Don’t Let Sexism Go Too Far

Posted on 26 February 2010 by

Finalist in WLP’s Youth Essay Contest Group 2: 18-25 Years
Shi Min T, Malaysia

Ever thought of how the issue of sexism can affect the women’s life in Malaysia?

“It is unusual for women’s issues to be touched (raised) by men
… but women are supposed to be touched by men.”
“Most single mothers were divorced as they were ‘gatal’ (flirtatious)
and therefore would not be pitied by society.”
“Toilets are like new brides after they are completed. After some time, they get a bit spoiled. Even if you do not use them frequently, you need someone to clean them every 25 minutes.”
(Sexist MPs better watch out, New Straits Times, 24th February 2009)

Malaysian politics suddenly becomes everyone’s focus, when the male Members of Parliament, or better known as MPs in Malaysia, made sexist remarks against women, the above are just to name a few. While many developing countries such as Chile, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and even neighbouring countries of Malaysia, like the Philippines and Indonesia have made a big leap in the effort of leveling gender equality by having woman Prime Minister or President in the countries, Malaysian women are still struggling to be given decent respect by the men whom they voted into the parliament, who are supposed to speak up for them!

Malaysia Locked Door (cc) 微光普普

Malaysia Locked Door (cc) 微光普普

I am deeply humiliated. For every being is God’s creation. Human being – the highest being of all His creations. Yet, these MPs’ intellectual level is much to be desired. They seem ignorant about the principle of equality, by which all human beings should be treated with equal respect regardless of their gender. There are male MPs who verbally sexual harass their female counterparts by making sexist remarks, labeling women as “gatal” (flirtatious), making analogy of toilet to women, in no other place but in the House of Parliament, the house of the elites and highly-respectable leaders of the country. As a young woman, I cannot help but to ask these questions: Don’t they have mothers? Don’t they have wives? Are these kinds of remarks courteous, to the women who carried them nine months in the womb and later, spend decades nurture them to become who they are today? Are these kinds of remarks courteous, to the women who stand by them, love and support them through thick and thin as they walk the path to success as who they are today?

It does not stop there. Sexism does not only deprive women of their dignity, it also leads to a more serious implication – the under-representation in the Malaysian Parliament. While women make up half of the population in Malaysia, parliamentary seats are dominated by men. Women held only 22 out of 222 parliamentary seats, with only 2 female ministers appointed in the 28-member cabinet. Why all these happen? Sexism. While Malaysian women had made their progress from only housewives, to a clerk, teacher, doctor, Vice Chancellor in universities and even, the Governor of Bank Negara……Many still doubt they can become a political leader. Mommy track, sticky floor and glass ceiling…….People still look into all these as criterion to dismiss their chances to be given an important positions in the world of politics. Due to their lack in number, women voices were soft and are still too soft, to be heard in parliament, the legislative branch which holds the ultimate power in making decision on key policies in the country, make it be economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights itself. Without a strong women’s voice in the parliament, how do you expect Malaysia, which strongly upholds to the principle of democracy, to really exercise democracy in ensure the equal rights between men and women?

Things need to be changed. The question is: What can we change? Firstly, the people’s mindset. Women have to believe that leadership and power are not the domains of men. Women, too are capable of greatness and ability as movers of society and the world. Men, on the other hand should admit that women can be equally capable as them, and that the least they could do is to reciprocate respect. Secondly, the level of awareness. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development representing the government, pledges to promote women’s equality and safeguard women’s rights. Hence, women should further exploit the provision provided in the law to demand to be treated with dignity, while men need to respect and abide them.

The next question is: How can we change? I strongly feel that in order to change the people’s mindset and level of awareness, we need to fall back to education. Education nurtures people’s fundamental thinking. As a teacher trainee, I know I have a role to play. I want to instil the awareness of gender-equality in my students through formal teaching as lessons in the classroom, and informal learning activities such as debates, forums and public speaking. I also want to make sure equal opportunity to be given to both boys and girls to hold leadership positions in clubs and societies. Its purpose is to inculcate students the idea that girls, are equally capable as boys. I also want to share stories on my teaching experience in nurturing gender-equality in school on the internet through online forum and blogs, as I strongly believe that it helps to exchange ideas with and inspire other educationists to do the same.

