COMMENT | First off, shout out to Maryam Lee for writing articles
that actually qualify as think pieces. Just one thing, though – “herstory”? Really? Do feminists use that? Either I’m old-fashioned or I should check my privilege or something.
Nathaniel Tan is one of my favourite Malaysiakini writers because he
makes a habit of bucking the trend in a non-reactionary way. His response
to Raja Petra Kamarudin’s (RPK) misogynistic and racist tirade against
Ambiga Sreenevasan and Clare Rewcastle-Brown was measured and logical,
but I think the bigger issue is ignored.
This is not really about means or ends; this is about what is wrong
with this country. Political discourse is merely a reflection of this.
Here’s the thing though. If RPK (photo) had stuck to the
conspiracy angle – something he admittedly does pretty well – it would
have been par for the course as far as partisan politics goes. In fact,
it would have been extremely effective in persuading people who do not
subscribe to the echo-chamber groupthink that the opposition was
conspiring with a foreign power to shape the destiny of this country.
Almost the same strategy the opposition is pushing, on how Malaysia
would lose its sovereignty to a regional superpower if the Umno regime
endures. In any case, the attacks against these two individuals were based on
ethnicity and gender because that is the political and social climate
here in Malaysia. When attacks against the opposition are made, it is
always along racial and religious lines. When the targets are women, it
gets more virulent. Why?
(Please keep in mind when I say "opposition," I do not necessarily
mean it in the political affiliation sense, but rather opposing the
status quo in general.) We live in a society where the establishment routinely demonises
women through the mediums of race and religion, and encourages a culture
where the male gender is supreme, much like how it is in the
establishment’s racial and religious preoccupations – which, of course,
are not limited to Umno, but that is a topic for another piece.
Sticking with the political angle for a moment, ours is a Malaysia
where political operatives such as Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya, who
appeared to endorse paedophilia and rape, can have nothing happen to
them beyond the online opprobrium that some mistake as the pulse of the
country. As I’ve written previously:
“He also squarely places the blame on the ‘wild lifestyle’ of women and
girls which absolves men from their crimes and reinforces the
victim-blaming and shaming that constitutes the foundations of a rape
culture that is based on a paternalistic agenda of men like Shabudin
Malaysian men an endangered species?
Remember when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak claimed that Malaysian
men were an endangered species because of the success of Malaysian
women? I believe he was holding the women’s portfolio at that time. This
was the same time a teacher won her gender discrimination case against
the Education Ministry because they withdrew her job as a temporary
teacher, all for the crime of being pregnant.
Read all about it here:
“In the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, Malaysia objected to three specific
clauses in Article 16 (states’ parties shall take all appropriate
measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters
relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall
ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women) because of the dual
legal system governing Muslims and non-Muslims in this country.”
The fact that these women are not Malay and Muslim makes them even
more detestable to the establishment because, for the time being at
least, they do not have to conform to how Muslim women have to behave in
this country. Check that – most Muslim women. Those with power
themselves, or who are close to power are in a different category
altogether. That is why it is largely non-Muslim opposition women are
demonised as prostitutes or told to shut up.
Muslim men routinely go around asking women to cover up. Respect the
sensitiveness of the Muslims, they say. Cover up your bodies for the
betterment of society, not too much of a stretch to covering up crimes
for the sake of the country. This is the kind of thinking that is all
too pervasive over here, where people still are still actually debating
if becoming an Islamic state is a good thing. Imagine a woman from a disenfranchised Indian community and a
privileged white woman attempting to take down a Malay Muslim hegemon.
What could be more vexing for an establishment constantly mired in
controversies financial and sexual, but whose main agenda is preserving
the notion of bangsaand agama (race and religion)?
This question of whether they are paid or get sexually aroused in
attempting to take down a Muslim prime minister and replace him with an
“Indian” prime minister says a lot. Never mind the fact that the
so-called “Indian” prime minister identifies himself as a Malay Muslim,
but that is beside the point.
These types of men cannot conceive of anybody, much less a woman,
doing something on principle or belief in a cause. There always is a
need to monetise political action, which is why failing to accept money
means that you get some sort of sexual gratification out of exposing the
corruption of the potentates. This makes sense to them.
Or is it anger? Is that the reason why they think these women are not
attracted to corrupt behaviour, hence the need to project some sort of
sexual reaction on the part of women who crusade against these corrupt
politicians? In this way, women become surrogates for everything they
believe wrong with non-Muslim women who do not accept their corruption,
racial supremacy and religious superiority.
This is why we get winning lines like “hiding her black hands” and
“white woman,” because it is the colour of their skin that is the real
threat to the Umno hegemon. Ultimately what really bothers them is this: that if this hegemon
falls it would because of two women conspiring to bring down a racial
and religious supremacist power structure. It does not matter what they will replace it with; they are attacked
on the grounds of their gender, ethnicity and their religious
affiliations because this is exactly the way how this country is.
The big question then becomes this: by writing this way, what kind of Malaysia am I helping to create?