Sex Violence and Family Values NOT allowed for All Rating

From ‘S’pore film yanked from release over offensive racial remarks’, 9 Oct 2012, article by John Lui, ST

A LOCAL comedy that had originally been given an M18 film classification has had its release pulled by the Media Development Authority (MDA) over offensive racial remarks, just days before it is due to open in cinemas. Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, a compendium of three short films by first-time director Ken Kwek, was handed a Not Allowed For All Rating last evening, a rarely used classification. A film given such a rating is not allowed to be screened.

…Of the three shorts in Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, Porn Masala is the most controversial, revolving around the making of Singapore’s first “arthouse porno”. In a trailer released on the film’s website a few weeks ago, a boorish film director played by Adrian Pang and an Indian porn actor played by Vadi PVSS are seen trading racial insults, based on gross stereotypes.

…The MDA statement said: “An overwhelming majority of the panel members have expressed that the film should not be allowed for public exhibition in view of its overt racial references, which are demeaning and offensive to Indians.”

In the ‘dirty’ version of the movie trailer, Adrian Pang’s porn director makes reference to sex and alcohol in relation to  Vasantham actor Vadi PVSS’s race. This ‘unkindest cut of all’ comes fresh after Amy Cheong got sacked for posting remarks about Malay weddings on Facebook, except this time it’s another minority race bearing the insult. Lionel De Souza is probably drafting a police report against the cast and crew as we speak.

At this rate of heavy censures being handed out for any form of stereotyping, where you could fire an NTUC assistant director or pull someone’s movie off local cinemas, you wouldn’t expect anything less than sacking radio DJs for mocking Indian accents, dismissing ST writers referring to ‘often- drunk Sikh priests’, or closing down Breadtalk for selling bread named ‘Naan the Nay’. You might as well clamp down on Kumar’s comedy routine, or ban all Bollywood DnD theme parties. Now, even being ‘politically incorrect’ is hazardous to your mental health not to mention career. But as if losing your bread and butter isn’t enough, your former employers use blame-shifting phrases like ‘I DID what WE had to do'(Lim Swee Say), and then ask people to ‘spare a thought’ for you after what they did to you. That’s like pushing you off a cliff and then throwing a pillow down in the hope that it would somehow cushion your fall.

The ‘Not Allowed for All Rating’, or NAR, is slapped on films which MDA describes as follows according to their Film Classification Guidelines:

  • Themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or undermine national interest will not be allowed.
  • Themes that glorify undesirable fetishes or behaviour (e.g. paedophilia and bestiality) are not allowed.
  • Promotion or glamorisation of homosexual lifestyle.

Which puts Sex Violence in the same league as donkey porno. How did Sacha Baron Cohen’s films like Borat, Bruno and The Dictator get past the censors then? Did anyone miss the screaming Chinaman stereotype in films like the Hangover and Ted? Why wasn’t Mike Myers’ THE GURU banned? How about the discriminatory banter between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour trilogy? Did MDA ignore all these elements because these were blockbusters and Ken Kwek’s film is a small indie movie, or did they all assume that some races are better at taking potshots than the others?

But it’s not just Hollywood movies that have the potential to fall into NAR territory. Even our local productions are full of disguised ‘racism’, with Chinese being overrepresented in dramatic roles. In National Day videos, you’ll invariably have singing Indian prata men, and nobody said anything about Alaric Tay’s portrayal of a ‘Mat Rocker’ in the Noose. The only reason why nobody considers making the latter into a full-length feature is because MDA may NAR it too, on the grounds of ‘overt racial references’. Hence the I Not Stupid sequels. I suppose it’s better to have horrible English than being, you know, RACIST.

Moving along. Under ‘Language’, you have:

  • Language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane (e.g. Jesus F**king Christ).

