My articles for Design Anthology online:
My articles for Design Anthology online:
A few months ago I was kindly invited onto RTHK’s Agender Cafe radio show to speak about men’s makeup and beauty – you can listen to and download the podcast here. Here is the show’s transcript:
You’re listening to the 123 show with me Noreen Mir this Friday afternoon. And since its Friday it is time for the Agender Café and I would like to welcome back to the studio our wonderful co-host Karen Koh. Karen, how are you?
I’m great Noreen how are you?
I’m very good thank you. So what are we talking about this week on the Agender Café?
So today we’re talking about something that we talk about a lot, beauty products and makeup. But not for us for guys, for men so we’re talking guy-liners and manscaras.
Oh I like that a lot! Guyliners.
Ok, so if we look at men and makeup ready for a little history lesson.
So historically men have actually always worn makeup and so if you go back to say ancient Egypt and even Roman times men wore eyeliner you know the very almond shape Egyptian eyes. Kohl around their eyes and they stained their lips red with ground-up beetles and stuff like that. Then in Elizabethan England in the 18th century and 18th century France they put white powder on their faces to make them really pale which usually killed them because it was a lead-based powder – so that wasn’t too good.
They died looking good.
They died looking wonderful for that time. And they wore extravagant wigs, and then it wasn’t till the mid-1800s when Queen Victoria came in and you know she was very straight laced and declared that cosmetics were vulgar and vain and the work of the devil and the Church of England got on board and reinforced this view. So makeup was sent to the female end of the gender spectrum. So it was no longer acceptable for men to wear makeup. Then we come to the 20th century and it sort of re-emerged with the modern movie industry so around the 1930s in Hollywood guys like Clark Gable were the pin-up boys and they had makeup and it kind of stayed with us since then but it’s always been on the fringes you know, it’s always been the actors, the musicians, artists, people like Prince, David Bowie, Steven Tyler, Boy George – they’re the ones who have worn makeup publicly and kind of promoted makeup. And so when you fast forward to today it’s still on the fringes but now we’ve got some of the world’s biggest names in skincare and cosmetics launching lines specifically for men. So Chanel recently launched a line called Boy, Tom Ford has some men’s makeup products and then there’s a newer makeup company, Milk makeup that ran a video campaign in 2017 called blur the lines and blur is the name of their product but the campaign had people from a whole range of gender identities talking about how makeup is for everyone. And then last year Maybelline which is a real mass market company used this male YouTube and Instagram star James Charles who is beautiful to market their new mascara. So we know that here in Asia a lot of men are more aware of taking care of their skin, but now this kind of goes a step further with more and more men actually feeling comfortable with wearing makeup so that is what we’re going to talk about and we have three great guests to discuss that with us today, we have James Thompson Sakrani who is the founder of Style Standard and that’s a curated men’s boutique focusing on essentials, formal accessories, grooming and lifestyle products, we have Shing-Hei David who works in garment design and manufacturing and he’s been a skincare and cosmetics user since he was a teenager and we have Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who is a beauty journalist and a trend forecaster as well as an academic with a focus on gender. So thank you all for joining us today.
So maybe if I start with you Babette, since you write about this and you’re in this industry what do you think is behind the move towards men wearing makeup?
Generally worldwide or in Asia?
Worldwide and Asia.
Yes sure so I think worldwide as well as Asia celebrity trend really has been driving it, so especially with South Korea. So a lot of South Korean celebrities drive fashion and beauty and skincare trends across this region, so I think just seeing celebrities use makeup a lot more especially in the last eight to 10 years in this region and then being able to talk about it. So you’re seeing a rise of vloggers talking about the makeup they use and the skincare products they use and so there is more of a general acceptance. I mean you saw in Korea about five years ago beauty brands that are specifically targeted towards women would use men to advertise their skincare products as well. So its much more of a, like you were saying, a blurred lines around gender here as well.
And as far as the consumer goes in Asia are the majority of men open to this or do they still feel like this is something they can only do privately at home and not really let anyone know I’m doing it?
Hmm I think the market here like with women is really driven by skincare predominantly rather than makeup. That’s a lot to do with the climate as well, so as you all know it’s really difficult to wear a lot of makeup here compared to England where you can wear like ten layers of makeup and we actually had to.
It will just melt
Yeah it does! It’s a really horrible thing to find out here, like your makeup will just melt off your face as your hair will just explode as well. So yeah I think a big focus here is skincare and I do think it is getting more generally accepted by people here but I think it still is very niche here and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s much more natural looks so you’re not going to see like colour cosmetics here become mainstream for quite a few years I think.
When you say niche, how niche? Are you talking about the younger generation, are you seeing middle-aged, or are the older men also looking after their skin nowadays?
I’ve seen as a beauty journalist across quite a lot of generations but I think there is a much more general acceptance for a millennial consumer that this will be part of your day to day routine like maybe a three or four step beauty routine, whereas I’m also seeing it with older generations as well.
So the other thing about niche is I mentioned before it was always the artistic, creative types of people who were more accepting, is that the same, if you’re here in Asia and you work as a hairdresser or a makeup artist or in fashion (you’re kind of expected) in the music business, it’s acceptable to wear makeup. And kind of not surprising.
Definitely and I think it’s also due to workplace rules as well come to play into it a lot as well, as a hair stylist or a fashion stylist you can really wear what you want to, but a lot of office environments still have quite traditional dress codes across Asia, so maybe you want to have bright red hair but you can’t do it here still, so I think if you saw more, with like the rise of co-working spaces and new ways of working people can be more independent and can express themselves more as an individual in the work environment I think then you will see this come across more.
Well let’s bring David Shing-Hei into the conversation as well. David welcome to the programme. So you’ve been interested in cosmetics and makeup since you were a teenager, what peaked your interest in it?
I was 13 when I think I had my first dance performance and then I thought oh I’m a dancer so someone is going to do my makeup backstage so I was waiting and waiting then I was like oh but all my dance friends have already done their makeup so then I was like ‘who is going to do my makeup’ and then I realised that they had done their own makeup and there was no budget for the dancers. So I was like ‘oh can I have your makeup’ and then I start applying it onto my face and that’s how I first started doing makeup.
So you had never sort of experimented before? So what sort of things did you use that day did you use powder, foundation, eyeliner…
I just picked whatever to just make my skin look better and I remember I picked like a glitter to make my face look super shiny and I naturally have very heavy eye bags so I apply the glitter on under my eyes so on stage my eye bags look even more outstanding.
You had the shiniest eye bags!
And then I felt really upset because that was my first performance when I was 13 and it was in Cambridge. It was a contemporary performance so you were meant to look natural but good and then I looked terrible. I think I looked like a cabaret, a drag queen but I’m wearing men’s tight lycra and so I was like ‘no I can’t do that’ so then I went online and searched and back then I was 13 and not ages ago but then it’s not very common on YouTube to see how men are doing makeup so I would just ask my friends or I go to a cosmetics shop when I was around 14 and I was like ‘hi I want some basic makeup on stage just to look good’ and yeah that’s how I started.
What’s your routine? Do you do a cosmetics routine now, you can also include skincare routine.
When I wake up I drink a glass of hot water – that’s what I’ve been told is how you look after yourself and your skin and your body, and then I wash my face, and then toner and then moisturiser and then I just apply primer so your face looks less oily, then a concealer stick and then I put some powder to set it and then a little bit of eyeliner in a dark brown colour that looks a bit more natural.
So you do this everyday right?
Every single day. I think I have to do it like three times every day because it comes off in Hong Kong and then sometimes after I go to the gym and then I have to do it. Even when I stay at home on Sundays I feel really tired without putting anything on my face, so when I wake up I know that I’m not going out but I’m still putting basic makeup on my face, and then I feel like I can start my day. It’s an addiction. But you really need to look after yourself like you need to remove your makeup properly because it’s not perfect for your skin.
It clogs your pores.
But you look good.
You know when you remove it what do you use to remove it? I just want to get some tips from you.
