Women’s Charter penalising men unfairly

From ‘Stop abuse of Women’s Charter’, 26 April 2014, St Forum

(Derek Low): I SUPPORT Justice Choo Han Teck’s suggestion to reform the Women’s Charter (“Maintenance not an unalloyed right of women: Judge”; Tuesday), although his idea of a Marriage Charter may take years to become reality. Women in our society have often pleaded for equal rights in every aspect of their lives. So why do we still allow double standards that penalise men under the Charter?

The Charter was enacted in the 1960s to protect the many housewives who were supported by their husbands. But times have changed. Our Government has encouraged women to join the workforce to be independent and contribute to nation building. Women have come a long way since then. Many are more successful than their husbands, who are proud of their spouses’ achievements.

I urge Singapore’s modern women to take pride in who they are, what they do and the effort they have put into their marriages. But when the marriage fails, they ought to be logical and sensible, instead of making unreasonable demands under the outdated Charter.

Justice Choo called for a fairer ‘Marriage Charter’ after rejecting a woman’s $120,000 claim from her ex-husband. She’s a regional sales manager while he’s a senior prison officer, the latter already currently paying $1000 monthly for a 17-year old son from her PREVIOUS marriage. The judge cuttingly refers to such arrangements as ‘patronising gestures of maintenance that belie deep chauvinistic thinking’. In 2011, ST reported that an average tai-tai can expect to earn $15-30K of monthly maintenance from ‘high net-worth’ husbands. The Queen of Instagram herself, Jamie Chua, sought a jaw-dropping $450,000 monthly from her ex-husband.

Unfortunately for some not-so-well-off men, such flexibility wasn’t so readily applied in the past. In 1980, divorcee ‘Born Losers’ cried foul when his ‘recalcitrant wife’ got to benefit from his maintenance, even though she wasn’t the one looking after the kids. It was already known in 1970 that men get the shorter end of the stick when a marriage fails, with one writer referring to the Charter as the ‘additional FANGS to a woman’s natural armoury of feminine weapons and wiles’, and that marriage was mostly beneficial to women, the men being ‘unappreciated, unsung martyrs’. Some fall victim to frivolous accusations of defying ‘personal protection orders’, especially if they’re twice the weight of their wives and naturally viewed as the bully in the relationship. This call for ‘gender equality’ isn’t new really, with people recognising the unfairness in the laws as early as 1971 – more than 40 YEARS ago!

We have to thank a certain Mr K.M Bryne, Minister of Labour and Law, who in 1959 decided that ‘women and girls’ needed to be protected from the abominable pigs that are men, which interestingly included elements such as ‘sweeping powers against patrons of brothels’, and a ‘one-man-one-wife law applicable to all EXCEPT Muslims’. The intention was to bring the laws ‘up to date’ with other countries ‘like England’, based on the assumption that women are the more devoted parents who only want the best for their children that they would give up their careers for them. That they would never marry a rich dude for money, find a reason to desert him, then ask for maintenance leveraging on this wife-protecting charter. Meanwhile, men are compelled to read the laws carefully before deciding if marriage is worth the risk of a lifetime of indebtedness, and even if they are financially worse off than their spouse, they’re sometimes liable to give what the law refers to as a ‘token fee’. In some cases, this can be even as low as 1 freakin’ DOLLAR.

In an attempt to nullify its image as a male-bashing organisation, AWARE stepped up to propose that the charter be renamed the ‘Family Charter’ (Tweak Women’s Charter for gender equality, ST Forum, 25 April 2014), claiming that they have ‘LONG ARGUED that much of the Charter needs to be rethought’. Well have they really? What have they been doing to urge ‘rethinking’ of the Charter to ease the burden on men since their formation in 1985? It’s not stated anywhere in their list of milestones, though in 2010 then Executive Director Corrine Lim defended that it was a ‘misconception’ that the Charter was ‘anti-male’, yet at the same time admitted that the maintenance issue was ‘outmoded and unfair’. Well of course it can’t be ‘anti-male’, it was a MAN’s idea in the first place.

Maybe more men could have been rescued from such archaic laws if the organisation had focussed more on pushing for revisions of the charter rather than slamming ads for being sexist or getting misogynistic army songs banned. More recently AWARE has complained about NSmen receiving benefits as reward for service because NS isn’t the ‘single gold standard for citizen belonging‘, and that this threatens to create ‘different tiers’ within society. As one who served himself, such handouts are well appreciated, though it’s tempting to brag it’s only one’s duty to serve and that we’re not doing this for housing or education benefits but for the NATION. We especially didn’t ask for AWARE, who is obviously in no position to comment on NS matters, to urge that we should be deprived of the fruits of our labour should the Government deems us deserving of such. Maybe this gender-neutral Charter response is really a smokescreen for the backlash from that previous NS comment.

But back to the Charter. AWARE weren’t the first to suggest a change of name and have no right to claim credit for it.  In 1980, some Christian societies called for the courts to exercise discretion to grant maintenance to the husband ‘where circumstances justified it’, like the handicapped or those too poor to maintain themselves. The name ‘Family Charter’ was proposed then. Others called for a counterpart to the Women’s Charter called the MEN’s Charter. Maybe we should have a CHILDREN’S Charter too, one that protects kids against neglect because their splitting parents are too busy fighting over money to perform basic childcare duties.

As a credit card company once famously said: The men don’t get it.

About these ads

Safra gym ad condoning sexual harrassment

From ‘Seeing red over Safra’s healthy distractions’, 10 March 2014, article by Lee Wan Sim, My Paper

AN ADVERTISEMENT aimed at attracting people to sign up with the Safra National Service Association’s clubs has ended up riling some online. The ad shows two men working out at a gym ogling an attractive woman behind her back, with the tagline: “A great workout, good friends and some healthy distractions.