Fair enough. Except that in Ted, I believe there was a scene where the exact same wording as above was used, but the middle profanity was muted out. In the 25th hour, a good few minutes were sliced off Edward Norton’s ‘fuck the world’ rampage against the various ethnicities in New York City (for a R21 rating). Isn’t the NAR rating in this case like decapitating a patient who has a stye in the eye, firing a bazooka into a mouse hole, or using a samurai sword to peel a banana? Did someone lose the censors’ chopper and decided it was easier to ban it altogether? How about delaying Sex Violence’s slated release to talk to the producers about possible re-shoots? You know, a CONVERSATION perhaps? Maybe there could be two versions of the movie, an internationally acclaimed one called Sex Violence Family Values, and an edited PG 13 one for the domestic market that is ‘community-friendly’ called, well, FAMILY VALUES. Instead of Porn Masala, you could replace it with an episode of Jacintha’s ‘Mum’s not Cooking’.

Whether Sex Violence is considered satirical art is irrelevant. As with all banned videos, thousands of curious Singaporeans will be googling Porn Masala as we speak (Don’t do it at work, you’ll get ACTUAL PORN as the top search hit instead), but it’s unlikely that we’ll see the original version on Youtube, what used to be a trusted treasure trove of stuff that MDA’s censor panel can’t deal with after a century of co-mingling with other races (Well THANKS A LOT Innocence of Muslims!). At the expense of being annoyingly cordial to each other where any suggestion of discrimination has to be repressed, we’ve sadly lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, which is the way most developed countries deal with the idiosyncrasies of their racial melting pots. Forget the National Conversation. I want our national Humour back.

Yet, ironically, some good may come out of this. If Ken Kwek continues the run on the international circuit and ride on the publicity of the ban, Sex Violence will garner more attention than Sex:The Annabel Chong Story. And nothing will put the MDA to shame more than this movie picking up festival awards, or better still a selection for the Oscars Foreign Film nominations. By then, the best thing that could happen to local film is not that MDA passes it UNCUT, but that it BANS it altogether, like a Chinese film about the Nanjing massacre or tainted milk powder, covering up for ‘fault lines’ that exist no matter how you preach otherwise.

Postscript: While the producers are appealing the ban, MDA responded that they left the decision to a Films Consultative Panel, which consists of ‘volunteers of various professions, age groups, religions and races’. Of 24 members, 20 gave a thumbs down to the release, while 4 opted for the strictest rating possible R21. There have also been complaints of the depiction of a schoolgirl in a CHIJ uniform in Porn Masala, which could have been a cynical reference to convent girls being branded as sluts in need of a ‘one night stand’.

So, who’s in the FCP? My first impression was that this is a secret Oracle of know-it-alls who wear white hoods brandishing sceptres or a council of hologram Elders like those you see in the Superman movies, but they’re actually mortal human beings, according to details in the MDA website.

The Council of Elders says no to Porn Masala

Let’s look the kind of people you need to speak about morals and ethics on behalf of 5.3 million people. For starters, the CHAIRPERSON Vijay Chandran is INDIAN, and ironically belongs to a company called ELASTICITY Pte Ltd. Another striking feature is how a majority of these members hold high positions in society, directors, doctors, CEOs, lawyers and a couple of obligatory housemakers, entrepreneurs, artists and students. Would a panel vote objectively if the chair belongs to a race that is picked on in the movie? How representative is such a panel anyway, and why is it there’s not a single moral philosopher or sociologist in the team? Why on earth do you need a POLICEMAN on the panel (Steven Moorthi)? How ELSE would you expect a cop to vote on race issues?

It’s obvious by glancing at the composition of the panel that the FCP is not a one size fits all arbiter of moral values, whether it’s gratuitous sex and violence, religious, race or gay issues. The very presence of an Indian leading the team already suggests bias in decision-making. Sex Violence deserves a second opinion, and whatever the final outcome, I for one, will be begging to watch it.

Postscript 2: The film eventually got passed with cuts under a R(21) rating. Don’t rush to book your tics yet, though, you’d never know if the MDA may decide to pull the film again days before screening. Today, you may download the entire Porn Masala scene from Youtube. 