Just makeup remover but I don’t use an oil based one because that gives me a lot of acne so I don’t use oil based makeup remover, I used to use a lot of oil based makeup remover and it gave me a lot of bad skin so I’m still recovering from having acne from when I was 16/17 I didn’t really care I feel like I’m just going to put lots of foundation on. I used to cake myself because I was in London so obviously I can. It’s not going to melt.
And then how do your family and friends react? Do all of your friends and family know you wear makeup every day?
My friends, especially all of my best girlfriends, always ask me like what is the good brand right now, they ask me that because I sort of know. But then some of them will be like why do you need to put makeup on, but that was like ages ago and now they don’t really ask. Because I think that our generation understands this is who you want to be and then you can’t be bothered about people so sometimes when I’m at the gym I just want to fix my makeup you get people coming up and asking you questions.
Ok, so let’s bring James into the conversation here. Now you’ve just started this lifestyle business. What sort of demand do you see for men’s cosmetics and for men wanting to know how to use makeup, whether they should use makeup. Is it socially acceptable to wear makeup?
I think frankly I’m very much on the other side the guys we deal with and I just men on a broader scale, aren’t doing this sort of thing to the extent that maybe guys in Asia are doing it. But also to Babette’s point about it being more niche. I think generally you will find most guys aren’t doing that yet – it’s still a fight to get guys to moisturise. It’s still a fight for me for example we sell a face mask and I love it, I swear by it, I think it’s amazing. Women know all about this stuff, guys are just coming to the table. And a lot of guys aren’t interested. I had a conversation with someone recently who basically said look my face is clean what else matters? And that is sort of the key point there. That’s the line for most guys, is if it’s clean, what else do I really need to do.
So do you think that is because they still feel like taking care of your skin and your face is vain or it’s effeminate and if I’m not someone who does that, as that would mean I’m less masculine?
I think that that plays into it. Let me totally change track for a second, but if you look at the political situation in Europe and in North America there’s a big pushback right now against this sort of they call it the feminisation of culture. Gilette just had the ad that came out that in many ways I think called out men in general and said look you gotta do better you gotta step up, but a lot of guys turned around and went ‘no actually hang on you’re attacking us, this is who we are, this is our culture, this is our people, and so there’s a lot of guys you won’t look at this sorta thing because they do see it as too girly or too feminine.
But at the same time you also have a lot more awareness of gender, equality and gender norms, I don’t mean to say gender norms but the whole range of gender identities so in some ways it’s like there’s never been a better time to be able to say ‘hey I can be whoever I want to be’.
I agree, I think right now a change is happening, David I think is a great example of this. 10 or 15 years ago you wouldn’t have had grown men on radio publicly admitting to wearing makeup, let alone talking for it or how to do it, it just wouldn’t have happened. And so we’re getting to that point but I think it’s a slow paradigm shift, and it happens gradually, you know you don’t turn around and say hey look go and buy foundation, go buy concealer, go buy this, go buy that, you say look maybe try a face mask once in a while, maybe get your girlfriend to try something like this.
Well I was going to ask so where is the line drawn for men then? They’re obviously into some sort of grooming, perhaps they’re into grooming their beard, or their hair, I mean where is that line at the moment for regular guys?
I think the little is a little bit blurred and again to go back to South Korea, it’s a great example of that because culturally we can look at South Korea and say look obviously this isn’t such a big thing, guys are doing it, it’s spreading across, look at K-pop and the influence that’s had around Asia and around the world. But I think for most guys if you just grab the average guy off the street they’re starting to get into things like face scrubs or that sort of thing, moisturiser is becoming a much more common thing. If you look at North America, the pharmacies are full of it for guys now, whereas 10 years ago you wouldn’t have seen a lot of stuff.
They need serum as well. You know women have such a range of stuff but sometimes I think is it just manufacturers wanting another piece of the pie and just making a line for men. Exactly, because men’s and women’s skin aren’t too different, skin is skin you know, we have oily, we have dry, we have T-zone, combination skin.
What about the other aspects of grooming for example eyebrows. Men, I know my sons are always looking at their eyebrows and going oh mum can you help me pluck my eyebrows because of the stray hairs in the middle? Nobody wants a monobrow right? So do we see men doing things like waxing their eyebrows or waxing their back? Or other parts of their bodies, butts?
They do eyebrows now, for all my dad’s family friends, all the family friends, all the uncles, they have tattooed eyebrows.
Are they the permanent tattoos or are they the embroidery types, the micro-blading?
I never asked them but they a look a bit…
Do they talk about it? Or they just do it?
No, I mean
How old are they? If they’re your dad’s friends?
50-65 a lot of them.
Have they just recently started to do their eyebrows?
Recently, I think in Hong Kong it’s very common, I think it’s the wife that asked them to do it, because my dad hasn’t done it yet, so my father was like what happened to your eyebrows to one of my uncles, and he was like what is wrong with it, I look amazing. He sat there and I think there was once like time to time my dad always says he wants to do plastic surgery to remove his eyebags to look younger. And I was like that is so weird, but go ahead.
Yeah but it’s interesting…he is so open in talking about it.
He wanted to do it…actually in Hong Kong as well and in Asian industry if they want to do it, but when James was talking about K-pop and Babette was talking about K-pop, it’s really sad to see how lots of like men are artists in the K-pop industry they will do amazing makeup but then they also got banned to go to China to perform because the government was like no you’re not allowed to be, you can’t wear makeup on stage.
Because it’s a bad influence or?
I think they found it a very bad influence for their own country so they’re not allowed to wear earrings, they’re not allowed to wear heavy makeup if they want to go to China.
But that’s interesting because I know in China there are a lot of male beauty vloggers right? Babette, so you cover a lot of stuff in China.
So there has been a recent, as James was saying as well about the backlash, so we’re seeing in China a real backlash against gender identities so this apparent quote marks feminisation so quite a traditional idea that if you wear makeup it’s linked to your sexuality somehow so it’s quite a traditional idea still, so I think it’s also a backlash against Korean influence as well, so you are seeing that backlash. And back to what Noreen was saying earlier about the marketization, I think it’s really important as a beauty journalist to understand because if you think Korea is probably the epitome of the skincare industry where it will go, and it’s pretty much saturated now, there’s not much more you can go there, there’s 15 step beauty routines so where are you going to take this right? Exactly. What’s the next step? And now you’re seeing a band of Korean women who are now smashing up their makeup and denying it which is a backlash from a country where cosmetic surgery is so popular so I think that’s really interesting, so obviously a lot of beauty brands are doing really well from Korea and Korea is leading the way, so if they say hold on there’s a huge market here which is men and as James was saying, men don’t know about this, so it’s such a nascent industry, there’s billions to be made here. And it’s much better if you market it as men’s versus women’s makeup because otherwise consumers will be like I can just use exactly the same product.
And have men until now been using women’s products?
From friend’s wise yes, yeah.
So do I because I have to.
Because there’s not such a big range right? Because you might have like one male concealer that’s maybe one colour range whereas women’s concealer you’ve got 15 different shades. Foundation, CC cream – well CC cream is a bit more gender neutral anyways, but like foundations, powders, there’s such a bigger range.
Moisturisers, if you look at the ingredients on the back they’re identical. It’s just the colour schemes of the bottles.
Exactly. It’s the packaging.
It’s the marketing as well.
So as these companies are launching these men’s ranges, I mean David from your point of view are they doing enough or should they be doing more?
I mean like for Chanel I look into it but there’s not enough colour, bye – that’s what I said. That’s all I said, I think because I’m so used to different brands because none of these female targeted cosmetic brands – they’re all unisex in a way. If you see it that way, so I don’t think a Boy cosmetic will make me want to want to buy because I’m a guy I’m going to buy Boy Chanel one but I understand it might be helpful for the men to be like oh maybe it’s ok that I can buy cosmetics because they make a line for men’s.
