YouTube sexism

Written by Rhyhan Astha, Change Maker

YouTube videos. The drug of today’s youth. YouTubers clamour to gain subscribers, producing seemingly harmless comedic videos to give viewers a short chuckle. Yet, in Singapore, many of these videos frequently and tactlessly use outdated sexist tropes for distasteful comedic effect.

Sexist Video #1: Guys vs Girls: Teenagers

This video is by Jianhao Tan, a prominent YouTuber with over 430,000 subscribers and just over 85,000,000 views.

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The scenario portrayed in the video deals with the different way men and women interact with friends of the same gender. The first segment features two guys hurling insults like “Stop being such a pussy” and “Don’t be such a dick” to each other during a conversation. Yet, the guy still believes his friend “is so great” despite the conversation that they had.

In contrast, the girl responds very differently to her friend. Her friend tells her “I’ll see you soon okay? Love you!” When her friend leaves, she says that her friend is “damn freaking fake”.

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I find this video highly problematic in how it portrays men and women in these ways:

  • All men are emotionally stoic. Both men are unfazed by the insults they hurl at each other such as “pussy” and “dick”. The man takes these insults in his stride and even reaffirms the friendship by saying “Don’t you love him?” to his girl friend. One guy even says “He is so great” in response to these insults, which leaves the viewer thinking that the exchange of insults that is somehow integral to the friendship between both men. Phrases hurled between the both of them such “Don’t be such a pussy” serve to show that men are not supposed to express emotions which reflect their vulnerability. These portrayals normalise a culture of verbal abuse between men, alienating men who do feel hurt by such remarks.
  • Women are overly emotional and highly manipulative. On the other hand, the woman immediately thinks the worst of her friend, calling her “fake”, even though she said goodbye to her in a friendly manner. The video implies that women are only capable of using their emotions and instincts to make a judgment of someone. Her perception of her friend as “damn freaking fake” suggests that women tend to put up a facade for others and are always up to something. This implies that women frequently act maliciously towards each other, and it perpetuates a culture of girl-on-girl hate. Furthermore, her response also normalises misogyny amongst women, as she represents the caution that women should have towards each others behaviours and intentions.

Sexist Video #2: Morning Routine: Guys vs. Girls

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.28 pmAnother video, this time from Singaporean YouTube channel WahBanana!, also uses sexist tropes in its portrayal of men and women. In this video, they portray the difference between what men and women do when they wake up. These difference are inherently based on sexist stereotypes.

In this video, a girl is portrayed taking a few selfies to post on Instagram for her followers.

Immediately after, the girl’s actions are compared to a guy’s, who is shown to open up the Instagram app on his phone and ‘like’ the picture posted.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.45 pmOne of the most harmful messages being portrayed by the video is that the female body is solely for the consumption of others in society.

The video shows how the guy likes the girl’s picture on Instagram then scrolls past immediately. This seems to make acceptable the idea that images of woman are taken for men to feast their eyes at, almost as if women exist only for their looks and nothing else. This belief is highly damaging to women, who then model their appearances, whether they want to or not, on whether it can please the men in their life.

What I worry most about these videos is their widespread acceptance in Singaporean society. Are these videos a gruelling reminder of how despite being a nation at the forefront of many things, Singapore still remains unprogressive in how it thinks about gender equality?

We have to start talking about what the humour of these videos say about youth culture in Singapore. We should not be accepting this content into our daily lives  and excusing the stereotypes that it draws from because it is intended for humour. The things we laugh about and bond over ultimately shapes the identity of our community, and I do not wish for my generation to think that sexism is a topic to be taken lightly.


I don’t want a patriarchal wedding

Written by Estelle Ng, Change Maker

These days, circumstances have led me into thinking about the concept of weddings. It could be because many people I know are either getting engaged, preparing for their weddings or currently documenting their weddings on Instagram.

In particular, I woke up just a couple of mornings ago deciding, “No. I don’t want a patriarchal wedding”.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against weddings. In fact, at some point in my childhood, I remember aspiring that my wedding day be the happiest day of my life. I would be in a nice flowy white gown. Veil over my head. Perfect hair. Perfect smiles. Tons of picture perfect moments.

