It is appalling that in this day and age a successful and renowned female ophthalmologist reportedly holds a myopic view that demeans and demotivates fellow women.
In a video clip that went viral on social media, Prof Muhaya Mohamad advised single women to “play dumb” because she believed men prefer docile partners with “lots of oestrogen”.
Single women should restrain their ambition and cease the desire to compete with or outdo men if the former want to get hitched, insisted Muhaya, who, ironically, is also an accomplished motivational speaker.
In a world where more women have made successful forays into professions and businesses that used to be a male preserve, it is no wonder there was a backlash against Muhaya to the extent she had to take down the contentious video.
Her so-called advice does a disservice, especially to women who have climbed up the social ladder against all odds in a society still tainted with traces of patriarchy. In short, they were able to break the glass ceiling.
Muhaya’s sentiment defies the country’s recognition of women’s vital role, which, in turn, led to its commitment to achieve gender equality and promote the rights of women and girls.
This is in line with sustainable development goals and the 11th Malaysia Plan.
Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman of the University of Malaya, for example, is an academic whose expertise in infectious diseases has gained world recognition as illustrated by her being appointed as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Science Council.
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, also an ophthalmologist, made it into politics and eventually became the first female deputy prime minister of our country.
These two women, along with other successful Malaysian women, have made their mark in their own right and made important contributions to nation-building.
To keep in check their professional ambitions (so as to please the male partners) would not only have been a horrendous waste of their talents in society but also a gross injustice to their self-worth.
If there is a lesson to be learnt in Islamic history, Muhaya needs to be mindful that Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija Khuwaylid, was a successful businesswoman in her own right – and he did not mind her business acumen nor did he suffer from an inferiority complex.
Equally disturbing is that Muhaya’s views lend legitimacy to sexist views in our society, where some men perceive women as mere objects of sexual gratification and the “fairer sex” to be ridiculed and physically beaten on a whim. Obviously, this is a step backward in women’s fight for equality, justice and dignity.
This largely explains why the conversations in the august chamber of the Dewan Rakyat, for instance, often veer towards humiliation, directly or otherwise, of female politicians by a few of their male counterparts. If not checked, such expressions of misogyny would become normalised.
Such misogynistic views also betray the concerns of student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam and others like her, who are vehemently opposed to sexual harassment by male teachers and boys in schools and elsewhere.
Older women – as well as men – should instead instil in these young women the positive values of mutual respect between sexes, as well as motivate them to strive for their full potential in life.
Our society would be all the poorer if we play dumb to misogyny. – The Malaysian Insight