women’s liberation – how far can you go?
It’s International Women’s Day today. First and foremost, I need to admit that women are as capable as men and ought to be treated equally. Celebrating the strengths of women, however, should not be about going all out to show that women can excel in men’s roles and even beat them at their own game. We don’t want another tragedy like the 1974 Pamirs Expedition.
Decades since then, men have been beaten countless times at their own game (serve them right for belittling women). Perhaps the novelty has worn off. There has to be a better way to bash those stupid, insulting men. Well, going #Metoo is a lot safer and more newsworthy than climbing mountains. Thanks for exposing and calling out those monsters, but while there are many cases where men have certainly abused their positions in power and authority to force women to do things against their will, the movement, as it has spread globally, seems to have calibrated itself to include cases which could have been interpreted as unsuccessful flirting or even misunderstandings.
Let me recall something from personal experience. Many years ago, I was a member at a gym inside a hotel. One day, out of the blue, as I was signing in (pen and paper in those days), the lovely receptionist greeted me with “hello, dear.”
I laughed and returned the favour. Then on my next visit to the gym, I took the initiative and greeted her with “hello, dear”. Guess what. She seemed to have suffered amnesia and forgotten that that was how she greeted me a few days ago. She looked offended and did not reciprocate. It was an awkward moment for me, but from that day, I just nodded when she greeted me. What would you do if she complains against you? Luckily she didn’t and it may have something to do with the fact that I wasn’t and still isn’t someone important. It didn’t take too many warnings before I learned my lesson. Just recently, a female colleague asked for my number. I asked her why. She joked that she wanted to date me. Older and wiser by then, I knew better than to demonstrate my wit.
Who says we don’t need another hero? While it’s tempting to rush to the rescue of women who have been sexually harassed, it’s obvious that even a playful greeting in response to another playful greeting could be interpreted as sexual harassment if it has been given the right kind of exposure on social media. It’s especially so if the accused is somebody important. Suffice to say that there are many people who wish to see important/successful people go down, no less the dittoheads who jump on the bandwagon.
Most of us are probably as clueless as to what triggers a complaint as Governor Andrew Cuomo: “sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Guilty? Who knows? But when men feel that they can talk about anything under the sun with the women around them, then a reality check is in order. Even with my age, experience and restraint, I still get it wrong once in a while. As in this pandemic, “social distancing” is in order. The fact that a woman can jokingly make a pass at you (as a gentleman, you don’t tell it to the world) does not mean that you can reciprocate. She might just decide to tell it to the world. That will really make you look bad.
We have a lot to catch up with women in the 21st century and the new concept of “equality” as the unfortunate former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Mr Viswa Sadasivan found out.
Mr Viswa is said to have asked stand-up comedian Ms Sharul Channa why she was wearing a rose brooch, to which she responded that she had put it on to distract from the pattern on her top.
According to Ms Sharul, Mr Viswa then said: “It would be more distracting if you were wearing only that rose.”
Admittedly, Mr Viswa’s joke was not that funny, but it’s something that a completely innocent guy could have said (to a comedian) with absolutely no intention to insult the woman’s modesty. Then, the proverbial shit hits the fan when Ms Sharul posted the frivolous exchange on Facebook.
Responding to Ms Sharul’s Facebook post, Ms Kiran Kandade, a doctoral researcher, wrote in the comments section about her previous experience with Mr Viswa, posting a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation between them! Yao mo gao chor ah? I thought such things are private and it’s the men who shamelessly boast about their successful conquests and hide their failures. Now, it’s the women who publicly display those failures to shame the men.
Anyway, the screenshot of the conversation, which took place on Mar 27, 2016, purportedly showed Mr Viswa asking Ms Kiran if his “proposition to kiss passionately” had offended her. I can’t comment on that because it could have been taken out of context, but as usual, those who are desperate to look like heroes rushing to the rescue of a damsel in distress were baying for Mr Viswa’s blood.
Meanwhile, NUS had announced on 20 February 2021 that it has discontinued all projects with Viswa and his company Strategic Moves. He has also stepped down as a member of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board. Costly mistakes. The moral of the story? Leave the women alone. Make sure you have an unambiguous agreement with a woman on what you can do or say before you take the plunge.
As usual, the sinophiles put the blame for all this obsession with political correctness on the West. But in the free world, nobody ought to be afraid to call out the folks whose good intentions have led to actions going overboard. Just as there is a #MeToo movement in the free world, there is also an anti #MeToo movement in the free world spearheaded by women telling other women not to be overly sensitive. So can we ever have a group of Singaporean women standing up against AWARE without being viewed as subversive?
Happy International Women’s Day.