Flipping the bird. Credit: antsphotography Flickr Creative Commons

In February, I was entertaining the idea of leaving my (then) job due to various reasons. I was only five months in. I felt I wanted to give it another month, because “six months” would look better on my resume than “five months”. Then it happened, and I had to be content with “five months”, along with explaining why I couldn’t stay there longer at every job interview afterwards.

In summary, I had to run away from leave my old job because I offended some (I didn’t know at that time) thugs around my workplace, culminating in them stalking me for two days and a police report that was never followed through.

What really happened: I was having lunch alone at a stall, and the guys at the table next to mine decided it was a good idea to start harassing me. If you’d like to know, it wasn’t direct. More like, one-of-them-blew-smoke-in-my-face-while-they-made-fun-of-me-and-my-expensive-phone-which-I-was-playing-with-‘cos-I-was-trying-to-ignore-them harassment. Not a biggie, right? It’s not like they fondled me or anything, right? But I snapped anyway. I already had a rough day by then, and I didn’t feel like giving in to yet another group of people who were bent on bugging me just because they could.

“Macam sial!” I said when I was leaving. They roared in laughter.

As I walked away, I looked back, and one of them was looking at my butt. So I threw a middle finger. And that’s the beginning of my personal hell breaking loose.

In the evening, I waited downstairs for my two clerks to come down (I usually drove them home). They were taking so long, and before I knew it, the guy who got my middle finger was chasing me into the restaurant below my office. We had a heated face-to-face argument, like this, only without any physical contact. I think he knew better than to beat me up. He grabbed my phone from my hand and threw it to the floor. Miraculously it survived. Thank Moon for Gorilla Glass?

I had to listen to the most horrible, patronizing, entitled, lelaki-Melayu-pantang-dicabar rant ever in my life. Complete with, “Ko tu perempuan buat la perangai macam perempuan”, “Ko ingat ko orang puteh”, “Pompuan tak beradab” dan sebagainya. He also said I was not right in the head, but I don’t think someone who went on like that for 15 minutes was that right in the head either. Seriously, what was said to me was much more horrible than what I paraphrase here. It’s not really something I want to remember. I was forced to apologize just so he would leave me.

By the time I joined my clerks, who didn’t know what was happening and were happily tucking into chapati at a stall, my spirit was shattered. I told them to tar pau the food ‘cos I wanted to go home right away. When I got in the car, I cried.

After I sent one of them home, the other was still concerned and suggested going to the police. So I went with her. And the police didn’t care. The officer taking my report kept fiddling with her eyes – something was wrong with her blue contact lenses. The report was badly amateur: the middle finger scene was described as “tunjuk fuck” over and over, and I was even asked if I really wanted to put that in since it might jeopardize my case. I was told that another officer would investigate the following day, but hey, it’s been more than half a year now and I haven’t received any calls. I wasn’t physically bruised or anything – just mentally anguished, loudly weeping for the whole station to hear, that sort of thing – so they weren’t that concerned.

The following day when I arrived at work, a group of them was waiting for me at the restaurant downstairs. Six or seven bouncer-looking men. Again, they weren’t directly threatening me. Just wanted to intimidate me with their power in numbers! Eleventy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 Um. I really didn’t expect that. I thought what’s over was over. Seriously, why would a bunch of adult men be so hung over a middle finger thrown by a (let’s admit it) physically non-intimidating woman? What’s with this middle finger that it roused the worst in these men?

I called the police, but again they didn’t sound concerned, so I didn’t call their supposed hotline for immediate action, whatever they called it. And now, my employers came into the picture. My clerks had told them what happened, but I didn’t know that my employers already knew, so I told them anyway. Well, they seemed nice about it to me, but of course some victim-blaming was thrown it: “You shouldn’t have challenged men, Ms lautbulan”. They photocopied my police report, which I’m sure is now used to make fun of me before their friends than it is used for whatever legitimate purpose.

