Friday, April 24, 2009

AWARE: Who's the Monster

It is utterly amazing what has happened in the latest “twist” to the AWARE saga.

Actually, there is no “twist” if you followed the cookie crumbs.

Some activists, neutrals and insiders have long warned about the conspiracy, reflected about the anti-gay backlash and even discussed the Thio family’s involvement in this.

Unfortunately, until last evening, they were merely speculative.

Even though there were facts and information about the new executive committee members, it could not be established if this takeover is a coordinated effort.

As from last night, it is still not fully confirmed that whether this takeover is an orchestrated one or not.

Dr Thio Su Mien, the mother of Nominated Member of Parliament Dr Thio Li-Ann, also National University of Singapore law lecturer, spoke up as the (some of the, rather) executive committee members’ “feminist mentor”.

It appears that the feminism that these women practise is one that is exclusionary, as it does not recognise sexual orientation (e.g. homosexuality) and sexual diversity.

It has yet to be publically and officially established that Dr Thio Su Mien is motivated by her religious beliefs.

So, for the moment, religious beliefs should not foreground our discussion.

And neither should death threats various members received, which should be condemned.

We should first look at the implications of the latest revelation on civil society, sexual minorities and “gender equality” in Singapore.

Most of these implications have already been discussed by various bloggers.

I am perturbed by the tactics of (most of) the new executive committee members.

They ascend to positions of power within the women’s interest organisation, and have maintained tight-lipped about their agenda and background until recently.

Last night, they play the religion card and exhibited a siege mentality best captured in Lois Ng’s remark that “suddenly I feel that it's a crime to be a Christian.”

In the beginning, why couldn’t they be loud and proud Christians?

Why must they conceal their identity and beliefs, as if they were not relevant, and smoke it with rhetoric consisting terms such as “pro-women”, “pro-family” and “gender equality”?

Now they claim victim of their own beliefs, as if they (the beliefs) have suddenly gained relevance.

“Gender equality” does not equate to the marginalisation, invisibilisation, trivialisation, silencing, discrimination and hatred of gender diversity and sexual diversity.

But in the case of these women, whose feminist ideology have been impregnated with ascetic monotheistic fundamentalism, “gender equality” is all that.

An unlikely but worthy mention, former president Constance Singam and Dr Thio Su Mien are women in their early 70s, but have and still display the passion they have for advancing the cause of women.

They differ in almost every other way, given their respective beliefs and ideals of what women in Singaporean society should comprise.

It all makes sense to me now with Dr Thio Su Mien’s involvement publically established.

With due respect, the women she individually coached are no “puppets” of hers.

But they are slaves of a divisive and destructive ideology (religiously charged or not), and they appear hell-bent on enslaving the rest of us Singaporeans, and unify us under this anti-gay groupthink.

But why should my queer-affirmative stance be less worthy, meaningful or relevant than your (self-)righteous position?

They fully deserve their space, but the hijacking of AWARE is an infringement and an abuse, politically and symbolically.

This is an abuse hidden by a convoluted mix of evasiveness and rhetoric.

It is unfair they try to impose their ideas of “right”, “wrong”, “virtue”, “sin”, “natural”, “unnatural” and other conceivable moral binaries, onto the rest of us with this usurpation of the AWARE executive committee.

This is ideological violence committed by the alleged Christian Fundamentalists.

The desecrated, the raped, and the annihilated number in the dozens: Women’s rights and choice, sexual minority rights, AWARE itself, civil society, gender equality, gender diversity, sexual diversity, and so on.

Yet when you challenge them, they fall back into their little bunker, one that is constitutionally protected.

This further exposes the lack of constitutional protection for sexual minorities in Singapore.

The lack of protection is exacerbated by the perpetuation of irrational fear, hatred and misinformation against people whose sexual orientation are not straight-jacketed as heterosexual.

Some of the very people who enjoy the privilege of societal and constitutional protection are contributing to this fear, hatred and misinformation.

These events have shown that it is not the sexual minority Singaporeans and their supporters who are (or have been) pushing the agenda and wanting to gain political space, but rather the self-righteous anti-queer members, who happen to be Christian Fundamentalist.

Sexual minority Singaporeans and their supporters have been asking for space and equality.

Dr Thio Su Mien and friends, among others openly and secretly involved in the takeover, are seeking to expand their space and become more equal than the rest of us lesser mortals.

They use this space to dehumanise people who identify as queer.

The fact that (most of) the new committee members have worked and kept to themselves indicate their intolerance for diversity.

It is not surprising if they are emotionally, intellectually and humanly incapable of conceiving diversity.

