This week, I’ve had many thoughts swirling in my head, which I thought needed a post all by itself, rather than put it down in my weekly update, where it may not be really relevant.
One of the big news in the papers last week was about the risqué and sometimes obscene games played at the freshmen orientation at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Apparently, this is common in other Singapore universities too – Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU). Reports said that the games were very sexualised in nature with some even invoking feelings of incest.
Orientation camps are a chance for the incoming freshmen to meet other new students and make friends. As parents of young teens who will soon get into one of these universities (hopefully), this is cause for concern to me. Since all Singaporean and Singapore Permanent Resident males have to complete their national service before they enter university, this means that there is a two-year gap in age between the men and women who enter the freshman year. This becomes as much as six years or more when you compare a female freshman versus a male final year student.
Some students (both male and female) who were at the orientation didn’t feel that the games were wrong, which lead me to think how they thought of female emancipation. Games like this, which are often under the leadership of the student council and perhaps the university management tacitly condone sexism and misogyny at a very impressionable age. It becomes worse because, in these games, it’s often the men who play the aggressor and the women, the victims. I am a feminist and I strongly believe that when young men look at women in such a sexual way, in what is essentially a very non-sexual environment, then it leads them to be conditioned to think of women in such ways in other such non-sexual environments such as at work. This leads to a life-long tendency to believe that women are very inferior to them and always act in ways which do not demonstrate true gender equality. I guess when men who do not want to take part in such games, protest, they are then ridiculed and called names for being wimps!
The university has stopped all these games for this year at least and hopefully this will lead to a serious review on what can and cannot be acceptable.
This actually leads to the other thing I have been thinking about for a week now. I usually steer clear of politics and since I am not a political commentator, I like to leave that to the experts. But I am sure everyone, including me, is watching the US Presidential elections run-up. I was very happy when the democrats finally (really finally!) elected a woman to become their nominee, in what was a historical moment in the history of the country. I along with millions of women worldwide cheered at this, but I was also a bit perturbed that it took them almost 240 years after independence to have a woman at spitting distance of the highest office in the country. For a country which calls itself the ‘greatest country in the world’, this is a bit disturbing as it does not really show that this greatness also lies in the equality of its daughters and sons.
However, the most disturbing part of the election campaign has been the republican nominee. I cringe each time I read about his comments on women, minorities, the disabled, (basically everyone except the traditional white male). At times I think nobody can be like this – misogynistic, rash and irresponsible, and wonder if this is the persona he has adopted to win the elections, then I read another article about him, going back to before he was the nominee and decide I was wrong, maybe he is like that in real life too. Then I really shudder and think of the country and its future.
As a woman, as someone who passionately believes in the equality of the sexes and as someone who believes in equal rights for everyone, I really hope this person does not win. If he does, women’s lib and emancipation will probably retrograde back to 1776 when America became free of the British and the words “Freedom”, “Liberty” and “Equality” are just words in the constitution