Tangs having frying pan promotion on International Women’s Day

From ‘Department store TANGS panned for offering discounts on Women’s Day’, 10 March 2017, article in Today.

A popular Singapore retailer came under fire on Thursday (March 9) for “trivialising” International Women’s Day by cooking up a promotion offering cut-price frying pans. The department store chain TANGS marked the day, which falls on March 8 and is observed across the globe by women pushing for greater equality, by discounting a range of items, including two frying pans.

Other deals included beauty products, high heels and shavers.

The retailer sent out a promotional email to customers with the S$38 frying pan offers listed at the top, according to Marketing magazine. The deals were still listed on TANGS website on Thursday.

Campaigner Ms Jolene Tan said the promotion appeared to overlook the struggle of women in the city-state, who are pushing for better representation in company boardrooms.

“International Women’s Day is a day to honour the struggles of women for equality, safety and respect,” said Ms Tan, head of advocacy and research at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research.

“Sadly, too many retailers present it as a consumerist event to be trivialised through sales and discounts rather than attention to the serious issue of gender equality.”

no_reservations

If there ever were an International Men’s Day, and Tangs decided to have bargains on six-pack beers, remote controls, Crocs and cycling shorts, not only would NO ONE complain, but it would be a total non-event because men and shopping go together like AWARE and flour rollers.

So, what should retailers do to contribute to the recognition of women’s ‘place in the boardroom’? Discounts on designer power suits? Special edition name card holders? Wouldn’t that ignore other no less steely women like the the grandmother who’s also a taijiquan master, our Paralympian swimmers, nurses, Mother Theresa? Would Bollywood Veggies’ head honcho Ivy Singh-Lim call Tangs out for not having sales on potted plants and daisies? If these don’t apply, then International Women’s Day should really be renamed as ‘Alpha-women Day’, or better still, ‘AWARE day’.

For ages, the kitchen has been cast as a symbolic prison for the female of the species. Gone are the days of corsets and chastity belts, and women are referred to as the ‘weaker sex’. Though we had a minister who once said he would rather women spend money on mammograms over a trip to the salon, overall we still live in an era of ‘girl power’. The best selling artistes in the world are women, pop culture is awash with strong female characters, from Dragon Queens in fantasy epics to zombie hunters facing down the Apocalypse to goddamn nasty aliens.  We spend more on Mother’s than Father’s Day. Yet here we have feminists, in the face of a grim economic outlook, slamming deals on household items, footwear and cosmetics, because apparently women are not supposed to benefit from them on Women’s Day. Because the frying pan is the yoke that chains a woman to a livelihood of servitude. Throw away that apron, woman, and join the Sisterhood of the Travelling (Office) Pants.

Congrats Tangs, you just made yourself on the list of nominees for the ALAMAK AWARDS. Imagine the blood that would be spilled if they had offered promos on THIS instead.

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I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.

i-love-children-ad-10-data

It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.29.00 AM

From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

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.

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.

Desmond Choo nominated for Alamak award

From ‘Aware to give our award for sexism’, 25 Sept 2011, article by Jamie Ee Wen Wei, Sunday Times

It’s not an award to crow about. But Hougang grassroots adviser Desmond Choo looks set to clinch what is believed to be the country’s first sexism award, in ‘honour’ of a person or organisation that has done the greatest disservice to gender equality.

The award is the tongue-in-cheek brainchild of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), which will dish it out on Oct 17 during its fundraising dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to celebrate its 26th anniversary

…The sexism award, called the Alamak Award, has five nominees. Nominations were made by the public on Aware’s website over a six-week period that started last month.

Mr Choo, 33, who was the People’s Action Party’s candidate in Hougang in the May General Election, was criticised for being sexist when he made his maiden rally speech. During that speech, he recounted a meeting with an elderly Hougang resident who told him that choosing an MP is like choosing a wife.

‘If your wife is unable to cook, there’s no point. You must choose a wife who is able to look after you and do things for you,’ Mr Choo had said in recounting what the elderly man told him.

