A Facebook Page Is Leading the Way In Thailand's #MeToo Conversation
Thaiconsent is a safe space for sexual harassment victims to share their stories, and an accessible resource for some tough talk about the harmful effects of rape culture.
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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA
At this point, it should no longer surprise anyone when social media becomes the birthplace of a social movement. I was laying on my parents' couch when I saw Facebook statuses from women I know that simply said, "Me Too." I went on Twitter to find out more, then I fell asleep. I didn't expect to wake up to a movement the next morning.
Thailand's own #MeToo movement might actually be brewing as we speak, and it's happening on a Facebook page succinctly called "Thaiconsent". The page isn't strictly a collection of stories from people (mostly women) about how their consent was violated at different times, it's also sort of a forum where people discuss articles posted by the page's admin. And while it highlights instances of sexual harassment in Thailand, it also brings up cases in different parts of the world.
“I created the page because I was angry,” 26-year-old artist and activist Wipaphan Wongsawang told Khaosod English. "It focuses on educating people what is consent, so that they won’t violate others."
In one post, Thaiconsent makes an analogy between tea and sex. "Let's just imagine that you invite a girl to take a sip at the afternoon at home," the post read in Thai. "You might ask her, 'Do you want a cup of tea?' If she says no, you don't have to waste your time walking to make tea. Repeat! Don't make tea! Don't force the no that she doesn't want to drink tea."
Thaiconsent is the kind of page necessary in countries where laws surrounding sexual harassment exists but are rarely enforced. In Thailand, sexual harassment officially became a punishable crime in 1998, but the law hasn't changed much since then. Until today, when a person comes reports an instance of harassment to the police, he or she is required to give the police some hard evidence. And as is the case in many parts of the world, the law does not protect people whose experiences of sexual harassment fall in a gray area. In Thailand, for example, a husband couldn't legally rape his wife until the law changed 10 years ago. So now a man who rapes his wife is considered a rapist. In the past he was what? Just a husband.
Across Asia, rape culture is so ingrained in our daily lives that pages like Thaiconsent are the least we can do to make the world a better place for victims. For some, reading others' stories might be the first time they see that they're victims and not to blame for what's happened to them. But the page is also an online resource to avoid people becoming victims in the first place. Consent, according to Wipaphan, is a concept Thais are still getting used to.
“Thai people actually talk about sex a lot, but they always talk about the performance aspects,” Wipaphan told Khaosod English. “They never talk about what it means to them, or what kind of memory about yourself it leaves.”
In Indonesia, the page's popularity and approach are comparable to Indonesia Feminis, a Facebook page that talks about anything from sexual harassment cases in the media to the intersection of women's rights and religion. And perhaps right now Facebook pages and other social media channels are the safest, and most effective way, for people to deconstruct their experiences and start to understand the truth about rape culture and why it's so pervasive, so we can all begin to find ways to take down the massive, systemic problem.
As for Thaiconsent, Wipaphan said that she plans on reaching out beyond the 40,000 or so people who are already following the page. For the first time after establishing Thaiconsent over a year ago, Wipaphan is bringing the conversation offline next month in an art exhibition in Bangkok.
“I didn’t start the page to fight, to win, to help every case, because I know I won’t be able to make everybody win until the day I die if the root of the problem still persists,” she told Khaosod English.