A PSA for the people in my life re: feminism

If you know me in real life, it’s safe to say that you know I have a lot of feelings about the big ugly F word that somehow still stirs up some controversy: Feminism. And as Ellen Page says, “You know you’re working in a patriarchal society when the word feminist has a weird connotation.” I have some things to say and sometimes I feel quite strange, uncomfortable, or a bit of a downer to interrupt a social gathering to really voice my opinion because I see sexism everywhere, so I guess, I’ll do it here. (This post is more trying to combat misconceptions I experience in my daily life in Singapore than really give a full account of feminism).

First up, I am only 23, and still have a lot to learn, so please feel free to contradict me if you have an informed opinion/perspective on this issue, and I would love to discuss it further. But if you are going to hate without cause, haha sure? Just know that it probably won’t warrant a response.

Second prelude: let’s define some terms. Now feminism has a very particular history in the civil rights movement, and I think it’s more accurate to characterise it as feminisms, because a category of people is not necessarily monolithic, and different groups of people face oppression on several levels, so obviously feminism is not a perfect movement in terms of how it has manifested over history. But I would like to clarify that feminism basically is the campaign for a state of equal social, political, economic, cultural and social rights for women. And essentially is about the dismantling of patriarchy, which is a social system where males are the primary authority figures, implying male rule and privilege, and therefore female subordination. (These are from Wiki). Ok, so, let’s begin.

1) Feminism isn’t man-hating or about getting rid of men or about destroying men. It is also not championing the superiority of women. Hahaha I mean sometimes there are funny jokes on the Internet about that, and also because this is such an issue close to so many people’s hearts and oppressive for so long that it can generate a lot of anger, but honestly, when it comes down to it, feminism isn’t about one gender over the other. It’s about getting rid of oppression. So, chill out, my male and female friends.

2) Feminism helps men too. Patriarchy is a system that assumes male dominance, which means it inscribes gender roles where women are supposed to be docile, subordinate, emotional, nurturing, and all other stereotypes you can think of. Similarly, men are supposed to be rational, in control, aggressive, etc. The idea that men shouldn’t cry because it’s not manly? Feminism fights that. The idea that men should earn more and put in more hours at work and pay for dinners for women? Feminism fights that. The idea of men taking care of their physical appearance being somehow gay or metro? Feminism fights that. I’m sure that men and women alike face a lot of societal pressure to be somebody they are not. I like feminism a lot for the fact that it tells us: you can be whoever you want to be.

3) There’s a lot of anger from men about how women benefit from the system in terms of how women want to have equal pay and equal rights and all that, but still expect men to pay for meals and dates and be extra caring during Valentine’s Day, etc. I admit it can be quite confusing, because it does happen – that old-fashioned notions of chivalry are still championed. However, I believe that these notions where men are supposed to pay for everything is a result of patriarchy: that men are the sole breadwinners and seen as instrumentalist in earning income for his family, which implies that women are not capable enough to be earning enough money to pay for meals equally and that women’s main role is decorative: to look nice during a date for her man. The expectation that men pay for things is a symptom of patriarchy, that women should be taken care of. What I say to this is: give women equal salaries, and maybe as a whole, we’ll start paying for more meals, cos we’ll have more money? Also: women already spend money on dates because of the societal expectation to look good. As I said, men are supposed to be instrumentalist, and women decorative in a patriarchal era. Do you know how much make-up costs????? So, it is not women you should hate for this double expectations, it’s patriarchy.

4) Speaking of double standards, in a Singaporean setting, a lot of people are very angry about women not having to do National Service. This has led to some controversy recently about the rape song sung in army, etc. Firstly, I cannot say to fully understand the NS issue because I have not been through it, and I have not had 2 good years of my life stripped from me. However, just because some groups of people benefit from a system (in this case women because they do not need to serve), does not mean you should hate on them. We should try to change the system, and the cultural values behind that system. Do not hate on the people who privilege from an unfair system. After all, that is exactly what feminism is: trying to change the system, and not hating on the people (men) who privilege from it. Also, the idea that only men are physically, mentally and emotionally strong enough to defend the country is once again, tada, something patriarchy says. I believe that women should serve NS too, and it’s something that needs to be worked out in a Singapore where gender roles are still so fixed. After all, Singapore believes that women also have a duty to the nation, just in terms of childbirth. So, don’t hate on women, or feminism, hate gender roles imposed by patriarchy.