Prevention is better than cure. When prevention through education does not work, cure in the form of punishment has to be enforced. I believe the suggestions made in the public forum “Respect Women’s Dignity Towards a 1st World Parliament” requiring gender-sensitivity as a criteria for selection of candidates for general elections ought to be adopted by political parties in Malaysia. When a male MP by any means offend the rules, punishments such as stripping of the MPs’ “Datuk” (knightship in Malaysia) titles, suspension as MPs and community service with women groups should be carried out. Knowing their status and privileges would be deprived, these MPs will surely think twice before making any sexist remarks on women.

Together, let us respect women’s dignity towards a first class mentality among the members of parliament, and hence, a world class Malaysia – and it starts from you and me. Don’t let sexism go too far!

Finalist in WLP’s Youth Essay Contest Group 2: 18-25 Years
Shi Min T, Malaysia

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33 Comments For This Post

  1. Goh LH Says:

    Well done! Very appropriate examples and analogies. Cogent arguments, logically presented. You have taken a very public Malaysian incident and craftily highlighted to represent the issue of sexism. Some suggestions that are food for thought. Minor errors that do not affect the flow of your arguments. Tq

  2. jasmine Says:

    yep, i agree with Goh above. Minor grammatical/language errors but you certainly made me aware of the seriousness of gender issues in Malaysia. Good flow. Thank you for your piece Shi Min.

  3. Voon SH Says:

    Great analysis of gender inequality in Malaysia. What we need are more people who knows how to speak up, someone like Shi Min to continuously bring up the issue and pursue its resolution.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Mior Azman Says:

    Just a quick question…what happened to the women MP’s during the incident? Did they not come up with something as “smart” to respond to the disgusting remark? Sometimes the best defence is a good offence, maybe? Just my thought….

    Agreed with Goh LH about some language errors here and there….but a very good piece of writing indeed!

  5. JJ Ai Teng Says:

    Eunice!!!!!!! U are great! Im proud of u.. Thanks for raising this issue.. I hope the men out there can stop thinking highly of themselves and respect the women.

  6. penny lim Says:

    Great article. I can’t agree more on the issues raised. However, sometimes women can be their own worst enemies by undermining other women’s achievements. And also, I’m sure if more women speak out in disapproval whenever sexist jokes are made, it would make those men think twice before making such jokes again.

  7. Baoloo Says:

    Thanks God that you can voice out for this topic ,men and women are importance because in the Bible said that they are become one flesh (Gen 4:24). The person who spoke out this message means that he dare to against God,hope that he can repent in front of GOD .

  8. Jenny Kwong Says:

    I like the way you begin your writing by quoting what the three PMs have said. The citation adds weight to the quotes. I also like how you begin each paragraph. Those short lines are simply powerful to make the readers want to read on. They also help the readers to understand and follow your flow of thought. But why Malay words like Bank Negara and the …? Not enough time to do another round of proof reading? Well, it is still an excellent piece of writing. Congratulations!

  9. Puvana Says:

    Wow!!! I’m impressed Eunice TSM. You have done you homework really well and have provided a thorough insight on the issue of sexism among Malaysian MPs. Way to go gal!! Proud of you. =)

  10. Shi Min T Says:

    A summary of what I feel after reading your valuable comments=)

    “Student A should become the representative of our option(class)”
    “Why? Why can’t Student B become the class representative? She’s responsible, and more capable in communicating with lecturers and students.”
    “Well, because Student A is a male. It’s a tradition from our seniors that class representative to be held by guys.”

    Above is another sexist conversations observed in my own teacher training college. In my class, we have guys as our class representative till now, since the first semester. That particular sexist conversation sticks vividly in my mind since then, and I told myself that one day, I must break this so called “tradition”, which later propels me to participate actively in Gender Equality-related programmes and activities. And this essay, marks a significant step for me (again, thanks to WLP)

    While gender equality may be caused by “tradition”, I don’t see any basis why it should still become the main cause towards gender inequality in the current context. Why tradition like this should be upheld if it’s against the most universal concept of “equality”, as we often hear “all human beings are equal in the eyes of God.” (Baoloo has pointed out an evident there). Time has passed, the world has evolved, and hence tradition needs to be adapted according to the current state of development – And this “tradition” is not an exemption.