Alright, so James very quickly I want to talk a little bit more about Style Standard, so how does it work? It’s a men’s boutique focusing on essentials and formal accessories, grooming and lifestyle products so if I was a guy and I needed help just I would come to you and how would you help me?
I mean our basic premise is because we’re so heavily curated the idea is really that you can go to our site and anything you don’t have is stuff you need. And the goal really was to make decision making a thing of the past, as cliché as that is in a way, the thing is you know on a totally different line if you look at fashion accessories or formal accessories more specifically, guys have too much. I mean if you go through any man’s closet of a certain age he’s got 30, 40, 50 ties – he maybe wears 5 or 10 on a regular basis. So if you’re 18 years old getting your first job, how do you make those choices? You know, how do you get into that kind of thing, how do you start navigating that world, you go to ties dot com and there’s something like 50,000 options so how do you choose the right 4 or 5 ties you need. We’ve taken that to go back to what we were talking about, we’ve taken that and gone to grooming as well, and said look you know, there’s a lot out there, talking about what we were talking about, it’s insane. So what we do is we say look, make it all really simple. You need a facewash, a face scrub, a moisturiser, we’ve got all this, you want to start getting into a hand and foot scrub, and repair lotion. The face mask that I was talking about earlier we’ve got all this stuff but it’s not crazy, it’s not 10 different types of the same thing. You don’t really have to figure it out.
That’s so interesting and are men interested in face scrub as well? Are they interested in a face wash? Are they interested in hand lotions?
It’s a tougher sell. Honestly. The stuff that sells easily is the shaving stuff, the face wash, that kinda thing. Moisturiser moves to a better extent but once you start talking about things like a walnut hand and foot scrub, you know guys sit there and go why do I need this?
So what do you tell them?
You know the honest answer is you have to tell them or make comparisons to what they already know. And so in North America for example, whenever I’m back there and talking to people there, the big comparison is to their cars. Because most guys care a lot about their cars or their bikes or whatever they’ve got, and so you make the comparison, you say look you spend more time working on your vehicle than you do on yourself. You would clean your tires, why won’t you clean your hands or your feet right. But it’s a knowledge issue, you’ve got to educate people.
And that’s exactly how I convinced my husband to really just step up his routine.
Welcome back, you’re listening to the Agender Café this afternoon with me Karen Koh and Noreen Mir, and we’re talking about men’s beauty and makeup with three guests – James Thompson Sakrani, the founder of Style Standard, Shing Hei David who works in garment design and manufacturing and has been a skincare and cosmetics user and lover since he was a young man, and Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who is a beauty journalist and trend forecaster. So before the break James you were talking about how to get men to actually use more range of products, it’s all about motivation, as you said they are saying why do I need this, what about the whole motivation of attracting a partner? Does that come into it?
It’s massive. That’s a big, big thing, and so it’s funny actually it’s easier to sell to single guys on that front than it is to necessarily guys in relationships and I think around the table we all know what it’s like to get sorta complacent in a relationship and you start going well what’s the point?
I don’t need to try anymore.
I can stop dying my hair.
It’s definitely an issue. It’s a concern I think not just in terms of grooming but when you look at the men’s style industry on a larger level that’s one of the biggest fights guys have when they’re trying to educate on this subject, I mean there a few sort of style gurus and people I follow that I’ve been listening to for a while and that’s actually one of the biggest issues they have is how to say look you’ve got to take care of yourself for yourself right. To get a partner the best way to do it is to be a better version of yourself. Not to be what they want to be. But it’s definitely a major issue for guys.
Ok David so what about you? You have a partner does he care about how you look, like whether you’re wearing makeup or how you can look on any particular day?
I think he cares that I put makeup on, as he thinks it’s not good for my skin. But I always tell him that I wash my face, I remove my makeup completely and they’re organic so they’re healthy to my skin, so leave me alone. But he needs to put some SPF. He doesn’t wear that at all.
So he doesn’t do anything but you do everything?
Yes quite a lot.
So you make all the effort but do you do it for yourself or for him?
For myself. I think it’s a habit for me. I think in a way to say, a very positive way to say, it’s almost like an addiction. But I like it. I mean I feel better.
Would you go out without makeup for example?
When was the last time you went out without makeup?
I was 12 / 13 – something like that.
It was just before your first dance show?
Before my first dance show I went to a dance show without anything.
But we’re the same, women sometimes they don’t do it for other people they do it for themselves as well, that they put makeup on because it makes them feel happy, it puts them in a better mood, it’s a confidence thing as well so I suppose it’s the same principle.
I think it’s very important to look the best version of yourself when you go out there, so I mean I don’t like to judge people but sometimes I see people with very heavy, dark circles, I will be like aw babe just get concealer. It’s doesn’t take you like 10 minutes.
It’s not that hard.
I mean like one minute. Apply on it and you will look amazing.
What if they’re just happy just not concealing it?
They can do it.
I want to ask the guys, how aware are men about how they look? (A lot) I mean do they really look at themselves in the mirror and go hmm ahh this is a problem, that’s a problem, this is great, that’s great, because women are quite critical (they tear themselves apart) every day you know we look in the mirror and we go okay I have a dark spot here, a dark spot there and I don’t like my eyelashes here or my eyebrows are this and my lips are that, do men really look at themselves do you think?
Definitely when I was at the gym lots of guys after their workout they look at their bodies whether they have a bit too much fat there, or they have to grow their bicep there, or stuff like that. So I think in this generation, a lot more guys are going to the gym because they think and they know that will make them look better.
But what about their face? I mean you can definitely change your body through exercises.
A lot, I’ve seen it a lot. But I don’t think they understand the importance of looking after their own skin, so I think sometimes they need to know but they don’t know where that information is from, they’re afraid to ask because they’re afraid to go to the beauty counter to ask, if they go to any counter to ask all these sales person I’m sure they can help them, but it’s kind of awkward and embarrassing if you go to a department store it’s a very open area, people might look at you and be like oh why is this guy at the beauty counter? What is doing there for example? That’s why a lot of beauty counters they have like a male staff to help them.
But I think a lot of guys still find it a bit too much for them.
James what do you think? As a guy do you really know your face really well and okay I have this flaw, I have that flaw, or this part is really good.
You know I think there’s a lot of body dysmorphia when it comes to guys which isn’t talked about. And this a major issue I mean women’s issues are exposed, and people talk about them, and people are trying to address them. Guys have these issues, to go back to what David was saying, you know you go to the gym, and guys are struggling with a lot of the same concerns, on a more general level, I don’t know that necessarily it’s quite the same for women as it is for men, because I think with guys you can get away with walking around with T-shirt and shorts, I’ve been to a few weddings where I’ve just wanted to grab people and shake them because there is no sense of dress or taking care of themselves, but it’s more of an issue there in that guys struggle with a lot of the same issues, but on different fronts. So facially for example, it may not be that they think I’ve got to switch all the way over to makeup but okay I’ve got acne and what do I do about that. I don’t know how to deal with that, I’m going into a Walgreens or shopping at a drugmart or a Fanda and just looking for whatever says acne on it. So there’s sort of that issue, of how do you get guys into that.
They don’t really know where to go for information, or maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.
Yeah I think to what David was saying, you know it’s intimidating to be out in public and trying to do this stuff.
So I think beauty can definitely sell better in the supermarket if you go like grocery shopping, so you can just grab a bottle and you wouldn’t know anything.
It is being sold in supermarkets in say the West.
They do sell there definitely.
Or in Kohl’s in Australia. Yeah.
And then Babette where do you think the beauty media industry comes into this because as we know, well now you don’t pick up physical magazines anymore, but online you can go to any women’s beauty site (social media) and there will be 100 articles about what to do with your eyelashes, but what about for men? Is there an equivalent amount of advice? You know that they can access?