Several netizens saw the ad as degrading to women. A woman named Cindy Ng posted a picture of the ad, which she said appeared at a bus stop in Upper Thomson Road, on the Safra Facebook page on Saturday.

She said this was “outright distasteful, completely disrespectful to women and borders on condoning sexual harassment”. Several other commenters – both men and women – agreed, with one user called Faith Toh claiming that “through this ad, Safra has endorsed the objectification of women”.

However, others disagreed, saying it was “harmless” and did not degrade women. In a Facebook comment, Safra said the ad was meant “to showcase some bonding moments among our NSmen while having a tongue-in-cheek approach to life experiences”.

“Be it in the gym or anywhere else, it is not uncommon for some women to be checked out by men or vice versa,” it said, adding that the ad was “not aimed to devalue women and neither does Safra condone it”.

Pumping iron never looked so good

Pumping iron never looked so good

AWARE, as expected, got into the thick of the ad controversy, saying that the poster encourages perverted leering and makes gyms dangerous for women. I’m not a fan of gym workouts, but I’d gather one reason why there are often mirrors there is not so you can sneak a glance at someone’s rack, but to ogle at your own bulging awesomeness like the narcissistic handsome devil that you are.

Ogling is universal for both sexes of course, but it’s only played to comedic effect in pop culture when men are the ones doing the eyeballing. Women complain about the sleazy attention to the point of calling it a precursor for gangrape, but few would realise that staring at a comely woman tends to depict men as the more IDIOTIC sex. Whether it’s having them fall into a manhole, walk face first in a pole or fall off a chair, the gag is always on the one nursing a ridiculous hard-on and drooling from the mouth. It happens in sex comedies and ads selling products from shampoo to low-fat yogurt. Why isn’t anyone complaining that the ad undermines our ability to think outside our genitals?

If anything, attractive women are usually the total opposite of HEALTHY distractions. They turn men into total morons, and no exception in a gym if in your attempt to impress the babe on the treadmill, you pump more iron than your body can take and end up with a torn triceps, injuring yourself before you can even think of doing any actual molesting of your own. Even if a woman does get any kind of unsavoury propositions from stinky men in a gym, there are plenty of defensive weapons at her disposal, like the little dumbbell the SAFRA model is carrying for example. The last thing we want to do is chat up a girl who’s all pumped up for her boxercise class, with a devastating 5 pounder in her grasp.

No one in the right mind would sign up for SAFRA just to check out the ‘healthy distractions’. You could do it tactically on the MRT, at work, the beach etc and it would be the perfectly normal thing to do since most men have control over their animal urges and have gotten away with daily ogling without turning into sex maniacs. When you take a staged snapshot and stamp a gym membership product on it on the other hand, it suddenly becomes a glaring endorsement of rape culture and sexploitation. AWARE sure knows how to flex a feminist muscle or too, what with the flag-waving and man-bashing and all. They may get an army song lyric banned, but I doubt their argument here holds much weight.

Purple light army song promotes sexual violence against women

From AWARE Facebook page, 15 Nov 2013 and ‘Offensive verse of army song banned’, 16 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

(AWARE) Ever wonder if speaking up about sexism really creates change? Here’s one case where it has! Earlier this year, AWARE learned of “Purple Light”, a marching song sung by many NSmen, which included the lines:

“Booking out, see my girlfriend
Saw her with another man
Kill the man, rape my girlfriend
With my rifle and my buddy and me.”

We were troubled that NSmen were bonding over misogynist lyrics about committing sexual violence against women. So we raised our concerns with MINDEF and SAF.

And now we have excellent news: MINDEF and SAF have confirmed that they took steps to investigate. They will “immediately halt” the singing of these lyrics, which they describe as “contrary to the values of [their] organisation”.

It’s really encouraging that MINDEF and SAF are prepared to listen to feedback, recognise this as an issue and take action on it. Thumbs up!

(ST)…Aware’s executive director Corinna Lim said in a statement yesterday that the group was alerted to the offensive lyrics by seven national servicemen during a workshop in July that was held as part of Aware’s ongoing campaign to stop violence against women.

Ms Lim said: “These misogynistic lyrics tolerate and normalise the violent sexual abuse of women, condoning gang- rape as a justified punishment for infidelity.”

She added: “Such lyrics may encourage young men at impressionable ages to objectify women, and contribute to an environment where violence against women is trivialised.”

If I had sung such a lyric during road marches or battalion runs I would have remembered it till now, but I don’t. I would also never think of participating in AWARE workshops to protest about army songs like these 7 NSmen did. In another version of the song, ‘rape’ is replaced by ‘beat’, which doesn’t make it any better by AWARE’s standards. Purple Light has devolved over the years, from a rousing ode to loyalty and patriotism to the extent of ‘burying yourself with your rifle and buddy when you die’, to one containing a tasteless, but more importantly, unfunny verse re-enacting some angry boy’s sick fantasy.

This is how the ‘clean’ version sounds like, with the violence and misogyny replaced by ‘broken heart, back to army’, where the recruit seeks solace in the Purple Light trinity that is ‘my rifle and my buddy and me’. No sir, nothing remotely kinky about that at all.

From the AWARE post, it seems that the Legion just wants SAF to stop singing those specific lyrics, but makes no mention of calling for the song’s BAN altogether, as interpreted by TRS. Maybe it’s time we standardise the song to the wimpy ‘broken heart’ version, but I doubt that anyone who continues to belt out the X-rated Purple Light would get any form of actual punishment beyond verbal abuse such as ‘KNNBCCB’ (next on the list of AWARE’s banned army words, perhaps?)

