Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The point: you are proving it

Rarely if ever does this Chicken allow her weary gaze to rest upon the august pages of STOMP. Expecting anything other than vapid nastiness from that churning sewer of hate is rather like hoping to be surprised if you scratch your butthole and then sniff your finger.

And yet what's a bird to do, but gape in horror when the portal decides to blather on in the least informed manner possible about the growing SlutWalk movement?
STOMPer Handsome Boy wonders if this movement is really necessary in Singapore,
It is. For proof, see the rest of your article.
and if it might send out the wrong message to the young.
"Don't rape, and don't be an asshole about rape." WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN.
But I don't know if this whole SlutWalk thing is necessary or relevant in Singapore, or if it's just another copycat idea by women here who think that just because some women in a Western country is affected by it, they should be too.
Let me get this straight. You can't be bothered to pull your head out of your armpit for two seconds to note that victim-blaming and slut-shaming are alive and well in Singapore - so alive and so well they are legally codified. Instead, it seems to you, it is more likely that women in Sngapore, after years of frolicking joyfully in a perfect feminist paradise, have decided we want to be "affected by" rape culture because... because... because the West is. Hey, who cares about facts when we can simply assume utterly implausible behaviour on the part of women?

Handsome Boy (I hate him just for making me type that name) goes on to worry that
young girls might get the wrong message -- thinking that dressing provocatively is OK.

I'm not saying that it's not all right for women to dress sexy (not naughty)
Yes, these two sentences are included back-to-back. Your guess, my friends, is as good as mine.

"Sexy (not naughty)" is also clearly not at all some arbitrary bullshit standard. How'm I gonna sleep tonight, knowing my clothing choices might not be approved by Handsome Boy?
but if they feel that they have the right to dress the way they like, then it's not fair for them to get upset when men stare at them, because the men can argue that they are free to look at whatever they like too!
You appear to be missing a key basic concept here. You know, the one which involves the bodies in question belonging to the women who are dressing them and not to the men who are behaving like dehumanising jackasses.

Staring at anyone in public with disregard for their comfort is rude. Arguing that women are fair game for rude behaviour, by virtue of being women going about in the world in clothing, is misogynist.

Not content with hosting Handsome Boy's poop, STOMP goes on to post some pictures of mostly headless women (and one bum) and asks us to tell them "which of these you consider 'slutty' or inappropriate and why".

As far as I can see, no one has yet commented that every single picture which objectifies and dehumanises women is inappropriate - in public space in general, and on a post about a women's rights movement in particular. But someone has commented saying:
SlutWalk? Hmm... Mass rape anyone?
...so, you know. STOMP's lovingly cultivated safe house for misogynists serves its purpose once again. And proves even more why SlutWalk is so necessary.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What We Stand For

It's very difficult to get a fish to understand that water is wet. Some would say impossible. Especially because the only way to achieve this, really is to hold the fish out of water for a while, but the shock of it makes the experience less than instructive, for the most part.

Looking at the kyriarchy is like that. We've swum in it, breathed it in, and when we are made aware of it for the first time, it makes us acutely uncomfortable. This happens because it is the first time we starkly realise that life isn't fair, that the individual is not as in control of his/her on circumstances as much as we would like to believe. It's also the first time we're made to think about our own privilege and realise that there are things we've gained in life because we belong to the right groups and classes. The first time is never an instructive moment, because it's very difficult to push past the gasping horror and discomfort at it all.

We understand that, and we keep blogging, because hopefully, the more you see these things, the more the discomfort will subside. Ideally, the discomfort will give way into outrage, into an attitude of "What can we do about this?" Before that though, we need to look at some of the assumptions the people who find their way here are making.

With that, I'm now going to respond to a comment made by someone who is still operating from a position within the kyriarchy.

The comment:
Xavier said...

Does Slutwalk plan to take a stand against false rape accusers?
Or are all rape accusations supposed to be viewed as completely true?
The short answer is no.

The long answer, is no, because we don't have to. Before I delve into why we don't have to secure that front, let me turn that question around a little. Do we regularly ask if a stand needs to be taken against people who report being burgled? Who report being robbed? Who report being assaulted? These are all crimes that involve one party aggressing another, yet we dont feel a pressing need to get up in arms about these charges.

Rape, on the other hand, seems to get everybody all fired up.