Amy Cheong blaming divorce on cheap Malay weddings

From ‘Police report filed against Amy Cheong over offensive Facebook post’, 8 Oct 2012, article in Sg yahoo news.

Singapore police are investigating the former NTUC staff who was fired on Monday morning for her profanity-laced post insulting traditional Malay void deck weddings. A police report was filed against Amy Cheong, assistant director, membership department at labour movement NTUC, by a member of the public, Lionel Jerome de Souza on Monday morning.

De Souza is the secretary of Hougang’s Inter-Racial and Confidence Circle (IRCC), which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports. In his report, he urged the police to take a serious view of Cheong’s comments which “inevitably hurt the feelings of the Malays”.

In her post on Sunday evening, Cheong had put up a public status on her personal Facebook timeline, complaining about a Malay wedding that was being held at a void deck near her home. Among other things, she related Malay weddings to high divorce rates, and asked how society could “allow people to get married for 50 bucks”, peppering her post with vulgarities.

In a separate post, she also allegedly wrote, “Void deck weddings should be banned. If you can’t afford a proper wedding then you shouldn’t be getting married. Full stop.”

Unless calling a Malay an ‘asshole’ is considered a racial slur, I think this is more a case of carelessness and faulty logic than racism. There are, of course, people who don’t spend a cent outside the registration fee for marriage, and still live happily ever after. If Amy Cheong had complained about the noise rather than associating divorce rates with ‘cheap weddings’, maybe she would have just been let off with a stern warning without getting the sack. For someone who already lost her job, a police report seems like overkill, but for someone in senior management, Cheong should have known better, especially after so many incidents of Facebookers getting in trouble posting ‘silly’ remarks about Muslims, not to mention a certain filmmaker being dealt with death warrants for making a shoddy Internet film where the Prophet was played by an actor looking like Jesus. In such a charged climate of ‘anti-Islamic’ sentiment and its subsequent retaliation, it wasn’t so much a malicious, hateful remark, as it was a really bad idea. Of course our Facebook-savvy PM was quick to dish out the damage control by urging everyone not to let this incident ‘undermine our racial and religious harmony’. But maybe this is more a case of custom intolerance than a hate crime that nearly everyone is making this out to be. If I post on Facebook about ‘damned ding-dong-chiang lion-dancing’ during Chinese New Year, I would get the same treatment from the Chinese community too. Or would I?

Just last year, people were flamed for racial abuse after complaining about McDonald’s playing religious prayers during the fasting month, putting links to images of pigs Photoshopped on the Kabba, or calling kids on kindergarten buses little ‘terrorists’. But let’s see if high ‘divorce rates’ among the Malays is indeed a factual statement, and whether it’s in any way related to ‘$50 weddings’. According to a 2006 commentary by a Malay man, there are 3 typical reasons to explain the high divorce rates among Malays. One, the tendency of women to ‘fall in love’ too easily. Two, the cultural expectations of ‘short courting periods’ and thirdly, general ‘money problems’. In the same year statistics showed that divorcing Muslims stayed in a marriage shorter than non-Muslims (an average of 7.8 vs 10 years), and the most common reason for divorce was ‘personality difference’, followed closely by ‘infidelity’. Just this year, ‘infidelity or extra-marital affair’ took top spot as reason for divorce in Muslim marriages.  There would also be the pressure of ‘remarrying’ within two years as the community supposedly frowns upon single parents. Which suggests that money issues aside, there’s also a hint of  ‘fools rush in’ syndrome. So it’s not just about the ‘affordability’ of weddings that encourages failed marriages (This may well be a myth, you can be charged $1K to $6K just for PLANNING and DECOR alone). One may have to consider whether the union was failed in the first place.

Every once in a while we get annoyed by atrocious singing, throbbing drums, motorcycles chugging and horning, yelling and general littering amid the merrymaking, but I would make the same complaints against Chinese funerals even as a Chinese, just not making a fcuking ass of myself ranting on Facebook about it. I wonder how Amy Cheong would react if someone went:

How many f**king days do Chinese funerals in void deck go on for?F*ck!!!Pay for a real funeral you asshole!How can society allow dead people to lie in a dirty void deck? KNS!