Yet, when I think deeper into the details of a conventional wedding, the whole idea seems so wrong to me.

As it is, the whole enterprise of marriage and wedding is a patriarchal construct. After all, the only reason why people came up with marital legal bindings is for the sake of inheritance: children adopting father’s surnames, father’s dialect group, and property (though inheritance of property can be negotiated in many instances). That leaves weddings to be merely a symbolic rite of passage for marriage.

To give an example, thmarriage2ere are many parts to Chinese (Teochew/Hokkien/Cantonese/Hakka) traditional weddings that directly relate to patriarchy. Central to this is that a woman’s body does not belong to her but always belongs to someone else. Let’s look at some features of the customs.

The most obvious is through the brideprice – the name says it all. This refers to money in red packets that the groom’s family has to give to the bride’s family. Literally speaking, her body is now sold to the groom’s family.

Then we have the infamous morning of gate-crashing. This involves absurd tasks that the groom and his entourage must fulfil in order to prove his worth and masculinity before he can redeem his wife. All this happens as the wife sits passively in her room.

Finally, Chinese weddings similarly have the segment where the wife walks down the aisle with her father who later “gives her away” to the groom. Is this not the literal passing down of ownership of her body from her father to her husband? It is as if her father (not mother, of course) owns her body in the parental home and her body is later passed on to her husband, who would own her in her second domestic sphere.


marriageAfter all that’s been said and done, I do want to get married because I want to spend the rest of my life with my loved one, and because of the social and legal recognition that the institution of marriage brings.

However, there must be some ways to make this entire enterprise less patriarchal. And recognising that the existing order is demeaning to women is the first step.

Ultimately, what makes a feminist and egalitarian wedding is a personal choice. For some, it could be passing down the surnames of both husband and wife. For others, it could be through changing the phrase “man and wife” to “husband and wife”. For the Chinese, it could also be altering the gate-crashing procedure to a fun game that both bride and groom will have to play to get to each other. While walking down the aisle, both bride and groom can walk down the aisle together. Not only is this a much less awkward and nerve-wrecking process for both parties, it’s also an egalitarian one!

The adjustments are literally endless. Whatever the changes made, a feminist and egalitarian wedding is one in which choices made support the woman in the wedding and that the woman’s body is valued.

You might think that whatever happens in your engagement, wedding or marriage don’t have much impact on the advancement of women’s rights. But surely, having symbolic rites that represent a woman’s ownership and control of her own body does speak volumes about how a woman or girl should be treated in society.

estelleAbout the AuthorLiving by the motto permanent impermanence, Estelle realises that with every moment never capable of repeating itself, life is simply too short to be spent waiting for things to happen. She is currently a Sociology undergraduate who believes that the power of words and the arts can inspire conversations.


Pathbreaking Tamil movies you will love

Written by Sriraksha Raghavan

The Tamil cinema industry was a game changer in the early era of films, with movies dabbling in multiple perspective storylines (nootruku nooru), social stigmas (arangetram) and essentially trying to usher a new world by showing people a new way of life. They touched on themes that were controversial and thought-provoking. One of the most prolific directors during this time was K.Balachander and his movies had a nuanced way of tackling complex subjects. His portrayal of women was often in a progressive and honest light, showing them smart and tough and angry and scared and most of all, human, and it is something he is praised for even today. Here are just some of his movies and why they are worth watching.

Iru Kodugal

A movie about a lady who doesn’t get accepted by her husband’s family and so returns to her father while pregnant. She then goes on to become a high-profile bureaucrat under the encouragement of her father braving all odds. She raises her son as a single parent and braves the rumours spread by her co-workers who are jealous of her. The movie dealt with sensitive subjects like single parenting, divorce and workplace harassment while keeping in mind the social climate of the ‘60s making it a thought proving watch with a female lead that braved poverty and social stigma to finish victorious.


Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.22.32 amA movie about a young woman who decides to work as a sex worker in order protect her family from the clutches of poverty. The movie was very controversial at the time of its release, owing to the way the director had approached the movie, making it a gritty, honest movie about the fate of a girl who will do anything for a family that cared little about her. The protagonist is a woman who showed viewers that nothing could define her but herself, and ultimately for her, that was enough. When her family found out about her profession, they disowned her. With that, the director showed the fixations of the society that couldn’t look past its own limitations.

Aval Oru Thodar Kathai

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.24.10 amOne of his most popular movies, Aval Oru Thodar Kathai talks about a working woman who shoulders the responsibility of her family while trying to maintain a life and identity on her own. It addressed the life of an everyday woman in a way that had never been done before, as a breadwinner, a game changer. This movie is a classic for its rounded portrayal of a woman, as one who cannot be put into boxes, and is full of contradictions. By doing so, the protagonist seems genuine, a friend, a co-worker or someone we see on a bus. This was the biggest achievement of the movie, making us see the brilliance of everyday life and the genuine way women live.

Apoorva Ragangal

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.25.38 amA movie based on the complexity of human relationships, handled with authenticity and backed by incredible performances is hard to come by. Apoorva Ragangal is one such movie, which deals with the relationship of an older woman and a younger man, without stereotyping it but by handling it with tenacity. The movie breaks stereotypes about how women are expected to behave in relationships (women were expected to be subdued and accept what a man says). But here, we see the women are in charge of their lives and not afraid to go against the grain.


Moondru Mudichu

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.26.13 amThis movie is a revenge tale about a girl whose boyfriend dies in a freak accident orchestrated by his best friend, who is actually in love with her. She then seeks to avenge his death. A dark tale about love and friendship, the movie highlights the relationships of all the characters as a whole and their individual relationships, showing that humans are all neither good nor bad, but fall in that spectrum of grey. She sets out to take revenge, but what the movie ultimately highlights is, how she defines how the horrors of her will life influence her. She ultimately does not let bitterness get the better of her and instead comes out unscathed, and the strength she embodies is inspiring.

K.Balachandar was one of those men who could make everyone think, with movies that had ambitious themes grounded in reality. The cinema of today have a lot to learn from this. What we see today is unrealistic portrayal of both men and women, with exaggerated qualities of masculinity and heavy reliance on gender stereotypes (men who can fight off ten gangsters, women whose sole occupation is thinking about these men etc). This sends the wrong message to people and if we can instead take a leaf out of K.Balachander’s book and make movies about real people, our society will benefit from it.

About the Author: Sriraksha is a student with a passion for learning and believes that if you learn anything in depth, a passion for it will follow. She thinks that the best way to enrich one’s life is to enrich that of others and hopes to do that for a living one day. 


Let’s talk about abortion

Written by Camille Neale, Change Maker

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.42.52 pmEven in 2015, abortion remains a taboo subject. Until more recently it was not a topic covered much in the mainstream media. So it’s no surprise that a considerable stigma, and misinformation surrounding the topic remains. Many people continue to think of abortion as some kind of shady procedure, but in reality abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women and is actually safer than giving birth.

As a feminist, I am pro-choice, but this post is not about why women should have access to safe and legal abortions – it is about why we need to create an environment where women feel comfortable being able to talk openly about the topic, whether it is talking about their personal experience with abortion, or whether they are seeking a safe place to talk about getting one.  

Sex education and reproductive health

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.42.59 pmIn a lot of countries, including Singapore, young women don’t get much of a chance to learn about their reproductive health. Like the topic of birth control, abortion is not well-addressed in many schools’ sex education curriculums.

I remember when I was in school, we only talked about abortion in the context of pro-life vs pro-choice debates. But these classroom debates did little to teach us about the actual experience of getting an abortion, the medical process, options available to women and so on.

Because no one ever talks about it it’s easy to imagine that getting an abortion is a rare occurrence, but it’s actually a lot more common than you’d think. In the US, by age 45, one in three women will choose to have an abortion.