AWARE may nitpick on marketing bloopers like green eyeshadow for women and trophy boyfriend advertisements, but intruding into camp affairs like marching songs, swear-words or CB leaves is like a group of Girl Guides trying to infiltrate a Boys Only tree-house and telling them not to use ‘boobies’ as a secret password. We often use the phrase ‘fuck spider’ in camp but you don’t see the SPCA banging on our doors demanding to stop this gross bestiality. MOM are not taking NSmen to task for making their maids carry backpacks for them, and the Nature Society is not at all concerned about us messing with taxonomy when we name plants after female genitalia. For decades, NS has taken obscene liberties with sex equality, yet we haven’t become a nation of rapists and wife-beaters, as AWARE is terrified of us turning into after singing Purple Light while marching.

But it’s not just army songs that are too ‘rapey’ for their own good. What does AWARE think about Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines then, a massively popular song that’s not confined to army grounds but blasted out there on the airwaves for little children to hear. Oh the humanity!

OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you

Or God forbid, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back.

That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, wanna pull out your tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed

Why, we should also abolish the classic analogy, or rather ‘objectification’, of rifles as soldiers’ ‘wives’, since we do a lot of weapon ‘stripping’, chain them up in an armory once we’re done with them, ‘muzzle’ them and rest our cheeks against their butts. The frequent use of ‘Guniang’ as a taunt is also degrading to the women, depicting them as the ‘weaker’ sex. Or ban sexy SAF Drama and Dance performers after a victorious field exercise and have them replaced by Village People tribute bands instead, singing ‘Macho Macho Man’, with our rifles and our buddies and… well, you get my drift.

That is where, I wanna be

Ironically, there’s a Purple Light Walk held in the US which aims to raise awareness of domestic violence. Also, a Purple Light movie in the works, which I hope has none of that sexist, misogynistic content that made Ah Boys to Men such a disgrace to the SAF. One Ah Boy actor, Ridhwan Azman, made the news after slapping his girlfriend. Not sure if the ‘Purple Light’ verse was playing in his head then, like a Satanic rock song coaxing one into sacrificing a virgin at the altar. In fact, AWARE nominated Ah Boys to Men for the prestigious Alamak award for its unabashed sexist violence (with a 48% vote), instead of calling for its rating to be revised to R-21 or something. We should really have an award for AWARE’s complaints, called the ‘AWARE Insistently Yakking On Hombres’ award, or ‘AIYOH’ for short.

Maybe AWARE  should propose its own ‘You Go Girl!’ remix of  Purple Light, which would probably contain lyrics like:

Purple line, take to Sengkang
Lao Tiko, staring at me
Take my heels, stab his birdie
With my BFF and my Prada and MEEEE

Went shopping, got GSS
Saw my man, with another girl

Take my scissors, cut off his testes
With my BFF and my Prada and MEEEE

And we guys would just laugh it off, or cringe nervously, instead of complaining about graphic genital mutilation.

Postscript: Mindef later clarified that the song hasn’t been outright banned, but confirmed that the original version was indeed the ‘broken heart’ one. Despite the army having us ‘training to be soldier’ and ‘fight for our land’, there’s nothing a killing machine can do to confront his cheater girlfriend and her new guy except confide in his buddy and hug his rifle sobbing to sleep. I’d suggest removing the stanza altogether.

NS as a 2 year character enrichment programme

From various letters, 15 Oct 2013, ST Forum

(Paul Sim Ruiqi): I READ the results of the Institute of Policy Studies survey on public perceptions of national service with much caution (“Poll reveals changing perceptions of NS”; last Wednesday) – in particular, the finding that more people viewed NS as a way to instil discipline and values among the young than as a pillar of national defence.

NS should not be seen as a two-year enrichment or character-development programme as much as it is an individual’s contribution to the nation. There is an undue emphasis on the transformation of boys into men, as portrayed by recent movies and television series.

(Gerard Ong):…We must never forget that we train our national servicemen to fight to win – nothing less.

…When I was called up for NS, many of those in my cohort and I were convinced that we were going to be trained to be fighting soldiers. We understood that the discipline and values that came with our training were incidental and part and parcel of military life. We wanted to be out in the field, learning how to handle our weapons, field craft, operational procedures, shooting and unarmed combat.

We came in wanting to be fighters, not disciplined team players, which we had already learnt how to be by playing team sports or joining school uniformed groups. The survey findings should be examined closely by our leaders and Ministry of Defence, as the public’s perception of NS as primarily an instiller of discipline and values is rather disturbing.

There was a scene in the Ah Boys to Men 2 movie where the main cast applied their military skills to enact revenge on a couple by bombing their car with shit. A comedy played for laughs, some viewers thought Jack Neo’s movie trivialised NS, calling it sexist, misogynist and bad for SAF overall. By the end of the movie, we never know if the boys are capable of killing the enemy, but are constantly bombarded with the message that NS is great for life-skills, family bonding and ‘camaraderie’. There is, however, no evidence that men emerge from NS as better friends, husbands, employees or leaders, and the social benefit of NS, grossly exaggerated in pop culture, has turned from a by-product of regimentation and suffering to a convenient justification for having NS in the first place.

The army itself is guilty of plugging the ‘character building’ angle. Being in uniform would supposedly make you more attractive to women. It also makes you think of your father as an embattled hero and role model. Unlike the ads for the Air Force which emphasise protection of the motherland, the Army insists on humanising NS because the original bloody intent of conscription i.e killing people is a bitter pill to swallow. Especially if you’re a worried parent who’ve seen one too many boys die for nothing.