I also stumbled upon a Twitter account of ‘Amy Cheong’ apologising to countless people. I doubt this is the real Amy Cheong, considering that her Twitter icon is that of Ted, the vulgarity spewing bear.

Wang Yuegu blaming umpire for being German

From ‘Wang lets fly at officials after loss’, article by Tan Yo-Hinn, 1 Aug 2012, Today

Singapore paddler Wang Yuegu yesterday lashed out in a controversial attack on the umpire after her quarter-final exit from the women’s singles competition yesterday. Moments after her 4-1 defeat to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa at London’s ExCel Arena, Wang stunned the Singapore media when she hit out at the appointment of German Claudia Moller as the umpire for their match.

“As soon as I saw I had a German umpire, I knew I was going to lose points,” said the 31-year-old, who is ranked world No 11, and who could be competing in her last Olympics. “My husband is German, and I have a private problem with them. Someone from their team is abusing their relationship with officials and has arranged for me to have a German umpire.

“They’re abusing their power and I can’t respect that. “Today, I feel fine personally about the match, but I feel bad for the sport and bad for the Olympic Games that this is allowed to happen.”

…At the World Championship in Dortmund, Germany, in March this year, Wang was shown the red card for protesting a series of dubious service calls by German umpire Klaus Seipold and Kosovo’s Jeton Beqiri during Singapore’s 3-0 win over Taiwan in a Group B match. She initially refused to leave, and women’s team coach Zhou Shusen and assistant coach Jing Junhong were also involved in the incident.

Damn you, Sky!

Considering how strange it is for Wang to discriminate against Germans when she claims her spouse is German himself, I dug further and pulled out another report stating that Wang’s husband is actually a TAIWANESE BASED in Germany. If not convinced, look no further than this Facebook pic of Wang in a wedding photo shoot.  Another discrepancy is the reason for Wang being red-carded in March; CNA reported that Wang was tossed out of the match for giving ‘illegal advice’ or ‘coaching’ from the sidelines. I didn’t think you could get ejected from a game of ping pong, but even in the face of immense pressure to perform for the current World no. 11, such unsportmanslike hysteria is disappointing of any athlete in any stage of competition, especially a silver medalist. Incidentally, Wang’s ranking points according to ITTF are on a rather steep decline, in proportion to her shortening temper and turning into the female Wayne Rooney of Table Tennis. I wonder if estrogen pills are permissible drugs in the Olympics because it seems obvious that a temperamental Wang needs some hormone replacement therapy. STAT. (Even though she’s only 32 this year, according to the Wang Yuegu Fanclub Facebook Page)

Wang’s not the only athlete to lash at everything other than their own inadequacies. Fellow paddler and ex-countryman Gao Ning blamed his coach and manager for his crashing out of the 2008 Olympics, humiliated and suffering a blow to the ego for being cast aside in favour of his silver-medal winning counterparts (Wang included). Naturalised citizen and foul-mouthed swimmer Tao Li ‘attributed’ her loss this year to the short time spent with a new coach. Teen sensation Joseph Schooling blamed officials sticking to their list of approved goggles rules for ‘messing up his swim’. Shooter Jasmine Ser was distracted by ‘a photographer’s camera clicks’ despite winning ‘only a silver’ in 2011’s SEA games. Singapore’s top golfer Mardan Marmat, bizarrely enough, blamed GOOD WEATHER for his failure at this year’s British Open. Wang Yuegu herself blamed the English summer heat and the lack of air-conditioning for ‘affecting her rest’

Picking on a bad coach, a spectator sneezing or the weather (good or bad) are petty excuses and typical of not just celebrities but instinctively loss-averse humans in general. To bear a grudge against certain ethnicities while representing the nation, however, is just shameful. Wang Yuegu is one racist weibo tweet away from being sacked from the Olympics, and while she’s giving the Germans all the more reason to think that Singaporeans are all ‘crazy’ in the head, perhaps the table tennis federation, for the sake of keeping ping pong prestigious and as our Olympic bread and butter,  should consider retiring her out of courtesy already.