Social attitudes about abortion

The idea of abortion being taboo and shameful is an idea that controls women’s sexuality. We live in a world that teaches young women to feel ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality. By not talking openly about abortion we are participating in this narrative that labels sexually active women as “sluts.” It reduces women’s social role to their reproductive function, and is a huge source of stress for women who do choose to have an abortion. Not talking about it makes it seem like more of a taboo than it should be.

There are many different reasons why someone might choose to get an abortion. Sometimes planned pregnancies have to be terminated due to health reasons and even these women find that there is little support. Women who have had abortions in the past fear others finding out.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.43.11 pmWe need to address this culture of shame that prevents women from sharing their stories.  Abortion is all too frequently used as fodder for political debate by men who shouldn’t be the ones deciding what a woman does with her body. It’s no surprise that women are afraid to speak up about their experiences with abortion. When they do they have to face the possibility of being labeled a “murderer” by pro-life advocates. Women need to stop being threatened for wanting control over their reproductive rights.

A spectrum of experiences

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.43.21 pmThe absence of women’s realities in the public realm is something that we need to address, particularly when it comes to women’s health.

The medical paradigm is already based on a model that understands health through the experience of men. Women who have had abortions need greater access to mental health care and non-judgmental public forums for working through their experiences.

We can create a more empathetic dialogue where women can claim control over their bodies – this will help to humanise the narrative and move away from abortion stigma. Women should have the right to make an informed choice, and to be made aware of the kinds of options at their disposal if going through with a pregnancy is not their choice.  

I’m not saying to take abortion lightly. Like choosing to become pregnant, it is a serious decision. But women who choose to have abortions need to be given a space where they can share their experiences, whether they are positive or negative ones, without fear of their stories being co-opted by politicians to advance a pro-life agenda. While many women report feeling relieved after an abortion, some women do regret having abortions or experience sadness or guilt, and their stories should be heard too.

Access to abortion is an important part of women’s health care; by not talking about it we are strengthening the arguments of those who want to limit access to the procedure. Ultimately, the topic of abortion is about individual women’s choices.

About the author: Camille is a recent university graduate who is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She hopes that whatever that is, she will be able to wear a power suit and be really intimidating. 


Change making in real life

Written by Sumithri Venketasubramanian, Change Maker

A couple oScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.30 pmf days ago, I was scrolling through Everyday Feminism – as you do – and I came across a blog post: “You Don’t Need to Be Leading Marches for Your Activism to Matter – Here Are 5 Reasons Why”. It got me thinking about how the concepts of space and place influence our involvement in creating positive change.

Many of us have circles in which we feel comfortable talking about feminism and social justice, and these conversations often enrich our views on the inequalities of the world, at times giving us a sense of empowerment. And then there are those spaces where we choose to stay silent when jokes are cracked about women belonging in the kitchen – we might even feel pressured to give a little smile, just so as to not draw attention to yourself (“Why aren’t you laughing? Are you some kind of feminist or something?”). There are certain places where feminist discourse is encouraged,and others where it is jeered at.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.38.41 pmThere’s a phrase that goes “if you’re not fighting something, you’re enabling it”. That is, unless we’re making active efforts to go out into the world and advocate for big changes, breaking down injustices in the system and opening up the minds of society, we’re actually contributing to the discrimination and prejudices that certain people suffer as a result of due to how integrated these systems are with our everyday lives. So it would seem that if we really wanted to contribute to the battle against oppression, we would have to dedicate our lives to full-time advocacy and/or activism. But does this mean that we’ll have to stick to working with feminist organisations and groups which are influential in the women’s empowerment field? What about those feminists who have dreamed of being scientists for so much of their lives, or those who may want to open up their own bakery? Do we have to give up all of our personal (read: “selfish”) aspirations for the greater good?

The short answer is: no. The long answer is that it is not solely feminist bodies and lobby groups that can make a difference. In fact, it is in non-feminist spaces that have the greatest potential for change. As more overt forms of sexism are being increasingly frowned upon by society (though they still are very much in existence), prejudices begin to present themselves in the form of microaggressions – subtle comments and actions that are telling of the biases that one holds on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, class, appearance and/or other traits. And microaggressions are something which all of us experience – be it comments about how weak women are, or the dismissal of a woman’s anger because “she’s just on her period, don’t mind her”. The best part is: we all have the potential to make a difference.

