Politicians who appeared on OKLETSGO podcast say remarks on women were wrong, some sponsors concerned

Politicians who appeared on OKLETSGO podcast say remarks on women were wrong, some sponsors concerned

Member of Parliament OKLETSGO guests
Politicians including (clockwise from left) K Shanmugam, Masagos Zulkifli, Amrin Amin and Zaqy Mohamad have appeared as guests on popular podcast OKLETSGO.

SINGAPORE: Politicians who have appeared as guests on OKLETSGO said this week that the remarks made about women were wrong, while some of the popular podcast's sponsors have expressed concern over the saga that prompted its hosts to issue an apology. 

Over the past few days, the podcast has received widespread backlash for its content, which often included derogatory remarks about women. On Monday, President Halimah Yacob criticised the podcast for its misogynistic content and urged that its hosts apologise to women. 

Hosts and former radio DJs Dzar Ismail, Dyn Norahim and Raja Razie, issued an apology later that day. 

READ: OKLETSGO podcast should apologise for misogynistic remarks about women: President Halimah Yacob

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said remarks objectifying women go "beyond poor taste" and are "plain wrong". 

Mr Shanmugam had appeared on the podcast to discuss laws on falsehoods and religious harmony in an episode aired on Tuesday. 

"There is an opportunity here for hard but necessary conversations on this," he wrote. "OKLETSGO will need to play its part, to build bridges. I hope they learn, and grow from this," the minister added in his Facebook post. 

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who touched on the Malay/Muslim community collaboration M3 in an episode last June, said "there is no place" for derogatory comments towards women or any group in society.

"The strong criticism expressed towards the incident shows that our community values respect for women," he wrote, adding he is glad that the hosts have apologised.

"As influential personalities in media, it is imperative that they hold themselves to high standards of conduct and convey values that are aligned with what we stand for as a community."

READ: OKLETSGO hosts apologise for content objectifying women, urge podcast fans not to attack 'people we have hurt'

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who spoke in a March episode about how the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for skills upgrading, said "everyone agrees that insensitive and disrespectful voices towards women have no place in our society".

"Unsavoury comments against women is a line that should never be crossed," he wrote. "Nobody has the right to offend others’ sensibilities."

Nevertheless, Mr Zaqy said the podcast has raised awareness of various schemes that can benefit the community and used creative ways to engage the community on difficult issues.

"Social media influencers like OLG can set the tone on how they can be responsible influencers in upholding ethics and be exemplary in how they conduct themselves online," he added. "I believe that OLG can do better."

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin also wrote on Facebook, saying it is important to build a conducive culture that supports women.

"Jokes can also hurt, enforce stereotypes or mislead people into thinking that it's okay to objectify women." 

"This is wrong, and as a society we should point this out to put things right. We must also give space for people to grow and learn. Misogynistic comments on women on OKLETSGO podcasts were wrong," he added. 

Mr Amrin said he personally knows the podcast's hosts, adding that they are "talented and good-hearted people". 

"I hope they will grow from this," he said. "Our words and action have impact. They can sting. The true test of character is to admit our mistakes and learn from them."

SPONSORS EXPRESS CONCERN

Some of the podcast's sponsors have also expressed concern.

OKLETSGO's partners include government agencies, health products and financial advisors. They get a mention during episodes and their representatives sometimes appear as guests to speak about related topics.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) told CNA on Tuesday evening that it had a "one-off engagement" with OKLETSGO that ended on May 27, and did not have further engagements planned.

"This one-off project was about keeping healthy during the Ramadan and Hari Raya period, and the engagement was made after reviewing their ability to deliver content provided by HPB on healthy living," it said.

"Each episode of content was reviewed by HPB before it was released publicly."

HPB said the controversial remarks made on the podcast happened over the first two weeks of June, after its engagement ended. 

"In HPB’s public education efforts, the intent is to convey messages that positively encourage healthy living," it added.

"We believe in the need to be responsible and sensitive when putting out these messages, and will continue to carry out our efforts with sensitivity and care."

Foodpanda told CNA it did not intend to cause hurt and has requested for its sponsored content on OKLETSGO to be removed.

"Foodpanda does not condone misogyny in any form," a spokesperson said, adding that the company respects contributions that women have made around the world.

The spokesperson said Foodpanda had partnered OKLETSGO over Ramadan to give "extra value" to Muslim customers during the "circuit breaker" period.

"We will be relooking our considerations for future marketing partnerships to prevent similar incidents from happening again," the spokesperson said. 

Mr Qayyim Isa, founder of financial advisor group TAQ Wealth Associates, told CNA that the group will not proceed with recording the remaining two of the four planned episodes in June.

Mr Qayyim said he expressed his concerns to the podcast hosts, who said they understood and would "work on it". 

"We may consider other platforms, but at this time we have a very professional agreement with OKLETSGO," he said, adding that the podcast has allowed his group to reach the masses.

"In terms of the approach and everything, we will review again looking at how they will position themselves in the upcoming projects."

CNA has contacted several other sponsors, including Workforce Singapore, for comment. Property agent group Sitimuszaideanbatisahbros declined comment.

OKLETSGO hosts
OKLETSGO hosts (from left) Dyn Norahim, Dzar Ismail and Raja Razie. (Photo: Qashrul Hidafi via Facebook/OKLETSGO)

Another sponsor Nur Insan, which offers free Islamic classes, said in a Facebook post on Monday evening that parents had been approached to withdraw their children from the classes.

"This is a deeply concerning issue," it wrote. "We understand the sentiments in the current climate, however, we urge the community to refrain from allowing emotions to cloud our perspectives."

Nur Insan urged people to consider its asatizah's efforts in teaching the classes, adding that it partnered the podcast to share knowledge with a wider community.

In another Facebook post on Tuesday, Nur Insan said it has addressed parents' concerns and confirmed that none of its students have withdrawn from classes.

Self-help group Yayasan MENDAKI posted on Facebook on Monday that "every individual must be respected and acknowledged as a contributing member of society".

"We believe that such discourse and conversation can and must be carried out responsibly with dignity and mutual respect," it wrote. "In a truly mature, frank and productive conversation, we need not transgress social norms."

AWARE RESPONDS

In a Facebook post on Monday, women's rights group AWARE denounced the podcast's "misogynistic language" and expressed support for the women who called it out.

"Talking on air about your favourite female body parts (vis-à-vis sexual positions) is textbook sexual objectification," said AWARE, referring to some of the language used by the hosts.

"Telling a female guest that you can't pay attention to what she's saying because her cleavage is too distracting is not only objectification, it's sexual harassment."

AWARE said it does not make sense to frame "tragically outdated" views on gender as boundary-pushing conversation, adding that this points to patriarchy.

However, AWARE acknowledged that the podcast has taken "laudable steps" to feature marginalised individuals, including transgender activist Sherry Sherqueshaa.

"Yet when she was brought on the show, she was subject to the aforementioned verbal harassment concerning her cleavage," it said.

AWARE encouraged the podcast's hosts to continue condemning the actions of fans who harass critics and to produce an episode on examining their perspectives on gender.

"Commit to more nuanced, sensitive, trauma-informed discourse in all future content - whether or not the President is listening," said the group. 

Source: CNA/hz(hs)

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