Does this mean that there are other people out there who have been mentored by Dr Thio Su Mien, who will take up positions in key organisations who have been deemed to have lost their “focus”?

Are the rest of us wrong, misguided or sinful for not being in alignment with her beliefs?

What should their doctrine, one that only acknowledges heterosexuality/ism and to a large extent cisgenderism and cissexuality, prevail over other doctrines and systems of beliefs?

The fact that they did not form another organisation modeled in their interests and beliefs, one that could ‘complement’/rival Aware, proves that they are incapable of accepting pluralism and diversity.

This is an ideological war, but silence has appeared to grip other religious groups.

It is perhaps because other religious groups know and respect the spaces they have, and the boundaries that surround them.

Sexual minorities on the other hand, have no space.

They are margialised and stigmatised by society, by law and by this ongoing ideological invasion.

I feel uneasy at the idea that this takeover may be indicative of a group taking initiative into its own hands and carry out this anti-gay crusade in our little island-nation.

This is at best ideological terrorism, where even straight-identified persons like myself feel afraid.

I fear I might not have the freedom to believe what I believe in; and even if I did have the freedom, I might be “replaced”.

I do not fight, but I stand for a heterogeneous society, one that is characterised by diversity and continuous dialogue.

By leaving out honorary treasurer Chew I-Jin, the new executive committee members have symbolically shown their preference for monologue.

Josie Chua’s attempt to ‘reconcile’ AWARE is in fact an ‘overhaul’, but beyond its terminological neutrality conceals the ‘destruction’ and humiliation of the 20-plus year old non-governmental organisation.

I stand at a crossroads here.

With regards to Alex Au’s analogy of pirates stealing the AWARE ship, is AWARE as a sinking ship worth salvaging?

Polarisation has blasted potholes in this ship.

What the new executive committee see as fixing, I see it as tainting.

Even though there have been alarm bells ringing since late March, I cannot help but feel disillusioned that such a thing can happen in Singapore.

Some might call for the government to intervene, but they would probably wait to see how this develops in the press and blogosphere first.

Furthermore, the realm of the conservative elite intersects with that of the educated elite and the political elite.

This PAP government cannot do without the support of these communities.

But it should consider whether it is justified that we live in a society where everyone has equal obligations, but sexual minorities get relatively lesser rights.

Shouldn’t every Singaporean have the same obligations and rights, or at least have the same balance?

I am sad, angry and disappointed that these women have used AWARE as a foreground to advance their anti-gay agenda.

AWARE is a group that looks into the interest of women, and there are women who identify as homosexual.

Are lesbian women not women?

Now, who are the real monsters?


Weiye said...

I think you might wanna be careful about using negative words to refer to them.

Just because they don't agree with us doesn't mean that we need to incite fear or hatred against them.

That said, cookie monster is quite cute. Hahah. So we love him even though he gobbles up all the cookies that we also want for ourselves. =)

socguy said...

No matter the outcome, this will be monumental in further clarifying the status of Singapore as a conservative or moderate society. Doesn't look like either side have the numbers though, so I predict yet another Apathetic win.

Sam Ho said...

I refer to the actions of the faction, not their individual characters.

I am careful and respectful to every individual. But when they form groups, their agenda can be criticised.

The cookies are meant for everyone, but one monster has gobbled them all up!

Singapore has always been moderate, trying to be progressive. But the conservative elite (who happen to either be influential or form significant parts of the intellectual and political elite) prevent this from happening, they are pulling Singapore from "moderate" to "conservative".

Weiye said...

And we all know that "conservative" is not a bad word. We conserve the things that we love... like our pristine rain forest.

Unless of course, if it goes against the our ethics and the spirit of capitalism... but that's another story.

Pardon me. Too much weber. =(

Gavin said...

I hope the 'conservative' comment is used as a throwback to Thio Li-Ann's mix-up between being 'conservative' and having 'conservation'. She had earlier used these two terms during her infamous speech against the repealing of S377A.

These two words might be seemingly related but have entirely different meanings.

skeptic said...

You took the words out of my mouth. If religion is protected why not gay rights?

Sam Ho said...

simple, people are willing to die for religion and history has shown that.

for gay rights, there isn't much history of martyrdom.

Victory Ground said...

"No matter the outcome, this will be monumental in further clarifying the status of Singapore as a conservative or moderate society."

I beg to differ.
Only the strongly opinionated AND the ignorant fearful will vote.

As the religious fundies have more of the latter on their side... make that A LOT MORE of the latter on their side... the EGM is not a good reflection of whether Singapore is a moderate or conservative society. The LGBTs don't have such institutions... and neither do they use such fear-inducing tactics to get the crowds in.

Those who say "live and let live" are moderate. But they will not vote.