Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beauty is the Mouth of the Complainer

I got to admit it, I am total cad when it comes to beauty contest – I love watching them. As a heterosexual man, I like looking at women walking around in not very much. Then, there’s the anthropologist, sociologist in me, which enjoys something more – the reaction of the public towards these contests and what it says about them.

Beauty contest evoke a host of emotions in people. You have the brigade that hates them, arguing that beauty contest degrades women to the lowest common denominator (Let’s not forget that the Miss Universe Pageant was once owned by Donald Trump). Then you have the extreme end, the societies that take pride in them. Venezuela, for example takes so much pride in the fact that it has produced more “Miss Universes” than anyone else and has established a school just train girls to get through the pageant.

While I do admit that Beauty Contest are shallow and superficial, I believe that they have their uses. Just as sports has been used to raise boys from the streets into well to do heroes, beauty contest can do the same for girls. Conservative India for example, celebrates the various Miss’s by turning them into Bollywood starlets. As well as producing a great number of pageant winners, Venezuela produced the woman who won the grown and gave the world a first-hand account of what the soon to be US President is https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/30/alicia-machado-donald-trump-backlash-smear)

While places like Venezuela and India use the pageant to get its girls onto better things, we in Singapore do something entirely different. No, we don’t attach the pageant for being a sexist relic. We merely set up the girls who enter the contest for a royal roasting. Where one would expect men to have sympathy for women who willingly parade in swimsuits, here in Singapore …..well just read the comments in the  following links:



Sure, I understand that we’re a society that doesn’t value the beauty pageant winner the way Venezuela does. I can understand that we’re a more conservative society where the girls considered “beautiful” don’t enter beauty pageants (once again, I don’t think Singapore can claim to be more conservative than India). – But do we really have to take so much delight in being so mean.

Sure, some of our beauty queens deserve the roasting they get. I think of Miss Ris Low, the 2009 winner of Miss World Singapore, who proceeded to give a lesson in how to turn people off while possessing a decent body in a bikini by giving an interview on internet TV ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F74FZfdSJY) and then getting caught shoplifting and committing credit card fraud.


Now, Miss. Low is back. She no longer looks like this:

Image result for Ris Low

She now looks like: 

Image result for Ris Low

However, she’s learnt how to speak properly (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3bGVHh3ifw) and somehow she’s managed to use her infamy to propel herself into different things.

While Ms. Low deserved her online roasting, many of our other beauty queens have been decent representatives of the country and projected a respectable image of what a beautiful Singaporean woman should look like. I was particularly fond of Nuraliza Osman, our 2002 winner, who happens to be a senior legal counsel at Shell. Another beauty that comes to mind Eunice Olsen, who became a nominated member of parliament (a job I would love to have). I’ve also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Cheryl Tay, who was the 2005 winner and a vet (brains and a good heart – girl who loves animals).

What makes girls like these join the pageant? Surely you can’t say any of these ladies are lacking in the brain department nor can you say that they were coerced into the joining the pageant.

Which leads to the main point here – we may like beauty pageants for being shallow and superficial but we don’t have to mean spirited about the girls who enter the pageants. We should accept that a woman has the right to define beauty in her own way and we should celebrate that women with brains have the conscious choice to enjoy these pageants.

As for the guys who are complaining about the girls in the competition – I’m reminded of what my favourite flesh ball once said – “Eh, you think you very handsome ah!”  

Thursday, July 06, 2017

What is the Purpose of 377A?

I couldn’t agree more with writer of “Repeal of 377A won’t automatically change people’s minds” (Today Newspaper 21 March 2017). The writer has rightfully argued that it takes time to achieve a change in social attitudes than it does a change in legal statutes. Repealing 377A won’t make the general public any more accepting of homosexuality overnight.

What the writer and other writers did not address is the question of who does 377A protect. Why do we insist on criminalizing a particular sexual act when we have legitimized almost every other sexual act?

If one looks at laws governing sexual activity, one will notice that the key word is consent. As long as both parties are deemed capable of consent to a sexual act it is legal. If one party is deemed unable to give consent it is not. Rape is not legal because one party did not consent - a inconvenient fact that Professor Thio Li-Ann failed to take into consideration in her infamous 2007 speech to parliament when she urged Singapore's MP's to "Reject the argument of consent" citing it as morally bankrupt. I'm surprised that nobody has called the good professor out on this fact.  

The other area that governs most sexual acts is the question of where they take place. A sexual act in public is a criminal offense because it disturbs the public while an act in the bedroom does not.

So, given these two general facts, why is 377A on the statute books? Who does this law serve? In her 2007 speech, Professor Thio Li-Ann argued that keeping 377A served to protect the national interest. However, Professor Thio did not provide conclusive evidence of how the law protected the national interest.

Take, for example, the most obvious – public health and safety. It can be argued that participating in anal sex increases the risk of catching HIV/AIDS. However, while this may be the case, why is it legal for a heterosexual couple to engage in anal sex while it is not for homosexuals. Are we to say that the law is in favour of protecting homosexuals and not heterosexuals from the possibilities of catching sexually transmitted diseases?

Professor Thio did argue that homosexuals tend to live more promiscuous lifestyles, hence it was in the public interest to keep 377A. While 377A criminalises the act of anal sex between men, it does not criminalise promiscuity. Unless Professor Thio is able to provide scientific evidence linking the act of anal sex between men and promiscuous behavior, it’s hard to see how the act protects anyone in this respect. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health’s statistics would on HIV infections have shown that HIV/AIDS has long since ceased to be a homosexual disease.

There is an argument that people disapprove of homosexual behavior. However, once again there is no evidence to suggest that people believe that something they disapprove of should be illegal.

The topic of 377A creates many passions. However, nobody seems to have asked who the law protects. It would be in the national interest to have an evidence based explanation.