Sure, so I think you saw in the 90’s news, for example in England you had Esquire magazine, GQ, a lot of men’s style magazines especially around the time that David Beckham was really metro-sexual, David Beckham in a sarong, this kind of movement especially in England you saw a lot of men maybe being more comfortable and confident in grooming, I mean you have that sort of ‘Essex boy’ stereotype that we call like a ‘pretty boy’ so a man that will take like really good care of his face and cares what he wears, so I think what David was saying earlier about social media as well it’s such a big part now. So it’s so easy now to go on Instagram and look at male makeup users and see how they do it and they interact with people, and that’s why you’ve seen a lot of beauty brands now like you were saying earlier just go directly to them and use these people as spokespeople because they can see like the power that they have and how it’s a very natural, authentic connection as well, rather than just using a celebrity who maybe doesn’t know how to do it themselves, or always use a makeup artist or use a team of people, rather than going through years of trying out stuff, failing and then working out what works best for them and knowing that struggle and also what a nice joy it is to wear makeup sometimes.
Is there a male equivalent of Kylie Jenner and her lip kit?
Guy Tang and his hair. He uses himself as well.
I do it myself,
I love how he is not particularly…. He wears makeup but he doesn’t give advice about…No. He just does other people’s hair. But is there like?
Not on this scale, Kylie Jenner is like a billionaire now from her business so not on the same scale. But you’re seeing them, the Instagram star that you mentioned earlier, there’s a couple more, like the face of Covergirl is a male model last year, Maybelline, yes so there are a few especially in America. I think it’s only a matter of time before you get more here.
Do you know any in Asia right now David?
Well someone I know that I was telling Noreen about, I think he does a lot of great people and guys in Hong Kong and in Asia, he goes around and he tells people that he finds people who doesn’t know how to look after their hair, their makeup or how to dress to impress people, and he goes around and helps them to get a different haircut, and how to look after their skin, so there’s people out there but it’s not huge because you don’t gain more male followers you got loads of female followers just to watch the channel but I think in a way lots of secret male audience watching his YouTube channel and then learn how to look after himself.
So it’s still you say secret, so is it still not seen as.
I think so, definitely.
Why is it still?
Sometimes you see a friend and say oh did you do something to your eyebrows and they will say no I didn’t and I was like you obviously did, so you know that, you know a lot people they don’t like to tell people if they’ve done something to make themselves look better as it might make them feminine – whatever it is.
Is that a concern that you see amongst some of your clients – oh I don’t want to do that it seems a bit girly, you know in terms of grooming or wearing something like SPF you know (or a face mask).
Oh absolutely. I mean adoption for this sort of stuff is always tough, you know I was saying earlier the biggest issue is education, and SPF is a great example, we’re just seeing that become commercially a thing, I think we’ve just passed that tipping point for SPF for guys because the idea is okay SPF is for useful for a junk trip but why would I wear it every day? Let alone why would I wear it in the middle of winter? Which is when it’s worse. So yeah it’s definitely a big issue in terms of how do you convince guys that doing this is manly, it’s masculine, it’s a good choice for you, especially to go back to the idea of the Gilette ad and all that sort of thing, there are those guys now who came out and said look we’re becoming too feminine, women are taking over, women are ruling so now we’ve got to take back sort of masculinity, so it’s a big fight right now I think for a lot of guys.
Yeah and it’s really important to wear sunscreen, just on the topic of that, trying to find the right one. I’ve just made some notes you know, if you see a bottle that says SPF that only targets UVBs which causes redness, you should really look for ones that say PA+++ a lot of Japanese sunscreen will have that, that will specifically target UVA which causes free radicals in your skin which causes the wrinkles, so really look for sunscreen that has it.
Thank you! +++ Off topic completely but yes Hong Kong is still seen as quite conservative, we are I think to some level we want to follow the trend of Korea and Japan but we’re also at the border of China as well so there’s that sort of conservative nature amongst women and men. So how do you see it going forward? I mean will we have a bigger market in terms of male cosmetics and beauty products or are we pretty much saturated at this point? Babette, what are your predictions for example?
Personally I think the beauty market is only going to grow here, but it will be slow I think for the time being. As to what you were saying, Hong Kong is quite conservative, it’s also a very small market and it’s very luxury and high-end so you might say the Tom Ford beauty, or Chanel male beauty I could imagine doing quite well here because it’s a very luxury driven market here, I think if you look across more of Asia it’s a much bigger market, so Thailand, Vietnam (yes Thailand) places like that have a really great beauty market like really domestic, really cool interesting brands coming out now, and really different attitudes also towards gender. Like I said specific to Hong Kong, it’s still quite a prevalent culture here of traditional ideas towards makeup equals your sexuality, whereas a lot of other cultures don’t equate the two. And also I’ve just seen that with beauty journalists here when I’ve been interviewed by other people, that’s why it’s quite refreshing to be here today to talk about this and people ask me if it’s to do with sexuality like do men wear makeup because they’re gay, so it’s still a lot of education here to be done. So I think it will only grow here hopefully.
Yeah so what are your thoughts on that David?
I just hope it will grow, I hope it will be like a common thing, so like I mean I do that at the gym like after at the changing room when people look at me – I don’t really care.
Do they ask you questions?
Well not in Hong Kong but I think in Hong Kong people are very afraid of confrontation, I don’t think they do that at all, so I get a look but I also look at them like what are you looking at.
So they worry that if they say, maybe they’re worried if they ask you, you might get upset or
Yeah I think so.
You should just say oh you should try it, or this brand. Want to try some? Can I cover your dark circles?
But then when I was in London I did get, it was very surprising, but a Middle East guy, he came up to me and was like mate this is for girls right what are you doing there, I was like oh my god are you serious, and he was like yeah, why are you putting like makeup on your face it’s for girls. And I was like because I just want to do it, so just stay away from my zone, and just let me do my thing, and he was like no I just want to understand why and I was like I just want to look good, do you go for a haircut, do you go for a shower, it’s just part of the thing to look good so I mean it’s not stopping people from looking good. I remember when I was like 15 I used to go to school in England and then I came to Hong Kong when I was 16 for 1 year to study so I’ve always done my hair when I go to school and my classmates of my best friend at school, they are all guys and then when I came to Hong Kong friends will be like, they weren’t really my friends as I was here for a year, they were like laugh at me and ask why are you doing your hair, why are you being so picky about your hair, like what is the point it’s for girls you don’t do that, and I didn’t care but I’m surprised they don’t do their hair and they look terrible, and then 2 months ago I bumped into one of these friends who laughed at me when I was 16, and he said omg are you David and I looked at him and I was like great hair, and he said I’m very sorry for laughing at you (wow) because I realised that was really important and there’s nothing wrong with that, and I was like it’s all cool, he wanted to let me know at 26 it’s not too late (he remembered) and then he came to me and was like are you David and afterwards he (he recognised you from your great hair) my great hair, and then he actually came back to me on Facebook and said I’ve been meaning to apologise as I felt bad for about 10 years, because I was not in Hong Kong for about more than 10 years, so he was wanting to find an opportunity to come and say sorry and that day I felt like amazing because I’m glad that he understand and he told me all his friends who laughed together about my hair they all have to do their hair now, and they’ve always been saying like we wish we know that from David like ages ago and then I was like ok. Interesting.
A hair-warming story. I was interested in hearing Babette and Noreen both of you if your boyfriend or husband started wearing makeup how would you feel about it?
I don’t know as I don’t always wear so much makeup so maybe I would feel a bit like he’s one upping me. But I wouldn’t object.
If you don’t wear makeup it’s all good.
I wouldn’t object to it, but I might even be supportive, just be like oh wow and then I would have to step up my game you know. Just to compete so I would think that it’s quite interesting….Babette what about you?
I always ask my boyfriends to wear makeup and I haven’t had a yes yet.
You’re waiting for that yes! So you ask them?
Well I think it’s because I like colour, ah you can’t see me know but I’m always like why don’t you try an amazing colour.
By the way Babette has this amazing makeup, peacock blue eyeshadow and eyebrows today.
