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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Gentlewarriors or gender warfare?

If Ms Ivy Singh-Lim was making a pitch to women to join her Gentlewarrior’s Party, I’m afraid it wasn’t a very good one. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to her interview in The New Paper yesterday for an all-women political party. She complains about the dearth of females in leadership roles. She says that few women enter politics because all women are honest (and I suppose the men who do, aren’t?) Her campaign is to get rid of dishonest people, including dishonest men (who?) and stupid women (who?)

Like the Workers’ Party now (my words), she doesn’t intend to “overtake the PAP’’ but to inject good values such as courage and fairness into the system. But this is not to say that the entire system is bad (her words).

I’m not sure that makes up much of a manifesto even though the intention is noble. Can anyone object to having an honest, courageous and fair-minded political party in the political system? Frankly, all political parties would say that they, too, stood for those values. Even if they comprised only men.

In my much younger days, the paucity of female representation in Parliament had always been a sore point. It said to me: Women are not good enough for politics or the PAP, at least, seemed to think so going by the scarcity of women candidates. When the PAP set up its Women’s Wing, I was both glad and sad. Glad that women were recognised but sad that the wing was more concerned about the welfare of housewives and less-educated women. It looked like a vote-getting campaign rather than an attempt to get women involved in “high’’ politics. It was so good therefore to have Dr Aline Wong and Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon break the gender barrier and give Parliament some much needed colour!
If today, in 2014, there was no woman MP in Parliament, I would think Ms Lim has a good idea about forcing open the Parliament doors. But now, I can’t even recall the number of woman MPs in the Cabinet, much less in Parliament!

Maybe we should not look at numbers but in terms of issues that affect women. Are there woman-only issues that need to be fielded in Parliament that have not been given enough attention? Is there a need for a “woman’s’’ view of issues, if there is such a thing?
Therefore, I got to thinking where a woman’s input would be valuable:

a. Single mothers. Small constituency but probably growing. While there is some relaxation of rules for them on HDB housing, there is always, “room for improvement’’. I believe maternity benefits are a sore point.

b. Views on National Service. Maybe a woman’s voice on all these perks for NSmen and the role of women in the nation’s defence.

c. Women’s Charter. This is going to be tweaked especially on the maintenance front. Ex-wives will not automatically get maintenance from their ex-husbands, it is being proposed. You think a male would object?

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d. Female medical issues. There might be gynae-MPs but no one knows a female body better than a female…Just ask the women in the Breast Cancer Foundation.

e. Procreation and abortion issues. Definitely a female occupation.

f. Work-life balance, the role of woman in the household and the monetary value of being a housewife. Or is this politically incorrect given that married women are being called to go back into the workforce?

g. Breaking the glass barrier in the boardroom. But how? We don’t want to go the quota way do we?

h. Spousal abuse, marital rape, sexual harassment in the workplace…

Gosh! I didn’t realise I could come up with such a list! Really!

But it seems to me that any political party worth its salt should be able to add value to discussion on the above. The issues have all been broached in some way or other although not in a concerted manner with the word, female, underlined.
Of course, Gentlewarriors may want to go the way of AWARE with a more aggressive stance on the rights of women. Then it will risk alienating the men, especially those who keep pointing at how they are always at risk of women crying molest and faking their age for sex…. And there will be the misogynists who make wisecracks about women having PMS or undergoing menopause and are hence, unable to make good judgment calls…And there is AWARE itself. It’s already doing a pretty good job of making itself heard.

I don’t think there is a need for an all-woman party even if I believe all women are honest, like Ms Lim does. At the moment, I think political parties know full well the need to respond to women’s specific areas of interest if they want to get elected.
As for an all-women party candidate getting the vote, I’m not sure. Unlike political parties which can hold on to ideological positions, what would be that of Gentlewarriors? The protection and promotion of women in Singapore? What’s next? The protection and promotion of men in Singapore? Enough. We are already a mosaic of different religions, races, cultures and ideological standpoints. No need for another dividing line.

In any case, Gentlewarrior or not, I can fight as well as any man. What say you ladies?

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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