Singapore president orders podcast hosts to apologize to women

Okletsgo podcasters Dyn Norahim, Dzar Ismail, and Raja Razie. Photo: Okletsgo/Facebook
Okletsgo podcasters Dyn Norahim, Dzar Ismail, and Raja Razie. Photo: Okletsgo/Facebook

The hosts of a popular local podcast today said their program’s crude language is consistent with the personality of their show and reflects how people in the Malay community speak, winning fresh admonition from no less than Singapore’s president.

Dyn Norahim, Dzar Ismail, and Raja Razie, hosts of the Okletsgo podcast, did not apologize and said the show’s language was part of their “flavor” in a message posted to Spotify this morning addressing accusations which have sparked debate between detractors and fans of both sexes.

“Let me just put things into perspective. Number one, I think people forget we are not mainstream media. I just want to reiterate that we are not mainstream media,” DJ Dzar said in the segment titled To whomever it may concern, this is for you.

Dzar, who provided most of the commentary, stressed that the language they used simply echoes what they have heard in the community. 

Recent episodes have invited complaints they were degrading toward women, such as recent comments about whether a transgender guest was wearing a bra. Critics have described the language used as crude, demeaning, and sexualizing.

“We acknowledge that the language we use is out of the ordinary but this in truth and in fact is consistent with our flavor,” Dzar said today. “This is our flavor, which we in time and time again have reiterated in this podcast hosted by three men which technically amplifies what we have heard outside our interpretation of what people are outside.”

He said their words should not be taken seriously.

“And I believe it is with this concept that has gravitated so many listeners to come and listen. I don’t believe we would get these listeners if the concept was different, something kosher, but that being said I’d like to remind all of you that we are not mainstream it is meant to push boundaries and it’s not meant to be taken seriously, you get where I’m coming from? It’s not meant to be taken seriously.”

Clearly unimpressed by the response, President Halimah Yacob weighed in later this morning to say she had received many complaints.

“They worry about the kind of values that are being promoted among the young, and their concerns are justified. It’s not ok to treat women like dirtbags and punching bags,” she wrote online. 

She asked the trio to “humbly apologise to all women for their offensive, humiliating and misogynistic remarks.”

‘Demeaning;’ ‘sexualizing’

Since the podcast launched early last year, it has since put out hundreds of episodes with guests such as Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and the popular drag queen-comedian Kumar. Some episodes have been sponsored by organizations and companies including the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community, better known as Mendaki. 

They routinely address topics such as marriage, relationships, and sex. 

While the podcast had been going on for over a year, it was only in the past few days that some began to voice concerns. 

Among the shows that have been called out was an interview with a transgender sex worker in which one of the hosts said “I’m not even sure whether she is wearing a bra or not” while describing her to listeners. 

“Using demeaning words on women, or to anybody for that matter, WILL HAVE negative impacts. First it is making sex jokes about women. Then slut shaming. After that what? Nonconsensual gang rape will be ok also is it?” Facebook user Nina Lestari wrote online. 

“I dislike OLG because they remind me of the Malay men in my life and environment who casually dehumanise and sexualise women and brush it off as jokes,” @Anygalien tweeted.  “Having that normalised and aired to the Malay masses does enable/shape the current and next generation of Malay men.”

The Singapore Muslim Women’s Association, or PPIS, also issued a statement in light of the backlash, calling on online communities to work with them to “create a new normal where we unlearn and relearn to make change happen.”

“In line with our mission, PPIS believes in the importance of positive discourse and healthy conversations that serve to uplift the community, especially women,” it said. 

Member of Parliament Zainal Sapari also weighed in online, quoting the Islamic prophet Muhammad about women. 

“Observe your duty to Allah in respect to the women, and treat them well,” he said. 

Meanwhile, those defending Okletsgo say those expressing concern were “overly sensitive.” Some women dismissed the trio’s language as regular male behavior. 

“End of the day, they are just regular guys who talk regular stuff like normal men,” Anna Md said on the podcast’s Facebook page.

Other stories to check out: 

Clearing doctor proves special courts needed for sexual violence: AWARE
Singapore Poly probes student accused of rape over Twitter

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