Thank you! So I said oh we’re going to Clockenflap why don’t you like a red for your eyebrows and my boyfriend was like no I don’t need to, no. So I was like ok, no worries, baby steps. Baby steps, maybe go back to face masks.
Or a concealer!
Exactly. I previously dated someone who worked in F&B so you’re very customer facing. So I said you look like death this morning please for the love of god put some concealer or blusher on your face, oh that was a huge argument, never got over that one. Huge
Because people don’t want pressure.
Yeah I was like trust me on this one, you’re working in a restaurant, it’s a nice place. Please put something on.
Yep, I think if people are facing a lot of people in public they should. (Yeah definitely!) Just a bit. Just some concealer, why not (definitely).
Do you think the reaction was bad because he felt like it’s maybe effeminate?
Probably it was my presentation hahaha (the way you said it…you look like death!) Yes maybe I should have said look this makeup is really cool, why don’t you experiment, why don’t you try some on? That could have been more diplomatic.
Well James how do you go about phrasing things to make people accept it, you mentioned at one point about making comparisons you know you spend a lot of time looking after your car, the tires, how best to approach the men in our lives to you know get them to do just as simple as putting SPF on?
Well I think that’s the first thing, going straight to makeup right off the bat. It’s never going to work. It’s sort of a gradual thing you know if anyone’s listening who is worried about their partner or the guy in your life the easiest way to give advice is to get guys to try it at home. There’s no judgement, there’s a lot less, I think one of the issues with your story is that you’re going out in public, going to your workplace or Clockenflap (that’s probably not a bad location, that’s a great place) Clockenflap is great for that kind of thing. People are willing to experiment a little but to say going into work in a consumer focused role you know there’s a lot of anxiety for anyone in that kind of situation, so you’ve got to take away the anxiety first off is maybe the hardest part about it, I can’t imagine most guys I know being willing to wear a dress in public for example, but if you were to say to him look just throw this on in your bedroom no one is going to see, they might be a lot more willing to try it.
Or have a manicure like if they’ve got bad fingernails, you know they can have a manicure that’s very subtle, it doesn’t have to have nail polish but you know just introduce them to the idea.
But where would a man go, because a lot of the nail salons are very woman-based you know (I’m sure they do) it takes a guy with thick skin to really sit down to have a mani-pedi (they don’t feel comfortable in the environment) well now there’s more male grooming places (they are, yeah) there’s quite a few that (do your hair and do this) and yeah do waxing and they’ll do nails. So it’s not like there’s no places you know, they just have to be I guess brave enough to go there or be taken there (it might be a good place for them to meet some girls) yeah, yeah that’s true, it’s interesting though James because I worked in TV business news for many, many years and when our guests came in who were mostly people in the finance industry we would always offer them makeup because you’re sitting under 800 watts of light and nobody looks good with a naked face under 800 watts of light, so some of the men would say no but we would always insist on it and at least powdering them so they weren’t shiny, and some of the men actually wanted a full foundation and makeup and some of them when they left would leave it on because they realised they actually looked better, but in that context they were fine with wearing makeup because they knew they were going to be on TV, they’re representing both themselves and their company, and you don’t want to look bad in front of…there was one guest in particular who would come every two weeks and he would go in and spend 30 minutes beforehand doing his makeup and then he would leave with the makeup on (he did it himself? Interesting, wow) he actually became quite good at it. So I guess it’s all about how they think it’s going to be perceived or seen by other people if it’s in a sort of professional way they are more likely to agree with it.
Well we’re coming up towards the end of the programme let’s end with some tips, some beauty, some personal tips or some tips you’ve seen other men test, maybe David let’s start with you first.
Always SPF, wash your face after you use SPF and then if you have a special occasion just have a normal powder on it doesn’t really hurt your skin and it doesn’t make you look caked, so just put a bit of powder (that’s true I heard that from several beauty bloggers if you put powder after SPF after foundation or whatever it stops the dust from getting in your pores so it’s better that you have the powder rather than dust clogging your pores. I don’t know if that’s) or a face mask possibly. (Babette?)
I would say go for organic and natural beauty brands so what you’re putting on your skin is really good for your skin, I would say always take your makeup off before you go to sleep, drink a lot of water, way more water than you think you will because most of skincare is water and genetics and yeah just have fun, experiment with it and realise that makeup can be a really fun thing to do.
I think as the one person around this table who doesn’t wear makeup my immediate reaction is just to say come buy from us haha no I think water is a great point, no one is ever as hydrated as they need to be, I think the biggest issue for guys is being adventurous, being willing to go out and try something new, see whether it works and try something else and you know this is never going to happen but talk about it, talk to your friends, talk to people in your life, get advice, get help, not in the get help kind of way, but you know connect.
Yeah, yeah don’t be afraid to talk about it. That’s why we’re talking about it today (exactly, don’t be shy). Don’t be shy. Exactly well thank you very much indeed for all your sharing, it’s been eye-opening, thank you James, Babette and David.
I was recently invited onto RTHK’s Back Chat radio show to discuss my Hong Kong Free Press op-ed on sexual harassment in Hong Kong and at the FCC.
I’ve also typed up a transcript of the 16th April radio show too:
Good morning welcome to back chat. I’m Danny Gittings, your co-host this morning is Ada Wong. Good morning Ada.
Good morning Danny!
For our main topic today we’re talking about two recent developments concerning sexual harassment in Hong Kong. the security for security says he wants to proceed quickly on a law to tackle up-skirt phototaking and voyeuristic crime after a court ruling that a law on computer crime can no longer be used to prosecute those who use their own phones to take such pictures. But critics say lazy government officials have already wasted up to ten years that could have been used to draft a law to wipe this loophole. And one legislator is threatening to make their own private members bill. Meanwhile there’s trouble over at the FCC about a new anti-harassment policy where opponents are setting up a website to denounce what they say is an attack on freedom of speech. We will be talking to the FCC member who claims she was called a witch for campaigning against pictures of topless women in the FCC bar. And asking how do you identify and define sexual harassment. What sort of laws and policies are appropriate and how do you address the problem without threatening freedoms or making over general laws. Is there a vacuum in the law? If so what message does it send? Are we taking the issue seriously enough in Hong Kong? And is harassment particularly acute here? Let us know your thoughts you can email us at backchat at rthk dot hk. You can leave a message on our facebook page Backchat on RTHK Radio 3, or give us a call the number there 23388266. Later in the programme we will be looking forward to tomorrow’s presidential election in Indonesia. Joining us for the main segment of the show this morning we have in our Queen’s Road studio Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who is a journalist and FCC member, Vitus Leung who is a practising solicitor and here in the studio broadcasting house we have Jeff Pao, China Editor of the Asia Times. Good morning and before I go to you, let me just a reminder again to our listeners I’m sure there are many FCC members listening this morning and this is an issue which has aroused very strong emotions at the FCC, if you have any thoughts or you have your own position on this issue do email us or post on Facebook or you’re welcome to call in. Babette Radclyffe-Thomas, lets go to you first, I’m looking at an article of yours that appeared in Hong Kong Free Press you say ‘personally I’ve endured unsolicited attention, harassment at the FCC bar including random men kissing me, whispering in my ear, proposing, shouting at me or refusing to leave me alone when asked to. Several instances I had to rely on members of staff for protection. When i first joined the club about five years ago, it took close to 18 months to convince the club to take down a photo of two topless women from the walls of the bar. For challenging its relevance I was called a witch and as raging feminist.’ Perhaps you would like to expand on this and there a large number of FCC members now who have signed a petition against this anti-harassment policy and we should explain of course that this anti-harassment policy is about all forms of harassment not just sexual harassment. They say that it wasn’t handled properly in the FCC. Tell us about your feelings on this.
