Sexism Watch #4: The Singapore government thinks mothers just need to "adjust to lower jobs with lower pay"

Tomorrow is Labour Day, for which we get a public holiday in Singapore. Laughably incongruous, I know, that Singapore, bastion of mature capitalism, retains after all these years a socialist holiday meant for celebrating workers' rights --- particularly given Singapore's "uniquely Singapore" history with its trade unions and protection of employee rights. But I digress.

The government typically takes the opportunity at Labour Day to make all sorts of pronouncements about "the workers". One of this year's speeches was reported by Channel NewsAsia (CNA) under the headline, "Govt to help raise employment rate of women". Which doesn't in itself sound that unprogressive until, as usual, you get to the fine print.

Buried in CNA's report on the speech by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Boon Heng:
... But, Mr Lim said, the employment rate of women would soon hit a ceiling if the problems they face are not resolved.

"Many find the demands of work and nurturing a child, too difficult to cope with," he said.

"Many females today are better educated. Without children, they are high-performing individuals. Their employers expect the same level of performance, after the children come along. They themselves are unprepared to lower performance and adjust to lower jobs with lower pay. If fathers take their share of the duty, it will help," added Mr Lim. [emphasis mine]
Ah, those pesky women-with-children (aka mothers, by the way). Having kids and then being unable to "perform" at the same high levels that they used to. And how silly of them to expect that they would be able to do as well as they did before they had children. Why can't they just get over themselves and take on poorer-paying jobs with lower expectations that would be more suitable for their motherhood-addled brains?

Bear in mind: this is the same government that has for the last 5-10 years been desperately exhorting all married women with Singaporean citizenship (especially those with university degrees) to have children, lest the birth rate dip even more egregiously below its 2006 level of 1.24. This is the same country where the birth rate has been lower than the replacement rate (i.e. the number of babies needed to maintain its population) for 28 consecutive years.

Admittedly, within the context of the quote above, the minister didn't forget to spread the blame around: employers, stop having unrealistic expectations of working mothers; fathers, start doing your share of the care-giving for your children and household. But that doesn't detract from the extremely simplistic statement about the priorities and abilities of a working mother. A working mother is not innately unable (as the above statement would suggest) to do her job at the same level as she used to. Having gone through one or more pregnancies has not damaged her brain or intellect or skills in any way. Does she have new priorities? Hell, yeah. Fathers do, too --- and they would feel it more if society was as quick to judge them for being "bad fathers who spend too much time at work" as it is to judge mothers in a similar situation.

The solution to keeping mothers in the workforce is not to condescendingly and conveniently have them accept "lower jobs with lower pay". The solution, at least in terms of what the government can do, is to facilitate a re-ordering of social priorities that provides more support for family life overall, in terms of what both mothers and fathers can get. It is to create a situation in which a working mother can be "high-performing" at her job because, like the working father who is her colleague, she enjoys the assurance that the kids are doing alright at home without her.

Stop blaming women for having children and then having different priorities as a result. The last time I checked, it takes a man and a woman to make procreation successful, and it's having children born within "lawful marriages" that the government is interested in, after all.


Related posts: Sexism Watch #3: I'm sure it's the guy that's paying, Sexism Watch #2: What the news forgot to say, Sexism Watch #1: The bank says women still need men to buy them stuff

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Ink's week

What Ink has been up to lately:
  • Breaking a glass that was left unattended on the dining table.
  • Making friends with the best friend's 16-month-old boy. They were mutually curious and delighted with each other. For now, the cat outruns the boy while the boy outsqueals the cat.
  • Adjusting to a new (and less private) kitty litter spot. He's not quite as poopalicious as usual.
  • Peering out the kitchen window from atop the washing machine.
  • Attacking a 3-metre length of raffia string.
  • Diving into empty cardboard boxes.
What Ink has not been up to:

miao covered!
Taken by budak

I don't think he would fit anyway. Everyone who's seen him lately remarks on how big he is.


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The day when everything went wrong

We used to get assigned to write school compositions with that title and whip up impossible feats of coincidence to satisfy its demands. Who knew that real life could be just as churlish?