This persistent attitude that "the bitch is lying" means that the cost for a woman to allege rape is very high. This is particularly true if the case is taken to court, where the accuser's past sexual history is dredged out as a possible defense (to properly see how absurd this is, think of someone being mugged - the person whose wallet was stolen is never asked about the many times they've walked that route with a wallet on their person and then being treated as a liar for it). This is so traumatic that in the UK, 97% of accusers attrition out of their court hearings. Take that statistic, against the well-researched figure that only 5.9% of all rape allegations are false and you see why we don't have to take a stand against false rape accusations. I'll even spell it out for you in case you haven't quite been able to follow along: we currently live in a society where the default is to treat anyone alleging rape as a lying slut. The stand has already been taken. (See also: Rape Culture)

This default stand is harmful and disenfranchises victims of sexual assault. And there are many of them. And they deserve better.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"A critique of SlutWalk Singapore? Try again." by Desirée Lim.

ETA 22 June 2011: You can read Ben Cheah's reply to Desirée Lim's piece and Lim's further deconstruction of that email at her Facebook note. And if one's feeling extra intrepid, one can witness more FAIL from Cheah here: (TRIGGER WARNING - and yes, you have to copy and paste the address if you really want to feel the pain) https://www.facebook.com/notes/benjamin-cheah/the-blame-dialogues/183967081658348. As far as the farm is concerned, we're no longer entertaining Cheah's rubbish on this subject.
Readers will remember our 'favourite' rape-victim-blaming, Rational Male BloggerTM Benjamin Cheah from a while back. Well, Cheah has resurfaced from what little manhole in which he resides to offer more useless cents (and sense) on the proposal to host SlutWalk in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The farm is honoured and most delighted to host our first guest post, this lovely response to Cheah by frequent #sgfeminists contributor, Desirée Lim. This is x-posted here.

Today I came across a blog post titled "Slutwalk: noble but misguided" by Benjamin Cheah. I am personally for Slutwalk and am pleased that it's coming to Singapore, but as I believe it's important to critique the things we support, I decided to read it. I hoped to read something that could shed light on SlutWalk's shortcomings and limitations in a Singaporean context, which I have been ruminating over the last few days: boy was I disappointed. If anything, it's shown me, all the more, how goddamned pervasive the exact attitudes SlutWalk stands against are, "academically" expressed or not, and how important it is so rally against them. Here is a brief response.
SlutWalk Singapore x Kuala Lumpur’s Facebook page says that one of its goals is ‘to stop victim-blaming in sexual assault, which is a crime that has nothing to do with what we wear or even sex.’ This reveals a dangerous misunderstanding of sexual assault.

Clothing matters. Rapists prefer women who wear clothes that are easy to remove. Rapists want to do the deed as quickly as possible, to minimise risk to themselves. The more time they spend removing clothes, the more time the victim has to defend herself and call attention to the rape-in-progress. Rapists aren’t necessarily turned on by scantily clad targets – but they will prefer targets who are easier to attack.
Naturally, this paragraph displays an excellent understanding of sexual assault, far superior to that of Slutwalk's! So rapists regularly sit around evaluating women's attire, poised to attack the first woman who has clothes that are "easy to remove".

Rapist: "Hmmm. This one's wearing a jacket, so nah. Shit, that one is wearing stockings and ripping them off is going to hinder my rape, so I'll let her off. Damn it, HER dress has BUTTONS on!"

The next time I walk out in a dress with a zip down the back (I can't think of any other article of clothing that would be easier to remove - maybe my old sweatpants that are loose around the waist and can thus be swiftly yanked down?), God help me. In fact, I should conduct sartorial experiments, just in case - does anybody want to volunteer to rip off a series of my outfits so I can be absolutely sure?
A protest march is a public expression of group opinion – but rapists don’t care. They don’t see themselves as part of society. (More on that below.) Protests can’t pressure someone who won’t feel it.