    Another main cause of gender equality (which I think is good for us to ponder) is FEAR. The dominant patriarchal system practiced by most culture in Malaysia has be rooted in us so long that, men start taking women for granted, while women themselves have seem to get used in their subordinate positions. Because it’s already a “tradition”, women have fears to break it, to speak up for themselves. Hence, I couldn’t help but agree more with Temitayo, another finalist from Nigeria, who pointed out FEAR as the biggest enemy for gender inequality. And hence, to solve the problem we have to cure the FEAR in women, make it by resorting to education, government’s policy, NGO’s campaign etc.

    Nonetheless in my opinion, while we are talking about levelling up women’s status, it’s important for us to keep on stressing on the concept of “EQUALITY”, that is to ensure men and women enjoy EQUAL rights and privilege. As I mentioned in the main page, it has to be done as such, to ensure our male counterparts won’t feel like women are speaking up about the issue of gender equality because they want to “take over” men’s status and rights. By resorting to this approach, only then men won’t feel threatened when they support women in this course.

    Last but not least, women themselves have to be united in the course of combating gender inequality too. As what being pointed out by pennylim, “sometimes women can be their own worst enemies by undermining other women’s achievements.” Hence, women should stand united, backing up each other to speak out in disapproval whenever sexist jokes are made. (PS: thank MiorAzman for addressing the quick questions earlier.)

    Just to sum up all the comments I gather so far. Thank you so much for those who have commented. Further comments/feedbacks are most welcomed=)

  11. Alviana Says:

    Great article. Good piece of effort Eunice. Looks really flawless and thoughtful. Way to go!!

  12. Alviana Says:

    By the way, I like what the MPs have said before, as what you have mentioned in the article above. Not to mention that, you can count only how many female doctors or engineers because people are still holding to the superstitions that only male are capable of doing these kinds of occupation. Whereas women’s place should be below than men. The world revolves around, and people should be aware of that. This is not the Shakespearian era, this is a world of modernisation. Keep up the good work, Eunice :)

  13. Jack Says:

    Totally agree with the issues you had mentioned in it. Especially about educating the students in respecting the equality in both genders. The recurent events which had happened in our parliment is truely unfair and irrespectful for the women MP counterparts. It would be even harder for them to sound out their objections when their numbers are very minor out of the total. Nevertheless, it would be more political if efforts were to be taken to increase the numbers of the ladies present in the parliment or cabinet, which is the decisive unit in policies. As we all know, women participation in politics are limited to women wing components of all the major political parties in the country. Yet the cabinet is formed based on central leaders of the winning parties in a national or state general election. So that boundary would have to be crossed. Finally, all the education policies were to be determined by the cabinet and then instilled. It would have been much easier and more effective if the decisive and definitive administration unit of the nation can take great leap like what you have just done.
    It is great to have you sharing your thoughts and the above was just a minor thought i would like to share with you.
    I am proud of you Shi Min and wish you all the best in the finalist of the competition.

  14. chan Says:

    Well done. Malaysia needs fine young women like you to stand up for issues such as gender equality.

  15. Kangga Says:

    A very good piece of work indeed. It really makes us think of where we stand as a progressive and developing nation. Even in an age like this, we are still voting for men who are simply not sensitive towards others. The MPs, being representatives of the people actually represent our people in the world’s eyes. Does this mean our nation is not as progressive as it claims to be? I seriously don’t know. But look at other nations who we recognize as being less developed socially, and some being more Islamic, such as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, The Philippines, Indonesia and many more. All these countries have had significant women leaders, giving them a more non-sexist image for the world to judge. Where does our country stand? A truly thought-provoking peace of work my friend. Keep it up! =)

  16. chanzhe Says:

    As much as i would like to agree with you Eunice, education and punishments can only go so far. It is not rare to see female student leaders in Malaysian schools. The key elements lies with the parents on how they bring up their kids. I believe your parents have played important roles in bringing up you to be an outspoken and bright youth and hence, stands out here to call for transormation. It again falls back to the tradition that is being uphold. it is certainly not easy to just go out the street and get hold of some ladies who can speak and lead. Character is crucial. The barrier of tradition has got to be overcame to achieve the final goal of equality. Nurturing can only work if it goes parellel with the thinking or the values that are being instilled in oneself.

