Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How sexist remarks attract remarkable attention

Link to MSN Malaysia

A grandmother by any other name is still a grandmother.

Reuters Picture Stream (© Reuters Picture Stream)

The commotion over the ‘racist grandmother’ remark hurled by the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng during the Penang State Assembly towards the State Opposition Leader, Jahara Hamid drew ire from many people even though an apology was issued soon after.

Gender accusation is highly inappropriate considering many people would have misconstrued Lim’s remark although his timely apology was commendable.

The Chief Minister fell for the oldest trick in the book – succumbing to provocation and unfair accusation from the opposition. On hindsight, if Lim had not been so quick with his tongue and instead retorted in a calm manner, Jahara would have just remained as that, a grandmother.

In all hilarity, the term ‘grandmother’ has never been a derogatory one until now. The word conjures an affectionate portrayal of a woman with wisdom. As such, it would be an oxymoron if ever the phrase ‘Grandma Jahara’ was coined.

Jahara had accused the Penang State Government with practicing double standard in enforcements with illegal stall operators by comparing two totally different locations to support her argument. She would have intentionally caused the issue of enforcement to be a racial one even though there was none.

Calling a spade a spade

A rose by any other name is still a rose. Whether a woman is a grandmother or a spinster, name calling gains attention. This is mainly because people do not like being called names. Even more so, when a woman is reminded of her gender - as if it is something negative - age and marital status aside, she would get upset.

The point in hand here is that language plays an important role in gender equality. The understanding of words relates all the way back to how we were brought up and how society reacts in certain circumstances.

Somehow, a man would not accuse another man of being a racist grandfather or a racist bachelor.

In a world where women have to work doubly hard to achieve what men take for granted, it comes as no surprise that women feel unsettled with phrases in relations to gender connotations.

After all that is being said and done, it may also be constructive if women were able to take a different approach towards gender classifications. So what if we were being called a grandmother? So what if we were being called a spinster?

It takes a lot to get to where these women are today and all that has nothing to do with being either a grandmother or a spinster. If the women truly reveled in being a woman, being branded as one should be taken in a positive manner rather than a negative one.

Triumphantly, it may be that men feel intimidated by the presence of women. Therefore, the overwhelming need to verbalise it in a way to put the women ‘back where they belong’ sometimes come about in the most unexpected manner.

For example, Ridhuan Tee would never comprehend why a woman might choose to be single rather than a couple. He is a blind follower without essential critical thoughts and should be aptly dismissed as a nuisance not worthy of our time.

After all, a sneer should not be mistaken as a sexist remark.

What is a sexist remark?

A sexist remark is when someone refers to another with an offensive word or phrase that belittles or insults the person’s gender. The offensive words may range from vulgar words to descriptive words that refer to a woman’s genitals.  Who could forget the Minister who implied that women ‘leaked’ every month?

In any case, being labelled as a grandmother or spinster is candidly mild and women should not take any further offence. Be proud of being one instead of feeling insulted. That itself will cancel out any contemptuous effort, if any, that was meant as a pot shot to an easily bruised ego – something synonymous to being sensitive and emotional.

Last but not least, being a racist carries no sexist undertone. Jahara remains as one.

** This is the writer’s personal opinion.
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