5) Some people say they love women because they admire women a lot for being able to do it all: both work and contribute to the economy productively, and at the same time taking care of a family. Women are cool, but we are also socialised by Singaporean society to take on the double burden of modernity. Women get many weeks of maternity leave while men only get one. ONE. So while women are now getting employed, they are still expected to take care of the domestic household (daughters are also more likely to take care of their elderly parents in Singapore than sons). This also means we have fewer opportunities of promotion and pay raise because employers are afraid we go off to have babies. I have a lot of faith in men, and believe that they can do it all too! Contrary to popular opinion, I do not believe that men are useless. The system should therefore change and improve paternity leave and other such policies, so that men who want to contribute to childrearing and family building would be able to do so. Therefore, if men and women are both implicated in the process of NS, they should both be implicated in the process of childbirth. After all, you do need both in the privacy of your coupling, and the public sphere of nationhood.

6) Feminism is about equal rights, but that does not mean that women should be celebrated uniformly for wanting to go out to work, for eg, and does not mean that women who wish to perform more traditional roles and characteristics of their gender should be demonised or treated as the enemy. True feminism does not hate on femininity: we say yes to floral prints, make-up, chick flicks and high heels. Any person who tries to tell you that your femininity is inferior is anti-feminist. Similarly, we also say yes to the countless of awesome women who want to stay at home to take care of their kids! Childrearing is a super difficult thing, and women who wish to be there for their children are super great. The issue here is CHOICE. Women should be given the choice to decide what they want for themselves, and what they want to do with their bodies. The same goes for men. Men should be given a choice too, and not be held to patriarchal expectations.

7) Therefore, if you find yourself in a relationship where the man provides for more, pays for more, and seeks a love language that takes care of the woman in terms of driving her around, etc., and the woman is perfectly ok with that, and loves that, then yes GO FOR IT. Nobody is questioning the legitimacy of your relationship. In fact, you shouldn’t hate feminism for propagating a picture of gender relations that might not be similar to your relationship. Feminism allows for you to choose for yourself the type of relationship and the type of man/woman you want to be. If you want to pay for everything in your marriage, and your wife wants you to do that, and it’s mutual, then feminism tells you yes you can do that. Just do not impose your version of relations on anyone else. In the privacy of your relationship, feminism is what exists to let you negotiate these things. It’s patriarchy that imposes expectations. The point is, I am fighting for the right to choose. That’s what feminism is.

8) We have not reached a stage of gender equality, and feminism is therefore needed.
Rape: (https://rainn.org/statistics?gclid=CjkKEQjw_ZmdBRD1qNKXhomX_sEBEiQAc9XNUHu9koakHfOqZgR2P4BkkLpxL6NufnygdBA48ofwmxrw_wcB)
Domestic violence in the US: (http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf)
Gender inequality in film: (http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school-blog/gender-inequality-in-film/)

9) Rape is a problem in Singapore. Please do not think otherwise. Marital rape is still legal. That means that if a wife does not wish to have sex, and the husband does not listen and forces himself on her, there are no grounds for persecuting the husband for rape. (http://www.aware.org.sg/rape/). The rate of rape in Singapore is actually double that of India. (http://kentridgecommon.com/?p=17815). Rape is also a problem because legally in Singapore, men cannot be raped. Feminism fights that. Women who force themselves on men should also be persecuted for rape.

10) It is never the victim’s fault during rape. “Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain things or not going certain places or not acting in a certain way. That line of thinking presumes that you are incapable of control. That you are so base and uncivilized that it takes extraordinary effort for you to walk down the street without raping someone. That you require certain dress code be maintained, that certain behaviors be employed so that maybe today, just maybe, you won’t rape someone. It presumes that your natural state is rapist.” (I can’t find the original source for this quote, apologies.) Once again, feminism has faith in men! That they are not so bestial that they cannot control themselves.