The researcher who led the poll, Dr Leong Chang Hoong, revealed to the media that only 1 in 10 women would serve NS, and then followed up to say ‘even simple gestures from the female population, such as ORGANISING LUNCH for men training in the field, would make a “significant psychological impact”. Is it any wonder Singaporean women would decline the offer to don the uniform and hang out with the boys, only to be summoned to make Ayam brand tuna sandwiches or cook instant noodles in mess tins for them? I doubt anyone would argue that NS for girls would make them better wives or mothers without receiving a nomination for AWARE’s Alamak Awards. Why stop at green eyeshadow? How about distributing a recipe booklet called ‘Outfield BBQ for Heroic Boys in Green’ or something.

I’m not sure if the survey addressed the ‘fighting soldier’ argument as to how many of our men are actually battle-ready and willing to die for the country, that includes the writers above who support the ‘pillar of national defence’ rationale. The reality is many men spend their NS in filler, ‘supportive’ roles like ‘storemen’ or logistics supervisors, and are likely to pass out of it without a single day of field camp, without a sense of undying self-sacrificing purpose that anyone who puts on that uniform is supposed to have. Men without a single meaningful memory outside of staying in the bunk and waiting for orders to perform odd jobs.  At the other extreme, some have compared NS to SLAVERY, whereby minions are drilled in unarmed combat and how to stab dummies with a bayonet. Sort of like gladiators, perhaps. And then there is this guy, who has clearly applied aggression, the vital force of a winning army, in real life. In a LIBRARY. Shudder in fear, enemies!

Despite gaining all the ‘discipline’ and ‘values’ over 2 years, your boss may still quietly frown on your frequent call-ups, or you may miss out on crucial projects that could have earned you a promotion. Some can do without the ‘enrichment’ altogether by getting themselves downgraded, to the extent of celebrating it in public. How ironic that a ‘chow keng’ becomes a millionaire even before you manage to land your first job because you’re too busy defending the nation. Well, at least you still have your lifelong friends and an arsenal of explosive swear words, eh?

Our boys aren’t born Vikings, nor do they pass out of BMT mass chorusing ‘We will still be Friends Forever’ in Vitamin C’s hit ‘Graduation’. Personally I wouldn’t call NS a total waste of time, but I wouldn’t make a big-deal macho fantasy out of it either. The ST editor referred to our defence strategy as that of a ‘poison shrimp’ (NS is no glorified boot camp, 12 Oct 2013, ST) which deters anyone from stepping on it despite our miserable size. It’s dangerously unrealistic to think that we’re tiger prawns instead.

SAF ‘Shades of Green’ ad demeaning to women

From Aware Facebook page and omy.sg, 7 Sept 2013.

Women, interested in a career with the Army? Quick, get out your eye-shadow palettes and pick your favourite shade of green, because that’s what will land you the job!

These packages went out to women in Singapore, advertising the Army Women’s Seminar 2013. It comes complete with a fake mirror and eye-shadow palette.

We want to let the Army know that make-up doesn’t stir our patriotic sentiments. Can you help us think of a creative, effective way to send them a message? The seminar is on the 14th of September, so we’ve to put our strategy together soon. Leave a comment on this post if you have a good idea.

Shades of Sexism

Shades of Sexism

SAF needs women badly and they’re on a recruitment spree to meet their target of an additional 500 female officers by 2018. If not for AWARE complaining about their marketing blitz being sexist, I wouldn’t have known about this Army Women’s Seminar. By harping on the Army objectifying women through the gimmick of green eyeshadow, AWARE has inadvertently given ad agency Mandate an unlikely helping hand in promoting the event. Any AWARE AGM would make a military seminar for ladies look like a flower arrangement workshop in comparison.

I’m sure AWARE fully supports the idea of having more ‘Girl Power’ in our armed forces, but maybe they should be ‘sending a message’ to the Army about the lack of female generals (the highest ranking female today is still Colonel) rather than picking on an ad for favouring provocation over patriotism. Personally I thought this fake makeup kit isn’t half as bad as the ‘trophy boyfriend’ ad some years back which suggested that women ovulate in squealing ecstasy at the sight of men in uniform. It’s also a novel way of getting women interested, instead of using models that suggest that female soldiers are supposed to look in a certain way that combines grace, dignity and steely courage, as below:

I see a woman wearing makeup

Or that they would fare well in the army by looking downright intimidating, like a discipline mistress in school.

Your future boss, ladies

I think the intention of the ‘Shades of Green’ ad is to portray an army career just like any other worth pursuing which involves dolling up as most professional women do, be it a high-flying corporate executive, an OL or an SIA stewardess. It also busts the stereotype that you have to look like a women’s judo champion, or a GI Jane, in order to serve. If a lady CEO dresses like a slut in public, AWARE is unlikely to complain, but if a female SAF officer dabs on lipstick in front of her male colleagues, it’s sexual oppression, nevermind if she does it while in full battle order and a rifle in hand.

It would be very helpful if AWARE actually does constructive creative work of their own and run some gender-neutral campaigns to support such events themselves, or better still volunteer to secure the frontline in the event of a real war. Those talons would come in really handy then.

Lift Your Skirt, Save Your Life ad goes against Asian values

From ‘Ad catches the eye and raises a few eyebrows’, 8 May 2013, article by Debbie Lee, Eugene Chua and Joanne Lee, ST and 10 May 2013, ‘Cancer ad goes against Asian values’, ST Forum

“LIFT your skirt, save your life,” urges a new advertisement by the Singapore Cancer Society to promote awareness of preventive measures for cervical cancer. But the campaign appears to have raised eyebrows instead.

