In the midst of our battle against Covid-19, the Women and Family Development Ministry of Malaysia released several posters on 31 March on tips to avoid arguments at home during the Movement Control Order.
These tips were mainly directed at wives, asking them to wear makeup and dress up while at home. Women are also advised to avoid nagging at their partners, to which they should instead act flirty and talk to their husbands in Doraemon’s voice ("use humorous words, followed by a flirty giggle").
I was disappointed and angered by our ministry’s statements. To have sent out such derogatory messages to the public, especially at a time when gender-based violence has been an all-time high during the Movement Control Order, only shows what a failure our new ministry has turned out to be.
"A harmonious marriage is not the sole responsibility of a woman or a man"
A harmonious marriage is not the sole responsibility of a woman or a man. Furthermore, defining gender roles denies many women their potential and capabilities because they are seen to be useful only when it comes to house chores.
Reminding girls that they should look nice for their husbands’ pleasure and talk like a cartoon character to their husbands is more than a step backwards from what we have achieved in women empowerment over the years. If these does not scream misogyny to you, then I don’t know what does.
It is one thing that our society has institutionalised patriarchal belief systems, but it is another when you hear these words from a department that is supposedly leading our country’s women development and empowerment.
While the ministry has since apologised and taken down those posters, our country is still bearing the embarrassment in international news portals. I sincerely hope that such incidents do not occur again because undoubtedly, we still have a long way to go before we can truly achieve gender equality in Malaysia.
Words by Tan Ejin
About the author
Tan Ejin is a WAGGGS Advocacy Champion, Malaysian Girl Guide and activist for gender equality in Malaysia.