Workshops, fora and meetings attract people who have a stake in the topic. Rapists do not. They won’t show up. They may know someone who attended such a workshop – so they’ll just take her and her friends off their target list, if they care. Or put them on the list, if they care that much. (Again, more below.)
How does this invalidate SlutWalk? Cheah seems to be suggesting that it is pointless because rapists are not going to join women in the march, speaking out against victim-blaming. By the same logic, protest marches against any kind of injustice would be useless as well, since the perpetrators are probably not going to join in. Moreover, did anyone ever suggest that SlutWalk would stop rape? I doubt so. What we're more interested in is changing preponderant public attitudes towards rape - the very attitudes that Cheah himself, as I will show later, cheerfully propounds. He later continues along the same lines: A predatory rapist isn’t moved by popular outrage. He doesn’t even see himself as part of society. A social rapist doesn’t care…and may turn on ‘his’ woman if he learns she took part in something like SlutWalk. It’s not rape to him; he’s just putting her in his place. Right, and we feminists simplistically believe that SlutWalk can "move" and dissuade rapists. The day a protest march moves rapists to tears when they think about their wrongdoings ("This is it! I'll NEVER RAPE AGAIN!"), I'll eat my hat.
The heart of SlutWalk’s stance on rape is its attack on ‘victim-blaming’. SlutWalk believes that society pins all the ‘blame’ of a rape on the victim instead of the rapist. On the surface, this is only logical. A rapist committed a rape, therefore the rapist is to blame. But this is a shallow way of looking at rape – the rape probably occurred because the victim didn’t look after herself.
What did I tell you? Can a deep, incisive, correct way of looking at rape point us back to (gasp) victim-blaming? If you can bear to, let's read on.
Predatory rapists like to ambush their targets. The key word is ambush. They wait in dark, secluded areas, and assess everybody who walk by. As soon as they see a target, they strike. Predators can be avoided by going where they can’t hide and not provoking an attack. Personal safety is beyond the scope of this blog, but for more information, there are plenty of books and websites available. I favour Marc MacYoung, Gavin De Becker, and Rory Miller. While geared towards an American audience, much of what they say applies across cultures and borders. More importantly, they make sense, and their tactics work.

Social rapists are people you interact with. To avoid being raped by them, cut them out of your life, and spread the word about them. Potential rapists tend to fit a profile: if you know what to look for, you can take appropriate measures. They’re not that difficult to spot; they tend to be misogynistic bullies or slick charmers.

Most rapes occur because a woman took a risk, and got burned. She took a risk by walking down a dark alley, by ignoring the three young men lined up against a wall, by leaving a charming handsome stranger alone with her drink, by continuing to live with her abusive husband, and she paid the price. But these are avoidable risks. Most crimes occur this way. It’s controllable, even eliminated in some cases.
Now, two things. I first need to point out how ludicrous the second paragraph is. So, to avoid being raped, I am responsible for developing an internal Rapist Detector that enables me to systematically de-friend any rapist that could inhabit my friendspace. What's more, Cheah claims that they're "not that difficult to spot". I would love to personally introduce him to all my friends, just so he can tell me, afterwards, who is most likely to rape me - lest I suffer the consequences. It's easy! Cheah also conveniently ignores the fact that many rapists are people that you cannot easily disassociate yourself from with the click of a button - what about family members? Work superiors? Husbands you have young children with? Is it my fault that I am raped, or is it their fault for raping me? No prizes for the correct answer.

Secondly, being strongly against victim-blaming doesn't mean that we can't encourage people to be careful. There is a reason why I avoid walking alone in the dark by myself. It is perfectly natural for me to ask a female friend to send me a text when she reaches home safely. Before I left for university my mother gave me a flashlight/alarm hybrid that I was supposed to set off if someone tried to assault me (I never used it). The problem arises, however, when we say, not only that rape happens because we fail to do these things, but that we, as Cheah implies, have it coming.

Let me use a simple example. This point has been explained to death by more capable feminists, so feel free to skip over it, unless you need to be disabused. I am an amateur sailor who decides to go boating in an extraordinarily violent storm. No doubt, I am taking a risk because I choose to go boating in a storm. If I drown as a result, it will be my foolishness at fault, even if no one will say it at my funeral. How is this different from a woman who takes a risk by walking down a dark alley that might be populated by rapists? The key here, which so many people fail to grasp, is agency. Storms have no agency, but rapists (hopefully) do. A storm will continue to rage no matter what, but rapes happen because rapists actively decide to rape. A woman who does - or fails to - do x is in no danger of rape if men do not choose to rape. If we blame the victim and not the rapist, we are assuming that rapists, like storms, are an uncontrollable constant we should accept as a fact of life. Men rape. That is normal. They can't help it. If we believed this, I seriously think it would be a huge insult to men in general.