Later my clerks escorted me to lunch. And they told me that the reply they got from my employers was that, “Tell Ms. lautbulan not to talk to us about this. We don’t want to know anything about it”. Yeap. So not only was I being stalked by a bunch of thugs now, I was also clearly fucked over by my own employers. (Something I already knew by the way they treated me, but this was the last straw.)

So I wrote an immediate notice of resignation. (Thanks for not confirming my employment.) After I sent my now ex-clerks home, I was jobless for a month. And I only got half of my last salary, which I only received three months after I left. (Small firm partners are probably the shittiest employers ever.)

I posted these events on my Facebook profile, of course. Some nosy “friends” immediately wanted to meet up just so I could tell it to them directly. Interestingly these same people never got in touch with me for a few months later, so I gave them the boot on Facebook and in real life. What? I trim down my list every few months or so, it’s normal.

I stopped talking about this altogether a short time later. Because I was blamed. Because I was told that I was weak for crying. Because losing a job meant having to deal with my friends’ true colors. Because I was told to understand those thugs’ worldview. Because no one could see let alone pointed out that what happened to me was disproportionate to my middle finger. Because I’m a woman who’s had to deal with this shit all her life and I’m just so fucking tired of being expected to shut up whenever I’m violated. Because women shutting up for ages results in men being extremely insulted by a meek middle finger. I mean, come on. These dickheads were threatening me because I was pissed with them for harassing me? I don’t even…

Part of me did blame myself though. “If only I wasn’t so quick with my middle finger…” “What was I thinking?” “Feminism failed me.” Now that it’s been some time, I realized it’s not my – or feminism’s – fault that some men can’t deal with a middle finger. It’s the patriarchy’s fault. (Or kyriarchy if that floats your boat.) We’ve succeeded in creating entitled men who can’t be challenged. Ye la, lelaki Melayu pantang dicabar. Personally, when faced with this kind of men I do think that women are fucked over. It’s fight or flight as long as we don’t overhaul our society, and either way isn’t pretty. It’s a bloody long and winding road to equality. And watch out for the self-proclaimed liberal men who secretly hate women.

Listen. You may think I’m an idiot. You may think I deserved it. Whatever. After all, I did have to leave my job. But I’m not willing to shut up anymore. I’m not willing to further accommodate the patriarchy/kyriarchy in a country where everyone but cisgender-looking men – with a significant number of them being, y’know, WOMEN – are just not safe on the street. I’m not in a position to “get even” either, whatever that means. I just feel that not speaking up, not taking any action in a scenario of harassment works more to the harasser’s advantage than it does to the harassed. (No, I’m not telling women how to dress if you think I’m saying that.) Women have to be responsible too to some degree and not just let things happen. It didn’t work out that well in my case, but who’s to say it won’t work out for you? Or the next generation of girls who will reap the rewards of our work now?

lautbulan now works in a better place. She's spent half her life listening to j-rock, and she recommends 'Cunt' by Inga Muscio to everyone. She is also a Kakak Killjoy. She is writing this under a pseudonym...

24 replies on “#LoyarEqual: How I lost my first real job”

  1. You should have been blacklisted for being such a cunt. Aren't Malay women supposed to be "feminine"? Jeez, has feminism ruined even you guys?!

    I suppose the problem her is the spreading of the English language, which allowed women (who aren't capable of original thinking like men do; they just do group thinking and parrot the ideas of the Queen Bees) to get in contact with such horrible ideas. That's why I stopped dating English-speaking women. It's always a bad sign.

    You gave people the middle finger? Even the photo you used for your blog post… and recommending a book called "cunt"…man.

    You people are fucked in the head. You feminists should be raped and executed.

    End of story. We men have had enough of this bullshit.

    1. You sad and pathetic little thing. Actually thinking you are speaking for all men when you are really just showing the whole world the workings of that twisted and diseased thing you call a "mind". What did humanity ever do to deserve you? Go ahead and troll me back. It will only make you all the more pathetic.

