From AWARE Facebook page, 15 Nov 2013 and ‘Offensive verse of army song banned’, 16 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST
(AWARE) Ever wonder if speaking up about sexism really creates change? Here’s one case where it has! Earlier this year, AWARE learned of “Purple Light”, a marching song sung by many NSmen, which included the lines:
“Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me.”
We were troubled that NSmen were bonding over misogynist lyrics about committing sexual violence against women. So we raised our concerns with MINDEF and SAF.
And now we have excellent news: MINDEF and SAF have confirmed that they took steps to investigate. They will “immediately halt” the singing of these lyrics, which they describe as “contrary to the values of [their] organisation”.
It’s really encouraging that MINDEF and SAF are prepared to listen to feedback, recognise this as an issue and take action on it. Thumbs up!
(ST)…Aware’s executive director Corinna Lim said in a statement yesterday that the group was alerted to the offensive lyrics by seven national servicemen during a workshop in July that was held as part of Aware’s ongoing campaign to stop violence against women.
Ms Lim said: “These misogynistic lyrics tolerate and normalise the violent sexual abuse of women, condoning gang- rape as a justified punishment for infidelity.”
She added: “Such lyrics may encourage young men at impressionable ages to objectify women, and contribute to an environment where violence against women is trivialised.”
If I had sung such a lyric during road marches or battalion runs I would have remembered it till now, but I don’t. I would also never think of participating in AWARE workshops to protest about army songs like these 7 NSmen did. In another version of the song, ‘rape’ is replaced by ‘beat’, which doesn’t make it any better by AWARE’s standards. Purple Light has devolved over the years, from a rousing ode to loyalty and patriotism to the extent of ‘burying yourself with your rifle and buddy when you die’, to one containing a tasteless, but more importantly, unfunny verse re-enacting some angry boy’s sick fantasy.
This is how the ‘clean’ version sounds like, with the violence and misogyny replaced by ‘broken heart, back to army’, where the recruit seeks solace in the Purple Light trinity that is ‘my rifle and my buddy and me’. No sir, nothing remotely kinky about that at all.
From the AWARE post, it seems that the Legion just wants SAF to stop singing those specific lyrics, but makes no mention of calling for the song’s BAN altogether, as interpreted by TRS. Maybe it’s time we standardise the song to the wimpy ‘broken heart’ version, but I doubt that anyone who continues to belt out the X-rated Purple Light would get any form of actual punishment beyond verbal abuse such as ‘KNNBCCB’ (next on the list of AWARE’s banned army words, perhaps?)
AWARE may nitpick on marketing bloopers like green eyeshadow for women and trophy boyfriend advertisements, but intruding into camp affairs like marching songs, swear-words or CB leaves is like a group of Girl Guides trying to infiltrate a Boys Only tree-house and telling them not to use ‘boobies’ as a secret password. We often use the phrase ‘fuck spider’ in camp but you don’t see the SPCA banging on our doors demanding to stop this gross bestiality. MOM are not taking NSmen to task for making their maids carry backpacks for them, and the Nature Society is not at all concerned about us messing with taxonomy when we name plants after female genitalia. For decades, NS has taken obscene liberties with sex equality, yet we haven’t become a nation of rapists and wife-beaters, as AWARE is terrified of us turning into after singing Purple Light while marching.
But it’s not just army songs that are too ‘rapey’ for their own good. What does AWARE think about Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines then, a massively popular song that’s not confined to army grounds but blasted out there on the airwaves for little children to hear. Oh the humanity!
OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
Or God forbid, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back.
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Why, we should also abolish the classic analogy, or rather ‘objectification’, of rifles as soldiers’ ‘wives’, since we do a lot of weapon ‘stripping’, chain them up in an armory once we’re done with them, ‘muzzle’ them and rest our cheeks against their butts. The frequent use of ‘Guniang’ as a taunt is also degrading to the women, depicting them as the ‘weaker’ sex. Or ban sexy SAF Drama and Dance performers after a victorious field exercise and have them replaced by Village People tribute bands instead, singing ‘Macho Macho Man’, with our rifles and our buddies and… well, you get my drift.
Ironically, there’s a Purple Light Walk held in the US which aims to raise awareness of domestic violence. Also, a Purple Light movie in the works, which I hope has none of that sexist, misogynistic content that made Ah Boys to Men such a disgrace to the SAF. One Ah Boy actor, Ridhwan Azman, made the news after slapping his girlfriend. Not sure if the ‘Purple Light’ verse was playing in his head then, like a Satanic rock song coaxing one into sacrificing a virgin at the altar. In fact, AWARE nominated Ah Boys to Men for the prestigious Alamak award for its unabashed sexist violence (with a 48% vote), instead of calling for its rating to be revised to R-21 or something. We should really have an award for AWARE’s complaints, called the ‘AWARE Insistently Yakking On Hombres’ award, or ‘AIYOH’ for short.
Maybe AWARE should propose its own ‘You Go Girl!’ remix of Purple Light, which would probably contain lyrics like:
Purple line, take to Sengkang
Lao Tiko, staring at me
Take my heels, stab his birdie
With my BFF and my Prada and MEEEE
Went shopping, got GSS
Saw my man, with another girl
Take my scissors, cut off his testes
With my BFF and my Prada and MEEEE
And we guys would just laugh it off, or cringe nervously, instead of complaining about graphic genital mutilation.
Postscript: Mindef later clarified that the song hasn’t been outright banned, but confirmed that the original version was indeed the ‘broken heart’ one. Despite the army having us ‘training to be soldier’ and ‘fight for our land’, there’s nothing a killing machine can do to confront his cheater girlfriend and her new guy except confide in his buddy and hug his rifle sobbing to sleep. I’d suggest removing the stanza altogether.