With the aid of another analogy:

Either: To stop rape, women take EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE PRECAUTION to make sure they don't get raped. This includes, as Cheah suggests, wearing clothing that is difficult to take off (like thick leather onesies with conspicuous locks on) and fine-tuning their aforementioned Rapist Sensors. Disappointed, potential rapists give up and go home.

Or: Potential rapists stop themselves from raping.

Either: To stop ourselves from being hit by drunk drivers, we make sure we TAKE EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE PRECAUTION to make sure we don't. We wear fluorescent clothing and refuse to cross roads, ever. Otherwise, it is our fault for being hit.

Or: People stop drink-driving.

Which looks more sensible? I leave it to the reader.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A journo's juvenile jeers

Journalist Joyce Hooi has weighed in on the whole degradation-of-divorce-proceedings-into-a-flesh-parade barfery that my dear comrade Porky talked about. Hooi's argument, as far as she has one, is that there's no problem with courts treating all divorcing women as hawkers peddling themselves as commodities in a jolly old meat market, because that's precisely what divorcing women are. Products which can be helpfully ranked to assist browsing consumers, since all straight men are exactly the same and can classify all women on the same one linear scale of what they want in a mate.

I excerpt Ms Hooi's offering with humble observations of my own.
THIS weekend, when men in bars all over Singapore size up the pickings available, they will use a new lexicon for attractiveness: a woman will be either 'lump sum' or 'monthly' instead of 'hot' or 'have a few more drinks before you look again'.
Women are "pickings", to be rated by a cost to quality ratio. Charming.
This was triggered by the divorce settlement of a 37-year-old Vietnamese Singaporean woman in which another judge had asked if the woman in question was attractive.
Why is her background even mentioned? As a commenter on Piggy's entry pointed out, you have to wonder if this question has arisen in part because of the nasty stereotypes Singaporeans have about Vietnamese women.
From the subsequent appeal of the lady in question - the maintenance sum for her son had been cut from $12,000 to $600, among several things - I have no choice but to imagine that she's the spitting image of Gisele Bundchen.
Pay attention here, this is a real live example of sexist culture at work. The original report was quite careful to state that "attractiveness" isn't assessed purely on physical terms - which doesn't make the assessment any less problematic, since it still assumes that all divorcing women will and should get remarried, and that women are essentially interchangeable commodities of varying quality. But Ms Hooi has neatly elided this to ensure the discussion is all about women's appearances again, thus using a bad judgment to further an even worse cultural trope! Skilful work.
The cut in child maintenance might not have been solely influenced by the woman's attractiveness, of course, and might have something to do with the fact that $12,000 is a lot of Xbox 3 games, but that's fodder for another column.
Please don't write it. We don't like you.
In any case, enraged feminists (a redundancy, if there ever was one) have objected to the idea that looks have any bearing on alimony.
Yeah, we're pissed off. Gee, you noticed? Quite obviously, being frequently pissed off can only mean we don't really have anything to be pissed off about. It's a mathematical law:

{ IFF* Cause = 0, THEN feminist = enraged }

*IFF: If and only if
Her name is Joyce Hooi, and logic is her weapon.
The two main links in the argument that they object to are: attractiveness is objective, and attractiveness is an indicator of how quickly you can get someone to say 'I do'.

The short rebuttal to both arguments is: surely you kid.
You need to make the long ones, because the short one is lousy.

Actually, on second thought, please don't.
The longer one to the first concern about the subjectivity of attractiveness is this: while there might be room for quibbling about how someone is more of a 7 than an 8, the gulf between a 2 and an 8 is wide enough for most people to see (unless, of course, you're Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Railing against the objective definition of beauty is like saying that America's Next Top Model is bunk; it is futile and makes everyone suspect that the person doing the complaining is ugly.
She's doing the logic thing again! Everybody take cover! Here I refer you to the frolics of some friends of the barn on Twitter (or Clucker, as I would like to see it renamed):
illyrica: Joyce Hooi playground reasoning: "If you object you are ugly haha!" OK I'm ugly. Big fucking deal. This makes me wrong how?

MizHalle: she considers ugly people to be worth less than non-ugly ones so she doesn't have to listen to them
and if you disagree with her article you must be ugly.
So therefore, if you disagree with her article she automatically doesn't have to listen to you!
And therefore, she's automatically always right!
Circular logic FTW! *shoots things*
As a matter of fact, Hooi is simply wrong. It may well be the case that in the artificial playground of Hollywoodified media, there is an "objective" scale of "attractiveness" against which people can be ranked, according to their ability to meet some arbitrary checklist of requirements.

