Saturday, October 25, 2008

'Why I chose a China bride': It's a problem of changing gender roles and expectation

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. October 25, 2008)

I refer to the letters by Mr Alvin Tan last Sunday ('Why I chose a China Bride') and Ms Sherry Aw on Thursday ('It's an insult to Singapore women').

What we need to appreciate is that times are changing, socially and economically.
This results in men and women reprioritising their needs, which affects their idea of romance and the ideal partner.

Gender is always a thorny issue, but that does not mean we should ignore opinions from both sides.

The fact that there are Singapore men who have a certain opinion of Singapore women in general, and vice versa, is indicative of social reality.

Being empowered with the resources and opportunities for financial independence, among other factors, the Singapore woman has more choices and obviously has a shift in expectations.

While this may not apply to all women in Singapore, there has already been an impression, tending towards the mixed or the negative, among some Singapore men.
I do not disagree with Mr Tan on some observations as I have met and seen for myself women who are financially independent, yet still materialistic and demanding to be treated like princesses. This type of mixed signal is probably what confounds Mr Tan and some men.

I have also observed a common stereotype of Singapore men held by Singapore women, in which Singapore men are seen as timid mummy's boys who are incapable of being independent or having any initiative, something deemed to be an inferior and undesirable aspect of masculinity.

What is curious is that, in thinking this way, it shows that both men and women still hold on to traditional gender roles and expectations, and their discomfort with one another presents an inertia towards adjustment.

Media portrayals of the ideal man also exert pressure on how Singapore men 'perform' their masculinity. The route to financial independence of Singapore men is hampered by, among other things, the lengthy education system, changes in parenting, national service, servicing of study loans after graduation, the housing scheme and so on. Given these factors, it is difficult for the Singapore man to be the typical 'ideal'.

I believe the problem in our gendered conflict and differences is that both sides are a little misadjusted for the times, and at the same time, are so distracted by the opposite sex, we forget to discuss the larger political and social issues that may have caused the problem.

Ho Chi Sam

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