Friday, September 26, 2008

Cleaning the house

I doubt there is any speck of higher-level thinking in this entry, so it betrays the snooty URL of the blog.

Just came back from cleaning my new place. It is the ritual cleansing most of us have to do. My mum used to do the cleaning when we moved. And now I know the kind of stuff she faced, and moreover, she did the cleaning when she was much older than I am now.

Nevertheless, there is a sense of achievement (after the cleaning) and also a sense of relief, because the guys who did the wardrobe/closet have finally got it right. The drawers were hitting the sliding doors on Monday. And they rectified it on Tuesday, repositioning the drawers, and they still hit the sliding doors. Today, they got it right.

Come to think of it, I enjoy cleaning. Maybe it's the domestic instinct, along with other tendencies such as cooking. Of course, that would go against the dominant gender stereotypes a major part of society is trying so hard to cling on to.

Of course, it gives me the impression that men in Singapore are getting more oppressed, and a lot so, because of the gender stereotypes their predecessors created for them.

As mentioned in previous entries, there is the constant expectation that the ideal man has to be independent (financially, emotionally, etc.) and always take the initiative and be opportunistic. In light of this, the sensitive mama's boy is seen as an inferior product.

Women on the other hand, are able to attain the attributes of the ideal man (financial independence, opportunistic), they do not get the same attention or criticism an "inferior" man gets.

Women are able to enjoy living and celebrating a diversity of identities, relative to that of men. And this is all because of stereotypes and expectations that have been normalised.

It is alright for women to stay home, while a man that stays home is undesirable. In this case, the woman can assume many "ideals", while a man is limited to a handful. Ironically, it is a male-created problem that men are facing. So strong is the stereotype and expectations that both men and women harbour them. The very same men who cheer the achievements and development of women may not be as supportive to the "diversification"/"divergence" of men.

I grow more frustrated at the expectations that align with the beliefs "boys don't cry" and all the other conventional male-oriented ego issues. The fact that there is no organisation for the welfare and esteem of men (is there one?) already shows that. On the one hand, there is the male ego that seeks not your help nor sympathy; but on the other, the male might be too afraid to seek help or sympathy.

Of course, the family, the school, the army, among others, are the institutions that thrive on this ideology. It will be rather destabilising should attitudes change.

If only there is a substantial number of men out there who will speak out about their oppression and not conform to the dominant expectations and values system. There are men out there who are proud to be "homemakers" and not "unemployed", who want to be "sensitive" and not "spineless". There is so much overwhelming negativity towards "wimps" and "mama's boys", that we do not even have conventionally positive terms to substitute them.

At least with a different (and improved) thinking, we will start questioning gender-specific expectations such as chivalry. Why are men expected to be gentlemen? There already are "gentlemanly" women, so why can't men explore and assume other identities?

What is funny is that people do not think that men are oppressed in the first place.


Glass Castle said...

Hi Sam

I agree that men face many unfair expectations and are subject to a narrow range of identities because of gendered norms, and I'm really happy to see a chap speak up about it.

However, I think it is very much a stretch to say that women enjoy more freedom than men in this respect. And in any case, I don't think you need to make this kind of comparison to communicate your point. I personally feel there's a danger that such conversations become "oppression Olympics" ("I have it worse!" "No, I have it worse!"), rather than an exploration of ways in which every person can be made freer.

- Jolene (

Sam Ho said...

yes i agree. we're all competing to be the "oppressed group". we cannot deny that there are certain domains of life in which one gender is relatively/growingly privileged.

perhaps in this time, it is "trendy" to be oppressed, because you'll get the attention required.

i just had to compare the "development" of women to that of men, and show that men are "degenerating" (can't think of another word). men have just cornered themselves with these gendered and sexed norms.

and by "freedom", to which/whose brand of "freedom" are/should we be headed? the male idea of freedom or female idea of freedom? can "freedom" not be gendered?

Agagooga said...

Why do you assume that "it is a male-created problem that men are facing"?

Aren't these expectations set up by the whole of society, not just the male half?

"Singaporean men marry foreign women because they are losers.
Singaporean women marry foreign men because Singaporean men are losers."

In developed societies, women generally have it better.

Sam Ho said...

that is my assumption. the discourse is on patriarchy. i kinda belive that everything we experience now is the result of the feedback loop that is patriarchy. that male-oriented discourses create their own subversive discourses. so it's ok to look at it as a male-problem.

i think it does not help that the status of women are a measure of "developed societies", because we might forget about the relative "development" of men.

Agagooga said...

Isn't that begging the question?

One could equally cite "moral decline" or "atheism" as scapegoats for anything and everything that is wrong in society.

Yeah, it's laughable (and not a little sad) that when girls do worse in schools than boys, people talk about discrimination, sexism and oppression, but now that boys are doing worse in schools than girls (especially in developed countries), no one says anything.

Well, the feminists might blame it on "patriarchy", but that is what they blame everything on.

Thus is the peril of assuming a monolithic landscape of oppression.