Breaking news that Feng Tianwei just won Singapore a BRONZE after half a century of an individual medal eluding us. Yay to Tianwei! Boo to Yuegu!

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.

Parents sending kids for GEP tuition

From ‘My child is GIFTED’, 3 June 2012, article by Jane Ng, Sunday Times

Parents desperate to get their children into the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) are turning to tuition centres that claim they can help bright nine-year-olds ace the screening test. A growing number of enrichment centres are offering these classes at monthly fees of between $200 and $1,000.

…Mr Kelvin Ong, 36, went from being a GEP student to a GEP teacher before he quit to start his tuition agency, AristoCare. He decides whether to accept a pupil only after a month of lessons which cost $1,000.…He has even started GEP ‘foundation classes’ for kindergarten pupils priced at $600 a month.

At Doctor Peh Associates, a 10-year-old outfit started by Mr Allen Peh – who does not have a doctorate – children who want to sign up for the ‘GEP clinic’ must have English and mathematics scores above 90, while kindergarten pupils must have an IQ score of 130 and above.

‘If they don’t meet those criteria, the GEP is not suitable for them as their foundation is not there,’ said Mr Peh, 51, who has a science degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Warwick….He charges $2,600 for 10 lessons.

Enrichment school Morris Allen offers an annual two-week GEP intensive preparation course in June, after selecting its pupils through an IQ test…. ‘With practice under pressure, and repeated exposure to the questions, they show significant improvement and become more confident in answering them,’ said Mr Scarrott (Principal). The fee for 10 days: $888.

Housewife Cindy Tan, 40, is among the hopeful parents whose children are attending GEP preparation classes ahead of the ministry’s screening test in August….’Every mother has hopes for her child. Since we can’t help him at home, we have to get some help for him,’ said Mrs Tan…Adrin, who scored above 95 in his English and mathematics mid-year exams, is getting help at AristoCare. He also has tuition. ‘He has the occasional tantrum but I’ll tell him to finish his homework and I’ll take him out for a McDonald’s treat,’ said Mrs Tan, who has O-level qualification.

What if Adrin does not make it to GEP in the end? ‘I’ll be very sad and disappointed – after all the money spent and we get nothing,’ she said.

I vaguely remember going through the GEP screening test myself and I had no idea what to expect, though I spent most of the time flipping my paper around to work on picture puzzles.  I might as well be deciphering hieroglyphics or Matrix alien squiggles. Not being naturally GIFTED, I flunked out of the first round. Now, if I had MONEY then, that could have been a different matter altogether. I would be out there, you know, making a DIFFERENCE, instead of writing a blog post complaining about GEP.

‘Gifted’ used to describe individuals ‘born’ with a special ‘talent’, and implies extraordinariness and exclusiveness, not something anyone can attain purely through ‘hard work’, or in this case, the help of an ex-GEP student turned tuition teacher with a ‘gift’ for business. One would expect an ex GEP student to do something more worthwhile with his intelligence, like solving the problems plaguing the world today (and getting a doctorate while at it), but that’s besides the point. It’s obvious that having a scorching IQ as determined by some screening test doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do anything particularly useful for humanity. There are so many exceptions to the rule, game-changers, high school dropouts turned self-made billionaires or Nobel-prize winning authors or scientists, people who excelled not just through IQ alone, but mostly through creative innovation, inspiration and sheer luck, things which all these tuition centres and GEP programmes can’t deliver in an entire lifetime no matter how many derivative puzzles they drill their gifted brethren with. Yet these ‘geniuses’ and ‘icons’, though having qualities of the ‘gifted’,  remain, in all appearances, perfectly NORMAL save a few eccentricities without anyone seeing the need to classify them as higher evolved beings in school.

