Monthly Archives: June 2011

Slutwalk…in Singapore?

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I just found out that SlutWalk will be in held Singapore in September/October 2011 (Facebook page: SlutWalk Singapore x Kuala Lumpur) and immediately had questions raised in my head.

Firstly, is Singapore ready for this? Are Singaporean women and men ready to change their way of thinking about issues of sexual assault? Admittedly, I might be out of touch with Singapore now but I can’t help but wonder how much it has changed for the past 8 years. I know women (some are close relatives) who believe that when a woman is raped, it is her fault. SlutWalk is anti-thetic to this type of victim-blaming. So are the women in my life: grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts ready for this? I highly doubt this – not without some kind of open dialogue about the aim of SlutWalk. Admittedly, I might be out of touch with Singapore seeing that I haven’t been ‘home’ for more than 2 weeks at a time for the past 8 years. My sample of women I know is also severely limited. So maybe Singaporean women are, in fact, ready for a change? If so, I would like to see what types, what ages, which classes, which races, which religions such women belong to. Why are they ready (or not ready) for SlutWalk? When people gather for SlutWalk, will they truly understand what they are gathering for?

Secondly, is the word ‘slut’ even applicable to Singaporean women? Malay women? Chinese? Indian? I don’t ever remember being called a ‘slut’ in Singapore…actually I’ve never been called a slut (ever? yet?)  but I have been endowed with ‘ice queen’, ‘prude’, ‘ bitch’ and its Malay equivalents such as ‘minah atas’. I actually don’t know what the current Malay equivalent of a ‘slut’ is. According to my dad, it was ‘minah rabak’ in the 1980s when he was in his mid-20s but I currently do not have my ear to the ground in terms of Malay slang.

Thirdly, will SlutWalk even be allowed in Singapore? Isn’t there some kind of rule against public protests? Maybe they’ll sell it as some kind of gathering a la Pink Dot.

And last, is SlutWalk even the type of change that Singapore needs?  I wholeheartedly agree with the aims of SlutWalk (stop victim-blaming) but I can’t help but feel that when it is practiced in the Singaporean context, it is just like any other product that have been exported from the West.

The radicalism of the women’s movements in the Third World have to start taking over the dying movements in the First World.

– abbreviated from Sunera Thobani’s closing keynote at the 2nd annual F-Word Undergraduate Conference (UBC, April 30 2011)

As Sunera Thobani has stated, the women’s movements in the West are dying. I have been witness to that. The world seems to be in a moment of revolution – Singapore is one of them. We have made strides we should be proud of and celebrate. Why does Singapore continually look to the West for affirmation? Is SlutWalk another one of those ‘let’s just follow what the white women are doing’ trends? Because if it is, if it is not because Singaporean women really want it but some kind of trend-following thing, I would be very sad about the whole situation.

Women in Singapore have to start realizing that our histories are different from the West. We are inextricably linked but we do not have to continually look towards them for guidance. The West needs to look at us and take a page out of our book to learn about concrete social change. Case in point: 40% opposition for the first time in 45 years in Singapore vs. Harper majority in Canada.

New word of the day: Androcentrism

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According to Wiki, androcentrism means “the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing male human beings or the masculine point of view at the center of one’s view of the world and its culture and history.”

Sociologists are now using the word to mean more than putting male homosapiens in the center of the universe but to also describe a ‘new’ form of “ism”. (It’s only ‘new’ in that the word has recently been added to sociological lexicon. The concept has been around for a while now and I’m sure it has been called several different things.)

Androcentrism: Favoring of masculinity over femininity. Men and women alike are rewarded, but only insofar as they are masculine (e.g., play sports, drink whiskey, and are lawyers or surgeons ). Men are punished for doing femininity and women are required to do femininity and simultaneously punished for it.

– source: Androcentrism: It’s Okay to Be a Boy, But to be a Girl…

photo credits: Stephanie V who altered the original image, cover of Candy – fashion magazine

The (Malay/Asian) Domestic Diva?

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Since I’ve graduated and left school (for now), my summer has been filled with…indoor activities. Being a homebody and a strong introvert, I have been filling my time at home – cross stitching, cooking, baking, cleaning. If I do go out, it’s usually to meet friends or to shop. I slowly feel myself turning into a domestic goddess – or can I?