I dreamed that I stabbed Ink accidentally and had to rush him to the vet's emergency room. (The dream was this morning, around dawn, so it counts as part of "today"'s calamities.)

I woke up to my cell phone alarm and the cell phone was fine --- but after charging it for an hour or so (which I do everyday), the screen went on the fritz. I think I'm going to have to get a new one, but that means paying more than I'd like for the Nokia N95 because I can't sit around and wait for the price to go down. I just hope I can still trade this one in for something.

Putting on my contact lenses just now, I managed to flip the case into the sink --- and the lens I hadn't put in yet vanished into thin air. I peered all over the sink and absolutely could not find it. On the bright side, I had one last pair of lenses I could switch to, but that means I need to order more lenses stat, too.

If all this had happened yesterday, I'd be a sobbing (and sodding) heap. Good thing it all waited till today. But still: poo.


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Sleepy is ...

Noticing first thing in the morning that the cat's food bowl, needs refilling and going through the usual motions of doing so (the same motions I go through everyday) --- only to pour the cat food into the water bowl.

Which is still full of water.

At which point the cat looks at me as if to say, "So am I having cornflakes in milk for breakfast now?"



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It's always nice to get a cheque in the mail

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a cheque for a job that the client had already paid me for. So once the initial elation at the prospect of being paid twice evaporated, I dutifully sat down at my laptop and punched out an email to alert the client to the mistake.

It was awfully nice for a few moments to imagine that money in my bank account, though.




Written off, sold out

I am writing a piece on the first Cabinet of Singapore.

And enjoying it more than when I was writing a profile of Madrid's Hotel Urban yesterday.

Kill me now.

No, really. Kill me.


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A sense of proportion (or lack thereof)

Ah, Channel NewsAsia. Even on the days when the headline news is about the Prime Minister donating his pay increase to charity (can we say last-ditch attempt to salvage the very definition of a PR fiasco?), you find time to include this delightful snippet at the bottom of your index of daily Singapore news:
Elephant Chawang's sperm count good

Singapore Zoo's elephant Chawang has had his semen quality tested and results showed his sperm count is good.

Chawang, the largest and heaviest animal at the zoo, is almost 3 metres tall and weighs 3,480kg.

He has already sired three elephants.

Zoos in Australia, like the one in Perth, have shown interest in taking samples of Chawang's semen to impregnate their female Asian elephants.

But no plans have been confirmed yet.
Because, you know, the entire nation of Singapore was following Chawang's sex life closely and quivering in anticipation as to the outcome of his sperm count.

Poor Chawang gets no privacy. Then again, neither do women in India when certain imbeciles in charge of human resources decide that details of a woman's menstrual and pregnancy history are pertinent to her ability to do her job.


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Best news story of the year

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. From the AFP: "Singapore PM's salary stuns White House official".

I mean, how can you not love a news story that opens with:
A senior White House official on Tuesday admitted he was floored by the news that Singapore's prime minister earned five times more than US President George W. Bush.

"I'm going to emigrate and run for office in Singapore," the official said on condition he be identified only as "a senior administration official who sits in disbelief after reading that story."

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Welcome back

Ah, swollen lymph node, how I've missed you.



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A Chindian lunch

I don't normally use the phrase "Chindian" (i.e. a mixture of Chinese and Indian) and indeed, I'd never heard of it till a few years ago. But it seems appropriate to describe today's made-at-home lunch (not to be confused with a homecooked lunch), which consists of:
  • basmati rice
  • mushroom achari out of an instant pack (thank you, Mustafa)
  • a fried egg
If I wanted to be really Chinese about it, the fried egg would be sunny-side up (instead of over-easy, which is how I like it) and sprinkled with soya sauce.

Speaking of Chindian meals, has anyone tried the several-months-old Indian Wok at Siglap? It claims to be some blend of Chinese and Indian cuisine, though from the outside the decor looks more heavily Indian than anything. Part of me wants to give it a shot, another part of me shies away from what seems to be yet another variety of "fusion cusine" ...


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Warning: extremely uncharacteristically angsty emo post ahead.

