Ministry faces backlash over posters


Unwelcome advice: One of the posters posted on the Women and Family Development Ministry’s social media accounts.

PETALING JAYA: A series of posters on “Kebahagian Rumahtangga” (Household Happiness) posted on the Women and Family Development Ministry’s Facebook page has raised the ire of women because of their sexist messaging that does not only stereotype women, but also insinuates that women are responsible for domestic conflict.

In one poster showing a caricature of a woman and a man hanging clothes out to dry, the message reads: Jika melihat pasangan melakukan sesuatu yang bercanggah dengan kehendak kita, elakkan dari berleter – gunakan perkataan “humorous” seperti “cara sidai baju macam ni lah sayangku” (tiru nada Doraemon dan diikuti dengan gelak manja).Translation: If your spouse does something you don’t like, don’t nag. Use humour and tell him: “This is the way to hang the clothes, my darling” (use Doraemon-tone and giggle).Women’s rights activists urged Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun to remove the posters.

“Tiru nada Doraemon? How will this empower women or help any household other than, maybe, Doraemon? Please, change the minister and her deputy as not only is this not helpful, it is harmful, ” said freelance writer Lois Kam, 47.

Women’s Aid Organisation advocacy officer Tan Heang-Lee said

the posters stereotyped women as being bossy and naggy.

They also sent the message that it is the women’s responsibility to change their behaviour in order to avoid conflict at home, she added.

“It’s very one-sided. What about the man’s responsibility? So if fights or abuse were to happen, do these posters imply that it’s the women’s fault?” she said.

Executive director of the Asia-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women Sivananthi Thanenthiran said the posters labelled women as immature.

“It implies that the only way a woman’s advice will be taken into consideration is if she talks like a cartoon character, ” she said, adding that this would not help women facing verbal, emotional and physical violence during the movement control order (MCO) period.

It was reported that since the MCO was enforced, the ministry’s Talian Kasih hotline had seen a 57% increase in calls from women in distress.Penang’s Women’s Centre for Change programme director Karen Lai said negative stereotypes of women as subordinates to men were at the root of gender inequality in society and might ultimately lead to discrimination and violence against women.

“The implicit message is that men are allowed to slack off on domestic work and it’s the women who

must follow up with them, but they should only do so nicely.

“The ministry has the responsibility to promote healthy role models for women, families and communities. It must stay away from such stereotypes and instead focus on empowering women’s agency and self-confidence whether in the home or public sphere.

“Women have the right to speak up about how they feel without having to be labelled as nags and certainly without stooping to become cartoon characters, ” said Lai.

Executive director of Sisters in Islam Rozana Isa said the posters were degrading and sexist as they supported the notion that women must resort to infantile language and mannerisms to ask their husbands to help with household chores.“The ministry’s responsibility is to safeguard women and children and should be promoting healthy role models for women, families and communities to combat stereotypes of women being inferior to men.

“Domestic and household duties are a shared responsibility between partners. The ministry should be promoting equality between husbands and wives, ” she said.

The All Women’s Action Society expressed dismay over the posters, which they said “lack respect and awareness of society in modern times”.

“Many men do perform household chores and do them well. And many women are breadwinners. These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate patriachy, which can have negative consequences over time, ” it said.

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