Public reaction to its posters, depicting celebrities in white dresses catching a rush of air from the ground, have varied from “catchy” to “obscene”…It features celebrities MediaCorp Radio 987FM DJ Rosalyn Lee, model and TV host Linda Black and 93.3FM DJ Siau Jiahui.

The campaign aims to encourage women to go for Pap smear screenings being provided for free by 178 clinics this month. However, more than 60 per cent of the 80 people polled by The Straits Times said the advertisement was not effective in delivering its message.

Respondents commonly mistook it for fashion or slimming advertisements….A quarter of the respondents felt the advertisement was offensive. “Most people are saying, ‘Oh, it uses sexual undertones to get attention, it’s effective.’ But just because it gets people talking doesn’t mean it sends the right message,” said Miss Yvonne Jin, a 21-year-old student.

The Association of Women for Action and Research agreed. Its executive director, Ms Corinna Lim, said: “It is a sad reflection on society that good causes also have to resort to sex to promote their message.”

(Dr V Subramaniam):…We have long cherished and promoted the age-old values of decorum, decency, good morals, respect for tradition and other attributes that go with our rich Asian culture. These values provide us with the cultural ballast against the influx of unhealthy foreign cultural trends and behaviour.

The ad to promote awareness of preventive measures for cervical cancer, which comes with the tagline, “Lift your skirt. Save your life”, is not in keeping with our Asian morals and is degrading to women. Left to the imagination, the crude insinuations can easily corrupt the morals of our young.

Otherwise you’ll get more than just a 7 year itch

Cervical cancer is no joke of course, as ambassador DJ Ross Lee would attest, having had a near brush with the dreaded disease herself. But you don’t need a controversial headline to grab the attention of Singaporean women. One four letter word starting with the letter F would do the trick: FREE, and that magical word that possesses Singaporeans into queuing long hours for stuff they don’t need is restrained here by small caps and boring font. Hell, you may even get a MAN to queue for cervical screening if you market your freebie a little TOO well. Maybe SCC should try the same tactic for prostate screening. I doubt anyone would complain of such an ad as obscene, sexist or defiling ‘Asian values‘, though some may accuse it of causing nightmares, loss of appetite and general distress.

manpants

It’s always tempting to employ ‘sexual undertones’ when you’re talking about cancers of intimate body parts. In 2010, another local cancer foundation used nude models to encourage women to, well, keep ABREAST of cancer prevention, painted NIPPLES and all. Just like those crying foul about this PAP smear campaign giving upskirt perverts ideas on the escalator, some dismissed body painting as crass objectification of women everywhere.

A very cheeky ad

Take away the provocative images though, and what you’re left with are awful puns like ‘Treasure the BREAST things in life’ in 2011, the kind of tagline that would only draw the attention and non-stop giggles of females with their breasts still under development. Unlike boobs, there’s very limited wordplay when it comes to organs around the pelvis without offending someone, especially when words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ are still avoided by the media till this day. Even saying things like ‘Hey ladies, come spread your legs!’ can be as insulting as an orgy invitation.

You can’t make visual puns of erogenous zones without coming across as downright vulgar, like the ‘Unfurgivable‘ ad by the Ministry of Wax, which got some all fired up over a purse resembling female genitalia. Still, cervical cancer is the ONLY preventable cancer in women to date, which means delivering a necessary message and making it stick may be more important than what the good folks at AWARE think. All it takes is one person to notice the ad, ‘lift her skirt’ and get saved from disaster for the campaign to work. I don’t see how ‘skirt-lifting’ is a problem for AWARE considering they endorse anti-rape campaigns called SlutWalks. It’s also better to benefit from a lewd ad that is a ‘sad reflection of society’ and be ALIVE, than get your knickers in a twist and dead.

Ah Boys to Men is sexist and promotes premarital sex

From ‘Ah Boys to Men is Bad for SAF’ and ‘Why promote pre-marital sex’, 30 Nov 2012, Voices, Today

(Vanessa Tai): I recently watched Ah Boys to Men with my parents and younger brother, who is undergoing National Service. Like other Jack Neo films, the humour was slapstick and littered with Hokkien expletives.  Those jokes were tolerable, but the misogynistic script was unbearable. For example, the recruits referred to women as “clothing that can be easily discarded” in a bid to cheer up one of the recruits who had been dumped.

Another example was a sergeant showing his recruits how to tear a certain leaf in order to form the shape of female genitals. Perhaps Mr Neo is accurately representing army life, but there is no value in such distasteful jokes. From what I understand, such banter is commonplace in the army, and while most guys do not hold sexist views, they play along so as not to be ostracised, which is a shame. Such behaviour should not be accepted as the norm.

A first-class military is not one that is just well armed or well trained in combat. A first-class military – in fact, a first-class society – is an egalitarian one that treats each member with respect, regardless of sex or socio-economic background. The Singapore Armed Forces is moving into a Third Generation, with greater emphasis on nurturing and engaging each soldier, which is a step in the right direction. However, more can be done to improve the image of our soldiers. Ah Boys to Men is a caricature, yes, but with many impressionable young men watching it, my worry is that Mr Neo’s careless stereotypes may undo a lot of the SAF’s good work.

(Goh Lee Hwa):As a mother, I am perturbed that Mr Jack Neo (picture) is endorsing pre-marital sex, in the scene where a guy told his girlfriend that he must have it before enlistment, or else the angels in “heaven” would laugh at him should he die during National Service. We parents are trying to discourage such practices, yet Mr Neo is endorsing it. That scene was uncalled for.

