Exercise civility when we disagree

Exercise civility when we disagree
Pictures of pages from a booklet which was given out at a workshop run by Focus On The Family Singapore.

It is regrettable that Focus on the Family's relationship workshop will end by the end of this year ("Disputed course to end by Dec: MOE"; last Thursday).

The workshop is a worthy cause to support if we accept that gender differences exist. This is because gender education helps us to understand and resolve conflicts rooted in gender differences with far greater wisdom than we otherwise could.

In my experience, gender stereotypes exist because they have inherent truths within them, although they are also generalisations: Men want respect. Women want to be loved. Men are visual creatures. Women tend to be more insecure than men on how they look. Men tend to think categorically and compartmentalise issues. Women tend to embrace a fuzzy complexity in which everything is interconnected.

Men and women are equal in terms of value and dignity, but they differ in their needs and in how they see and respond to the world. In that sense, they are unequal, and there is nothing demeaning about that. We should be careful about using words like "sexist" and "bigotry". It is impossible to have gender education without relying on generalisations about the traits and differences of each gender that our collective understanding have gained over centuries.

We should also not attack the workshop just because it is run by a pro-Christian organisation. Its materials try to teach important values, not religious doctrine.

I urge civility and wisdom when we react to things we disagree with. Let us check the facts carefully and react calmly.

Han Junwei


This article was first published on Oct 13, 2014.
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