(Unpublished - Mar 3, 2010)
I refer to Mr Eugene Loh’s letter “Why this cross-dressing fever on TV?” (March 3).
In it, he justifies his concern of the prevalence of cross-dressing in television programming by raising its potential impact on youths.
He suggests that the media can have a strong influence on how children behave, and that cross-dressing was being “promoted in the media”.
It is farfetched to state that any depiction in the media constitutes “promotion”.
The context in which cross-dressing takes place is within the domains of variety, comedy and entertainment, in a limited period of time on specific channels.
Surely this does not constitute "promotion" or producers' obsession with cross-dressing. If anything, it might indicate a lack of creativity in the face of a diverse audience with different senses of humour.
Now place this observation of television cross-dressing on a backdrop of social norms being regularly enforced by parents, peers, schools, society and government.
In fact, with regards to cross-dressing in television, it is often associated with humour and parody. These are strategies that negate the much feared normalisation of cross-dressing itself.
Furthermore, and to a large extent, these depictions mock and trivialise cross-dressing and cross-gender behaviour, rather than promote it. The mainstream media are wise and responsible enough not to offend the vocal self-professed members of “conservative majority”.
We should recognise our society is increasingly media savvy, and more individuals are in better positions to discern between what constitutes harm and what does not. This means that they can do without being authoritatively instructed on what is good for them.
That said, we cannot view the media in isolation and overestimate the power of its influence.
The studies of consumption of violence in media correlating with violent behaviour fail to take into account constant changes in society and the economy, as well as the context of the studies, for instance that of a rapidly modernising city with high population density, traffic density and stress levels.
If we can to enforce a media policy, we have to consult studies not only in the areas of psychology, but that of sociology and culture.
The fears of psychological harm to our young are often misdirected to a few convenient suspects.
And the more we give our attention to the media, the more we will censor and the more we will be a repressed society.
There are already enough policing mechanisms outside media that serve to regulate and sanction social behaviour, so please let the media do its job of entertainment and information.
Ho Chi Sam