  2. Men become bolder and more cruel as a group because they are buoyed by the support and approval they get from each other. By and large, men also see it as their role to be the witnesses, judges and enforcers of discipline against women who 'step out of line' to challenge them and this has happened yet again in your case. I am so sorry that you had to go through this horrible experience, thank you for speaking up, and I wish you all the very best.

  3. Thanks for this article cz in some ways I feel like I can relate to it. I think growing up in Malaysia as a female (especially after puberty, wth), we would always be harassed or be 'indirectly' harassed by males, yes, its annoying. No, I am not saying that it ONLY happens in Malaysia, but its definitely common. Sadly, we were always taught not to fight back because some of them like in your case, has a group of friends who would cari pasal with u. So what are we supposed to do?

    Not long ago, I did the exact same thing as you, I pointed my middle finger at a bunch of malay guys because they were ogling and laughing at me while I was walking pass them. I just had a bad day and I couldn't take it anymore. They were utterly shocked when I did that. Honestly speaking, it felt good. Its funny how that middle finger gave me a sense of strength and its just showing that I am not weak and that I am sick of these harassment. However, don't get me wrong, it wasn't a wise move since I was alone.

    Basically all I am trying to say is, I know how it feels like to be a victim, you're not alone. Who gave them the right to harass anyone they want?

  4. I am truly sorry for the bad/horrific/atrocious experience you had with poorly developed malay man, I hope it will not give you a poor general perception as to how they would normally behave. I was raised in a Malay family and I am as a Malay boy as I can be, and our culture as patriarchal as it may seem actually promotes respect towards everyone regardless of gender for e.g: We are to treat our mothers and elder/younger sisters with utmost respect and failure to do so will have unwanted result.

    I however cannot deny there is this certain pre-conceptualise notion on traditional role fulfillment such as women have to be polite, demure and etc. (for fear that their prospect of marriage will be effected). But generally its a culture that is fundamentally base on politeness and respect. It breaks my heart sometimes to see my own race claiming to be a malay but is in no way live up to the principles laid down. I blame their parents for their poor upbringing.

    I have no solution to offer, merely well wish that hopefully in the future your life will not be adversely affected with these types of creature. Owh maybe perhaps travel in groups.

    Good Luck

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Though the last sentence kinda makes me uneasy? Because the onus is on the potential perpetrator not to violate anyone, so when I have to take steps to protect myself ie travel in groups, carry a pepper spray etc, the onus is returned back to me – it becomes an individual responsibility to make sure my own ass is safe, and thus whenever I’m harassed I am solely blamed for it. You get where I’m going with this?

      It’s counter-productive. As long as there are people who are determined to target women, whatever (false) protection won’t be able to protect women. I was harassed not because I was alone – I was harassed because of the presence of harassers.

      The society often forgets that the path to gender equality is not women’s work alone. Why should it be when women are often the victims of gender violence? So I’m preaching here, but hey you, whoever you are, if you’re reading this and you’re a guy: GENDER EQUALITY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, TOO. You can start by not being a dick to women.

  5. i had a similar experience with a road bully.

    i was driving on the left most lane on jalan syed putra – not liking to go fast and also because of the limitations of my kancil. the road was full of cars but there was enough room for everyone and it wasn't jammed.

    yet a car swerved into my lane dangerously – i could see the bonnet just cutting in, which would have hit mine with just a slight nudge from his wheel and if i hadn't slowed down. the other car started to criss-cross the 3 lanes in an obvious desire to get ahead of the traffic.

    i snapped and gave chase (yes, i know that in doing so, i was driving as dangerously as he was; but i wasn't rational then. inconsiderate and reckless driving is one of my pet peeves, alongside other injustices that society allows to happen by not censuring the wrongdoer). furthermore, i was already on the slow lane – what else am i supposed to do to stay safe from the speed demons?

    expressing my anger, i honked all the way and continued doing so after i caught up with him near the midvalley exit about half a minute later, shining my headlights at him as well.