So, yes, I hope I was able to better clarify what feminism is and why I am so passionate about it. Ultimately, I think feminism is a great movement that benefits both men and women, and therefore should be celebrated. But, why am I so angry sometimes, or why do I seem like I fight for women more than I fight for men? Because misandry irritates, but misogyny kills. In this paraphrased version of a quote from Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” At the end of the day, this is why I need feminism.


10 thoughts on “A PSA for the people in my life re: feminism

  1. Hello Ning!

    My girlfriend shared with me this article of yours, and I must say it’s one of the most reconciliatory posts I’ve read for quite a while. While I agree with your stand, I thought it would be helpful that I play devil’s advocate to a few of the points above. Through my following points, I hope that they bolster your belief for choice and gender equality, and that it’s an ultimate achievement we should all strive for.

    1. Feminism, while in its original intention has been to bring down male patriarchy, has evolved to a more dangerous creature. There are many waves of feminism over the years, from fighting for recognition of a female as an equal to a male, to the fighting for rights for many other things.

    (To substantiate my point, take a look at the wave of feminism here: http://backtohistory.osu.edu/resources/events/Suffrage%20and%20Feminism%20Timeline.pdf and how it has evolved to this: http://www.amazon.com/The-Decline-Males-First-Unexpected/dp/0312263112 The author, anthropologist Lionel Tiger, talks about the subtle giving up of the patriarchy by rational males have given way to the avalanche of requests to give in to female-led matriarchy. Only in this case, it’s not about the warm and nurturing nature we often associate with matriarchy, but to replace the male power with female power.)

    It’s with regret that I write about a noble cause to fight for the right to be treated equal has disintegrated into many different ideas, each barely containing the elegance or class of the original idea. The latter waves (which include Slut Walk – terrible name, in my honest opinion) have been an indication that we should be giving feminism an update of definitions – to stay true to its main objectives.

    2. While I salute your definition of feminism fighting oppression – the use of the word feminism indicates a tone of the campaign having female leading. Why not change it to something gender neutral? That will make things very much more palatable to both sides. 

    3. Choice is good. However, the choice to be a certain gender is beyond our reach (if you consider the current advancements of science). While we are able to change our features to look more feminine or masculine, to have a gender switch is never 100%. Thus, this is the fact that we have to live with.

    That said, while I have my own personal opinions on how the society should be run, the choice to be whoever we are and be recognized for it is an important human right. (The LGBT cause, even as it goes against religious pro-creation causes, has proper grounds to be recognized as a proper human right. This is to allow people to be treated equally! :D)

    4. The government’s original idea was to have the men serve National Service (which is beyond the mandatory 2 years – it extends to the age of 45 (non-officers) and 55/60 (for officers)), while women serve their National Service being part of the family. That is a conservative idea, and it is something that have preserved societies over the years. Don’t get me wrong, the men are not fighting for women to be part of National Service (we would like our female counterparts to be part of our defense against enemy threats, but trust me, it isn’t high on our priority list). However, it’s the fact that AWARE is coming out with reports on how the men get it so good with the extra benefits from the government (http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/awares-pushback-more-benefits-nsmen-ignites-debate) that irks men. (I won’t go into a rant here – AWARE as an organization in recent years have created more headaches than progress.)

    5. This leads to the pay issue. If you need to know why the men are paid higher than women in Singapore – it’s because it’s a government mandated idea. The big G has encouraged companies to pay their male employees a higher wage to compensate for their loss of income during the two years of National Service ( and the G has led the way by implementing this in the public service). However, this is only for the entry levels; with management levels and beyond, the income factor is non-discriminatory. 
    6. I agree with you on this – the need for more paternity leave! The family is not only dependent on the women holding it up; it requires the effort of both the male and female. (I’m not asking for more paternity leave for guys to slack in one corner, but to be more involved in building the family unit!) 

    7. When you speak of true feminism, my heart melted – it’s exactly that point. However, it has evolved into a creature so hideous and beyond any retrievable hope that we have to abandon staying behind that banner and find a new term to encapsulate the proper definition we are fighting for – equality.