But back on planet Earth, when it comes to the daily grind (heh, heh) of people meeting others, and getting to know one another, and deciding who they like or don't like, and fitting their values and tastes and senses of humour and different sexualities together, and dare I say it falling in love, there simply isn't a scale. We aren't all in the hopeless thrall of the latest Mr & Miss Universe. Many of us yearn for actual people who touch us (giggle) in highly individual ways. There are certainly people who never cultivate brains of their own, and only ever strive for partnerships and marriages as status symbols to be valued in the way that the television producers and the glossy magazine editors tell them to. But they are fewer than they believe, and public policy shouldn't be made around them.
Diversion aside, the other concern - that attractiveness does not have a correlation with chances of remarriage - is naive. Some have brandished the Women's Charter, saying that physical attributes are not mentioned.

The Women's Charter (which begins titillatingly with the definition of 'brothel' but sobers up pretty quickly thereafter) mentions 'income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources' of both parties as some of the determinants of maintenance quantum.

Since marriage is correlated with financial security especially where a woman is concerned, why can't her marriageability be considered part of her earning capacity? The day Donald Trump breaks with tradition and marries a Plain Jane, I will stand corrected.
Open your eyes. Every day people enter relationships and/or marriages that confound the shallow expectations of your sexist media narrative, a narrative which calls them "exceptions" or "oddities" and then pretends they don't exist. "Plain Janes" - that is, the vast majority of normal human beings, who have better things to do than get hung up on boring media stereotypes - get married all the time. Your glib correlations are not borne out by reality.

But also importantly, not everyone wants to get married. Not everyone who gets divorced wants to get remarried. Being married is often, for women, actually quite a bad idea. Not everyone who wants to get remarried can do so to the person of their choice, because same sex marriage is still not possible. The courts of law have no business financially penalising people for not wanting to treat their personal relationships as bargaining currency.

But it gets better. Ms Hooi then tries to pretend she is against reducing people to their appearances and for women's rights:
One of the many studies done found that plain people earn 5-10 per cent less than average-looking people, who in turn earn 3-8 per cent less than those who are good-looking.


If a relative lack of attractiveness qualifies as an impediment to your capacity to make a living, it confounds me that people would object that the courts try to redress that imbalance. Some have railed against the idea that women rely this much on marriage. But they do; studies in America have shown that single parents consider their economic situation far more precarious than married parents.

And if you argue on the basis that marriage is simply a technicality that can be postponed even by good-looking women, then the court's approach can be seen to be incidentally progressive. Even if a beautiful women never marries, she is likely to be better taken care of by the workplace and quicker to find a companion who will split the COE with her, compared to a plainer woman.
How exactly are the courts redressing any imbalance here whatsoever? Is the daily objectification and prejudice faced by women over our appearances going to be reduced by this judgment, or is it strengthened by this institutional support? (Hint: the answer is in the first paragraph of your column.)

It might also be good to ask what, in reality, is the "advantage" that Ms Hooi believes "more attractive" women enjoy over "less attractive" ones? Consider the experience of job seekers in China:
In China, sexual harassment and being asked to sleep with interviewers in a tough job market was a very real concern to my friends in their final year of university, and they themselves attributed it to men being valued so highly that women are asked to ‘give a little something extra’ to be considered.
The imbalance that needs redress can't be seen for what it really is without understanding the role gender plays in this. The problem isn't "hot" and "ugly" women battling it out in a vacuum-sealed room of our own. The problem is misogyny, which women are encouraged to ignore while we battle one another for the scraps tossed to the "pretty". The problem is misogyny, and the solution won't be found by defining women as commodities whose value depends on heterosexual male use.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Family law, not Ms Singapore pageantry, pls.

The farm was fazzled this morning when it learnt that a court judge called into question the attractiveness of a divorcee in deciding the quantum and form of her maintenance. The case was brought to public attention as the claimant filed for a review of the judgement on grounds of biasness. I append the contentious portion of the article, with emboldening to my whimsy (read the full article after the cut):
Divorce and the attractive woman
Straits Times
K. C. Vijayan
3 June 2011, Friday

A JUDGE who asked during a divorce settlement hearing if the wife involved was attractive was not being biased, the High Court has ruled.