    i didn't really think how this could end. perhaps naturally when we go our separate ways – the road led to the federal highway/old klang road/north-south highway. but it so happened that he was also headed toward old klang road. he suddenly stopped right in the middle of the flyover on the right lane. i was forced to similarly cause more inconvenience to other road users and braced myself for what could happen.

    the driver got out of his car and asked what was my problem. when i pointed out that he was driving recklessly and almost hit me, all he could say was – did he hit me (and this is my beef with all the accident reports – all we hear about is how some drivers lose control of the vehicle. but i'm sure there were details that pointed to bad, inconsiderate driving, esp in pileups).

    i was shaken by the whole experience, esp by his threatening stance. so i implored to him not to do that again.

    but he too scolded me in reference to my gender – saying he can't believe a woman was behaving like this – and challenged me to go to the police station. i wavered then and that was my mistake. he reached into my car (i had left what i thought was a safe gap in the window in order to talk to him) and grabbed the keys from the ignition hole.

    that was when i snapped again. fully enraged now, i quickly grabbed my keys back from him and agreed to go to the police station. he didn't say where and i had assumed he meant the nearest on old klang road. he got back into his car and drove away.

    i tried to start my car but that was when i discovered that he had grabbed my keys with such force that it was twisted into two, leaving a bit of the key lodged inside the ignition hole. i managed to insert the other bit of the key correctly and quickly caught up with him. he was driving moderately and i could overtake him a few seconds later on the left lane. i thought he was allowing me to lead us to the nearest police station.

    coincidentally, a patrol car passed by just then. i signalled to them frantically and they must have gotten the message because they slowed down and parked as soon as they could, with me right behind them. i thought the other driver would have seen them and followed suit, but he didn't stop and appeared to have gone off.

    i got out of my car and told the two police officers what happened, showing them my twisted key. to my surprise, they asked me whether i was the car that stopped back there. i wonder how they knew. perhaps they were among the other drivers inconvenienced by our 'blocking' of one lane!

    they could see how shaken i was and calmed me down. one of them was looking at my t-shirt (of the free eo6) but didn't make anything out of it. i don't remember what they said, but i knew there was nothing they could do so i thanked them for stopping and listening to me.

    one thing i noticed looking back – none of the other drivers passing by on the left lane stopped during our standoff. this city is too stressed. even if something is not right and someone may need help, i doubt we'd have the time to stop and care.

    i haven't fixed my car key. partly because of financial reasons and partly to remind myself of how it got broken so that i can be more zen to the many provocations on the road. it hasn't really worked, though. i still flash at people who don't signal when turning (a relatively minor wrong compared to reckless driving).

    so yeah, i know that if i hadn't tried to get even – lautbulan's equivalent of a middle finger – i wouldn't have had to face that subsequent scary shit.

    but on the other hand, why can't i express my anger when it's justified? why should those of us who are doing our thing without disturbing others have to put up with the asshole behaviour of others? why are they allowed to get away with it?

    1. I'm so sorry that happened to you! I, too, have A LOT of stories about road bullies. Maybe it's the design of my car (very low) and the way I drive (I like leaving a reasonable space between my car and the car in front), but people LOVE cutting me off. And it's so dangerous 'cos what was a reasonable space turns into oh-shit-I'm-one-inch-from-this-dickhead's-bumper once the dickhead's car gets into the space. And sometimes it's just the car behind me going into the right lane and wants to enter the left lane again, albeit IN FRONT of me, 'cos bastard thinks cutting off one car will solve the whole road jam. It's amazing how shortsighted and impatient people are. I even crashed onto the guardrail once 'cos a car swerved into my lane while I was going really fast and my instinct was BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE 'cos if I hit the car it would become a police case and I'd have to pay a RM300 fine yadda yadda.

      I'm starting to think we need a support group, y'all.

  6. Munira,

    If you're Lara Croft with a warship's arsenal of guns, and Grand Master of 20 different types of martial arts moves, by all means, go ahead and take these men on, trash-talkin' and fight it mono a mono. When you're one lone woman, with little to nil self defense technique knowledge/ability in physical strength, use one's brain. Whether we like it or not, Malaysia is generally not safe for women, and our police is useless. The response was not proportionate, and I agree no woman should be subjected to that, but one must always employ caution.