Besides Mr Choo, four organisations made the list. They are: the Singapore Obedient Wives Club; Singapore Airlines; the Singapore Armed Forces; and insurance company Great Eastern.

The ‘winner’ will be decided by an online vote, which started last Tuesday. It will end on Oct 7. Close to 60 per cent of the 600 votes cast have gone to Mr Choo. The Obedient Wives Club is second, with 33 per cent of the votes.

I Choo-Choo-Choose You

There’s nothing tongue-in-cheek about this award, unlike the much feted ‘Razzies’, a satirical spin-off  of the Oscars; it’s more like stiletto-in-crotch. This isn’t a Worst Dressed List, which ‘winners’ can simply ignore. The ‘Alamak’ award is an accusation and potentially damaging to one’s reputation, and you can’t attend it just to be a ‘sport’ unless you are a glutton for humiliation. Before tossing it around to random voters to take potshots, it’s only fair that AWARE chooses its nominees carefully in order to minimise bias. So it’s no surprise that Desmond Choo, recently blasted for being embroiled in the PA fiasco and being the only PAP nominee, or INDIVIDUAL, in the list, is in the lead considering that ‘how sexist you are’ is determined by anonymous voters clicking a button in a poll. Not only will he secure the votes of disgruntled housewives but both sexes of the anti-PAP camp as well.

Here’s a look at the other AWARE nominees to see why Desmond Choo will score a landslide victory, unlike the outcome of his Hougang campaign.

1) Obedient Wives Club

2) SAF ‘Our Army, My Boyfriend’ ad

3) Singapore Airlines employment policies

4) Great Eastern ‘It’s Great to be a Woman’ ad

It’s worth noting that AWARE labels this as ‘Who scored the biggest FAIL in 2011’,  which is the sort of language gossipy teenagers use to describe celebrity fashion disasters. The remainder of the list suffers from the ‘dilution of responsibility’ effect. I mean, who’s going to accept the award for SAF if they did win? Desmond is seriously outplayed here only because he’s a public figure, when the people directly accountable for the sexist ads (scriptwriter, marketing director?) were spared from embarrassment. Why wasn’t he put under the umbrella term ‘PAP’, which by the way, has a cabinet made up COMPLETELY of males (much to AWARE’s disappointment), or perhaps Desmond is just the unlucky scapegoat cum whipping boy for AWARE’s general dissatisfaction with the dearth of female representation in Government?

But hold your horses, ladies. Does Desmond even deserve being labelled as sexist here? According to the article he was RELATING what an old Hougang resident told him. It’s not clear if Desmond actually agrees with the analogy, so why didn’t AWARE drag the resident into the list as well, just because he’s an old anonymous fogey who can say whatever he wants? Like most GE analogies, this one is flawed anyway. Unlike a wife, you don’t have to LOVE your MP, and it’s easier to ‘divorce’ your MP every 5 years if you feel like it. The point both parties were trying to make here is not that ‘women should all be Nigella Lawsons’, but that MPs must have the necessary  ‘skills’ to run a GRC before you ‘marry’ them. Using a sexist analogy for political gain just isn’t the same as actually ‘advocating’ that women pamper their husbands with sex, which was what the OWC set out to do. Call him insensitive all you want, but to plant a trophy on his head  without digging deeper is unnecessary, frivolous, in bad taste, but more importantly, it’s not even funny.

Though I agree with the choices for SAF and the OWC, here are some more deserving nominees  for 2011 than those shortlisted by AWARE.

PAP cabinet is all male

From ‘AWARE disappointed with all-male Cabinet’, 20 May 2011, article by Cassandra Chew, ST

SINGAPORE’S women advocacy group Aware said on Thursday it is heartened to see an increase in the number of women office-holders in Parliament.

But the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) also registered its disappointment at the lack of a woman minister in the new Cabinet line-up, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Wednesday.

…Former Nominated MP Braema Mathi said at a media conference yesterday that the leadership in Singapore’s highest decision-making body did not reflect the country’s pool of educated and talented women.