Dismissing a move by the woman for a judicial review of the case, Justice Choo Han Teck said that was not an irrelevant question for a judge to ask.

He said the court could take into account a woman's prospects of remarriage when deciding the financial support she should receive from her former husband, and whether it ought to be a lump sum rather than monthly payments.

Justice Choo's judgment, released yesterday, explained why he rejected the woman's application for a judicial review to set aside the court orders to settle maintenance issues between her and her former husband.

Lawyers contacted yesterday said that in deciding on maintenance for a divorced woman, the court could consider her attractiveness.

That did not mean only her looks but also other attributes, such as her character, that might affect her prospects of marrying again, said family lawyer Koh Tien Hua.

'The possibility of remarriage is one of the factors the court considers in deciding on the quantum of maintenance payments the woman should get,' he said.

Monthly maintenance payouts lapse when a woman remarries.

Family lawyer Rajan Chettiar said a woman's remarriage prospects were not a factor in the maintenance assessment, pointing to the Women's Charter and his own experience in dealing with family cases.

The Charter lists the woman's age, financial needs and status among factors to be considered when deciding on maintenance.

But the courts have the discretion to consider attractiveness as well when deciding on alimony.
Before I continue, I'd like to remind readers that we on the farm have many issues with the current outdated conception of the Women's Charter and call for a more comprehensive review/amendment. But let's focus today's discussion squarely on the problems of including a woman's attractiveness and the possibility of her remarrying in determining the quantum and/or form of her maintenance (monthly pay-outs or lump-sum).

Alimony is based on the idea that a man entering a marriage becomes legally obliged to provide for his wife throughout and past that marriage. ("Till death do us party; in sickness and in health, etc" ya?) The obligation however terminates when the receiving party enters into a new marriage/contract, as said woman now has a new partner who's taking on these obligations.

Upon dissolution of the marriage, the former husband is automatically obliged to provide for his ex-wife. The maintenance sum is usually dependent on the wealth and financial needs of both parties, although admittedly this is sometimes hard to pin down accurately. There are also many good reasons that people may choose to file for a lump-sum pay out (eg. ailing ex-husbands, cutting ties and moving on, etc) and we respect people's and the court's decision on this. However, we think that, by default, maintenance should be made monthly. This will, after all, be quite befitting of the term "maintenance".

By tying alimony to the *perceived* marriageability of a woman, the court not only assumes but basically frames marriage as a goal for divorcing women. While remarriage is a proposition we're perfectly all right with, should divorcees find someone new (or old) with whom they wish to reenter the institution all over again, there needs to be an understanding that a failed marriage - for many reasons - may very well mean the end of the pursuit of marriage (but not love) for many - this can have little to absolutely no relation to one's looks at all.

As learned as our judiciary may be, I doubt it's vested with the premonitory powers to accurately assess the marriageability of people. Does the courts' assessment, which apart from looks also includes "other attributes, such as her character" (OOoooOohhh, how holistic!), necessarily lead to the divorcees' getting married? What happens when changes (physical and otherwise) occur after the ruling, and these women suddenly drop in ratings (by the courts' standards, not ours) to get remarried? We can haz maintenance review, puhlease? This doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that someone being attractive (by whoever's standards and terms) doesn't mean that they can/will get re/married.

Let's consider the scenario between two women: Ms A who's deemed more likely to get remarried and Ms B who's deemed less likely. Say both women remarry say some 40 years down the road, when they're all of 75 years old: does the court then suggest that Ms A deserves to receive less money than Ms B in the interim 30 years because... What? She didn't do her best to get herself hitched to the chap much earlier, in which case her maintenance term would have terminated itself? If you sense a disconnect here, it's likely because there really isn't any relevance in how much maintenance a woman deserves based on her marriageability.

When did our jurisprudence enter the remit of beauty pageantry to be able to (legally) determine the physical attractiveness (to the ends of marriageability) of any person? Wait, of course ANY ONE, much less a judge, can determine this! This is because there're no absolute definitions of beauty, so any assessment of it necessarily relies on fancies of the beholder/s. An assessment of a woman's attractiveness, therefore, can really neither be conclusively right nor wrong. It is precisely because of this bloody arbitrariness that one's looks cannot and should not be relevant in the decision-making process of maintenance allocation.