    It's not like I haven't middle fingered some miang douchebags before, so let me put it this way, make sure you can walk away from it safely first. There are times when a retort is justified, but one must assess the situation before one leaps, no?


    The idea is to make them feel that they are doing something wrong for actually doing that to you, from personal experience, there have been men who apologized immediately or stop to talk to me on other days and apologize, saying they meant no harm for it. That's when you gently tell them it's not okay to do something like that to women in general.

    Be the water poured onto the fire, not the fuel to further inflame it.

    It is of course your choice to do as you will. I am only sharing my own way of dealing with it. Peace out.

    1. ladymissazira,
      I don't know why you need to use video game examples of fantasy women who take on baddies, because you seem to suggest that flesh and blood women cannot fight off men. There's harm in perpetuating women as oh-so-gentle creatures who are too scared to chip their nail polishes, or just too scared full stop. I've punched a man once for calling me sundal in public many years back, and got a punch back. But hey, being hit was no biggie – not to say that I would encourage anyone to turn to assault in such a situation. In the end I made him cry and regret what he did. True story.

      Women can be firm and show anger without resorting to physical aggression. Some people just do not deserve politeness and courtesy. They will continue to do the same to others because they will know that all women and girls are just wimpy pushovers who will never fight back and tell them they're being dickheads.

      1. I quote: "In the end I made him cry …"

        This comment may come a bit late in the day, but I, for one, personally think you deserve a standing ovation by us ladies who has ever been a victim of male condescension, victimization and violence.

  7. Hair-flipping to rude and sexist strangers as a strategy to ward off intimidation totally grosses me out. As someone with very short hair and would rather save my flirtations for someone who respects me, I find the "method" rather demeaning and unhelpful. We're talking about feeling unsafe on the streets, knowing that if we stood up against harassers, *male* bullies, and aggressors we may expect far worse repercussions. We don't need to flatter our aggressors.

    Seriously everybody, do we as women – both trans and cis, and transmen for that matter, need to put up with the shit self-entitled bullies on the street give us? NO.

  8. If one finds oneself in that kind of situation, above all else, keep a calm head. Having experienced similar ‘teasing’ myself, I can well understand your actions of telling them off and giving them the middle finger. Such impulse responses is well justified at times depending on the seriousness of the harassment endured.

    However, I sincerely believe in being courteous even to those who at times do not deserve it, because how one responds to provocation in a fit of anger reveals the true personality of the reactor, not the initiator. How one responds to aggravation/provocation is the kind of person one is.

    Some men, honestly speaking, does not know how to treat women purely because they were not taught to do so by their own parents, or in some cases, they choose to become jerks. It does not make it right, but it does help in seeing things in their perspective, enough to understand that their own lacking self esteem/self respect/insecurity that leads them to take a step further other than trash talking well into threatening behaviour and intimidating you into fearing for your personal safety.

    Be above those kind of behaviour, not sink down with it.

    Some men harass in subtle ways, by commenting on the clothes you wear, insinuating or expressly saying that you're not good enough (in matters outside the scope relevant to the contention of the day), that you are too opinionated, by telling you that you're a waste of their time, by flaring up for no substantial reason other than their ego is bruised, and/or using an unimaginative repetition of profanities along with it.

    My advice is this;

    Method 1 (Reserved for strangers):

    Witty comeback/reply. (Using humor, part ways with laughter on both sides. You earn their respect, they leave you alone.)

    e.g. : Stranger : Hai Cik Adik Manis amboiii….*wolf whistles and cat calls*
    Lady : Maaf, manisnya saya untuk suami saya je, ya? *Hair flip. Walks away.*
    (Tried and tested)

    Method 2 (For the ones worth your time/fighting for especially if you deal with them on daily basis):

    1) make it clear to the abuser specifically which behaviour is unacceptable
    2) be firm that you don’t want the behaviour to continue
    3) reason with them, and gently explain why is such behaviour unacceptable
    4) refuse to reward them with any positive response via words/gestures unless there is positive change from them

    Hope this helps.