Noting that several male newcomers have been appointed to political office, she said: ‘I find it impossible to believe that, despite the track record the women MPs have, the Government cannot take an equal risk with the women.’

Where the boys are

In an age when the rest of the world is gradually coming to terms with powerful women as nations’ premiers, with even neighbouring  countries like the Philippines and Indonesia having had at least one female President, it appears that our predominantly patriarchal elite is lagging behind in this region when it comes to female representation despite all our claims of equality and modernisation. Compare the current situation to our nearby Islamic states: Malaysia has 2 women ministers currently, of which one is an actual Minister of WOMEN, family and community development, while Indonesia has at least 3 female Ministers:  Women Empowerment, Minister of Health and Minister of Finance (which fits snugly into the stereotype of women as social, caring and penny-pinching creatures). Even Thailand is in the running for her first woman Prime Minister in the form of Yingluck Shinawatra. So in a way, AWARE would have a point if they ever raise the irony that there are more female ministers in countries not exactly renown for Women’s Lib than in Singapore. Of course the GRC system and Aljunied voters had a part to play in our last female minister Lim Hwee Hwa’s exit as well so you can’t blame the PM entirely for deliberately turning Cabinet into a testosterone-charged Band of Brothers. You could also argue that women in relatively male-dominated societies have more to fight for, while Singaporean women have ample opportunities to achieve their career pinnacles and personal goals outside the domain of politics, or just have better things to do than run for Parliament.

Still, women have a better deal today than the total dearth of female representation in Parliament for 14 long years in the seventies between pioneer female MP Chan Choy Siong’s stepping down in 1970 and the re-introduction of females only in 1984 (Backup for the party for most of its 34 years, 26 April 1989, ST).  The explanation of how apathetic women were then, as claimed by a female writer no less, wouldn’t go down well with AWARE  today , smacking of ‘spoilt princess’ syndrome (see below ‘Why there are no women in the S’pore Parliament’, 20 Aug 1978, ST). We used to think women wouldn’t be interested in golf or travelling to outer space either, and if the Tin Pei Ling vs Nicole Seah fanfare taught us anything, it’s that politics is no longer just a boy’s game anymore. That politics isn’t like coal mining, oil drilling, or pig-butchering and there’s nothing inherently masculine about policy-making which doesn’t involve pressing a red button to unleash nuclear annihilation. That our men could be as catty as women when it comes to smear campaigning and nasty parting shots. In fact, the chance of us having a female Prime Minister is higher than us ever having a national women’s football team, or our men’s football team getting past an Asian games qualifier for that matter.

Since we were never a warmongering nation and Singaporean politicians have since GE aspired to be in touch with their softer side, more intuitive with their policies, and ‘listen to the people’ like nurses do, it’s reasonable to suppose that a woman MP can easily fill the shoes of any male Minister’s portfolio in Cabinet today, since the most  manly, hazardous activity any Minister can possibly do these days is perhaps swing a chankol to plant a ceremonial tree.  But it would be absurd to scream discrimination and point fingers at something that could very well be an unintentional result of our PM deciding who the ‘best’ people, rather than the best men or women, for the job are. Or perhaps this is really a shot of testosterone in the arm to compensate for the loss of some notoriously alpha-male balls from Cabinet. Or it could be simply a stereotypical tradition peculiar to Singapore in this part of the world, like how one always starts a joke with ‘ A man walks into a bar…’ and not a ‘woman’.  In any case, reserving a ladies’ slot in Cabinet to the extent of creating a Minister of Women post is patronising to the female species, and any call to push a woman up to Minister status for its own sake is like forcing the leader in a boy scouts’ tree-house to reveal the secret password to a brownie to enter his Gentlemen’s club. It’s also ignoring the big picture of how our ladies have swept fulfilling leadership positions in organisations islandwide beyond civil service where they can still make a difference.  Perhaps Braema Mati would have better luck getting more girls into SUTD posters instead.