I had enough blog post ideas to cover every day this past week, but finding the time to write them proved to be more challenging than I imagined. So there will be no posts about turning down a copywriting job because of ethical issues, ordering the Buffy Season 8 comic (never mind that it's a second-print), enjoying The Devil Wears Prada more than I expected (maybe the Lana cake helped), attempting (very badly) to dance at Movida after a day of mild aggravations, cheering Shirlyn's Newfound Jealousy album launch or long conversations about where all this is going.

Suffice to say the following:

I am not as well as I appear to be. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it gets harder everyday. I've had too many good days --- or what felt like good days, anyway --- and now it's like all the bad days are showing up to claim their due. The crying is ridiculous, at this point. Just call me Chemical-Dependent Emo Girl and be done with it (the chemicals being alcohol and caffeine, not anything that requires a prescription or psychiatric examination).

I don't usually write about less-than-thrilling personal affairs on this blog because, well, because that's just the sort of blog I keep. But I realise that as a result of that editorial policy, this blog of late has painted a perhaps too-pretty picture of life post-separation/-breakup. Not that I was deliberately glossing over the less photogenic moments, but it was more important at the time to just get back to writing about something, even if it was as inconsequential as what I had for dinner or Urban Dictionary's word of the day.

Now ...

I'm not about to start letting all kinds of emotional foofaraw rip on this blog, but now I know why leaving the country seems like a good idea. A cheaper alternative is just to start screening calls. Not that anyone's become persona non grata overnight, but it's positively exhausting to talk about it all the time, yet to not talk about it seems to be a pathetic attempt to ignore the elephant in the room.

A friend commented earlier this week that maybe all the crying is because of the emotions that have been bottled up for some time, because I'm not the kind of person that lets on that I'm upset, and now it's time when I just have to let it all out. Maybe so, but can it all just be over, please?

PS: I'm leaving the comments open, because that's my editorial policy, but seriously, this is not a desperate cry for help or plea for internet-conveyed sympathies and pats-on-the-head. I'm writing because I need to write, and also need to have this on my blog. At the same time, I've consulted those nearest and dearest for advice, Kleenex and comfort food. So don't panic that I'm moping in front of my laptop or anything.




I, the neo-nomad

I recently came across the BBC's "In search of the neo-nomad", which picks up a San Francisco Chronicle definition of neo-nomads as:
... people who turn a laptop, a wireless connection and a cafe into an office and work wherever they happen to be ... distinguishe[d] from traditional freelancers because of their close engagement with technology and use of the latest generation of web-based tools in their working lives.
Laptop --- check.
Wireless connection --- check (thank you, Wireless@SG).
Cafe --- check. Coffee tastes best at Starbucks or tcc (German blend). Less satisfying is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's, and overpriced is Coffee Club's. Epicurious and Toast also have yummy coffees (and unbeatable iced teas). Not that there's anything wrong with indigenous kopitiam coffee, but sometimes in the afternoon it's too hot to sit in a non-airconditioned environment.

Close engagement with technology --- I think so. Did I mention what's in my bag? Nowadays, the list includes a laptop (usually with charger), although I only have one cell phone now and no more security pass.
Latest generation of web-based tools --- check. Gmail to manage 5 work-related email accounts, Flickr, Adium for MSN/Yahoo/GTalk/AIM, blogging software (Blogger/Movable Type/Wordpress) all. Plus I recently got sucked into LinkedIn.

I'm going to put down "neo-nomad" the next time I fill out a job that asks me for my "occupation".


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Catching up

Over lunch today with an old, old friend of what would be about twenty years, except that I hadn't seen him in the last ten:
"So, you and your husband not planning to have any kids?"
"Uh ... actually, we split up a few months ago."
"Oh. I thought so. I had a feeling. Happened to me too."
"You got married? When?"
"And just split up?"
"Yah, recently."
Weirdest conversation over lunch, ever.

And yet, not.




Day of rest II

Race to the top

Nature rambles are well and good, but sometimes in Singapore you gotta settle for the urban variety.

If anyone knows where I can get a copy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Issue #1, let me know? I've left my name and number at the Comics Mart at Raffles City, but they didn't seem too sure if they were getting that second batch in.


Related post: Day of rest I