"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Feminist Advertising: SDN Postcard

"Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria." ― Naomi Wolf


Recently, I came across feminist rage over the following SDN postcard:

 photo SDN_front_zpse3ec7ae1.jpg
"Evolution. Gotta love it!"

The reverse (not fisked) reads:

 photo SDN_back_zps8129b475.jpg
"Follow your heart, not your checklist. Sharp dressing and good looks don't solve arguments - beauty is in someone who understands and evolves with you.

Love happens anywhere, everywhere. Give love a chance."

The list of charges:

potato-skins: This ad postcard by the Social Development Network (SDN aka a government-run dating agency here in Singapore) makes me so angry that I actually feel physically unwell.

I am going to have to do this in point form because I’m so angry and I will try to be coherent. These are my problems with it, and I’m no expert:

1) It imposes this ‘natural’ progression of an individual’s life. This view of what you should be doing but the nuclear family unit is a relatively modern phenomenon. Moreover this vision of heteronormality is one that has been determined by the government, not the individual.

2) This is not science, so don’t you dare use the word “evolution”. This is social engineering, not factual objective science.

3) What about the people who are not cis, straight or otherwise don’t fit into the male/female dichotomy of ‘mainstream’ society? Are my gay, trans, asexual (and so on) friends somehow less evolved than their cis and straight counterparts?

4) By being of majority age but single, I am somehow less evolved than my friends who are in relationships. This enrages me beyond words. My relationship status DOES NOTdetermine the value of my life. I will pay my taxes, I will contribute to society, I will make someone’s life a bit more interesting, I will stimulate the economy, I will be filial to my parents. But just because of one thing — I am not in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, either by choice or circumstance — I am worth less in the eyes of the government. I am less evolved. I am not a human being who is worth much.

5) Women are not gachapon machines. You do not put money into them and out pops a baby. So many factors determine whether couples choose to have a child/ren that aren’t just financial. It is demeaning and sexist and patriarchal and assumes that the couple’s natural place — the woman’s natural place — is to have children.

6) You do not determine what I do with my body. Not just as a woman, but as a human being. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT.

7) Because SDN is a government agency, these are being printed with taxpayer money. This vision of hetero-normality is being imposed on us, against our will, with our money.

That’s all I can think about and articulate right now, because I am just so angry. Shame on you, SDN. Shame on you, government.

#made by me #feminism #power and justice #social justice #singapore

mizhallelujah: When I first saw this, I actually thought it was some homophobic claptrap being circulated by Singapore’s equivalent of the religious right. You’re telling me this was printed and paid for by state money?

“Rage” doesn’t even being to articulate what I am feeling now. Good thing Viki managed to express my thoughts above because I want to do is to throw my keyboard into the screen. REPEATEDLY.

Nevermind that the SDN had hugely, disgustingly classist and frankly eugenic roots as an organisation that was started specifically to “encourage” university graduates to hook up with each other because oh noes we need our smart people to breed with other smart people and make smart babies BARF

# power and society; lgbtq; sexism; singapore; fuck you omg; seriously just fuck you

A few points they missed out:

- This postcard is ageist because it claims that older people are more evolved than younger
- The postcard is sexist because it shows that only men can evolve (notice the woman exists only to be a partner for the male)
- It is religiously insensitive, because not everybody believes in Evolution
- It's insensitive to left handers, because it privileges the rightward direction and associates it with progress (did you know left handed people used to be openly discriminated against within living memory? Or that they are more prone to post traumatic stress disorder [undoubtedly due to social discrimination]? Shocking!)
- It reinforces gender stereotypes with the male having short hair all his life and the female having longish hair (and wearing a skirt) Oh, my soul - how it hurts to be unable to see itself reflected even in such a simple postcard?! I am going to feel physically sick very soon.

As such, I have done a feminist re-imagining of this postcard:

 photo Existencecentred_zps28864120.jpg
(I was going to put "Gotta exist!" at the bottom, but that would be insensitive for people who want to commit suicide/the memory of people who have committed suicide as it would be coercing them into living)

Doesn't this make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and want to go out and get together with someone, and then make babies (or adopt them, for couples not consisting of a man and a woman, both fertile; or do absolutely nothing at all, for those who are happy being single)?

Of course, I'm not sure if this inclusive design would fit on a postcard. Perhaps it would, but the aspect ratio would be really off and the silhouettes would be so small one wouldn't know what the hell the postcard was about.

Assuming we worked through all the logistical issues, can you imagine the reception such a postcard would enjoy? I bet AWARE and feminists would be really happy, and would encourage the rest of the population to celebrate this inclusive work.

Unfortunately I was unable to be truly inclusive and include trans-gendered portrayals. Among other reasons, due to cis gender privilege, I was unable to think of a way to portray transsexuals in silhouette form. As such I regretfully announce that my feminist re-imagining is still trans-phobic.

Also, I was unable to find a silhouette of a little girl where she doesn't have long hair and is not wearing a skirt. As such I am reinforcing gender stereotypes. Think of all the little girls who don't wear skirts and/or don't have long hair who will see this reimagined postcard and get it in their mind that they are not real girls. Ditto for the silhouette of the woman. Oh, dear me!

Worse, to save space and avoid repeating myself, I didn't replicate every single progression series of silhouettes. There are now 2 series showing the life of a male who forms a couple but only one showing the life of a female who forms a couple (and she is lesbian). Quelle horreur ! And also, because I had to go and eat dinner, I was unable to do a series representing a female who gets into a heterosexual relationship, or a male single (since it is important to keep statistical equality so neither gender feels oppressed because of having one fewer series for them). Male privilege strikes again, privileging the male story (or history), and sidelining the female version (herstory).

I am also really ashamed that I was unable to find a usable silhouette of a proper lesbian couple, and was thus reduced to using two generic female figures. This dehumanises lesbians by reducing them to an abstract representation of their gender, instead of representing them as proper living human beings like the rest of the silhouettes.

I think I still failed in my mission and have been an agent of Bigotry. Ah well.

It thus falls to greater sorts (hopefully a lesbian who won't suffer from Straight Privilege and Male Privilege) to design an even more inclusive postcard and spend taxpayers' money promoting absolutely no cause at all, since we cannot oppress people by even encouraging them to do anything.

While I'm on my high horse, let me give a big FUCK YOU to the government of Singapore for determining what I do with my body. The Human Organ Transplant Act is a gross violation of my right to bodily integrity, because even though it's opt-out you're trying to coerce me into doing something with my body. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT.

At the same time, I condemn the National Healthy Lifestyle Programme for privileging a state-sanctioned conception of health and imposing it upon us with taxpayers' money, against our will.

Shame on you! Shame, shame, shame.
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