Home Web Specials 2008 Web Specials Election craziness and sexist billboards

Election craziness and sexist billboards

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Wong Soak Koon felt compelled to express her contempt at the item in
theSun today on MCA’s sexist billboard which depicted
opposition candidate Teresa Kok in sexist and suggestive cartoons.
According to the news report, “one of the billboards shows a
caricature of Kok, sexily clad in a red dress, hugging ‘Mr
Kinrara’ after dumping her old flame ‘Mr Seputeh’.”

contempt for MCA’s tactics increased when Kok’s opponent, MCA’s
Carol Chew simply says that she was merely reflecting “the
people’s sentiments”. Who exactly are “the people” whose
sentiments Chew hides behind? The electorate is much more intelligent
than she thinks and if there are some insensitive sorts among the
so-called “people” she cites, there are many more who are simply
disgusted by such blatant disregard for gender sensitivity. In any
case, as a responsible candidate, she should be correcting those who
reflect such sexist views rather than simply going along with them.

But perhaps she finds sexist views not at all offensive to women
because she is so inured to the off-colour remarks of an old-boys
network she may be affiliated to? Politics, many will insist, means
the art of the possible. Thus if there is a possible open door to
insult your opponent, grab the chance quickly. I am personally sick
and tired of hearing the lame cliché about “politics” and
“the possible”. What we pray for are people who will attempt the
so-called “impossible”, that is, be fair-minded, respect your
opponent and in so doing, respect yourself.

Gender sensitivity is no longer a
matter for seminars and discussion halls. It should rightly inform
all areas and levels of society. JAG (The Joint Action Group for
Gender Equality) rightly condemns billboards that present women as
sexual objects and trivialise the hard tasks many women take on,
against great odds, both in the political arena and in other areas of
public life. In launching such a sexist billboard, Carol Chew only
reveals herself to be totally appropriated by a sexist ideology that
seems to be very alive in our Parliament (the sexist remarks of some
of our male MPs clearly testify to this ).

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Our leaders should be cognisant of the
fact that many of younger, urban citizens have been made very aware
of gender discrimination and gender insensitivity, not least because
of the Internet. As a successful festival titled “Fiesta Feminista:
Embracing Diversity” held last year revealed, many young people,
male and female alike, rally to learn about gender respect and in so
doing, learn to be fair-minded towards people in differing situations
and holding views not identical to their own.

Clearly, our
campaigners (incumbent and Opposition alike) have to learn this
kind of mature deliberation. They can only garner genuine respect if
they know how to behave. Don’t cite us the terribly infantile
behaviour of some politicians abroad who are now also on their own
campaign trails. Wrong examples (one, two or three dozen) never make a
right model to take up.

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