Careless, MDA. You’ve banned another local film for insulting Indians but clearly forgot about a film from a celebrated director that puts our entire ARMY to shame. Thanks to Jack Neo, now we know our boys are NOT writing letters to their loved ones, singing camp songs or playing carom in their bunk in their spare time, but trading sexist jokes, boasting about stealing their girlfriends’ virginity away or playing with ‘CB’ leaves. They also shouldn’t get drunk, steal rifles, cry like woosies in field camp, smoke cigarettes or have their maids carry backpacks for them. All that sort of loutish behaviour would surely do our military in. Leaves as sex paraphernalia instead of camouflaging against the enemy. The cheek!

Yes, our SAF has done a remarkable job of keeping Singapore SO safe we’ve never suffered a single war since its inception. Thanks to our army grooming responsible, ‘egalitarian’ citizens out of rough jewels, we’ll never have to worry about the same men beating women about, having sex with underage prostitutes, cheating on their wives, surfing porn or exchanging sex for favours even if they’re head honchos of key public institutions. How could you, Jack Neo. Why can’t you stick to making I NOT STUPID sequels, and portray students as suicidal depressives instead? That would be accurate, at least.

But seriously, why pick on Jack Neo when there are so many other movies out there which insult both sexes and plug stereotypes about young horny men? Does the writer think Jack Neo is a ‘role model’ for Singaporean boys? This guy cross-dresses like a grandmother for God’s sake. Boys are not going to watch Ah Boys to Men to PREPARE for army, or even for the humour. They would rather accompany their teenage girlfriends to watch the Breaking Dawn finale, and then hope that she returns some hot lovin’ for their painful sacrifice. No, Ah Boys to Men is likely to be a fave of Jack Neo’s staple audience, heartland uncles and aunties, and perhaps the entire singing crew of A Nation’s March. There are, of course, more important things to be worried about than SAF turning your boy into a Hokkien-spewing wife-beater. You’d better hope that he comes out of it ALIVE with his sanity and limbs intact, and lungs not permanently scarred from inhaling grenade smoke.

Any army boy booking out to spend their weekends seeing a whitewashed version of army reality is simply wasting his time. He’d rather polish boots than swallow cheap comic-relief stereotypes about potty mouthed drill sergeants, the mummy’s boy who can’t do a single pull-up and gets bullied by everybody until his geekiness saves the day, and of course the effeminate sissy afraid to damage his nails but dons the best camouflage skills in the platoon. The original NS movie Army Daze had all that, and those horrible ‘misogynistic’ stuff too. In one scene, the word ‘sexbomb’ was used to describe a soldier’s girlfriend. Even the Indian recruit had an exaggerated accent.

[Youtube clip disabled]

Resorting to bawdy humour is inevitable if you want to produce any sort of local army film given the constraints. Which is a waste as Jack could have pulled off something more ambitious without recycling the same old stock characters. You don’t need Jack Neo to EDUCATE young Singaporeans on what to expect in the army, just like you can’t prepare a woman for giving birth by watching ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. He’s a businessman first and entertainer second, and the trailer alone has formulaic product placement and government approval written all over it. I haven’t watched the film myself, but for all its alleged heartfelt pandering to Total Defence, I think it could have redeemed itself with some badass aliens or mutant zombies. Or maybe an angry horde of striking PRC bus workers. Otherwise I can’t think of any homemade action movie which involved anything beyond a car flipping over and exploding on cue. But there’s hope because Ah Boys to Men Part 2 is coming soon FYI.

Our boys, being moulded into THINKING SOLDIERS as part of the 3G philosophy, should know better. Not thinking about sex, that is. I’m not sure what’s a more dangerous misconception though; that our army is actually READY for bloody battle, or that it’s a MONASTERY that preaches equality to all humankind.

Postscript: Hoping to be proven wrong, I rented the Ah Boys to Men DVD. The slo-mo panning of SAF slogans as the boys walked through the ferry terminal to Tekong could give one nausea before even boarding the boat. The much hyped war scene was packed with special effects that could match high-octane monster films like MEGASHARK vs CROCOSAURUS. The cast, however, saved the movie and kept it entertaining. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel would have less propaganda and more character development, though a climax involving the Ah Boys learning to appreciate NS and becoming Best Buddies Forever seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Eye-candy male pacers in Shape Run

From ‘Change of pace for Shape Run’, 21 June 2012, article by Chan U-Gene, ST

ONE of Singapore’s women-only runs is getting – for the first time – a shot of testosterone. This year’s Shape Run will introduce 30 male runners as pacers – chosen not only for their running abilities but also their pin-up looks.

Ms Diana Lee, general manager of fashion and beauty at Singapore Press Holdings, the organiser, said: ‘This is a chance for women to chase the guys for a change. It’s to introduce a fun element, to provide ‘eye candy’ for the runners.’

…Jason Tan, 38, is hoping to use the communication skills he developed from his six years in the insurance industry to engage the runners. The financial services manager, who has completed more than five marathons, said: ‘Talking to people is part and parcel of my life. I want to lift their spirits by greeting them in the morning, exchanging high-fives, and also by singing songs during the run.’

Most female runners are receptive to the novel idea. Human relations officer Audrey Huang, 29, said: ‘I’ll be running at my own pace. Unless they are eye candy, then maybe I’ll run faster.’

But there are a few women who are less than impressed. Ms Erika Keilig, 40, said that while she is fine with running alongside the men, some women preferred to keep women-only events, well, only for women. These women feel more comfortable running with members of the same sex, she said.

