written by

Updated: November 26, 2018

It’s funny, because I didn’t intend to spark a campaign. It all came from a moment of emotion. Back in March, ahead of the Songkran festival, I’d read a message from an official in a newspaper suggesting that women should dress conservatively to avoid sexual harassment.

I was incensed. Sexual harassment, assault, and rape is never the woman’s fault. And yet it is the survivors who are scrutinized, not the perpetrators. Victim-blaming marginalizes the survivor and make it much more difficult to come forward and report the abuse. Not only do perpetrators of violence not get blamed, but they mostly go unpunished. 87 per cent of rape cases are not reported to the police in Thailand. How can we end the stigma against reporting if we’re still blaming women for their own abuse? It’s attitudes that have to change, not women’s fashion choices.

I knew I had to make a stand. I decided to get out my phone and speak frankly to my followers about it. Before I knew it, the video had gone viral.

I realized that I had a choice: I could either let it go as a one-off, or take ownership and use this online conversation I had started as an opportunity to produce for something bigger and more sustainable.

And so I launched the campaign #DontTellMeHowToDress. I spoke openly about double standards and victim-blaming on my social media channels, and organised an exhibition of the clothing worn by women survivors when they were attacked. From t-shirts to pyjamas, I wanted to highlight how modest clothing doesn’t protect women from violence.

Video connects

I now understand more than ever how social media has the potential to provide a wide range of people with a platform to create meaningful dialogue around issues they care about. Looking back, I keep thinking to the moment when I uploaded that first video. I think the video was popular not just because of what I was saying, but how I was saying it.

I could have used a photo, written a caption to go with it and posted that instead, but there is something about video that is more authentic. People can tell if you’re just saying something for the sake of it, or if someone is putting words in your mouth.

Video feels personal. It has the power to connect people from all over the world on a more human level; it is an incredible medium for social change.

Using influence responsibly

I started my YouTube channel around a year and a half ago. I wanted to use the platform in a way that is both productive and inspiring. Campaigns like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #DontTellMeHowToDress have done so much to highlight how powerful women and girls’ voices can be.

But by speaking up, there can negative backlash.

While I received countless messages from people thanking me for highlighting an issue they also felt passionately about, I inevitably ruffled a few feathers. There can sometimes be a dark side to the internet: online bullying and hateful comments. It’s not that I’m not affected by it, but I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 25 years. If a 13-year-old girl is targeted, that can do some serious damage. We should think carefully about using our voices respectfully and in constructive ways.

And that’s what I intend to do. I’m countering that hate speech by continuing to advocate for what I believe in.

Part of that involves supporting feminist initiatives, like UNDP’s N-Peace Network. Another part involves using YouTube and social media to move the #DontTellMeHowToDress campaign forward. My husband and I produced videos about sexual harassment, abuse, and rape, together with some of Thailand’s most prominent celebrities. I’ve put those up on my channel so that they can keep to be shared in the future.

Moving forward, I’ve just started a YouTube video collaboration with an NGO called “Real Talk”. In this series, I interview people who have all been affected by gender-based violence to showcase different voices: the mothers of two teenage survivors, a perpetrator who himself was assaulted, and a woman police-officer. The more we start conversations about this, the more productive we can be about changing the narrative around sexual violence.

It’s going to be a big departure from the things I am used to making. But I have found that when it comes to online activism, sometimes you have to take the plunge.

Social change has to start with you.

This blog was written in support of YouTube’s Creators for Change initiative in Asia, in partnership with UNDP, as part of the #MyViewCan campaign.

 



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Asia News Network
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion

South Korea outpaces China with 505 new virus cases

The death toll now stands at 13, while 26 patients have been discharged after recovering fully. South Korea has reported its largest daily spike of 505 new coronavirus infections, outnumbering China for the first time as the government restricted exports of face masks amid a supply shortage. China, where the central city of Wuhan is the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, recorded 450 new cases yesterday. This brings South Korea’s total tally to 1,766, as officials warn that the number will continue to grow until around March 20 – two months after its first case. Experts say South Korea’s numbers are spiking because the authorities are testing people by the thousands each day, with the aim of testing all 210,000 members o


By The Straits Times
February 28, 2020

Opinion

China’s coronavirus fight remains challenging

 Key Party meeting calls for full vigilance in control, prevention tasks to avoid risks. The novel coronavirus epidemic in Hubei province is still complicated and challenging, a key Party meeting concluded on Wednesday as it drew attention to the risks of the epidemic rebounding in other areas. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, presided over the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in which members listened to a report by the leading group of the CPC Central Committee on coping with the epidemic outbreak and discussed key related tasks. At the meeting, Xi and other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee donate


By China Daily
February 27, 2020

Opinion

UN chief hails China’s efforts to contain outbreak

Official urges all countries to ‘do everything to be prepared’ to contain the epidemic. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday praised China’s contribution to the global fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, noting that the Chinese people are making efforts for all of humanity. The UN chief expressed his gratitude to all of the people in China who are sacrificing many aspects of their normal lives to prevent the virus from further spreading, after discussing the outbreak with World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva. Guterres said the decline in the number of new cases in China since the beginning of February is a very good sign, and he expressed the hope that this trend


By China Daily
February 26, 2020

Opinion

WHO calls China’s anti-virus effort ‘aggressive, agile’

Control measures taken by the country offered experience in improving the global response to the disease. While the substantial recent slowdown in the spread of novel coronavirus in China is real, and it is now reasonable to restore work activities step by step, health experts warned that risks abound of the virus flaring up again and they cautioned against complacency, the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 said at a news conference after its one-week field investigations in China. “Ambitious, agile and aggressive” control measures taken by China to control the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, bolstered by nationwide solidarity and advanced scientific research, have altered the curve of the outbreak for the better, averted a large number of potentia


By China Daily
February 25, 2020

Opinion

Map shows latest tally of Covid-19 cases in Taiwan, Taipei tops list

 After Taiwan reported its first confirmed cases, health authorities finally released on Monday the latest tally of Covid-19 cases in each administrative region, with Taipei being the highest.  More than one month after Taiwan reported its first confirmed cases, health authorities finally released on Monday the latest tally of COVID-19 cases in each administrative region, with Taipei being the highest. An interactive map on the website of Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the cities and counties where the country’s 28 coronavirus patients currently reside. Marked in red, the capital city has listed sev


By Asia News Network
February 24, 2020

Opinion

Asean, China enhance cooperation in response to Covid-19

The Asean Coordinating Council (ACC) and the Asean-China Foreign Ministers met on Thursday in Laos to discuss to how to respond to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The ACC’s special meeting, initiated by Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN, was attended by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN Secretary-General. Chairing the meeting, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said the event aimed to implement the ASEAN Chair’s Statement released on February 14 on the bloc’s collective response to COVID-19. Minh said that in the face of the epidemic, ASEAN needed to promote its cohesive and responsive spirit, and intensify co-operation within the bloc and between the bloc and its partners to respond to ch


By Viet Nam News
February 21, 2020