    8. FYI: rapes of the males have been on the rise. :/ And worse, it’s being ridiculed in the society, leading to guys living the shame all their lives in their hearts. We should be asking for rapes to be spoken out, regardless of gender!




    Also, domestic violence with female aggressors have been severely underreported too.

    “Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.”


    “Although many victims of domestic violence resist reporting the violence, male victims have particular issues that most female victims don’t have to contend with. Often victims of any gender don’t want to report because they are embarrassed, or they are afraid of making the problem worse (when so-and-so gets out of jail they’re going to be REALLY mad at me), or they don’t want the abuser arrested (for many reasons). Male victims have to contend with “machismo” – what their friends and family will think if it is discovered that they “let” a partner abuse them. There is also an element of total disbelief – not only from the victim, but sometimes confirmed by friends, family, police, and medical personnel – especially when those persons are also male – as victims are unwittingly, yet strongly, encouraged to minimize the importance and impact of what they experienced. Injuries may be played down; “it’s only a scratch you big baby”, or “what are you complaining about you big wuss”. Trying to report once, and meeting this reaction is a primary function of why so many men never report again, or never report at all. Instead, just like female victims, they’ll make excuses, try to escape being around the abuser by dedicating their time to work or other pursuits, or, simply not have to acknowledge any injuries, because unlike women, men are often semi-expected to occasionally have some minor injuries here and there caused by “normal male activities” like battling errant hedges, falling off roofs, and other side effects of “typical” recreational and household activities of males in relationships.”

    I hope I have bolstered your belief in gender equality through the above civic discourse. 🙂

    For that matter, a step in the right direction will be to close down women’s charter – it has outlived its usefulness. The main idea of a women’s charter was to protect the “fairer sex”, discriminatory in its subtlest form can be found here. To ensure that there is a fair treatment, we should actively promote the equality of both male and female, and protect the weak and victimized. 🙂

    I’m open to any further ideas on this! So that we can form a better society. 😀

    P.S. – thank you for writing this piece. 🙂 I really appreciate and admire the effort to clarify one’s stand, especially when the world’s getting way too hazy with a lot of misinformation. 🙂

    • Hello Marcus! Thanks for your insightful and nuanced response to my post. Thanks Yuhui (right?) for sharing my piece!

      I definitely think a lot of this needs to be further discussed and negotiated, and that’s again, something we have benefited from feminism. The fact that I sit here talking to you about these issues is something for which I have to thank women and men in history. I think a lot of people in our generation kind of forget that. And yes, a lot of my points only scratch the surface, and I would love to elaborate on them more, with your input.

      1) I have personally not read The Decline of Males, but I do recognise a lot of cultural anxiety experienced by men who feel displaced from their traditional gender roles by feminist gains. It can be a very scary thing growing up and being told something, and then have that whole mentality be overturned over later years. I will read that book sometime, but just some initial thoughts: Could the book be mostly about American, or Western, societies, and how relevant can it be to Singapore where gender roles and expectations remain fixed? And as eloquently put by this op-ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-male-decline.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0): a lot of what is seen as male descent is from an “overinvestment in gender identity,” the same patriarchal notions that impede men from taking on new roles and occupations that are seen as “girly”. So, ultimately, even as institutions and systems slowly change, cultural values continue to prevail. (And in Singapore, so much gender oppression is still institutionalised.)

      It is regrettable that such a great cause and movement can evolve, as you say, to a more dangerous creature. But it can hardly be expected of the movement to remain monolithic, since it concerns 51% of the population. My original point was largely in response to this weird image feminism has got in recent years to be man-hating and feminazi, and all other crazy stuff, which a lot of people use as an excuse not to engage critically with these social issues. Much of mainstream feminism is pretty awesome and moderate, and is committed to the stuff I mentioned.

      Lastly, I am personally a proponent of Slut Walk, but opinions vary. We can talk more about that, if you wish.

      2) Hmmm, I think perhaps your suggestion might benefit the movement in terms of engaging everyone and bringing everyone into the discussion, which is definitely important. But, I mean, there’s a reason why gay rights are called gay rights and not heterosexual rights, and the African American movement focuses on African Americans. It’s always about illuminating the plight of the oppressed. Furthermore, the notion that we have to make the movement of feminism (something largely championed by women, and seen to be a woman’s issue) more palatable for general (mostly male) consumption is yet another example as to how we have to pander to male privilege and dominance, I believe.