Yeah sure, so thank you so much for asking me about it. So personally I became a member of the FCC about 5 years ago and at the time the FCC said to me that they wanted to attract younger, more female members and I remember on one of the first days that I walked in and on the main bar wall there was a photo of two topless women. And it was a magazine cover. And straight away I pointed this out and I was like ‘what is this. This is so unacceptable. And I complained. Long story short it took over 18 months to try and take one picture down off the wall, and I got so much vicious backlash and it came from a wide range of members, male and female members included and like you said I was called a witch, one member said that they should have a witches coven in the FCC and we should put funds towards keeping all of our broomsticks. So for me it felt really, really hypercritical to say that you’re a professional club that wants to welcome younger female members but this is the representation of us you choose to show, not a profile shot of a really amazing female foreign correspondent but that’s the representation.
Just now you said that the criticism towards you came from a wide variety of members, both male and female and of course there was a story yesterday saying that the critics of this anti-harassment policy are, they say that a majority of them are female.
I would say that that’s what they say but at the moment the list is still completely anonymous so no-one can know for sure, but I do know that there are several female members who have signed this and I would say as I mentioned on twitter last night, just because as female member signed this doesn’t mean it isn’t sexist.
Ok let’s talk more broadly about the issue and as we raised at the start. The FCC isn’t the only place that grapples with this, it is a difficult issue isn’t it? Even the opponents here of the anti-harassment policy they say of course they don’t condone harassment but where do you draw the line between that and free speech?
Of course I understand and it’s quite a complex issue, I think when the FCC proposed this as policy we did welcome any feedback and criticisms and edits but nobody came forward at the time with anything which I think is quite telling, also I think in this specific case, its quite interesting that several of the members that have protested this anti-harassment bill haven’t actually done anything else in the club to protect freedom of speech. They haven’t been at any protests to free imprisoned or arrested journalists in Myanmar, they haven’t protested any other forms of like journalists being murdered across Asia just for doing their jobs. It seems quite convenient to now suddenly take up this cause when suddenly their behaviour is being called into question.
Okay we are discussing recent developments relating to sexual harassment in Hong Kong. You just heard Babette Radclyffe-Thomas, a journalist and member of the FCC who has very strong views on the anti-harassment policy, that has been announced by the FCC and criticised by other members. If you have your own views do email us or go to our Facebook page and leave a comment there. Ms Radclyffe-Thomas, more broadly now, you’ve been in Hong Kong how long now?
15 years on and off. A long time.
Ok, you do touch on this in the article you wrote, what is your more general impression how things have changed or have they changed in Hong Kong in terms of our awareness of these kind of issues?
I think people are becoming generally more aware which is mirroring global trends about issues of consent and what is appropriate but I do think stigmas still do exist around surrounding, it’s quite a sexually conservative society, so stigmas concerning sexuality, and not really having a general feminist discourse or even having a general public discourse about sexuality where we can talk about these kind of issues. I do find personally, from my personal anecdote, I’m harassed here less than other places, and I think that’s culturally like you don’t have a culture of wolf whistling, cat-calling or vulgar things being shouted at you down the street as you do in other places, which is a really sad thing to say but that’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to move back to Hong Kong because I knew that it was a safer place for women to work. And I think as women we’ve all had to make decisions in our life to counteract sexual harassment, well I know I have, whether its choosing what you wear, where you go, what time you come home at night and I think Hong Kong is a really safe place in that fact as a woman you can walk out of your house at 2am and it’s really, really unlikely that anything will happen to you but I do think, I know we are speaking about broad changes but I do think there is still systemic, institutionalised sexism here as I also mentioned in my article. Gender pay gap is at 22% here, 55% female workforce and its lagging behind other Asian countries and I think we all really need to identify that this is a crucial problem especially when it is taking victims of sexual violence 1389 days on average to come forward, and the longest delay was 58 years. So this a huge crucial issue that we need to be talking about, and why do people not feel comfortable coming forward about that.
Do you think there is a difference between the expatriate society and the local society?
Just from my personal experience, I can say that yes but unfortunately I’ve been sexually harassed on the street by a wide range of people.
So you’ve had bad experience of this in Hong Kong but you still say on balance that Hong Kong is better than other countries that you have lived in.
What other countries?
UK, and US, unfortunately I’ve been harassed in quite a lot of countries even while traveling. China. I’ve been sexually harassed in, so I think it’s maybe more of a culture thing that maybe people are more forward in the UK so yeah unfortunately.
Ok let’s turn to the other current related item that’s been in the news this past week which is the issue of upskirting photos, a law against upskirt photos or at least a lack of a law in Hong Kong, I mean for a number of years those who were caught on it have been prosecuted under a law against obtaining access to a computer for criminal or dishonest gain but a series of court decisions going all the way up to the court of final appeals, that law can no longer be used for this kind of crime, perhaps Vitus Leung, good morning thank you for joining us, Vitus Leung practising solicitor can you explain a little bit more about the legal situation here and the problems we are now facing.
Yes, in the past how we draw the line is as long as you don’t touch people then you won’t get caught, so of course, we have the obtaining access to computer ordinance, that is within the crime ordinance section 161. In the past we have been rightly using this ordinance to apply to cases such as the Heep Woh student primary case,the access to a computer to obtain something that you shouldn’t obtain.
You’re not talking about a harassment case here are you, you’re giving an example of the wide ways these laws have been used, and one of the ways its been used is in harassment cases right?
Yes of course, so we’re talking about upskirt photo-taking. This is very convenient because we’re talking about the computer and mobile phone is also computer, okay so it is very convenient. In the past we consider that, we don’t take note of the word obtain so we just consider that they are using the computer/ mobile phone of your own is the same as obtaining access to these computer, but now because of the court of final appeal case they decided that because of the obtain means you have to get access by obtaining permission / something like that.
Which means that it can’t be used for your own phone basically.
Exactly so that means you have to get obtain access to somebody else’s phone so because of that we can’t apply this law to some private places.
So to put it simply the law that had been used to prosecute people who are caught taking these kind of upskirting photos can no longer be used for that situation.
Exactly. In the past because of this law, we can apply this law to private venue or private places because in the public places we have three common ordinances. One is the disorder in public place, one is loitering and one is outrage public decency. The three areas of law must have the public element, without the public element then we use this access to computer law and then we can fill up the gap. We simply have the whole protection so at the moment because of the CFA case, we cannot apply this law to the private situation.
The law reform commision did issue a consultation last year, but did it attract a lot of attention? In it it suggested that new laws on voyeurism should be enacted.
Yes that is something that may fill up the gap. And i also support that legislation but at the moment there are a few examples, there are Canadian examples, European examples, British examples, so we have to study. So it is up to the Legislative Council to consider how they approach the situation because some women’s groups suggest that some of the element say for example the requirement of having sexual gratification plus the consent. They want to remove the sexual gratification element so that as long as somebody is staring at the private part of say a woman’s body they can be sued. This is how they are considering whether they would enlarge this law or narrowing the law so that they would focus on just somebody who views another person’s private parts with sexual gratification plus without this person’s consent.
It sounds like there are some difficult issues here, it’s not just an issue of deciding whether as most people would agree that we do want a law against these kind of offences, but it’s going to be very difficult to define what exactly is involved, it might take some time to come up with a new law.
Certainly yes I think they will take some time for arguments and social acceptance on this.
I think one of the members of the sub-committee of the law reform commision Eric Cheung from Hong Kong U has been quoted about this saying for example you have to consider for instance if people take pictures in a bar or something like that and those pictures include those who don’t necessarily know that they are going to be photographed in a public place like that, would that be covered by this new law? It’s very easy to say of course there is a clear conduct where people putting cameras on other people’s clothing on the MTR or so on that’s clearly covered but there will be a lot of grey areas as well.
That’s how you draw the line. People walking on the street or in a public bar, with a special with some special dress or see-through dress or something like that that actually is providing a sort of implied consent for people to view his/her body. But then if you are doing this viewing in a private place or maybe an example is that I drew a hole in a hotel room and then I peep-through into another room and at the moment the law doesn’t protect us at all.
So is it likely to take a long time, I mean law reform commission proposals a lot of them are never enacted and even when they do they take a long time to do so and you’re identifying here these various issues that have to be ironed out. We could be talking many years before we have a law.