Men’s role in gender advocacy

wrc_profilepicture_sAnd why should the burden (or honour, depending on how you see it) of ridding the world of gender-based injustices lie merely on those who suffer from them? After all, it is the privileged who have the power and means to influence systems in place which attempt to keep certain groups of people down.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a call by men around the world to their fellows, encouraging them to take a stand against violence against women. Movements like these are important, because they don’t attempt to hijack organisations and campaigns by women fighting for rights and opportunities. Rather, they attempt to take the spaces men already yield so much power and influence in and make them more feminist. It is in this approach to advocacy that institutionalised and systemic discrimination are challenged.

Feminism doesn’t just have to be about running a full-time social justice blog, or educating the masses about gender and sexism. Feminism is also in asking “wait, why is [the sexist joke that was just told] funny?”, and in speaking up against workplace harassment. Feminism is about feminism, wherever and whenever it is.

About the author: Sumithri is in a place in life where she knows what she wants to do, but also has yet to figure it out. Whatever it is, she hopes the world she leaves will be more just than the one she was born into.


“Are women funny?”

Written by Camille Neale, Change Maker

Avaca movie poster number 1 few Sundays ago, I watched the recently released Vacation. The movie is about a family in the U.S. who, in an attempt to revitalise their annual family summer vacation, decide to go on a road trip to the father’s childhood vacation spot, the fictional amusement park ‘Wally World’.

In a predictable turn of events, the trip goes from bad to worse, much like the movie. One of the opening scenes of the movie involves the younger brother teasing his older brother for “having a vagina.” I’m not really sure what the writers’ (all of whom were men) intentions were with that joke, but I think it says something about the what they think their audience will find funny. When a man is made fun of for being “like a woman,” all women are the targets of the joke, because they are saying that it is shameful to be a woman. There’s nothing wrong with raunchy humour, but there is something wrong when all the jokes the movie relies on are sexist representations of women, transphobia and off-colour racial jokes.

Diversity in mainstream media

diversity-mainThe last six or so years have seen an increasing visibility in discussions of feminism, LGBTQ rights, transgender rights, race relations etc in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, movies such as Vacation, do not reflect this and instead, represent a larger anxiety that characterises a media that is narrow at best; at worst, discouraging growth and progress by continuing the overrepresentation of white-centric and patriarchal tropes.

Vacation reminded me of the typical rom-com/comedy from the early 2000s, a formula that relies on reinforcing gender roles. The sad reality is that most TV shows and movies today continue to privilege a male perspective – not surprising considering that 83% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films in the US in 2014 were men.

It’s really time to retire these jokes that rely on archaic sexism, and it’s time we stop supporting movies that popularise awful tropes about women – tropes that are just vehicles for women-bashing.

Feminist comedy

Mindy-Project-600TV is actually faring better in terms of diversity of roles for women than movies. While there is still a ways to go in terms of racial diversity for women comics on TV, I think the rise of feminist comedians – comedians who use their comedy to push a feminist agenda – are meeting the demand of women who want comedy that speaks to their lived realities. Where they can see women characters that are more than simply the love interest or the unfunny extra. As women comprise half of the world’s population, this is a considerable target audience, to say the least.

Feminist comedy can indeed draw a wide audience, because if you write good comedy, then people will watch it. The recent success of comedy produced by, and for women such as Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City and The Mindy Project have helped to answer the age-old, sexist question: “Are women funny?” Inside Amy Schumer, a show featuring sketches, stand-up and interviews all written by Amy Schumer, draws a 50/50 men to women demographic. Almost every sketch on her show deals with gender politics. Broad City, a show with two women as the lead characters similarly deals with feminist issues. Essentially, these women are being portrayed as human beings, not as some Hollywood, male fantasy image of a woman, and they are allowed to be funny on their own terms, and this is why it is so great. These are shows about all types of women, not just one. These characters are just who they are, they deal with the comedic struggles of daily life as a woman. And they are pushing the boundaries on how women can be funny – through stoner jokes, sex jokes, and even toilet humour.