      3) Yes, choice is good, and yes, scientific advancements are limited. However, I believe you are referring here to sex-reassignment surgeries and how we are limited physically to be the sex we are born with. Gender is a different monster entirely, and is more about the socio-cultural notions we have internalised of what it means to be male and female respectively. Despite men and women having natural inclinations to various tendencies due to biological differences, I do not wish to fall into the trap of gender essentialism. That’s where the choice comes in, see? When it comes to gender, I believe choice is possible, though very difficult considering patriarchy, as mentioned.

      4) Any discussion of AWARE has to be prefaced with their public stance of campaigning for women to be a part of National Service. Their opposition to men getting more benefits linked to NS is premised upon the already unfair foundation of NS in Singapore – that it’s something seen as reserved for men. Emotionally, I also get the men’s irritation, but conceptually, I get AWARE’s opposition. Again, it goes back to the traditional notions that the Singaporean government has of gender roles and how each gender can contribute to nationhood. This seriously needs to be updated, as will be AWARE’s solution to this whole controversy.

      5) Yes, pay raise is linked to NS so we won’t go there. But again, you say that the NS factor is only for entry levels. In principle, wages at management level are non-discriminatory, but women still earn 70% of what men earn around the world. More importantly, women are still not seen to be fit as managers or other upper-level positions. The percentages of women in higher management, politics and other public arenas are dispiritingly low, and much of it goes back to, once again, expectations of gender. Where a man may be seen as doing his job, a woman is seen as being a bossy bitch. Women are still not seen as good bosses, as I’ve heard from anecdotal evidence. I’m missing on the numbers here, and will research on this further.

      6) Totally.

      7) Yes, perhaps that is one possible solution. Or perhaps one needs to be reacquainted with the original meaning for the word that still holds true today for many many groups fighting for women’s and men’s empowerment!

      8) This is such an unfortunate phenomenon, and is a problem that needs to be addressed and discussed more often. Thanks for all your links and figures! I definitely think this falls under the domain of feminism. The fact that male victims have to contend with machismo is the exact thing I was talking about that feminism fights! The unfortunate fact that male victims have a more difficult time reporting these crimes is again a product of patriarchy – that men are supposed to “enjoy” sex, to “suck it up” and other stereotypical expectations of men and their sexuality. At the same time, rape of female victims also remains underreported, especially when it is committed by someone they know. Rape culture, as a whole, is an epidemic that truly needs to be combated.

      Thank you for your comment, and I hope my input has bolstered your belief in gender equality as well. (:

      • Hello Ning!

        As much as I would like to discuss with you further, I am currently working. Could we take this to another medium? 🙂

        P.S. I agree with most of the points made above. However, I feel that we may be dangerously close to speaking about feminism in a way beyond a belief but more of a religion. This is something I want to avoid, especially on a virtual space, given the vitriol that may appear out of nowhere. 😦 Shall we take this offline then? 🙂

  2. In a society where entry level women are generally allowed to wear short skirts and tights in place of pants and conventional working skirts,but guys are still forced to wear full length pants without any option allowing abit more leg exposure,or style,whichever one u see fit,now would that be patrialchy’s fault or otherwise?In restaurants like my humble house,they have a policy saying NO SHORTS,yet there isnt one saying NO MINISKIRT,which seem to imply skirts of any length is acceptable but only full length pants is allowable,which implies a limitation of choice on what men are allowed to wear,would that be a result of patrialchy too?Not to mention all the hotpants and ripped hotshorts found in the women section which have for decades never found their way into the men’s section(which closest is just biggish berms about three times as long and wide).Would the disparity of fashion choices between men and women,women section being typically three times as big as the male’s,be the fault of patrialchy too?

