Friday, January 25, 2008

Preference towards one type of family structure inappropriate for gracious society

Preference towards one type of family structure inappropriate for gracious society

(unpublished - Jan 17, 2008)

I refer to Bennie Cheok’s letter “Show depicting married gay couple with adopted child inappropriate for screening on telly” (ST, Jan 17).

The depicting of alternative families in media ultimately aims to provide a larger perspective on society. Furthermore, good and bad parenting, along with happy or broken families, is colour blind.

Cheok’s concerns about such experiences that may “leave young viewers bewildered” are legitimate, but we cannot discount that fact that the upbringing and socialisation of children involves the communication of often unchallenged prejudices and predisposed notions on the superiority of ‘standard’ family model.

At the same time, we should not dehumanise, pathologise or even treat homosexuality and gay marriage as exclusive to Western culture. Limiting homosexuality and gay marriage to Western society, not only reveals a xenophobic binary “us versus the West” mindset, but also informs of a degree of social irresponsibility and historical negligence. We cannot conveniently and uncritically link the conceived ills of our ‘Asian’ society to that of Western society. It is time as Singaporeans become generally more literate that we demystify the notion of “Asian values”, and understand how dominant contemporary ideologies on morality by powerful articulate groups have impregnated this term.

The purposeful censorship of other realities in the world and society will only lead to the symbolic annihilation of certain cultures and communities, if they are not already wrongfully depicted, misrepresented or stereotyped.

We want our children to be well-adjusted and make decisions based on as much available information and experiences as possible, and not on the prejudices and irrational fears that cause the occasional “moral panic”. To remove certain realities and exclude specific issues is to only reinforce the taken-for-grantedness that is so dominant in our society today.

The championing of the “traditional” family nucleus, involving father, mother and child(ren) also sidelines single-parent families, putting added pressure and expectations on them. Society and the occasional vigilante moral police and crusaders should refrain from drawing lines that empower the privileged majority to exclude, discriminate and disincentivise. There should instead be a greater focus on the substance of the family and parents, rather than its form.

If there are media depictions of alternative families and lifestyles, we should not blame the media, but should instead be ready to field questions from our inquisitive children. Only then will we know if we are informing them, or inculcating prejudicial dispositions into them.

Ho Chi Sam

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