I think people have been talking about this for quite a while, I think everybody will have some sort of opinion of their own and this is better for them to sit down and consider all the points.
Okay let’s bring in our third guest so here with us in the studio is Jeff Pao, China Editor of the Asia Times, good morning and thanks for joining us. Sexual harassment is not just a problem here in Hong Kong, in fact Miss Radclyffe-Thomas was referring to being sexually harassed while traveling in China. There was a survey recently that actually said that mainland-born women were slightly more forward than Hong Kong-born women in terms of coming forward and complaining about sexual harassment. Is that your experience?
Yes. Actually in China, the law is quite advanced in terms of sexual harassment.
Is it ahead of Hong Kong?
It’s ahead because there are a lot of ways to prosecute a person who has sexually assaulted another person and there are a lot of cases in China that can be successfully prosecuted. So in Hong Kong I think is a little bit late that we don’t have the upskirting law, and now we have a vacancy and I think the government or the whole society should now think of some way to promote this idea that is people indoors are now very dangerous, because they are subject to dangerous upskirting or maybe we know that there are a lot of cases in Hong Kong in the office or at home for example domestic workers can be taken a nude video by her employer.
Yes there have been some cases on that recently.
In Hong Kong offices there a lot of women or men who might be taken photo of without their consent so I think there should be a campaign to tell people that now we have a vacuum in the law.
But in China, let’s say up-skirt photo-taking how is that tackled?
Actually for example on the street if a woman was victimised by an upskirting photo-taker, she can report it to the police and the police will have the right to detain the guy for 15 days with certain reasons if there are some photos in his phone then immediately the guy will be detained for up to 15 days. So this is very powerful.
Does it actually happen though? Because of course the point is in China they have much wider vaguer laws don’t they so you’re not going to have a legal vacuum in China because the laws are written in such general terms, it could cover almost anything.
That’s why in terms of the upskirting crime, in China its more advanced because the law is so big and in Hong Kong we are lacking that element. But is the law actually used? What would the experience be of a Mainland woman if she reported to the police, would she be laughed at or would the police actually take it seriously?
Yes you’re right, it’s really case by case. It depends on the policeman’s judgement. If the policeman says its a joke, don’t care about it, then it’s not a case. If the policeman takes it seriously, if it is a police woman, it can be a case easily.
Vitus look, Jeff Pao has raised some interesting points here, should we be learning from laws in Mainland China? They don’t seem to have the same problem that we have here.
Actually I have an idea, since we have that obtaining access to a computer law for more than 20 years, with that law I don’t see that there is much problem using that. Only until this Court of Final Appeal clarification so why don’t we simply go through this legislation and simply remove the word obtain and then we can continue to use this present law until voyeurism or whatever law comes in. So we can still use this computer law to protect everybody.
That’s very sensible, probably far too logical for our government and our legislators but that would certainly be a lot quicker than enacting a new law.
But in the meantime there is a gap and vacuum, there are a couple of cases that have been lined up and being charged with the existing legal framework so how could those cases proceed?
That really is a problem, that’s a big question to everybody. I think some people will come back and say I shouldn’t be found guilty and they will challenge the court and they will probably appeal against their own previous conviction, there’s a chance of that although they are all out of time but they have this good reason now the Court of Final Appeal has already clarified the situation so we have the new picture. So they have an excuse to try to appeal against their own conviction.
And what happens now when the police catch some pervert on the MTR with a mobile phone taking pictures of a woman?
That’s easy. On the MTR we have the outraging public decency law, and disorderly public conduct so that will be fine but we don’t have the law to protect people when they are inside private rooms or in the home office or private changing rooms, that will be a problem.
So you were saying out on the streets, on the MTR and so on, there’s not really a legal vacuum at the moment, so it narrows the extent of the problem. It’s still a problem but it’s narrowed to just private places.
And how long realistically will it take to put in place a law that will cover this?
That involves the public debate, and also going through this legislation process. As you can see, it probably takes a year or something like that.
Do you think the court was right to rule the way it did? I mean it’s maybe highlighted the difference between the Hong Kong and Mainland legal system, there Mainland court with wide laws and here they can saw maybe there are good reasons for using the law this way but the words just don’t support it.
Well I think even in the Mainland system if you have a judge to consider the meaning of the word or actual meanings of the words then comes up with a conclusion, they will still have the same problem. But I don’t know the exact wordings in China at the moment so I have no idea.
That’s why you said the simpler solution in Hong Kong would actually be just to amend the wording, wouldn’t it?
Yes, remove the word ‘obtain’.
As we say this case comes up, it wasn’t actually a case about harassment was it, it’s not just about harassment the existing law is being used in all kinds of areas, and those are affected in the same ways as harassment now aren’t they?
I think in the other areas this is worse than just the harassment because it is protecting other areas as well, say for example the Heep Woh primary case.
Yes so that was a case about examination papers. And you’re saying that this is worse because there is an old substitute law that can be put in there.
Ok we’re discussing the issue of sexual harassment in Hong Kong. A couple of recent interesting developments just now you heard Vitus Leung talking about the recent Court of Final Appeal decision that the law on computer crime that had been used to prosecute people caught taking up-skirting photos can not be used for that situation which leaves a legislative vacuum in some areas. Earlier on we were also talking to Babette Radclyffe-Thomas about the controversy at the FCC over their anti-harassment policy, nearly 140 members signing a petition against it. If you have any thoughts on either of these topics do email us or leave a comment on our Facebook page. We will be continuing the discussion after the news and later on talking about the Indonesian election.
Welcome back to Back Chat, I’m your co-host Danny Gittings with co-host Ada Wong, In the main segment of our show we’re continuing our discussion about sexual harassment in Hong Kong related to two recent developments, one of those is a Court of Final Appeal decision that a law on computer crime which had been used for those caught committing voyeuristic crimes such as up-skirt photo taking that because of the wording of that law it cannot be used for those types of offences, which has created a legal loophole, the government says that it understands that there is a legal loophole and needs to introduce legislation and the law reform commission is also looking at this. And the controversy over at the FCC over a new anti-harassment policy. The new policy is not just about sexual harassment but all types of harassment but many members of the FCC are up in arms about this policy, they say it’s an attack on freedom of speech and they’re also unhappy about the way it was introduced at the FCC. Later on in the programme we’re going to be looking forward to tomorrow’s presidential election in Indonesia. If you have any thoughts on either of those topics do email us or leave a comment on our Facebook page. Our guests as we continue the discussion, in our Queen’s Road studio we have Babette Radclyffe-Thomas a journalist and FCC member who has spoken out about the controversy over the anti-harassment policy there, also Vitus Leung a practicing solicitor. Here in the studio we have Jeff Pao, China Editor of Asia Times. Before we go back to our guests let me bring in some comments from our listeners, first of all comments on other topics before topics on our main topic (*transcription doesn’t include comments on other topics here such as on Assange*) Now returning to today’s topic on sexual harassment at the FCC, we have a message from Chris who says “I’ve been a member of the FCC for more than 20 years, physical and sexual assault, if you’re guest was a victim of an assault she should have called the police and pressed charges against the perpetrator. The photo your guest complained about hung on the FCC’s walls for more than 20 years and was balanced by a photo of a male soldier whose kilt had been blown aside to reveal a hint of cheek. If your guest did not approve of the club’s decor, probably she should have found another club to join.” Thank you Chris. Now Chris’ comments are responding to what Babette Radclyffe-Thomas said earlier. Ms Radclyffe-Thomas would you like to respond.
Well there is a point, nobody is obliged to join any particular club in Hong Kong and if the atmosphere is wrong, maybe it’s not the right club?
I think first I would like to address the victim shaming in that person’s statement, that why I didn’t come forward and complain? Why aren’t they accusing the person who harassed me, why am I getting the grief for being harassed first of all?
I suppose they might say that they don’t know who it was.