    Malaysia is waiting for women who can speak up and prove themselves.

    Btw, good work Eunice! well done! Cheers for gender equality.

  17. Shi Min T Says:

    When fighting for gender equality, women should know how to set and take care of their priorities accordingly.

    What’s the point you point out a sexist remark he made unintentionally, while he is your classmate who you are going to stay together for another 4 years?

    What’s the point you feel you are “better” than your friends, because your essay is among the top 12, while they merely just not write for the competition because they put what they need to do first beforehand than to entering this competition?

    AND

    What’s the point you occupy your mind, stay up late, worrying how many comments you have to “generate”, in order to win the “audience’s choice awards”, and perhaps to grab the attention from the organiser so that they consider you in one of the top threes, while you still have a handful of undone assignments and obligations to fulfil, which you put aside (knowing that they will affect your chances of securing your job as a future teacher), just to “campaign” for your essay?

    What’s the point while you are thinking so big, while you have lose track of things you thought are little, but actually are the most important things which makes you who you are today, especially things like your loved ones, your health, mind and soul, which are going to really support you when you fail?

    Certainly, no one, not your future students, not even your children in future would like to learn about gender equality from you – a woman who yet to know how to set priorities in life.

    What I am trying to point out here is that, while women start to think so big, being ambitious about things she could, would, should do in future while fighting for gender equality, she must first know how to set priorities – to take care of her family, to take care of her genuine supportive friends, to take care of her official career, and most importantly, to take care of the well-being of her body, mind and soul. Only when she can manage these aspects well, then she can start thinking about how to crawl, walk, run, and perhaps fly, to achieve her ambitions.

  18. Shi Min T Says:

    I thank all of you, who are here to support me, bringing up constructive discussion to make this world more aware of what is happening in Malaysia, a country from nowhere for some people out there. Each and everyone of your comments have trully touched me, inspired me from the bottom of my heart.

    To the other finalists, all the best! =D

    To whoever who gets the first prize – I challenge you to do 100000 times better than what I am doing now!

  19. Mohd Afiq Mat Razai Says:

    hey, Eunice. an outstanding piece of work, sister XD. very nice. would you mind if i use it for SS? haha… love it… hope you can win

  20. Jenny Pang Says:

    It’s a well argued piece of work. You have presented the issue with some evidence to support your arguements. I like your suggestions on how to overcome gender inequality and also as an individual how you could contribute to address the issue. We need more women like you who dare to voice out your opinions. Your ideas are well organised. Well done!

  21. Rai Says:

    Hey nice piece! No wonder you are selected to be the finalist. Go Eunice go! We’re so proud of you! >.o

  22. Rachel CMY Says:

    Eunice, good job in bringing up this issue! Malaysia needs more people like you!
    Keep it up!

  23. Shi Min T Says:

    Today is World’s Women’s Day.(8th of March)
    Gentlemen: Respect and support women towards making this world a better place to stay.

    Ladies: Be self-reliant, ladies!(English)
    Berdikarilah saudari-saudari sekalian! (Malay)
    女儿当自强!(Chinese)

    Let’s arise and prove to the guys that we can make this world a better place to stay, too!

    And it starts from you, and me.=)

  24. iylia Kamal Says:

    whoaliaoweh….wat a pleasant surprise to receive a mail from shi min ah!….leading to this marvelous piece of work. very strong, firm, and full of determination to raise a greater awareness towards gender equality. Much applause I bid to you. Since we worked together back at MYC 2006, I always knew you are different. I wish you good luck and all the very best for this competition and also in life and all your pursuits. Malaysia needs more speakers like you. God Bless.