  3. I dont agree with u trivialising misandry as being just irritates,while misogyny kills.It all depends on when and what,and there is no way anyone in singapore would more likely murder a woman than a man,or get away with murder for that matter.Plus,it bears merit to note that millions and millions of irritation accumulated every single day,caused by societal disregard for misandry,could kill more so than outright misogyny,which almost everyone is already condemning.The fact that u could even make such a sweeping statement is a contribution to the irritations of misandry itself.

  4. Alot of things which u write as being patrialchy’s fault,like paying for dates,feminism hasnt put in any effort in fighting,while stuff like better pay and promotion prospects they are more than eager to campaign.So what does it say about feminism?Take care of oneself but not the other?Even for NS,when someone wrote to the straits times to suggest women play their part by serving in the nursing industry,due to an urgent need of medical care staff,aware affiliates like anthea outrightly bombasted the idea,making it seem like men have it wonderful in the army while women are gonna get hell in the hospitals,hence she coined it as “inequality”.Do u think we like to serve in the army?Do u think men had a choice in the matter the year NS was implemented?Have u any idea how much abuse goes on in there,which wouldnt be tolerated in a normal firm with an office?

  5. Excuse me,but i do hear quite a concentration of sarcasm there when u say feminism has had more faith in men.In the first place,no one has said that every man may be a potential rapist,until some women extremist came up with that idea,supposedly using a distorted version of feminism as guidelines.So do u support such lines and recognise it as feminism?If u do then the only ones insulting men to be such a bestial image is feminism,no one else.Dont try to turn men against men,as if we dont have a brain and cant even see who is the one who’s condescending us.Are u pals with the canadian girl who bitched about her school’s dresscode and blamed its implementation on her male classmates,whom she accused of objectivising girls,even though in reality the dresscode was implemented on both genders,and any boy wouldnt have been allowed to wear the hotpants she was wearing either?And then what did she do by claim the school is insulting the male classmates and teachers by imaging them as potential rapists.In teh first place,she was the one hurling all those damned accusations,NOT the school.She made the boys to be the scapegoats and then attempted to use them for her own purpose of resisting the dresscode,and if she does suceed,im betting she wont even bother with lobbying to liberate the boys’ dresscode restrictions at all.Is this what feminism is then?Here is the news on it: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/30/quebec-teen-shamed-for-jean-shorts-becomes-latest-in-wave-of-students-protesting-dress-code/

  6. Yes,i do feel offended about something,and its the law not banning prostitution.It makes out every man like a sex beast and hunger for sex enough to have to pay to get it,as if they cannot live without it.Is feminism doing anything to ban prostitution?No,in fact aware awards women who lobby for “prostitute rights and protection”.Should we be spending taxpayers’ money to protect and hence promote a trade which obviously is tarnishing the integrity and image of men everywhere?Dont feminism have more faith in men not to seek casual sex and to engage in healthier activities to release stress in their spare time?Is feminism saying that objectivising is fine so as long as the objectified gets paid?Is feminism trying to imply a woman’s honour and integrity is so low it can be sold for money,the only mitigating factor being how much?If not,why not lobby to ban this sex trade?

  7. When anyone(men or women) dictate that certain women shouldnt be exposing so much,it can be for a myraid of reasons,NOT purely due to uncontrollable sexual urges.Why cant feminists get their heads outta the gutter and stop thinking in sexual terms for once!You look out in the streets and which gender do u see exposing more?Are the men counted as victims of slutshaming because they are pressurised to wear full jeans despite their girlfriends boldly wearing hotshorts?Why dont those boys seek out shorts or trunks as short as their girlfriends’ hotshorts to wear during dates too,if they arent feeling shamed?Then what about the office where men are disallowed any form of shortpants,but women indulge in miniskirts,tights and cropped pants,and long pants and long skirts to them are nothing more than a choice instead of compulsion?Are women so sexually distracted by men’s bare legs,more so than men are by women’s bare skin,that they,the women,cant fanthom lobbying for the corporate rules to allow certain more presentable and dignified form of short pants and tights to be accepted in variation to traditional long pants for the men?Why was i complained against when i wore slippers to work,even when so many women,be it in longs or skirts,wore slippers to work?Are my bare feet so distracting to them,the women,more so than their bare feet are to men,that they cant just put up with what they expect me to put up with?

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