Malaysiakini Opinion

Trust girls to speak their own minds

Maryam Lee  |  Published on  |  Modified on

COMMENT | Recently, I had to write about my experience with online violence and bullying that I have endured for the last three years. I wrote a 10-page report on three case studies specific to me, starting with my "grand entry" into online vitriol back in 2016.

It was the case of me eating in public during Ramadan, and getting violently harassed by a patron at the restaurant where I was eating, as well as the manager of the restaurant who took the side of the man who harassed me.

I took to Facebook to tell the story of what happened, 12 hours after the incident, together with my analysis of what happened and woke up to weeks of non-stop online abuse and harassment.

Since then, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the root cause of such hatred towards the female voice, and its role in the realm of producing public opinions. While this is an issue of self-expression, it is also an issue of patriarchy and gender-based violence.

On March 31, 2018, an NGO of police and army veterans called Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan came up with a press statement on their distress with Cambridge Analytica and made baseless assumptions about #UndiRosak.

My name was specifically mentioned. The organisation claims it is simply not possible for a “pleasant lady” to have had ideas to rebel on her own.

It seems that when women go against the norm, they must have been paid to do it, they must have been externally influenced, instead of believing that they are inherently capable of forming opinions via their own intellectual exercise.

I quote: "The prime mover of the campaign is Maryam Lee, known more for her feminist activism and frequent postings on women’s issues such as Women’s March, Wanita Bangkit, in her Facebook postings. Ms Lee had never been known to be vocal in mainstream politics.

"How then could a pleasant lady suddenly transformed into the national scene and launched a captivating rebellious campaign targeting the youths? How did it become a movement of dissent against (Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad)? It is just not possible."

Why would this not be possible? I can name at least half a dozen other men who are also politically active against both caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and Mahathir, but why would the same dissent from a young, unmarried woman be any different? If it was possible for them, why was it not possible for me...

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