Written by Cindy Banun
“Truth be Told – Know Your Limits”: Poetry Showcase
“Truth be Told” is a poetry showcase with the tagline: “Know Your Limits”, and is powered by Poet X. Being the highlight of the “Can’t Touch This” campaign, it features important guests such as Dr Elizabeth Lee (Senior Executive Director of Sunway University) and Aysha Shujaat (Lean In Malaysia), Ola Bola movie actor Andy Gomez, as well as social media influencers Alicia Amin and Arwind Kumar.
The poetry showcase started with an opening remark by the emcee to introduce the issue of sexual harassment as well as the programs for the evening. Dr Elizabeth and Aysha Shujaat were given the floor to each give a speech regarding sexual harassment. Dr Elizabeth had stated that:
“sexual harassment was a subtle form of discrimination and made their victims, both men and women feel disempowered”.
Ms Aysha parted with an important piece of advice: victims of sexual harassment should be able to prioritize their safety regardless of the “severity” of the situation that they find themselves in. Honor shouldn’t be seen as a higher priority. Her advice to victims: talk about it, don’t stay silent.
It was a rather lighthearted start to the evening with a poetry performance by Marcus and Athan, two eleven-year-old poets. Though, it wasn’t enough to alleviate the heaviness of the subject matter. Their poem, written through the eyes of a child, was reminiscent of what my parents used to warn me about – the dangers of speaking with strangers and the horror stories if we were to be caught. What’s even more disconcerting to me is how young children are at higher risk to be victims of sexual harassment. They are in danger of attracting unknown predators but are too young to understand their own body, let alone the desires that lie at the root of such behaviours.
Next, was a storytelling session by Dr Chan Nee Nee, the Head of Department of Communication and Liberal Arts (DCLA). She stated that what defines “me” is the bravery of being different and unique, being able to love, show kindness and openness without being judged based on “my” features or dress.
Following Dr Chan’s performance was another storytelling session by Ms Sheena Gurbakhash, a committee member of The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL). She showed us separate case studies of sex offenders who are both said to be “well brought up boys” by those around them. Her point here was clear: anyone, regardless of their social standing and their living environment, can commit sexual offences. Next, was a poetry recital by Gwendoline Esther which vividly illustrated her traumatizing experience on a bus ride back to her hometown. I was able to feel her fear and her anger through her words, and that, for me, was a truly amazing experience.
The performance and storytelling by KitaOrang after that helped lift up the heavy atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed Azam Rais’ poem which evolved around his encounter with a prostitute and her story of being sexually harassed earlier in her life. Some may say that the problem of sexual harassment is due to prostitutes setting an image of what is “okay” to do to a woman. However, these women are victims as well. We must see the problem of the disparity of “appropriate” social behaviour between men and women in order to be able to see the solution. Azam had mentioned that: “We are all whores in this world, we only choose which parts to sell.”, which I find really fits the reality of our society today.
The final poetry session was by Dhinesha Karthigesu, the champion of Causeway Exchange (CEX) 2017 Poetry Slam. He started with an introduction of sexual harassment in film. The romance Bollywood movies that he mentioned, with its love trope is actually just creepy and misogynist if it were to happen in real life. Regardless, we need a caring society where men should watch out for the women, and not be the ones inflicting distress.
Last but not least, a sketch performance by students of Diploma in Performing Art which was able to vividly illustrate the severity of sexual harassment issues. They were great actors and actresses as the performance flowed smoothly from start to finish. Their performance involved a female employee who was sexually harassed and coerced by her boss. It is far too easy for a place that people would perceive as safe to turn hostile, then, the only way victims can find comfort is by sharing their experiences with a caring community. This is what “Can’t Touch This” campaign is trying to build and sustain at Sunway University. The problem of sexual harassment can only be effectively solved with proper reception from everyone in Sunway University.
In conclusion, the event was amazing from start to finish with an outspoken and engaging audience. The tagline: “Know Your Limits”, is extremely appropriate for this event due to the powerful messages sent across to the audience. The whole event was very well organized and executed, it went on smoothly from beginning to end. I am confident to say that almost all the audience left the hall more informed and enthusiastic on combating the issue than they were coming in.
Previously: Can’t Touch This Campaign (Part 1)
Up Next: Can’t Touch This Campaign (Part 3)