To go along with yesterday’s post about the problem of racially based assumptions, today we’re going to talk about gendered assumptions.
I took these photos of the P1 registration form I filled out last week. Along with a zillion other details, the MOE would like to know the occupation of the mother and father. These are hard to read, so I’ll summarize below.
Both Men and Women had the job options listed below
- Executive Officer
- Manager/Manageress (Really, Manageress? Is that a real word?)
- Sales Executive
Then things get a bit sexist.
Only Men have the following jobs listed
- Construction Worker
- Delivery Man
- General Foreman
- Police Officer
- SAF Personnel
Only women have the following jobs listed
- Account Clerk
- Bank Executive
- Customer Service Officer
- General Clerk (what is this? I don’t understand what this job even is)
- Housewife (I loathe this word with the fire of a thousand suns.)
- Insurance Agent
- Production Operator
- Secretary (Let’s burn this term too.)
It’s no secret that Singapore is often a deeply sexist country. In just the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen ads that blame women for getting groped, I’ve been to a restaurant that used gender to describe small and large portion sizes of their Sunday roast, I’ve learned the deeply troubling definition of rape in Singapore–among other things, you can’t be raped by your husband, the CEO of the Science Centre saying that women couldn’t hold the CEO position there because it’s just too hard for them, Agatha Tan’s brilliant takedown of the deeply sexist Focus on the Family “It’s UNcomplicated” workshop (which yes, is ending in 2014, but someone approved it in the first place), and so so so much more.
I suppose you might argue that they’re basing these categories upon which sex holds which job most commonly. I call foul because Teacher is an overwhelmingly female profession. Are men never customer service reps and never sell insurance? I see a ton of male bank executives–go up a few levels and women are pretty much absent from their ranks.
I also call foul on the “construction worker” option for dads–construction workers are overwhelmingly young foreign men who have no children in SG to send to P1 such that they would need to fill out that form. Singaporeans are construction workers about as often as they are FDW’s.
The assumption that men can’t be the primary caregiver, or that women can’t be self-employed are more examples of sexism at play. It’s disrespectful to female police officers and those women who serve in the military. It furthers the idea that nursing isn’t a manly career, or that men can’t be the office assistants. Just as I suggested in the MT post that maybe you just stop calling it that and let people just pick a language, if there were ever an open forum on this topic, I’d suggest one big box, lots of jobs with two circles after each job. That way you’s also have the space to include missing professions like Doctor, Lawyer, IT, and more. Better yet, just leave it blank and let us write in our jobs.
The MOE is in the process of revamping and revitalizing their curriculum right now. Maybe when they’re done with that, they can take five minutes to bring the paperwork into the 21st century, too?
Seriously, though, I want to know this–have any of you actually ever used the term Manageress?