They are saying why I didn’t I come forward, I should have told the police. Rather than saying like I’m sorry you’ve been harassed and analysing okay why didn’t I feel comfortable going forward to the police. It’s probably because of this.
Is that blaming you or is that just a factual statement that if you are a victim of a crime one logical response is to report it to the police. Everybody has their own right whether or not to do so, in that case it’s certainly one thing to do if you want to discourage the perpetrators going forward.
Ok, so every time I was harassed at the club I did complain to the club and they have an internal disciplinary. I still stand by my original statement I think that there is an underlying victim shaming in this question. And the second point about if I don’t like it I shouldn’t join, how dare you say that to me? This is a professional journalist club and I am a professional journalist and this is a professional members club, I agree that maybe if it was a restaurant or a different gentlemen’s club I wouldn’t be a member, this positions itself as a bastion of press freedom and a working space for current journalists.
How about the issue about the photo? You mentioned earlier on, you went even further on than you did in your original article for HKFP you talked about how you were called a witch you told us earlier on that people refer to broomstick cupboards and things like that. I think the point that the listener was making there was that this photo had been up for 20 years there was also a photo of a man.
Yeah I would like to address that, just because a man is being objectified in the picture nextdoor doesn’t make this ok. That picture of a man with his buttock being shown against his consent this isn’t ok. So this statement has no grounding actually and the fact is that its been there for 20 years what does this say about our club’s mentality? Its like some awful heyday from the 1970s. I don’t even know how I can argue with this really. Just because its been here for 20 years doesn’t mean it’s ok.
How do you see this continue to play out? For example the removal of the anti-harassment policy, would that go through? And how would a private club’s protection or policy give people like you some sort of comfort when we have this big gap in the legislation in Hong Kong?
I think by introducing this policy it says very clearly what behaviours aren’t acceptable and not and I think we’ve obviously needed to have that because for decades people have felt in the club and I think what’s been really awful is in the last few weeks the amount of people who have said that they have been sexually harassed at that club or they’ve overheard or had racist statements made against them and its not just to our guests it’s to our staff who work there. I think it says a lot that as soon as we introduced this policy other clubs across the city have said that they want to do the same thing.
Sorry can you expand on that so far we have been talking about the FCC entirely and I know its been in the news with the danger of just focusing on the one club there. I’m aware there has been a reaction to it and we’ve discussed this but what do you mean other clubs want to do something similar.
I can’t say now on the record which clubs
Okay that’s fine but you can talk in general terms.
I’m saying in general, other private members’ clubs have said that they also need these sort of policies. And we were taking a brave step forward in doing this and they would be looking into how they could do something similar.
I mean you’re not an expert on what the position is at other clubs, but is it your impression that generally from what you’ve heard private members clubs in Hong Kong don’t tend to have these policies.
Yes, from what I have overheard so it’s completely anecdotal and I would also like to say…
Sorry just one thing there so you’re in one way maybe in a sense slightly hopeful that the FCC is leading the way here.
Yes I honestly think it is so I think it says a lot that we have over 2000 members at the club and 200 or so members of staff and only 100 people have apparently signed this petition so it’s not a large number and I think you can see from the outpourings that the vast majority of journalists, correspondent and associate members actually do welcome this and feel like we do need it.
Well again we should remind our listeners the point we made earlier which was stated in a SCMP story yesterday that half or perhaps more than half of the FCC members who have objected are women.
Yep. I feel sorry for them.
Uh, that’s quite a provocative statement to say, aren’t they entitled to their views as well?
Yeah, they can have their views but then I think if your view then imposes on someone else’s freedom to live. I just want to exist, I just want to go to a press club, a professional club and I do not want random men kissing me and touching me and whispering in my ear and when I tell them to please leave me alone they won’t, and I’ve had to ask bar managers several times to step in can you please save me, this is not an ok situation and I think for years we have just relied on people to have common decency and they just clearly haven’t and therefore this is why the policy is needed to show this is your behaviour and I do want to say like if we are really trying to adopt an idea of gender fluidity just because a woman signed this bill doesn’t mean it isn’t sexist.
And of course the policy we touched on this briefly the policy let me just read it out here the harassment it refers to and it can be reasonably known to offend / intimidate / humiliate the recipient on the basis of appearance, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, physical size or weight, age, marital / family status, nationality, language, ancestry or place of origin. We’ve been talking almost entirely about sexual harassment, from your experience are their problems in some of these other areas? Or is it really just the sexual harassment policy?
No there are issues across all of these.
All of these?
Yeah quite a lot come in yeah.
Well there is quite a lot there. Physical size, weight, ethnicity, age – are you saying that people are seeing age discrimination at the FCC?
I have heard horrible things being said about members yes. About how old they are, their size, Yep.
Ok now again just a reminder we are discussing recent developments related to sexual harassment in Hong Kong and you just heard Babette Radclyffe-Thomas who has very strong views about the current situation at the FCC and the anti-harassment policy that has been introduced there. If you have your own opinions you’re welcome as one FCC member already has to email us / comment on our FB page. Jeff Pao let’s just return to the broader situation earlier, we’re talking about how in some senses the Mainland is perhaps ahead of Hong Kong in combating sexual harassment. It’s very rare that we talk about Hong Kong learning from China and in the legal arena, how far can we take that approach?
I think in terms of the upskirting law Hong Kong is not only lagging behind other countries like China, it is lacking behind Singapore a long way. We can see from some figures that we often see some reports about upskirting crimes in Singapore but not often in Hong Kong and this is because they have an upskirting law so people are easily prosecuted so in Hong Kong it’s very difficult to prosecute a person who take upskirting videos even if now because we have a vacuum in the law so even if some photos are found in a mobile phone it will be very difficult to prosecute.
Jeff is also because of the culture and value of a country or city, after all a law is a law and a policy is a policy it’s up to that person whether they have the respect and tolerance of different values.
Yes I think in very general terms we all agree if some upskirting videos or pictures are found in a phone then someone must be accountable or responsible for this crime but in different countries there are different laws and they might treat the crime differently but in general the culture we all know this.
Vitus Leung, how did we get into this situation in Hong Kong? I’m just looking at the Law Reform Commission’s report, and Jeff Pao just mentioned Singapore and they listed numerous other countries that have laws on this, James To Democratic Party legislature when this came up, I think actually on a radio show he said it was just lazy government drafting officials, they could have done something 10 years ago and they didn’t, and now they have been caught by this loophole and if they had something earlier we wouldn’t be in this situation now.
Well I think the law reform commission has done its job at least a year ago and before that they had some study in it. Of course we had this loophole for many years and because of the easy broad brushstroke of the law of the computer related ordinance. At the moment this is urgent now, we have to do something about it, so the voyeurism law, that should be legislated but it seems that still requires a lengthy discussion in the public so that’s a problem.
What’s the best solution, we’ve mentioned all these other jurisdictions they have their own laws so do we just try and copy one of those? Or do we need to try to craft something different for Hong Kong?
Well because even we try to copy the one from England but then there are still arguments as the dimensions as to whether there should be a person with sexual gratification or without sexual gratification then that maybe is dangerous for somebody walking on the street just staring at someone else or maybe gazing or I mean daydreaming or gazing at somebody else’s body then got caught then that will be a sort of problem to the society.
Usually that could be tackled, e.g. do you know how Singapore would tackle that? Singapore is a relatively conservative society?
I’m actually open because it’s always like that with all this legislation we copy things from other countries’ legislation so as I mentioned we can actually have groups of people sitting down and simply carving out those we don’t want. Then we can come up with some good legislation.
One DAB legislator has suggested that she will introduce a private member’s bill, that she wouldn’t wait for the Hong Kong government to act. Is that a good way forward?
Well it’s the same, I think the government will put forward something quickly then we have to go through the discussion period and then there will be still end up with the same argument.
So it wouldn’t make any difference if it was a private member’s bill as opposed to a government bill. Thank you very much, i think we will draw it to a close there.
I moderated a panel on online security at the FCC’s journalism conference.
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