An article on Policy Mic posits that comedians are helping to push gender equality issues into the mainstream media. This is because they are able to make feminism more accessible to the general public, which somehow makes them more acceptable than gender equality advocates themselves. Nevertheless, they’re making important moves to draw attention to the very real challenges and problems of living as a woman. We are now seeing more young women willing to engage with feminism, and a better understanding of the way sexism hampers women’s experiences.

Gender advocacy

emma-watson-he-for-she-speech-1Sadly, the response to women who address feminist issues but are not comedians is much less positive. Women who seek to create a public dialogue about gendered issues are often told to be less angry, or even threatened with violence. When Emma Watson presented her ‘He for She’ campaign at the UN she received many threats of violence from men. Random men on the internet asserted that if sexually explicit photos of Emma Watson emerged online, her feminist views would be somehow less valid.

It seems that men are willing to engage with the problems of sexism if the women who talk about them are funny. This has not done much to advance the agendas of gender equality advocates however, so it’s important not to forget about these real systemic inequalities that must be tackled. What these comedians do offer is an alternative to the messages that a patriarchal mass media bombards us with. It’s time men stop being shocked when a woman tells a joke that is actually funny. Women should be allowed to be the class clowns too.


About the author: Camille is a recent university graduate who is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She hopes that whatever that is, she will be able to wear a power suit and be really intimidating.


How can I stand up against sexual harassment?

Anonymous contribution

This is a serious topic. It is also controversial, uncomfortable, and one that I’ve considered voicing before. Even today, I write this with a lot of hesitation.

If I documented all the instances of sexual harassment I’ve encountered, I could probably write chapter or two of a book by now. If someone else told me they had encountered similar situations, I would unequivocally urge them to take action immediately.

SHslider4bYet it is something I have never done. Why? Because my image and my career are way more important to me. Because I brush it off like I’ve learnt to brush off everything else unpleasant that comes my way (Because that’s life, right?). Because it is not worth the hassle to me. Because apparently not everyone has the same moral compass. Because ours is a society of victim-blaming. Or that is how I have justified it to myself time and again. I know it’s not right. But I also don’t know if this is a cause I want to get up in arms about. Because I’m comfortable in my own coping mechanisms. I am also acutely aware that it is my silence (and the silence of many others) that empowers the perpetrators.

But today, for me, a nerve was struck. I wonder what gives some men the gall to think they can say or do whatever they want, and it is fine? I imagined myself saying some of the things that have been said to me and I don’t know in what world I would think it okay to say that to another person whom I clearly interact with only in a professional manner, and have never given a reason to think otherwise.

And in each instance and interaction of this kind, it has been crystal clear to me that any respect or regard for my intellect or character is only secondary (if at all existent) to the objectification of my body. It bothers me a lot that in this day and age, capable women, who are in every way equal to their male counterparts, still need to be subjected to this objectification. It bothers me that we as a society have not yet found a solution to these fundamental issues arising out of a lack of respect (and in some cases, even consent).

I don’t know what the answer is, I honestly don’t. And, I am somewhat ashamed to say, I still stand by my very poor coping mechanism of silence. But I do know that as a society we can all do better. A lot, lot better.


How to be feminist

Anonymous contribution

What are your views on wearing makeup?

  1. It’s symptomatic of a culture where women are taught to be valued for their appearance and I refuse to give my money to an industry that profits off of women’s insecurities
  2. It’s a form of self-expression and art and I should be allowed to subvert beauty ideals with green eyebrows and black lipstick on
  3. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look conventionally beautiful so long as I’m self-aware; I will put makeup on if I want to

How about your views on Taylor Swift’s music?

