Pink Dot 2010 was underwhelming.
That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. Yes, over 4000 people turned up. Yes, there was a general affirmation of the freedom to love, regardless of sexual orientation. Yes, there were decent performances during the main event. These are decent achievements, but I felt more could have been done.
Pink Dot says it is not ‘a protest, rally or demonstration’, but rather a ‘gathering of like-minded Singaporeans’. Well, a rally is a gathering, one designed to arouse enthusiasm — which is what Pink Dot is about: a gathering of like-minded Singaporeans to generate interest and awareness of Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transgender (LBGT) issues. By gathering so many people in one spot, the organisers of Pink Dot had the power to influence a great number of people to be more accepting of LBGT people.
And squandered it.
Pink Dot says it supports the freedom to love. The MCs said that. A mother-daughter pair spoke about their experiences and how being non-heterosexual is all right. The rest of the time was spent on performances. It’s fine and well if you want to affirm freedom. But simply saying ‘I support the freedom to love’ is quite different from the ground truth. It’s the difference between good intentions and concrete action.
This year, Pink Dot is focusing on the families of LBGT people. It wants to families to support non-heterosexual members. Pink Dot threw a spotlight on family problems within such families — but left the reasons surrounding these problems in the dark.
Fear exists. Ignorance exists. Pink Dot acknowledges this. There is prejudice, too. It’s enshrined in Section 377A of the Penal Code. It’s in sermons by ultraconservative religious leaders. It’s in perspectives maintained and shared by ultraconservative friends and family members. It’s boxed up and packaged as ‘Asian values’ and ‘conservative society’.
On this, Pink Dot says nothing.
It’s revealing. The signs of ignorance and fear overshadowing the pink dot is tucked far away from the crowd. The MCs didn’t mention it. I don’t think anybody actually talked about fear and ignorance of LBGT people and issues, or prejudice against such people — not at any great length. And yet it is prejudice, ignorance and fear that overshadows acceptance of LBGT people, everywhere in the world. The MCs, speakers, or performers did nothing that approached this basic fact. Until you face the issues, it’s little more than hot air. Prejudice will continue to perpetuate, making Pink Job’s task (and those of LBGT activists, and the lives of normal LBGT people) that much harder. For all its good intentions, Pink Dot did not do much to advance the freedom to love.
Ideology aside, I also have a couple of observations about the performances. The first is insufficient stage presence. The MCs — Adrian Pang, Tan Kheng Hua, and DJ Big Kid — attempted to raise and maintain a high level of energy and enthusiasm. When the main event begun, everyone had gathered in the middle of Hong Lim Park, leaving an empty circle for the MCs and performers. For some reason, the three MCs favoured only one segment of the circle, with occasional glances to their left and right. They did not turn around.
Needless to say, I was in the arc they did not look at.
The key to engaging any audience is eye contact. Granted, having an audience that surrounds you on all sides is a bit unconventional. But this could have been overcome with practice, or at least good observation. In this case, the MCs could have spent equal time addressing the audience on all sides: to their front, sides and rear. If nothing else, it makes you look more professional.
The second issue I have with the performance is the dragon dance at the end. A dragon dance is a traditional Chinese dance, usually performed during festive occasions. The dragon is mounted on poles and manned by a dance team. During the dance, the dragon is depicted as pursuing a ball, mounted on a pole and handled by a single dancer. Such dances require a large amount of space to fully show off the dance team’s skills, and to pay homage to the qualities of the dragon.
But there was too little space for the performers. They did their best, to be sure, but the dance largely had them running in circles, with occasional twirls and spins. Even worse, the logistics crew placed some tables and ladders in the middle of the circle. The furniture was not used as props, so they became obstacles — and unsightly obstructions for photographs. Should a dragon dance be scheduled, I think the choreographer should have a say in the amount of space for the performers, to ensure that the dancers would have enough space to perform — or perhaps use props to pull off more difficult, and aesthetically pleasing, maneouvres.
The problems with the performance, though, is just a side note. By failing to squarely face fear, ignorance and prejudice, Pink Dot did little more than bring like minded people together. It can talk about ‘supporting the freedom to love’, but until it addresses the problems restricting the freedom to love, I doubt Pink Dot can do very much, if at all.