The spate of confessions pages popping up everywhere has given me an interesting opportunity to confirm something I’ve been thinking for some time, that perhaps the feminists are right and Singaporeans are really quite misogynistic.
When I was about 7 or 8 months into my NS term, I started talking again to Robyn again, and, how I cannot remember, we started talking about feminism, which turned out to be a great cause of hers. I confess that at that time, my interest in it was somewhat academic, a little akin to my interest in talking about theology. So things like male privilege, rape culture and intersectionality made sense as analyses of society, but they were not things I noticed or experienced in my life. Rape culture was something that existed on college campuses, male privilege referred to WASPs in New York and intersectionality was the struggle of the black single mother living in London’s East End.
But talking about such things made me notice these things more. Rape jokes (see 1st postscript). Objectification of women. Double standards. You know, the standard feminist oeuvre. I mean, I really plead that I did not know of this before. Guys who really hate women. Who really think they are contemptible money-sucking creatures to be appeased with handbags and money. Heartless faithless worthless trash. And for some reason, stupid.
But it was always possible that my observations were uncharacteristic of the population. Perhaps the people I went to work with were particularly sexist. So I was glad SAF Confessions, a popular page with over 12,000 ‘likes’, is on hand to confirm my suspicions.
There are a few common tropes here. There is the evergreen treating women as sex objects/with blatant tastelessness:
This sort of comment, as well as complaints by women against men creepily checking them out (see NUS Confessions page) often draw comments along the lines of “guys will be guys”, or “what do you expect”. Well, it still does not make it a desirable sort of action in any way.
Another favourite is the army break-up story.
Immortalised in the terrible Jack Neo films Ah Boys to Men parts 1 and 2, the faithless woman who breaks up with you when you’re in BMT is a familiar and widely hated SAF villain. For example, the page gives us this rather despairing young lady:
“As the GF of a new recruit who has just completed PTP, I feel that the Army is retarding my boyfriend into a childish being whose spoiled traits are getting stronger everyday. Opposed to maturing into a man, he’s regressing into a negative little boy who feels he’s entitled to so many things and that everything is worthless and a waste of time. I’m starting to understand why most girls would break up with their recruit boyfriends if this is what they are like. That said, it’s only PTP, hopefully things get better soon.”
A fair enough complaint surely, but one which was not well-received. Some tried to defend the boy, but others resorted to naked hostility:
In contrast, there are a few posts by women who express sympathy for the travails of the NSF and these woman are widely lauded.
[No picture because I cherry-pick. Too bad.]
At the heart of these attitudes perhaps is the notion that women are not entitled to break up with men because they no longer like them, but must cling to them with loyalty and adoration. “If you love him enough” is a common refrain, and there is such anger that women can possibly not love their boyfriends! That they can change their minds!
Or perhaps, and this strain is independent of the other one, the complaint is against the woman’s lack of sympathy for the person’s struggles. Fault cannot be found with the BMT recruit, because hey, he’s having it tough.
All these attitudes are reflected in possibly the most hostile thread on the whole page. So much hate that this is going to take four pictures.
I hope you didn’t bother reading all that because it is depressing. As one comment pointed out, these people do not know the context, nor anything about the relationship WHATSOEVER. They did not know the extent of the commitment in the prior relationship or how it ended. And based on what little they have, they are happy to call her all sorts of names, generalise her to be typical of women, threaten her with death and the seduction of her future child.
The problem with this is that the SAF is really a cross-section of the Singaporean male population. Do so many Singaporeans really have such misogynistic attitudes? What is causing them? What can we do to stop all this abuse?
PS1: Rape jokes are something that I’ve talked about before, and I stand by it. I don’t believe all rape jokes are acceptable, but perhaps I was unclear about “depending on sexist attitudes”. The “joke” here is a clear example.
Here, name-redacted-in-white is making a “joke” which depends on the reader finding the notion of gang-raping a servicewoman every morning in the toilet funny. So this, and more sophisticated versions of this, are rape jokes that I find unacceptable.
(And how horrible is name-redacted-in-white? “Drag her into the toilet”? “Mass ritual daily event for everyone”? “Tuning”? This is just disgusting stuff.)