  1. I think a lot of her lyrics are problematic and, thus, I don’t really want to listen to her music
  2. She’s human and she’s still learning – I won’t listen to her earlier work but I like the turn she’s taken since learning about what feminism means
  3. Her songs are catchy and fun and I genuinely enjoy listening to them. I don’t think it’s possible to listen to music that’s truly non-problematic anyway

Finally, would you ever be a stay-at-home parent?

  1. Not a chance. The glass ceiling isn’t going to break itself.
  2. It really depends on the sort of partner I’m with or whether I have a partner at all. I can’t really give you an answer without context.
  3. If I had kids, I would love to be able to stay at home to bring them up. You don’t have to be a career woman to be empowered.

What if I told you that you had to pass the above test to confidently call yourself a feminist?

taytayLuckily, and perhaps frustratingly for people looking for easy answers, every response in this test is valid. One of the dilemmas that new feminists run into early on is that of trying to reconcile their lifestyle choices with their philosophy. These range from the mundane (is it alright if I enjoy James Bond movies?) to the more definitive (can I take my husband’s last name after we get married?). What remains the same, though, is the idea that a basket of lifestyle choices can make or break one’s identity as a feminist.

The assumption undergirding this way of thinking is that feminism is a homogenous movement. It is not. Going by the basic understanding that feminism’s goal is to achieve gender equality for all, we need to appreciate that there are many means to that end. Feminists straddle many different identities – they differ in sexuality, class, race and many other lines. It makes sense then that such a diverse group of people would have dissimilar and, occasionally contradictory, approaches to fighting for gender equality.

unnamedThere are two implications of this realisation; the first is that the burden of being the “model feminist” is lifted off the individual. All too often, new feminists feel the pressure of setting an example of what it means to believe in gender equality through their actions and end up feeling conflicted because there is no straightforward answer to be found. The second is that, amidst our inevitable disagreements, there is little point in quarrelling about what is or is not “feminist enough”. News now travels at the speed of light and every action or word from a famous woman is sufficient fodder for a thousand think pieces. There is merit in having conversations like this however they shouldn’t be definitive.

Once we accept the plurality of the feminist experience, we open ourselves up to the opportunity to learn about feminists from all walks of life are resisting oppression and creating a better world to live in.


Men’s leadership for gender equality

This post was originally published as a Change Maker newsletter in October 2015. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates and tips, take the Change Maker pledge here!

I’m a guy, and I care about sexism. What can I do?

We’ve heard it before, many times, in different ways: men are an important part of the movement for gender equality. But how exactly can boys and men make a real difference?
Here are some ideas from us!

1. INTERRUPT: Sexism and “guy talk”

bigstock-hand-making-a-stop-signal-sign-162901311Catch-ups with your National Service buddies, soccer hang-outs, or just drinks with guys you like to hang out with – these traditionally “boys-only” spaces provide a lot of potential for allies to interrupt sexism should it arise.
What can you do if your best friend makes a rape joke? Or if someone makes an offhand comment about a girl’s body or dressing? There are many ways you can interrupt these instances of sexism, show that you don’t approve and get people to reflect. Humour, questions, sarcasm, or a sincere show of discomfort – any of these could work! How would you interrupt sexism in the boys’ club?
2. ENGAGE: With men, women and good ideas
other_conversation_review_comment_bubble_talk-512People aren’t always going to pat us on the back for speaking up. In order to spark real change, men need to be okay with starting conversations that nobody wants to have, and dealing with discomfort. You need to listen keenly to women’s experiences and take them seriously. Read about and follow broader discussions on gender issues that are happening now. Learning requires humility and willingness to unlearn male privilege. Speaking up is taking a risk. Are you ready for it?
3. ADVOCATE: For change, equal spaces and diversity
AdvocateNetwork-Tab1dThink about the communities you are already a part of and how you can make a difference there. In specific, think of the spaces where you have leadership and a strong voice. This might be at home, on an online space, in an interest group or a work team. For example, if an organising team you are in wants to invite a group of experts for a panel discussion, what are the factors you would consider? Is there equal representation of men and women on the panel? Are there people dominating the conversations and decision-making processes? How much of a role do women play in organising and participating?  How major are these roles and how much are women acknowledged or credited for them?
There are many strategies we can adopt if we want to shake up a system that benefits one group of people over others – so observe how these systems work in your own context, and work to dismantle them!
Get involved!
– Join Yes, All Men and SGRainbow in talking about consent in social and sexual settings. Register for the dialogue session HERE!
– Volunteer for the We Can! Arts Fest – email us at [email protected] if you want to RALLY with us on 6 December!