Being a prodigy and working on your ‘gift’ go hand in hand, and one shouldn’t deny kids with a genuine obsession for complex maths puzzles from achieving one’s fullest potential in this scheme, at the risk of being oestracised from their ‘mainstream’ peers, which is an inevitable side effect of being cleverer than your age group. A screening test alone isn’t THE litmus test for genius, and selects for only a certain skill-set that may or may not qualify you as being ‘highly intelligent’.  If you can buy IQ scores through very specific practices like training an archer how to shoot arrows, one trivialises the GEP programme to that of a very expensive, elite mind-sports fraternity. You may well get a couple of sharpshooters in the end, though you’ll also have some singed by their own arrows, victims so worn out by the demands of the programme that their behaviour changes completely, some into angry little recluses who ignore their families. Moreover, the Ministry clearly feels that you’re wasting your time with ‘normal’ students, as what is stated in their GEP webpage.

The intellectually gifted need a high degree of mental stimulation. This need may not be met in the mainstream classroom and the gifted child may become mediocre, indifferent or disruptive in class.

Meaning, if you don’t put your above average kid in GEP, he’ll ROT in class among the minions! Such divisive , sweeping presumptions on what smart kids need for mental nourishment have led many to call the GEP programme ‘elitist’. In fact, the MOE’s statement is copied and pasted wholesale in Kelvin Ong’s Aristocare Gifted programme website. Hell, even the name of his agency has a kingly ring to it.  Here’s a chicken-and-egg argument in reference to those GEP kids who think high and mighty of themselves: Are these kids ‘gifted’ hence arrogant, or did they ‘become’ arrogant once they were labelled and exalted as ‘gifted’ 1%-ters? What have we produced in 30 years that justifies the relevance of a GEP breeding ground in creating mavericks, trailblazers and great thinkers? In an age where brains alone don’t cut it and ‘EQ’ matters more than ever, have we instead LOST ‘functional’ geniuses rather than spawned them through a scheme that cuts them off from the more socially fertile morass that is ‘the rest of us’?

The gifted have been stereotyped as being ‘socially inept’, stick to their own ‘kind’, and summon the image of an awkward, quantum physics textbook totting, bespectacled kid with imaginary friends because all his real ones have left him/her. Meaner ‘mainstream’ kids would refer to them as ‘freaks’.  ‘Gifted’ already has a euphemistic cousin known as ‘high-ability’, which attempts to tone down the lofty suggestions of innate genius but ironically emphasises the disturbing trend that one can be ‘trained’ to qualify for GEP, as long as you’re willing the spend the money and forget about June holidays altogether. One thing these tuition centres dare to boast about is a high success rate of passing tests, but as to what becomes of their students after that, nobody has the slightest clue. High-ability doesn’t equate to hire-ability. From the way they are being groomed and hothoused, they’ve either become stark raving mad scientists  or Phantoms of the Opera.

Adrin above is a high-scoring kid with the occasional lack of interest in homework (like everyone else) but yet nudged by parents to prepare for a programme which he may not be suited, using McDonalds as bait like a  Pavlov dog salivating to the sound of a bell. He may very well ace the screening thanks to some insanely methodical and ultimately meaningless grilling, but end up at the bottom of the GEP pack because his ‘giftedness’ is a product not of his genes or upbringing, but that of a tuition machine. Not to mention having his arteries clogged with all the fat from the ‘reward’ fries he’s been eating to finish his work. His mum may be utterly disappointed from all the wasted money and effort, but failure to get into GEP only means one thing for a face-saving kiasu parent: More enrichment classes.

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.

Transsexuals in Miss Universe Singapore

From ‘Beauty contests’, 28 April 2012, ST Forum

(MR ACE KINDRED CHEONG): ‘Transgender participants should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants meant for women (‘Miss Universe Singapore: Could the next one be originally male?'; Wednesday). They will have an advantage over biological women as some, if not all, will have undergone cosmetic surgery. Instead, why not have beauty pageants meant solely for transgender participants?