  25. Joanna Chu Says:

    hey sis!!! indeed i am impressed! good job sis n keep it up! we will always support you! and thanks for raising this issue for us, womens’ right! let those MPs go speechless! :) GAMBATE ya!!! :)

  26. Shi Min T Says:

    I’m glad that I finally found a finalist who’s thinking the same as me.=)
    http://www.learningpartnership.org/blog/2010/02/lebanon-women-rights-2/

    As quoted from my comment for Riad:

    “….However, from the comments I got for my essay (and the comments under the essay of first prize winner for Group 2), many still doubt if education can really work in resolving this issue. Like in my country, I can hear voices of frustrations, showing their disappointment towards the education system, or more importantly towards people who are WORKING on and in the education system, until some, come to the end of despair that they don’t think education will ever work.

    Worse still worse, it’s a “tradition” that the post of education minister, the key person who decide the education policy in the country, has always being held by male politicians who are elected and chosen through election. Note that in Malaysia, education minister is considered an “elite post”. (all current and former Prime Ministers, except the first one, in Malaysia used to hold the post of education minister) With little number of women in the parliament, it’s sure hard to break this “tradition”.

    So, the solutions? Fall back to education itself, while the “tradition” is still hard to be broken in the parliament? Vote more women into the parliament? How? Will that guarantee their post as an education minister anyway? Will there be any woman who’s willing to take up the challenge anyway?”

    Some questions to ponder.

  27. Shi Min T Says:

    Will selecting a woman to hold the post of education minister will work to change the scenario anyway?

  28. Weleon Says:

    Wow…Well done!! I love reading through your opinions and it reflects the sexist issues happened in M’sia…Brilliant!! Thx for sharing your opinions ^^ cheers

  29. advancedynamicsasiaa Says:

    Great job Shi Min, Malaysia needs more young ladies like you to make it a better and safer country for Malaysian women and children. All men should read your comments and ponder on the issues. If they love and respect their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, then men should do more to make gender equality a reality in Malaysia.

  30. Shi Min T Says:

    In April 2010, I suggested this to a friend of mine on the stand why I think education is the most important measure to curb sexism issue in Malaysia.

    He replied that, “this sounds good….but this article only tells us about the importance of “ethic”…it does not answer the question that why education should be adopted as the main way to solve the problem of sexism in Malaysia…According to Legalism…(孟子-法家学说)…all humans are born with hidden evil….hence, it is law that is needed to restrict people from doing bad things and to construct an ordered society…once an ordered society is established in which everyone has the same rules to follow, then only education can be implemented to guide people to become a better person….”

    I was utterly strike. I remained speechless for almost a year, hoping to find an answer to justify my stand.

    Today, I would like to justify it through the following.

    When I attended the talk on 弟子规 in December 2009, I came across the idea of “教育,在于长善,救失”(education is to cultivate virtues and to save those with misbehaviours). I believe education through ethical values, ie 理, for example from 弟子规 is the most fundamental approach to teach people the very basic value of respecting others regardless of their gender, in this case.

    I particularly think the following from 弟子规is very applicable: “势服人,心不然;理服人,方无言。” When you are applying a law, you need an authority to supervise its implementation. When we are speaking about “authority”, we are speaking about “power”, ie “势”。When you are controlling someone’s behaviours using laws and rules, people will not be totally submissive to it. Chances is that people will rebel. Furthermore, can you imagine if the authority who enforces the law itself doesn’t have ethical values, which can be acquired through education? The authority can easily be corrupted, and hence the laws because of bribery.

    It is only when people are behaving out of their wills through practising ethical values, then only it will last for long.

    I am not saying laws are impractical in this matter though. I am just trying to make the point that education should come before law in this matter.

    I would like to thank my friend for rising that question to me a year ago. You got me thinking for almost a year! Good one!=D

    Cheers for gender equality!

