Saturday, March 08, 2008

"The Illusion of Sexual Equality" Revisited

Lest you all are not aware yet, today is the 8th of March, the day which is recognised as being the annual "International Women's Day". [aside: of course, if you all are not aware of this fact, I don't blame you all, considering that there is nary a mention of it in the local news, with the exceptions of The New Paper having an all-women team for their issue today and Today having a few special features related to it]

Hence, considering the occasion, I would like to revisit something that I wrote quite some time ago, entitled: "The Illusion of Sexuality Equality".

I first wrote this abovementioned post of mine as part of a school assignment back when I was still in junior college (i.e. 5-6 years ago) and later expanded it to become a post on this blog.

And now, re-reading it after a substantial period of time, it would seem to me that while the main arguments of this old post of mine still hold true (i.e. that sexual or gender equality in Singapore has, sadly, not been achieved yet and that more can be done to achieve sexual/gender equality locally), there are perhaps certain revisions and points which I would like to add to it.

One, it seems to me that I perhaps have mistakenly equated having more successful women in top positions in both the corporate sector and politics with greater sexual/gender equality.

With regards to this, I suppose that statistics such as the number of women in top positions in a country is perhaps an indicator of how much sexual/gender equality has been achieved in that country, it is only a proxy indicator. This is considering that such statistics only perhaps suggest the presence of sexual/gender equality in a country and not demonstrate it conclusively.

Just think about it. Did Margaret Thatcher’s becoming of Prime Minister in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, Ms Megawati’s becoming of Indonesian President or Ms Arroyo’s becoming of the President of The Philippines demonstrate that sexual/gender equality has been achieved in their countries? For that matter, would Ms Hillary Clinton’s potential becoming of the first women President of the United States mean that sexual/gender equality has been achieved in America? [aside: in fact, would Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s potential becoming of U.S. President respectively mean that racial inequality and ageism have been eradicated in the U.S.?]

Hence, bringing the discussion back into the local context, I suppose that having more women ministers, Members of Parliament and/or corporate leaders in Singapore need not necessarily demonstrate that sexual/gender equality is achieved in Singapore.

Thus, it should be noted that equality goes beyond numbers. What’s more important is the changing the mindset of people with regards to the status of both sexes/genders. There is no point in having equal numbers of women and male ministers in the Singapore Cabinet if people continue to have the perception that women ministers are more suited for “lightweight” ministries. And to use another and cruder example, there is no point having a lot of successful women corporate leaders if people continue to regard men who sleep around as being “studs” while condemning women who do the same as being “easy” and/or “sluts”. [aside: though, of course, Darren Lim (better known as 林明伦), a local actor, when talking about the recent sex scandal involving Edison Chen, supposedly liken men who sleep around as “dogs”]

Moving on, I would also like to address a possible phenomenon that I seem to observe. It would seem to me that people may have unconsciously distorted the idea of how women should not be confined only to the domestic sphere (i.e. taking care of the family and house) to mistakenly think that a woman who is operating in the public sphere (i.e. “career woman”) is somehow “better” than her counterparts whom perhaps choose to remain in the domestic sphere.

Lest you all are mistaken, I am in no way arguing that it is better for women to choose to remain in the domestic sphere. What I am saying is that if given the choice between venturing out into the public sphere and staying in the domestic sphere, a woman consciously choose the latter, we should respect her choice and not perhaps criticise it by talking how she should have made the “better” decision of going into the public sphere.

Of course, that said, I suppose I have to concede that it would be difficult to ascertain whether it is indeed the conscious and freely-made decision of a woman to choose to remain in the domestic sphere. Yet, the fact remains: neither the stay-home mother nor career woman is “better” than the other.

Ok, though I could perhaps ramble on for even longer, I think I will just end here for now.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot…

To all women (who I may or may not know personally), Happy International Women’s Day!


"Letter From AWARE’s President Celebrating IWD" (7th March 2008)

International Women's Day 2008 Website

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