Vitriol against study mamas: Don't blame the women, or nationality

Vitriol against study mamas: Don't blame the women, or nationality

SINGAPORE - Social media is alive and kicking among the uncles and aunties in the heartland.

The reason I say this? Because there was an amazing amount of opinion and chatter about THAT Facebook video, which showed a middle-aged man standing between his Singaporean wife and his alleged mistress, a study mama from China.

Every detail in the video made fodder for conversation. And yes, there is a strong sense of hatred for Chinese women, and "pei du mamas".

These women accompany their children who school here in hopes of a bright future.

On long-term visit passes, which are given out on the basis that their children study in mainstream schools, these women return to China when the kids graduate.

When I walked the ground this week, the hatred was... visceral, to say the least.

A group of five exercise buddies, who are having their breakfast at a Toa Payoh food centre, insist "get them out of Singapore".

Self-appointed spokesman Janet Lim, 57, a housewife, says: "These women come here, snatch other women's husbands and break up families. They should not be allowed to stay here."

Madam Cheong Yanlian, 51, a fruit seller, offers her opinion, albeit with a sheepish smile. She says: "We keep hearing these stories and because the main 'hai qun zhi ma' (a Chinese saying, a horse that harms the herd) are the mainland Chinese women, our hate is naturally directed at them."

An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority spokesman says that as of July, there are about 4,300 study mothers here. The figure is inclusive of other nationalities.

It is a drop from the 5,000 study mamas in 2008 - a figure estimated by the Chinese embassy - and the 7,800 in 2006.

One possible reason for the drop, says Professor Fu Tan-ming, a social behavioural analyst based in Beijing, is that more mainland Chinese are now open to the idea of sending their children to countries such as Australia.

Prof Fu says: "Unlike how it was, say 10 years ago, the Chinese children now can speak some English.

"Also, states such as Perth and Melbourne have an increasing Chinese community, which makes integration easier for them."

Good that they are going elsewhere, some will say.

But hang on, I say.

That is hate speech, pure and simple.

This equation is not quite right, is it?

Here is my take.

They are easy targets for our wrath.

They are here alone, they don't do a lot for our economy - unlike a banker who can pull in multi-million dollar investments. In that case, we will just mutter about them under our breath, right? And there are always the stories about the temptresses.

It does not help too that they are, well, different. They speak different, look different. Many of these women are loud and vocal with their opinions, and don't hesitate to tell you some things straight in the face.

Take for example, Mabelle, who at 44, looks like she is in her 30s.

It was my first meeting with her and when I commented how much younger she looks, despite our two-year age gap, she leaned over to touch my face, then declared loudly: "We women must learn how to take care of our face (beauty). Look at your face, it is dry and if you are not careful, by the time you hit 50, you will look like an old hag."

Mind you, we were in a coffee joint in Bugis. While I concede that I don't really have a beauty routine and thus, I don't have a porcelain-white smooth face like hers, I also didn't quite appreciate Mabelle's loud honesty.

Not in public.

But to chase them away based on their nationality or features?

That makes us no better than racists who hate based on stereotypes. The individual does not equate the group.

Plus, it really takes two hands to clap. I can't see a woman dragging a man to bed against his will.

Really, I can't.

The Singaporean men who cheat on their wives and cannot control their libido have an equal share of blame.

maureenk@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 31 in The New Paper.

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