  31. Shi Min T Says:

    Thank you to my fren, Teikpeng for pointing this out for me:

    “I agree with your opinion that education is for long-term plan in which our future generation is educated. However, I don’t agree with your statement that law can only provide a short-term effect on curbing problems such as racism and sexism. I would like to draw on a example of the UK. Gender inequality was once serious and prominent issue in this country. With the suppression from the males, the females can’t even enjoy their basic rights such as the right to vote and the right to receive equal salary. The turning point of the country’s history came in which the era of gender equality descended on the country was brought by the revolution in law, not in education. By having the regulation of gender equality enshrined in their constitution, no one can question the rights of females in the country again. Due to the protection given by the law, the women in the country are able to enjoy their freedom until now. This freedom, which exists because of the law, is a long-term effect. Can you imagine if only education reformation was carried out but not law, can the women enjoy their freedom until now? The answer is “NO” as the rights might be challenged again and again by those irresponsible parties. Only with the protection of laws, a country can enjoy peace and harmony in the long run. Education is important, but it just can’t play the same role as law. Education teaches people why the law is invented, but the law prevents people from doing bad things. We need to have the preventive force so that people have to refrain from doing bad things. Then only we can teach them why they are prohibited from doing that bad things.”

  32. Shi Min T Says:

    From the day I wrote the essay above until today, I have been observing and thinking a lot. Why people are cynical and skeptical with the applicableness of education in curbing social issue like sexism? Why? Why? Why?

    I look at the education in my own country, Malaysia. At one point, I realise one blatant truth:

    Our education system, in the pursue of catching up the developed countries, is HEADING TO THE DIRECTION of breeding a new generation of people with high capability WHO DISREGARD THE IMPORTANCE OF MORAL ETHICS.

    No, I do not deny the fact that we have moral and religion studies in our current education system. But how far are they being practised?

    Ask this to any child who has gone through current Malaysian education system:
    Would your parents and teachers love and praise you more if….
    A. you get good results for the subject of moral education/religion studies but in real life, you never bother to help your parents with household chores at home?
    OR
    B. you are a honest and faithful child helping with all the household chores at home but in exam, you never score?
    ….then you will know what I mean when you get the answers from them…..

    If we continue the journey of education in this direction…..

    Yes,

    I have no choice but to admit that: There is NO WAY the education system in Malaysia can become practical in curbing sexism.

    And yes,

    I have to say this: There is NO WAY appointing a female education minister in the cabinet would help curbing sexism, if she herself is a product of our current education system which is heading to the direction I mentioned above.

    Does that mean we should be lose our hope on education altogether?

    As a trainee teacher, my answer today is still: NO!

    To make it possible for education to curb social issues like sexism, our education system needs to be reformed. We need to change the course of direction for our education system.

    You ask me: Change the course of direction for our education system? To which direction then?

    My answer is: To the direction where the cultivation of MORAL ETHICS is emphasised BEFORE the cultivation of CAPABILITIES/TALENTS.

    At this stage, I find the following ideology derived from Confucius’s philosophy of education, “弟子规” (The Ethic of Becoming a Good Child and Student) explains best why the emphasis should be given to moral ethics before talents in education:

    1. Ethics + talent = first-class product;
    2. Ethics + no talent = second-class product;
    3. No Ethics + no talent = useless product,
    4. No virtue + talent = DANGEROUS PRODUCT!!
    *You can decide in which category the sexist MPs mentioned in the essay falls into;)*

    Yes! Our education system needs to be changed so that it goes in this direction: The cultivation of MORAL ETHICS is emphasised BEFORE the cultivation of CAPABILITIES/TALENTS.

    You ask me: How to change the direction then?
    My answer at the moment is: That’s a good question. I will work hard to find that out.

  33. Shi Min T Says:

    To summarise all the points/comments/feedback I got up to this stage, I strongly propose that: Education and law go hand in hand in curbing sexism.

    Ch’ng says it best how education and law can go hand in hand:

    “Education teaches people why the law is invented, but the law prevents people from doing bad things.”

    Supporting this, I would like to add on:

    “Education teaches people to follow the law out of their willingness, while the law makes sure people follow the law out of their willingness.”

    How do we teach and make people follow the law out of their willingness?
    You bet – It’s moral ethics. =)

    With that, I rest the case at the time being. I will be back.

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