President Halimah Yacob has called for the producers of an online podcast to apologise for their misogynistic comments, saying women are not objects who should be made fun of.

In a strongly worded statement on Facebook on Monday (June 15), Madam Halimah said she had received many e-mails about popular local podcast Okletsgo, which had repeatedly aired sexist and lewd comments.

She added that the Malay- and English-language podcast, which is helmed by three former DJs—Mr Dzar Ismail, Mr Dyn Norahim and Mr Raja Razie—should “sincerely and humbly apologise”.

Image: ST File

Others have raised concerns, too, including Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, Singapore’s highest Islamic authority.

In one episode, the hosts openly commented on a female guest’s “cleavage” in the middle of an interview. They had made sexual remarks about women in other episodes as well.

Madam Halimah, in her Facebook post, said women “do not deserve this treatment by Okletsgo”, adding that healthy communities will be undermined by such podcasts.

“Women are not objects to be made fun of, ridiculed and trampled upon, and no one has the right to do that to them. Women have the right to be respected, valued for their contributions in the family and in our society,” added Madam Halimah.

“Taking cheap potshots at women to boost ratings or to make some people laugh no matter how offensive cannot be justified under any label, be it freedom of speech or encouraging conversations.”

She noted that educating a community on respect for women is a lifetime process, and this duty resides with everyone, particularly those who have great influence over people through social media.

“If we continue to perpetuate the image of women being inferior, existing only for the purpose of male sexual gratification, then we have to be held responsible for being one of the perpetrators of violence against women,” said Madam Halimah.

Dr Nazirudin, who posted his thoughts on Instagram on Monday, noted that influence should be used to create positive change, and not to perpetuate sexist attitudes and behaviours.

“Don’t just be a mirror to reflect what we think the society is. Let the misogyny train depart for good so that we can be better,” said Dr Nazirudin.

The podcast hosts addressed the controversy in a new podcast uploaded on Monday. They said it has “never been (their) intention to degrade women, or offend anyone specifically”.

“In fact, it’s in our interactions with women as guests… and as listeners who come to our live show who listen to us… that in a sense empower them, and have made all of us more appreciative of the women we have in our lives,” said one of the hosts.

They also argued that their language on the show “amplifies” what they have heard outside, and said the controversy felt like a “coordinated attack” because of their large audience.

“I’d like to remind all of you that we are not mainstream, (our podcast) is meant to push boundaries, it’s not meant to be taken seriously,” said one of the hosts in their podcast.

The Straits Times has reached out to the hosts for their comments.

Image: ST Photo
This article first appeared in The Straits Times in June 2020.