Avid marathoner Anne Date, 31, said: ‘If it’s a women’s race, then it’s a women’s race. It’ll be nice for women to be independent of men sometimes.’

Got to catch ‘em all!

Good looks or not, these guys have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to strut about providing cheerleading services, but have to make sure that they don’t look out of ‘shape’ themselves, considering that they have 18 year old professional Kenyan runners in their midst, one of whom won last year’s 10km event. The annual Shape run is serious business, which explains why the intrusion of a few good men  into an exclusive marathon may be regarded by the more ambitious runners as a damper on their crowning achievement.  Some women are particularly bothered if boyfriends or husbands scamper uninvited in women’s only events taking snapshots of their partners. If there’s anyone who should feel stressed by this idea, it’s the pacers themselves. Imagine the pressure of having to keep the enthusiasm, high-fives and stamina up in front of thousands of women, some possibly as old as their mothers who can brisk walk faster than most NSmen can run 2.4 km for IPPT. Imagine facing the wrath of angry feminists who would toss used paper cups at you given the chance. It’s not an easy job, girls.

Who knows what this potent COCKtail of marathon running (itself a risk factor for sudden death) and sweaty hot bods would do to everyone involved in the event. Distractions and discomfort aside, if I were the organiser I would be extra wary about people collapsing, if not the eye candy themselves for over-enthusing, but women whose desperate hearts flutter easily at the sight of six-pecs and tight buns, or those over-exerting themselves running away from pacers like Jason Tan singing like they were leading a BMT road march ( Purple Light, anyone?). Any woman running beyond her capacity under the influence of hunky pacers risks injuries like patellofemoral pain syndrome. Any man who runs beyond his capacity just to impress a woman risks an unscheduled visit to the morgue.

Even if your timing remains unaffected by the presence of men as gratuitous sex objects, there’s nothing like a brawny dude getting in the way of some serious female bonding. A ladies only run is essentially a mahjong session or high tea for the active, sociable woman, and throwing in a man in the fray is like having the husband budging in asking when dinner is ready. Men have their motor shows, soccer bars, and online vice rings, why not leave the ladies alone with some ‘we-time’? On the other hand, putting sexy chicks in a mostly male marathon to man water stations like they straddle cars at motor shows may see less records being broken because of rubbernecking, but could potentially save a life or two if catching a glimpse of a real RACE queen means slowing down and queuing up for a drink (and drinking very slowly too).

Being a male pacer isn’t as lucrative as posing as a glorified gigolo or Chippendale in ‘host bars’, where men  are subject to bids like cattle in a beef auction, not only having to wiggle their way into a tai-tai’s heart but wear garlands around their necks like cowbells. If you insist on subjecting yourself to ogling, might as well make some good money while at it. Otherwise you’re just an Abercrombie stooge with running shoes.

Brastrap flash in Triumph ad a disservice to women

From ‘Not so triumphant for women’, 11 May 2012, Voices, Today online

(Tham Kun Moon): It was not too long ago that International Women’s Day was celebrated here and in many other countries. In the same month, an advertisement by an undergarment brand, in which the protagonist wowed her male audience by showing off that bit of her undergarment and appeared triumphant in the deal, aired regularly on the free-to-air channels.

It is pointless to celebrate the wonders and beauty of being a woman when old stereotypes persist. It is a disgrace and a disservice to women. To suggest that the modern woman succeeds on the merits of her undergarment is an insult to many women who rise up to the highest ranks in the corporate world, including several well-known ones locally.

( Ad could be this one below by Triumph. Who would have guessed?)

Nothing sweetens a deal like a little peek-a-boo, and as much as this depicts sultry women as wily go-getters, it also insults men as shallow creatures, that our executive functions are clouded by an exposed brastrap even if it’s flashed for less than a second. It’s like a cinema flick running subliminal split-second images to tell you that you want a hot dog. This ad may be a ‘disservice and disgrace’ to femininity but it merely dramatises a sullen truth that sex has been used, and will always be used, to secure deals, among other things worth getting. Countless movies have depicted women weaponising their cleavage to disarm violent criminals, escape from captivity or steal tiny keys from pockets, yet here we are, only on International Women’s Day, suddenly realising that there’s discrimination going on all this while. It’s like remembering we have someone to love on Valentine’s Day.

But wait, if you view the ad a couple more times, you’ll appreciate the context of what at first glance looks like a prelude to a striptease. The men were having trouble picking a colour scheme, and perhaps, by sheer coincidence, the bra’s shade of orange was EXACTLY what they had in mind. Or they just wanted to see a brastrap. Either way, both sexes are stereotyped, and an underwear ad without stereotyping is like a Burger King ad without fries.

Whether it’s a glimmer of a smile, affectionate touching, laughter or a winning bosom, sensual gestures will always influence the outcome of a sale or a payrise. A maximiser bra and a silly flash are just a few of the many flirtatious tools at a woman’s disposal, whether she’s conscious of her actions or not. Kudos to bosses who manage to see through the visual foreplay and make purely objective decisions without the reptilian brain being stimulated by primal mating signals (Or they could just be gay). It’s so hard to market underwear without pissing some women off. If you take the sexist messages away, you’ll have prudes complaining about topless models, or models unzipping their tops suggestively. At least the ad makers kept the scene restricted to a typical suit-and-tie corporate board room. If recent events are anything to go by, the ad would have been more accurate if it had been men in uniform discussing tenders of IT projects instead.

Only 6.9% of board members are women

From ‘Few women at the top in Singapore, compared to some Asian countries’, 25 Oct 2011, article in Today online

Women make up only 6.9 per cent of board members of listed companies on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), according to an inaugural report to track gender diversity in SGX-listed boardrooms.