    1. I am having serious issues with your super-virtuous and shallow response towards LautBulan's horrifying experience with your "methods". You came across both patronising and condescending. In an insidious way, it feels like you're insinuating that she invited the aggression with her "impulsive" response.

      "You earn their respect, they leave you alone."

      Are you serious?

      Get off your high horse, please.

    2. Perhaps this was well-intentioned; I'm inclined to believe it is. Though I believe good intentions doesn't absolve one of the responsibility of being *part of the problem*. I'm getting the sense that some people think lautbulan deserved the response of physical intimidation and verbal threats because she responded to INITIAL harassment with a "tunjuk fuck", as the police called it. Is that the case? If so, then we, as a society, are in trouble. It seems to play into the entire narrative of "women must behave like _________ or else they deserved whatever came their way".

      The point here is that lautbulan responded to harassment with some pluck and courage as opposed to utilising "manners" or "courtesy" which really just escapes me at this point. Hey, stay polite and try to be witty and crack some jokes as some men invade your personal space and try to make you feel like shit. No, I don't see how that advice helps. Furthermore, there is a demand here that women must somehow "pretend" to laugh/be flirtatious/flip their hair/shake their ass/do a high kick and a split/etc. when on the receiving end of harassment from men. What? That's some form of egalitarian gender relations? Men get to threaten/harass, women must employ their charm in response?

      I would've felt so much better reading the comments here if people generally agreed on one thing: that the men were being abusive, and they responded in a way completely disproportionate to the situation at hand. (Though for the life of me, I can't figure out what would make their response *proportionate*.)

      I'm also alarmed that in a space like Loyar Burok no one has come out in condemnation of how the police behaved. Yes, it's a common occurrence – the police are rarely to be trusted, especially when it involves a woman in trouble – yet the lack of outrage is deeply depressing.

    3. Hey Azira,

      You’re missing the point of my article. Go back to Feminism 101. Don’t appreciate your advice AT ALL.

  9. No one's suggesting that men are completely immune from (sexual) harassment in the work place. Regardless of gender, the harassed person needs to be able to go to someone without being scrutinized. Especially when it involves actual or threat of physical attack.

    Gender does make a difference in the author's case. Her colleagues suggested that she remain silent about the harassment and to suck it in, cause she's after all female. They even advised her not to challenge men, suggesting that she probably deserved the treatment she got (because she stood up to them).

  10. The issue here is the bullying. The only difference gender makes is that if the author had been male, it would not have stopped at verbal assault.

    And if you think something similar would not have happened to a male, I beg to differ.

    1. No one's saying it doesn't happen to men. We should perhaps talk about man-on-man violence, but NOT HERE since this is a FEMINIST WEEK article about what happened to a WOMAN. Jesus fucking christ.

  11. Unfortunately, your story isn't anything new and many women have to go through the same thing in their workplace on a daily basis. Good job on standing up for yourself! Ugh, the proverbial "Ko tu perempuan buat la perangai macam perempuan" statement makes me nauseous. Perangai perempuan tu sebenarnye camne? This is 2011, should we just let men ogle your ass and remain silent about it? And the fact that there were 11 men ganging up on you is even more laughable and errr embarrassing!

    Sigh. I think what's more disappointing is that you don't even get that much support from your female colleagues (and even the female police officer). I guess we've all deeply internalized patriarchal values that even kaum perempuan are believing that they are subservient to men and that it is NORMAL to be sexually objectified. I don't think it's solely budaya Barat for female to want respect for themselves and to speak out their minds no?

    "Slap instead of a birdie" – ………..

    Good luck in finding a job in a hopefully "sexual-harassment-free" environment!

    1. Hey Oats,

      I really appreciate your replies. Finally, someone on LB who gets it!

      I speak on behalf of Kakak Killjoy – give me your email and come join the dark side.

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