Lena Chen, Chicktionary blogger, recently cross-posted a blog post from Racialious titled Who is the Black Zooey Deschanel?

“Some women want to believe that their predilection for rompers and kittens and baby voices reflects their individual personalities and not some trend toward retro, non-threatening femaleness. But no one chooses their choices in a vacuum and certainly it means something that so many women seem to be finding this super-girlish, childish part of their personalities at the same time, while Katy Perry’s sex and candy persona is tearing up the charts and actual little girls are being bombarded with pink, purple, princesses, tulle and sparkles…

… the persona that Klausner writes about is bound by class and race. The cult of domesticity defined idealized womanhood centuries ago–and that definition included both perpetual childhood and whiteness. The wide-eyed, girlish, take-care-of-me characters that Deschanel inhabits on film are not open to many women of color, particularly black women. We can be strong women, aggressive women, promiscuous women…we can do Bonet bohemian and Earth Mother (as Andrea pointed out), but never carefree and childish. Even black girls are too often viewed as worldly women and not innocents. Also, the affectations of the manic pixie are read differently on black women. A streak of pink in the hair goes from quirky and youthful to “ghetto” on a black body. Thrift store clothing leads to a host of class assumptions.”

Considering women who look like me are usually seen as “the help”, can I really claim to be (evolving into) a domestic goddess?

I’ve never really understood women who pay too much attention to their house. By this, I don’t mean my mother who cooks and cleans all day long in anticipation of a family gathering in a t-shirt and shorts, barefoot but to women who “entertain” for a living, who have matching home decor, who sit at home with makeup and dresses and heels and cook ‘non-smelly’ foods (think salad and baked chicken) for a dinner party. I must say, I’ve tried imagining myself like that, even wishing I had more matching home decor, or that I was more of a “Martha Stewart” hostess but I realize now I do not want and can not become like that.

I grew up watching the women in my life toil in the kitchen, entertain family and friends, worry about the stress of a clean house, maintain working electronics all while raising children and taking care of their husbands. There is no glamour in this type of work. Their hard work, their sweat and their blood, have been passed onto me. I do not clean in heels, dresses or makeup. I do not have someone to clean for me. When I bake, I sometimes mix up the wet and dry ingredients. I use tools that are not meant for baking, tools which are less than perfect. When I cook, I don’t follow recipes. My hands smell of garlic and ginger and onion after I’m done. My clothes smell like fish and my hair smells like chicken kurma.

Housework is not glamourous. It is hard work, usually done by women who typically go unrecognized and unpaid so that the men (or working-outside-of-the-home partner) in their lives can come home to a clean house and a hot meal with or without well-behaved kids. For most women of color, or for most women I grew up with, this is the life we are supposed to pursue. Pursuing higher education is ridiculous because we are literally meant to ‘end up in the kitchen’. So why bother? If I were to get a Master’s degree or a PhD and then decide to just stay at home and take care of my husband and children, I know I would face questions about my choice. In the world I grew up in, it is an either/or situation (even if it’s not meant to be that way). You either choose education and work OR you stay at home and take care of the house, husband and kids. There are limited support structures if you decide to be both a domestic diva and a career woman. Good luck with that.

For most of the women I grew up with, becoming a domestic diva is not a choice. It is an expectation. We cannot simply choose to become domestic divas because it is something we want to do. We are expected to do it. If we want something different, we have to fight for it in the face of disapproval from male and female friends and family members. And it is a long, tough fight – constantly having to explain why want such a lonely husband-less and/or childless life in the name of work and/or books.

The label “domestic diva” is only open to women of certain skin color and certain class. The rest of us are still fighting for the right to choose and to be respected and accepted for our choices.

Summer lovin’

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I haven’t been doing much lately yet I can’t seem to find the time to write on my blog. I’ve just been relaxing a lot, trying not to think too much about troubles that may come my way….maybe it’s the summer heat but I don’t feel like getting into an argument about feminism or worldly issues that never seem to end.

I must say I am enjoying this life – waking up, not knowing what to do, looking forward to hanging out with good friends, catching up, relaxing…doing things I haven’t had the chance to do for the past four years.

My brain may rot by the end of summer (or by the time I enter grad school in a year or two) but at least my soul will be intact.