HERE’S a fact of government: we can always be guaranteed there will be clowns roaming the corridors of power even in the best and most peaceable times. But when they act their silliest, they must clearly be shown the error of their ways, no two ways about it.
That's especially so during a time of crisis of epic, unprecedented proportions.
So while our new Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is trying his best to show strong and clear-minded leadership, along comes another minister who does something really idiotic and makes us wonder about the quality of the Cabinet members again. (The first was the Health Minister and his advice to drink warm water to flush down the coronavirus, remember?)
Yes, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun, I am calling you out.
Are you for real? Are you perhaps a secret member of the Obedient Wives Club? You know, that outfit that started almost 10 years ago in 2011, to teach women to be good wives and went on to publish the juicy Islamic Sex, a manual to encourage wives to act like "first class whores" to keep their husbands satisfied and from straying.
Your ministry didn’t go that far in its advice to wives on how to behave in order to please their husbands stuck at home during the current movement control order but what was proposed was dreadful enough.
Your Facebook posters aimed at women working from home to “groom as usual” and wives to act cutesy by adopting a “Doraemon-like” tone and girlish giggling – instead nagging to get the hubbies to help out with the chores – is so last, last century.
Who in your ministry came up with this ridiculous idea? Was it your deputy Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff from PAS who already had alarm bells ringing on her appointment because her previous statements?
In the past, she has called for a dress code for women to curb sexual crimes and sexual harassment. More shocking was what she said after MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014: "In light of the possibility of Allah's wrath, Malaysia Airlines should stop serving alcohol and revise the dress code of the female flight attendants, especially so for Muslim females."
With such a mindset, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised this backward thinking regarding women as superficial and servile is now running riot in your ministry.
The FB posters, interestingly enough, seem to address all Malaysian women, not just Muslims. Well, thank you for being so inclusive but here’s why this Malaysian woman still says "no thank you" to your advice, no matter how well meaning.
Admittedly, I am retired so I am not working from home. But even if I were still in the workforce, there are practical reasons for not dressing up to sit in front of my computer.
First, I am not in an air-conditioned environment. I refuse to turn on my air-conditioner to run for hours because that will increase my electricity usage, even if a discount is being offered on our bills.
In the hothouse turned workplace, I am almost constantly sweaty so I wear the coolest clothes possible, and that’s shorts and cotton T-shirts for me. For the same reason, wearing makeup and doing up my hair is meaningless when your face and hair get real oily fast.
Next, I save time and electricity on washing and ironing work clothes and that’s a good thing.
And working from home doesn’t mean there are no distractions or other needs that come into play. One could also be a mum who has to cook lunch or attend to her bored and housebound kids in between answering emails, teleconferencing or writing a report. Do all that in office wear? I don’t think so.
If I want to be kind, I could accept that the ministry feels women should not let themselves go while WFH (Working From Home). It could be seen as a kind of discipline to maintain one’s so-called normal routine.
But whether being dressed in work clothes makes you more efficient and productive is yet to be proven. My daughter’s job allowed her to work from home even before the MCO and she did it from her bed and in comfy clothes. She didn’t get any complaints from her bosses or clients on her quality of work.
As for dealing with the forced-to-stay-home husband, the ministry’s advice puts the onus on wives to get the darn man to help with chores.
Okay, no harm if she asks nicely like “Dear/Abang, please take in the laundry before it rains, ” but she shouldn’t be reduced to acting like a cartoon character to get the man to move, especially if he ignores or forgets and she has to run out to save the laundry from getting wet.
That’s when the wife is entitled to some nagging and yelling. She’s allowed to let off steam and stress too.
Also, the Ministry advises no sarcasm because the men need to be informed on what they can do to help out? Aiyoh, alamak, OMG, let me bite my tongue.
I wonder whether the people who came up with this are married themselves and are in living in the 21st century. Or are they caught in some time warp circa 1950 and watched too many American home appliance commercials showing immaculately dressed and coiffed housewives waiting to welcome the returning husband to a perfectly run house?
Seriously, why doesn’t the Ministry put pressure on the men to help?
How about shaming the man to get off the sofa and do a bit of washing up? They are home now and can see what needs to be done and by doing their fair share, they set good examples for their children, especially their sons.
It would be more helpful for the Ministry to give practical tips to men on house chores like how to fold clothes and how to amuse and play with the kids. Some encouragement to create a more loving relationship with the wife would be great too, like giving a backrub or making a nice cuppa for her without being asked.
Yes, it’s called the Women and Family Development Ministry, but can I remind YB and ilk that family includes the husband and father, too?