When one thinks of the term “misogynist”, one conjures up the image of a chauvinistic man with outdated ideas of women and sexuality. While this may be true to some extent, it is not entirely accurate. Although I loathe admitting it, it appears that women are equally guilty (if not more guilty) of misogyny.
Women are the harshest critics of themselves and of each other. Far from a sisterhood of nurturing support, women are very often their own worst enemies when it comes to the advancement of women’s rights.
Take the recent tragedy of housewife Tan Sze Sze’s suicide for example (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/mother-and-son-found-dead-in-bedok-reservoir.html). In a final act of desperation, Tan drowned herself and her son. It was speculated widely by the press that she was facing marital problems and feared losing her son in a legal battle with her husband. She was not well educated and the complicated court system bewildered her.
In a black and white world, her actions are of course reprehensible. In her bid for death, she should not have dragged in her three year old son.
In the aftermath of this incident, people have been quick to judge. Many have called her selfish while others have denounced her as a murderer and an unfit mother. Few took the time to see the sheer desperation she must have been feeling. Her family and friends have said she lived for her son. She loved him more than anything in the world but in her depression, she feared that if her husband won custody, his new girlfriend would ill-treat her son. This woman needed help but in a society that was more ready to condemn than understand, she didn’t stand a chance. In a society that refuses to openly acknowledge mental illness, Tan did not get the treatment she so obviously needed. She may not even have been aware of her growing symptoms of depression. However, instead of recognising our collective failure as a society, we have chosen to label and blame the poor unfortunate woman.
It is sobering to note that other women pronounced the most severe judgments on Tan. What a travesty! Despite how women have fought for equal rights, we are still stuck in the mindset of blaming the woman when things go wrong! How about Tan’s husband? How about the allegation that he ran off with another woman and threatened his increasing fragile wife with taking her son away from her? Surely, he had a role to play in this tragedy? Of course, I am not blaming him for this unfortunate incident. But I would like to remind everyone that there are two sides to every story and we should not be too hasty to judge. As women, we should also seek to be more empathetic to the struggles that other women go through.
It is ironic that while clamouring for more rights, women are still unconsciously displaying the very same stereotyping we profess to fight against!
Abortion is another issue where women take one step forward but two steps back. Women have abortions for a myriad of reasons. Some have financial difficulties; some are emotionally and mentally not ready for a child. Others are students or are unmarried without family support and fear the stigma of having a child out of wedlock. Some may even be victims of rape or incest. In some cases, there may be health reasons involved.
Whatever the case, the whole thrust of the feminist movement is the freedom of choice for women and this includes a woman’s right over her body. If she does not want to have a baby, she should not be judged for it. But yet, the staunchest critics of women who have had abortions are other women!
It never ceases to shock me that modern women who have had the privilege of choice in so many areas of their lives are denying other women the very same freedom of choice on the basis that some choices are less moral than others. To me, that simply reeks of hypocrisy. The fundamental principle behind feminism is the right for a woman to choose the direction of her life and that choice should be equally applied, be it to pursue a corporate career, to be a stripper, to be a stepford wife, to have a baby or to have an abortion.
Even women who have chosen not to have an abortion have faced stern judgment from other women. It appears to be a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Remember Maia Lee, that Singapore Idol contestant? When she first rose to fame in Singapore, more attention was placed on the fact that she was a single mother than her singing abilities. As expected, society rushed to judge her; criticising her for not having had an abortion and labeling her, wait, can you guess? Yes, you got it “UNFIT MOTHER”. Again, much of the bitching has come from other women.
It is a bitter pill for feminism indeed that women can embrace certain aspects of choice but deny other women the same right. Isn’t choice simply a right to take charge of your life?
Why is it that women cannot simply be looked at as human beings who can be both bad and good at the same time? Why do we have to be either the madonna or the whore when in truth, we can be both? Men are certainly not pigeon holed to the same extent.
Very often, society recognises men as bad husbands but good fathers. Even Stalin has been recognised as a loving husband! This begs the question, why are women not given the same privilege? Before pointing the finger at men, women have to examine their own conduct for more often than not; it is women who perpetuate these unfair standards.
Women are still being stereotyped by the supposed roles they are meant to play in society and judged for their failures at performing these imposed roles.
However, before we blame the male misogynists, let’s take a long hard look at ourselves. Are we guilty of the same? Let’s be aware of our own shortcomings here and change that disgusting mindset of misogyny. It defeats feminism.