The report – to be published annually – is a collaboration between BoardAgender, an outreach arm of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, and the NUS Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations.  Its findings prompted Minister of State (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Halimah Yacob to suggest yesterday that Government- and Temasek-linked companies “take the lead and support the appointment of more women to their boards”.

Madam Halimah, who was speaking at the launch of the report, said: “Our women have achieved much progress in education and at work. Yet they continue to face obstacles in rising to the top leadership positions in the corporate world.”

Reiterating that “this is not just a numbers game”, Mdm Halimah described the proportion as “dismal”

The article later explains that some countries have legislation to ensure a minimum number of women filling top positions (including Malaysia), a process which runs against our meritocratic principles. The nations with the highest female representation are also First World European societies with established systems to thwart gender discrimination. Singaporean females are definitely no slouches in academia, but even with our educational/literacy level we’re second last only to India, which at least has had a FEMALE prime minister. We can’t say the same even of our Cabinet, which is currently an all-male affair.

Something has to give between graduation and landing a board membership. It would be tempting to conclude that male chauvinism at the workplace is behind this, but perhaps there are hidden forces, or certain characteristics  or motivations of the typical Singaporean woman which work against meteoric career paths, traits that are impossible to study scientifically, and politically incorrect or insensitive to even mention out loud. A 2009 poll revealed that only 9% of Singaporeans reckon female bosses are better than male ones, with ‘emotional’ and ‘temperamental’ cited as behavioral  failings. I’m not sure if  ‘employee preference’ has any influence on the success of any boss, male or female.

Here’s the SGX list in full:

Let’s see how boardroom representation correlates to labour force participation for females, according to the World Bank (Assuming that there’s minimal change from 2009 to 2011).

Country                 Sgx ranking(2011)          Labour force participation (2009)

India                       4.7%                                      33%

Singapore              6.9%                                      54% (56.5% in 2011)

Malaysia                7.8%                                      44%

China                       8.1%                                      67%

Hong Kong            8.6%                                      52%

Australia                10.1%                                   58%

EU                             11.7%                                   NA

UK                             12.5%                                   55%

US                              15.7%                                  58%

Finland                    24.5%                                  57%

Sweden                    27.5%                                  61%

Norway                   39.5%                                  63%

What’s striking from the list above is how the UK has almost the same female labour force as us, yet almost twice as many powerful women in boardrooms, while Malaysia beat us even with relatively less females working. But what seems to trend, at least for the top 5 countries, is the higher the proportion of females working (at least 55%), the greater their presence in the boardroom, which seems like a case of simple probability. Well, for the Western world,  at least.   This, however, was a pattern which Singapore (among other Asian giants like China and Hong Kong) somehow managed to buckle. A whiff of  a patriarchal Asian mentality perhaps?

It’s also interesting to correlate corporate leadership with  percentage representation in Parliament. Sweden, Norway and Finland take 3rd, 8th and 7th spot respectively in the ‘Women in National Parliament charts‘, while Singapore is joint 46th with PAKISTAN (though we beat Malaysia, India, US and UK). Not impressive either, so if our women are not hungry for corporate success nor are they dabbling in politics, then what are they up to? How about raising children?

According to the World CIA Factbook 2011, Singapore is languishing in 161st spot at 1.10 in terms of births per woman, while the top 3 Scandinavian countries are hovering just below the 2 mark. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is neck and neck with us at 166th position in fertility rate (1.04), but ranks above us in the SGX index. It appears that fertility by itself has little to do with a woman blazing a career path. If Singaporean women are really giving up top positions to devote their energies to 1.10 kids, then something is terribly wrong with the system. What our women MPs should do instead of complaining is identify such women and the reasons behind their career sacrifice. However, on one hand, you have folks advocating the benefits of career-forsaking, educated, stay-at-home mums, and on the other we celebrate successful women who juggle both at the same time. We can’t even say for certain if having more stay-at-home mums than female CEOs is a good or bad thing for our country’s success. It’s fine either way for a woman, really; it’s socially acceptable if she gives up a high-flying job to look after the kids, but if a man does it he’s either lazy, unaspiring or henpecked by a power-hungry wife. So what DO women want, exactly?

In a recent global survey (Best and Worst Places to be a Woman), Singapore ranks as the 37th best country to be a Woman (whatever that means). Again you see the Scandinavians topping the charts, with Sweden, Finland and Norway taking 2nd, 5th and 7th spot respectively. We beat Malaysia (81) and India (141),  but surprisingly CHINA, with all its problems with infant sex selection, is a better country for women than Singapore(23rd). You’d also have to ask yourself why there isn’t a similar list for MEN (Perhaps any country with WOMEN is a good place to be a MAN)

Another local poll called the ‘Happiness Index’ conducted on 200 professionals found that men were happier at their jobs than women (46.08 vs 37.75%). It would be of interest to the SGX survey investigators if one were to determine what exactly these men were happy about, which could offer some clues to the ‘dismal’ showing by women. So, the jury is out as to why Singaporean women are losing out to men in leadership roles. The numbers above do hint of a deprivation of leadership opportunities, considering that more than half of Singaporean women are working, yet less than half are ‘happy’ with their jobs according to the Happiness Report. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, women could be unhappy thus not motivated to pursue higher roles , or they could be unhappy BECAUSE something is stopping them. But all this is mere speculation, and more studies should be conducted before we label ourselves a patriarchal nation stuck in the backwaters of gender equality with the ironic label of ‘nanny-state’.

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