From ‘Strong spouses in their own way’, 1 Feb 2013 and ‘When men stray, women should not feel that they are expected to stay’, 30 Jan 2013, Voices, Today
(Donovan Chee Kwok Hoe):…I do not condone cheating. When I see pictures of Ng Boon Gay’s missus holding his hand, I would never assume that she has forgiven him. But whether she is holding his hand because of the need to maintain a public facade or otherwise is not for us to judge or assume. That would be venturing into dangerous territory.
What I see, instead, is her willingness to support her husband through his darkest days. She has made the deepest form of self-sacrifice and should be applauded.
(Magdalene Sim Jia Ling):…In my view, a brave woman is someone strong enough to walk away as and when it is necessary to do so, someone who can stand up for what is right and wrong in her life, including standing up against her husband’s infidelities.
It is not that women should never forgive their unfaithful husbands, but it is for them, in their own circumstances and capacities, to decide. There should never be an expectation on them that staying with their husbands or publicly supporting them through scandals is the mark of a smart woman, or worse, a loving wife who is woman enough to stand by her marriage.
Yap Yen Yen once told reporters that she ‘continues to believe in her husband, and that her love for him hasn’t wavered’. Throughout the trial, she has been portrayed by the media as the stoic, silent victim. Only time will tell if this display of bewildering affection is really a ‘public facade’ to garner sympathy, or a genuine show of solidarity and forgiveness. The latter, of course, is a virtue that’s been enshrined in all major religions and moral ethics, and between filing for immediate divorce and sticking by her man, it’s often the latter gesture that casts the victim in the glowing light of the ‘loving, magnanimous wife’ persona. It also helps that men are always seen as scheming bastards and are automatically thrust with the blame whenever they stray, regardless of how their wives have treated them previously.
The ‘suffering wife rising from the flames like a phoenix’ is a phenomenon that is publicly celebrated; the classic example of Hilary Clinton giving president husband Bill a second chance comes to mind. An ST journalist in Singapolitics called 2012 the year of the STRONG WOMAN, citing examples such as Diane Palmer and Howard Shaw’s model wife Jessie Xue. Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion editor, lauds Yap as the BRAVEST WOMAN in the news last year. Nobody knows anything about these women other than their apparent willingness to accept their husbands’ philandering nonsense and simply move on. They have become a fighting symbol of womanhood and little else. No one said anything worth applauding about Cecilia Sue’s husband, or Laura Ong’s boyfriend/husband, who are also victims in their own right. Nobody’s going to call a man a BRAVE SOUL for accepting a wife who sleeps around. If a woman keeps quiet about the affair, she’s grieving or struggling to keep the marriage afloat. If a man keeps silent, he’s plotting revenge and imagining running the lover through with a chainsaw.
A woman may be viewed as ‘strong’ whether she forgives her husband or packs her bags and leaves. Men, on the other hand, may be described as ‘strong’ in the same emotional sense if they can overcome immense grief like from the death of a loved one, but if they stand by a cheating wife, they are cast as weak cuckolds and not worth swooning over at all, unless they use it to their advantage as sob-story pick-up bait in their quest for one-night stands at the club. For all you know a woman’s sweet acts in public are secretly out of personal repentance or even relief, if she herself has also been guilty of fooling around with other men. Yap Yen Yen isn’t a heroine; she’s just a woman coping with her husband’s and her own shame her way, caught in the headlights by a public yearning for a story to tell and for her to be made a shining example for women in similar situations everywhere, even if Mother Theresa standards of forgiveness do not necessarily guarantee a lasting marriage.