Transsexualism has been discussed rather openly in Singapore since the early 80’s, where attempts have been made to distinguish the terms ‘transvestite’ from ‘transsexual’, as well as define the colloquial ‘ah kuas’, the latter often used interchangeably between a transsexual, an ‘effeminate’ man or  ‘sissy’ or a ‘male prostitute’, yet SBC deemed it ‘appropriate‘ for use in drama serials.’Transgender’ was coined as recently as the 1990’s, as in LGBT, a term that may be preferred when addressing the community as a whole as it seems to take the ‘surgical knife’ undertones off ‘transsexual’, though both are still commonly used in the media today. ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘bapok’, however, have become derogatory, though ‘bapok’ in Malay literally means ‘effeminate’ (like the equally offensive catch-all that is ‘ah kua’), while ‘Tranny’ and ‘shemale’ are reserved for porn genres. When it comes to transsexualism, even quotation marks can be highly offensive, as in ‘woman’, ‘sister’ or ‘queen’ to describe transwomen (men who became women).  The Malaysian press has even hidden the full word behind an acronym, TS.

Even the same act of ‘going under the knife’ has been euphemised over the years. Today it’s called SRS or ‘sex reassignment surgery ‘, when we used to call it a ‘sex change operation’. The Miss Canada Universe who started it all, Jenna Talackova, herself underwent ‘GENDER reassignment surgery’, the term ‘assignment’ making the procedure as innocuous as amending one’s birth certificate. Like most behavioral deviations, transsexualism has also become medicalised;  if you’re born a man and feel like a woman you have a ‘gender identity disorder (GID)’, which implies that ‘feeling like a woman’ when you’re a man is a form of ‘sickness’. The term ‘intersex’ has been proposed as the ‘third gender’ for official purposes, though being ‘intersexed’ could also refer to a sex development disorder in which one was born with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia i.e hermaphrodites, a term used to describe flowers and worms other than human beings.  Hermaphrodites, other than getting embroiled in sporting arena controversies, also have their own problems dealing with transsexual beauty contestants who were born 100% male.

Allowing transsexuals in pageants puts judges in a spot, even if it may well boost up ratings. You don’t want to appear to cast a sympathy vote nor do you want the LGBT community to complain about discrimination if their representative fails to even make the top 15. Cosmetic surgery also may not give that desired edge over female participants (unless the writer was thinking of shocking beauties like Thailand’s Nong Poy below). But perhaps this is more a victory for ‘medical science’ than anything else. Or rather medical science AND make-up. But wait a minute, since when was Miss Universe JUST about LOOKS (or femininity for that matter) anyway? Didn’t ‘masculine’ Tania Lim take the crown in 2010?

For every Nong Poy...

...There's this.

There are already transgender Miss Universe-ish pageants as we speak, such as the Miss International Queen pageant (which allows transvestites as well), not to be confused with Miss Tourism Queen, Miss Global Beauty Queen and Miss QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Still, this is a vast improvement from our stigmatisation of transsexuals in the 80’s, when they were barred from such contests because it was seen as an ‘embarrassment’ and  a ‘big joke to organisers’. It would be a while before we see transsexuals or transvestites in high-flying positions such as doctors, lawyers or politicians (though some may be closest cross-dressers…there’s a difference!), but pitting them in competition against natural-born females could be symbolic of this social ‘inclusiveness’ that the PAP has been bragging about, even if the platform is as superficial as a beauty contest, or in the promotion of ‘cabaret’ shows (Does that mean our pageants need to be R18 as well?)

Audiences are suckers for underdogs, and since the Miss Universe franchise here needs saving, a transgender Miss Universe Singapore hopeful could very well be a Beautiful Boxer in the making. But first, we’ll have to lift the bar on transsexuals into certain clubs, and that includes Ladies’ Night, to show that we really mean it. Still, it’s hard not to be hypocritical when advocating equality for transsexuals as a heterosexual man. Some would rather be seen in public with an openly gay man than a transsexual, and I for one have reservations about getting a hot oil massage from either.


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