Don't justify unhealthy gender stereotyping

Don't justify unhealthy gender stereotyping
Miss Agatha Tan had written an open letter to her principal, saying that the booklet that the workshop organiser distrbuted "actively serve to promote rape culture in school".

The Focus on the Family relationship workshop promotes dangerously misguided stereotypes masquerading as "truths of love and dating" aimed at educating students "on healthy relationships" ("Disputed course to end by Dec: MOE"; last Thursday).

There is nothing true or healthy about the advice in the pamphlet accompanying this programme. Portraying anyone, female or male, as meaning the opposite of what they say lacks basic respect.

This pamphlet presumes to translate context-dependent phrases like "we need to talk" to "I need to complain", but only when spoken by a female.

How can it possibly be healthy to disbelieve and reinterpret what your wife or girlfriend says?

The pamphlet has a similarly inaccurate and unhealthy portrayal of men. According to it, men feel more insecure about their abilities in public, and should be lied to by their girlfriends in a demonstration of support.

These pieces of "advice" don't just help to entrench very damaging and inaccurate stereotypes, but they also encourage young people to be less than sincere in their relationships.

Worst of all, they recommend that women, but not men, suppress their opinions and views in public so as to keep their boyfriends' supposedly fragile egos intact.

As a female scientist, I find these views especially damaging in fields where gender stereotypes still retard the success of professional women.

I do not think the sexes are psychologically identical. However, I object to implicitly justifying gender differences just because they are "natural" or "normal".

It is not right to justify men openly objectifying the bodies of women, or to proclaim that women's brains are wired so that they are unable to compartmentalise, and so never really say what they mean.

The promoters of this programme would go a lot further to promote healthy relationships if they would simply advocate the Golden Rule - to treat others as one would like to be treated, regardless of gender.

Tong Wenfei (Dr)

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2014.
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