What would possess anyone to even begin to consider a woman's chances of remarrying and her looks to be a legitimate factor of the sum and method of maintenance!?!? I understand certain paternalistic reasons for framing a woman's goals and worth as a wife/mother, and also the over-reliance on the institution of marriage and the extended family network for all sorts of social support (e.g. healthcare, public housing, etc). But these are grossly outdated models of human relations, with entailing problematic policies, that all need revision, instead of being further propped up and encouraged by anyone.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Brave inheritor".

Another short passage from Rebecca Traister's Big Girls Don't Cry, this time on the inheritance of privilege, from one generation to another:
In some cases the sentiments of dissenting young women were practically love letters from a purportedly ungrateful generation. Responding to Linda Hirshman's piece about her mother issues, Courtney Martin wrote in the American Prospect, "I have gained an immeasurable amount from the wise, older women who have challenged my views on this election and other issues within a context of complexity. These women have made me a better thinker, a better writer, a better feminist, and a better human. And because of them, I will not cower, but I promise to be grateful. I will not forget, but I must also move on. I will not be a dutiful daughter, but I promise to be an impassioned, authentic, and brave inheritor.


It was true, [Gloria] Steniem acknowledged, that many of her contemporaries "were not appreciated enough for the hard work and the sacrifice and so on. But you cannot now exact the price from your daughters. Even Susan. B. Anthony said, 'Our job is not to make young women grateful. It's to make them ungrateful.'" (pp162-163)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Farm Awards: Your Candidate and Their Track Records

ETA 28 Apr 2011: Singapore Democratic Party published their manifesto yesterday, and they have an exclusive section on women's issues AND disability rights. We won't rate them against the other parties/candidates as it's past our deadline, but we strongly encourage everyone to head over there to read it!

Candidate Rating Table

(JPEG on Picasa; downloadable)

67-page Assessment of Candidate/Party Quotes

(PDF on Google Doc; downloadable.)

Fur and feathers are flying. In preparation for the elections, we on the farm have done some homework, looking into the stances various parties and candidates have taken on some issues close to our animal hearts. Drawing on parliamentary records, party manifestos and websites and some personal blogs of candidates, we've put together remarks from a number of candidates on topics including: abortion rights, parental benefits & family building (single parents, paternity leave), sexual autonomy (sex education, enforcement, sexual orientation & employment rights), sexual violence (marital rape, inmate rape & child abuse) & workplace sexual harassment, foreign domestic workers’ rights (with a small mention of foreign worker spouse), and a bit of disability rights.

As you can see above, we've put it all together in two nice fat tables. One sets out direct quotations from candidates, and our remarks. The other is a chart which shows our assessments of candidates' track records on each topic, with a four-colour rating system to show whether we Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree or Strongly Agree. (Sometimes we've put Disagree or Strongly Disagree when we haven't necessarily found them saying outrageous things, but the party statements on a subject in their manifesto are extremely limited and cannot do the subject justice.)

We'll hopefully also be publishing individual blog posts on certain topics over the coming days.

We like honesty, so we're going to admit a number of limitations here. We've done some searches but we can't pretend to have covered everything under these headings. If you have any further information about the policy intention of candidates or parties that we've missed out, please send it in.

There's also a lot more we wanted to cover, but didn't. Trans rights. Sex workers' rights. More on employment discrimination, including unfair termination for pregnancy. More detailed research on disability rights, rather than the very little we've found. But as a motley bunch of frazzled farm stock, we haven't got very far. Again, if you have more information to share, please hit up the farm email.

We also recommend reading the material with a heavy dose of understanding of some background facts:

1) Whatever the appearance of internal dissent within the PAP, the actual policy results you get by voting for them is easily determined as a matter of record. For example, we have some quotations from a handful of PAP MPs advocating sensible positions well at odds with what the government actually does, but this may not be very significant, as long as these particular backbenchers don't have much direct input into ministerial policy formation. So tread with caution.

2) We're publishing what we've found online. It is difficult to find information on the Internet about what some of the parties think on many issues. This may reflect their lack of policy intention in these areas, or it may reflect their failure to put it on the Internet. Be aware that there are silences here.

3) Good rankings on particular points aren't necessarily an endorsement of the candidate as a whole or their parties (see, for example, point 1). There are lots of other topics that we on the farm think are important, like economic equality, education, and freedom of speech. We're just trying to help build a fuller picture of the positions that have been taken on particular issues that matter to us.

Read, share, and discuss our findings. And vote well.