Open letter to those who have internalised misogyny

by Kimberly Jow, Change Maker

Hey you,

Here is a tweet I saw you retweeting, which inspired my letter to you.

girls are so annoying tweet

Internalised misogyny is upsettingly common. The words flash in my head like the visual representation of a siren whenever I hear the words, “I am not like other girls.” So no, you are not alone, and here is why that is a problem.

The composing of this tweet was deliberate. Social media lulls you into a false sense of anonymity, as if you can truly escape responsibility for the things you say on Twitter. In truth, tweeting something offensive is pretty much akin to inviting all your followers into a conference room and shouting your tweets at them through a megaphone. For the person running the above account, that comprises many, many people, most of whom she probably doesn’t know in real life. For us non-famous Twitter users, though, the conference room may be smaller, but remains valid. Composing a tweet like this lets all your Twitter followers know that you find girls annoying, and that you hate the fact that you are one. It tells them many things: that you are ashamed of your own gender, that girls are to be hated, and most importantly, that it is perfectly fine to shame girls – all girls – for one apparently unforgivable quality that you think should be called out. Tweeting the less than 140 characters invites your barest online acquaintances to collectively witness your spitting on your entire gender.

i hate girls and i am a girl tweetRetweeting this is close to writing the tweet. I barely know you, but I can tell from your tweets that you think this is funny, and it’s just a joke. To a tiny extent, it is. But that doesn’t make it harmless. The fact that you retweeted it allows your followers to see that you, an acquaintance of theirs, agree with its contents. This is no longer an “American thing”, nor is it that far off from their reality, because there you are, their classmate, their friend from church, or their neighbour, agreeing that girls are annoying and it’s terrible to be one. Suddenly, the tweet is no longer just hers. It is also yours. You have endorsed it and what it stands for.

A woman’s validation of misogynistic comments is oftentimes used by sexist people to fuel their sexism, allowing them to generalise your acceptance of sexism to everyone.

Common usages of such validation includes the infamous words, “I have a female friend who agrees that…”. (At this point, I’m not too sure if people do say this elsewhere, or the exceptions who say this are just constantly around me, but the prevalence of this phrase in my social circle shrouds me like a suffocating cloud of unprocessed raw wool from some kind of sexist sheep.) Sexists who see your retweets can and have used it as validation of their own problematic attitudes. For example, a man could tell a woman that girls are all annoying, and bring your retweet up as evidence in the face of rebuttals.

I know you didn’t mean to do all that. But intent is not impact. The fact that you have attempted to alienate yourself from the rest of your gender suggests that you think your gender is not worth standing up for, and have invited others to attack them. This stands true whether or not you really meant to do so.

Feminist Taylor Swift tweet
You go, Feminist T. Swift.

The above may sound accusatory and didactic, or unnecessarily harsh, but you have indeed accidentally done all of this. While my words are not coming from a place of anger nor blame, I do want to reach out to you and tell you the effects of your actions. I think it is time you put aside your desire to tell girls in short skirts that they are sluts, or your love for books as something other girls don’t have that makes them stupid. I also think it is time you stop seeing men’s approval as the ultimate goal for everyone, nor seeing misogyny as a tool to be more relatable to men. The road to eradicate sexism seems daunting, but small steps like changing your attitude towards fellow women is actually a great leap.

I am sorry that I never dared to actually tell you any of this, but I know it isn’t too late. I am happy that we can keep working to fight for your right to stand amongst men as equals, and I can only hope that one day you will join us.

About the Author: Kimberly is a somewhat ambitious NUS undergraduate who has always dreamed of writing her own About the Author section. She retains much hope for eventual equality, and is willing to fight the currents to get there.