It is not okay.

Whatever people may say about beer, its power to prompt revelations and shatter illusions is undeniable.

Workplace harassment and sexual objectification of women has always been abstract concepts to me, partly because I am the type to take no bullshit and I use every chance to show the people around me that I take no bullshit, whether it’s by being completely aloof or straight out calling them out on questionable behaviors, so such unpleasantness seldom happens to me. (It’s true, the office douche never once said the things that he’s said to others, to me.)

It isn’t till today that these abstract concepts became real.

Leery come-ons are not okay. Neck massages, no matter how tired or tense one may seem, are not okay. Making remarks about liking girls of a certain race to a girl of that race is not okay. Making overt remarks to a girl’s cheating ex-boyfriend about boys being boys is not okay. Making character judgments that are based on looks for appraisals rather than work performance is not okay. Making jokes about sending a girl out to service a client is NOT OKAY.

That it is a joke does not make it okay. I am torn about whether that makes it worse, that you feel that such matters can be material for jest. I am torn about whether I should feel relieved or disgusted that the joke was made by a woman to another woman. It may be an odd thing to think, but I honestly feel that if it had come from a man it would have been marginally less hurtful. (It’s completely warped that if a man had said that I would have been less up in arms about it. I would still be angry, but slightly less than what I am feeling now. Mental.)

What does it say about our society, that women objectify other women, and by extension themselves, so readily? How many levels of mental parsing does it take to arrive at the conclusion that such remarks do not matter? Is it excusable to you as a woman because you feel that as a woman you are entitled to say things like that to another woman? Is this a(n albeit twisted) form of re-appropriation? Can something like objectification even be re-appropriated?

I imagine the subconscious thought process to go something like this: I am a woman, she is a woman, I can say this to her because I am not a man and if it’s a man saying this to a woman it’s wrong so I should say it first because every other man is thinking it and it doesn’t matter because we are both women.

What does it say about you as a woman, as a mother, that you can so readily make jokes like this without giving it any more than a fleeting thought?

As Asian girls, we are taught from a young age to sit with our legs pressed together and look pretty. To speak only when spoken to, to be seen and not heard. That when men tease you about the size of your breasts, the shape of your eyebrows, the cut of your dress, it’s because they are boys and you are girls. That you should just smile and ignore them. We aren’t taught to stand up for ourselves, to voice our discomfort, to fight back. We aren’t taught that we, as women, have the right to be respected.

Such attitudes, such ignorance, is why Malaysia will never progress as a society. Not when women are always told again and again that we should be accepting of the fact that we will never be as good as men. And don’t even get me started on the overt racism. That’s certainly a post for another day.

(Also, thanks, mom, for letting me know that if I came home one day and told you that my superior made jokes about sending me out to service a client, that you won’t have my back.)

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