August 4, 2014
The WikiLeaks ‘RM5 banknote gagging order’ has revealed that we cannot look to the West (read Australia) for an example of a nation which upholds democratic values, rule of law and a free press. Similarly, Malaysians cannot look to some men, principally Malay men in Umno Baru, as role models for equality, fairness and justice.
Last month, an Umno Baru constitutional law ‘expert’ said that PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail could not become menteri besar because her menstruation was an “obstacle which would prevent her from accompanying the sultan, at functions”.
A few decades ago, when working in the petroleum industry, some men tried to discourage women with comments such as, “How can you go offshore, or climb ladders? Your clothing is an ‘obstacle’.”
These men had not heard of overalls. In their opinion, high-flying women were either stenographers or shop assistants. Things have not progressed much, in Malaysia.
Perhaps, Umno Baru men are trapped in a time warp, in which women are subservient and docile. Do they hanker for the good old days when a woman was a maid at home, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom? We are not living in an Islamic caliphate nor are we living in the dark ages.
Umno Baru lawyer Mohd Hafarizam Harun, Umno Baru Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) lecturer Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz forget how they arrived in this world. For nine months, women carry a foetus, suffer weeks of morning sickness, have eating and sleeping problems, to climax in the pain of delivery.
Even if miracles could be performed, these men would not be willing to sacrifice nine months of their lives, nor endure the pain of childbirth.
In many families, the son receives preferential treatment. He gets the choice cuts of meat, the more expensive present and he need not do the chores. He gets to go out and party. Girls learn the meaning of tolerance and the importance of sharing. They experience the effects of discrimination from an early age.
Women know how to make others feel good, and bring out the best in people. See how girlfriends mollycoddle their boyfriends. Observe how mothers whip up the best meals for the son-in-law, when he visits.
As girls help their mothers to cook and keep the house clean, they learn about deadlines, such as preparing meals on time. They keep to a budget, when buying groceries. They observe healthy eating habits and realise the importance of cleanliness. One needs to look into one’s teenage son’s room, to realise that males have a different concept of tidiness.
Good at multi-tasking
What happens at home is translated to the workplace. Perhaps, that explains why government departments, which invite potential bidders for a tender, usually lay on a good spread before the meeting. Women would get straight to the point and hold the meeting, to thrash out the job requirements. Women celebrate after a job has been done well, not before.
Girls learn to feed their younger siblings whilst loading the washing-machine, the curry is simmering and the rice is cooking. They may be busy, but all the while, their minds are on the complex algebra which teacher has set them for homework. Women are good at multi-tasking.
The boy who parties late, is not up on time for school. He bullies or bribes his sister to finish his homework. Girls love mental challenges. This may explain why girls perform better at school and college. At university, more women take up professional courses like engineering, science and medicine. Malay men prefer religious studies courses.
After years of helping in a busy kitchen and answering to a mother who demands excellence, girls handle stress better than their brothers. Dealing with a demanding mother also equips women with good survival instincts.
With better communication skills, women make better listeners than men and tend to speak their minds. To get the job done, they may have to scream and shout, a lot. Men mistake this for nagging. Women call it constructive criticism.
Women are not afraid of tackling difficult situations. The housewife who wants a particular do-it-yourself (DIY) job done, or wants to know how her husband got a lipstick stain on his collar, knows that men can be very evasive.
Women have very good memories. Just ask any man who has just been nagged by his wife. She will remind him that he made the same mistake 20 years previously, or that he forgot her birthday 32 years ago.
Women pay regular visits to their doctors, because they know that if they fall ill, the whole household suffers. Men are reluctant to address their health issues. Men don’t just have a common cold, they have ‘man-flu’ and are at death’s door.
Older women have learnt to manage their time. Many are childminders for their grandchildren, they control the family finances and retirement fund, besides organising the annual holidays. They dread the day when their husbands retire, because after a lifetime of being told what to do at work, newly retired men act like lost puppies. They follow the wife around and are a nuisance, questioning her every move.
The woman who is unlucky to be someone’s first wife, can expect the arrival of her husband, when he has been chucked out of the youngest wife’s house. The arm-candy wife may be good to look at, but she cannot cope with her husband’s dementia, his double incontinence nor his demand for ‘soft-foods’.
On top of this, the menopausal woman who cannot sleep, can cram additional items into her schedule and get more work done.
Despite all this, Umno Baru men have the cheek to say that a woman is incapable of becoming a menteri besar. Why don’t they simply change the constitution and bar women from holding the highest office in the state, and the nation? Do Umno Baru men fear women, or just Pakatan women?
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).
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