Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Stefanie Sun Doesn’t Owe Us Anything – Vanessa Tai

Singapore’s favourite Mandopop star Stefanie Sun was recently photographed at a local fast food joint dressed in casual garb. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t even be news. However, because certain people have taken it upon themselves to write how Sun has an “obligation” to dress up in public, Vanessa Tai now feels obliged to speak up. 

To be honest, I had no idea there was even a brouhaha over Stef Sun’s fashion choices until Debs showed me this newspaper article. In it, the writer criticises the singer’s choice of outfit, saying that Sun “has an obligation to put some effort into how she looks in public” as she needs to “set a good example for her fans, especially the younger ones.”

Let’s get one thing straight, shall we? Stefanie Sun is an entertainer. The only “obligation” she has — if we really have to use that word — is to entertain, and that is only if we have forked out money to attend her concert. Other than that, it’s really her prerogative to do whatever she pleases. Why?

Her choice of outfit has zero relevance to “setting a good example”

Since when did someone’s dressing become a reflection of their values or principles? Look, she wasn’t going onstage nor was she hitting the red carpet. She was grabbing FAST FOOD, for crying out loud. Ask any (level-headed) Singaporean and they’ll tell you what she wore was completely appropriate. If anything, I reckon her lack of self-consciousness and down-to-earth approach— especially after 14 years of being in showbiz — is admirable. In fact, after the photo of her popped up online, Sun posted a tongue-in-cheek response on her Twitter account. She posted a modified version of the same photo, with the words “So Beautiful OK” scrawled across the photo.

This ability to laugh at herself and shrug off detractors sets a far better example than any carefully-curated outfit choice will.

Image credit: Twitter.com/stefsunyanzi

Image credit: Twitter.com/stefsunyanzi

Her choice of outfit has zero relevance to her work 

In her 14-year career, Sun has bagged numerous industry awards and has legions of fans across Asia. Talent aside, I daresay the main reason for her success is plenty of determination and hard work. It certainly is not because of her sartorial choices. And anyway, what is up with this fixation on a woman’s appearance? No matter how capable or successful a woman is, she will still be judged on how she looks. Just look at how certain news outlets dedicate columns of print just to tear apart the outfit choices of women like Hilary Clinton or Angela Merkel. Here are two people with brilliant minds looking to make a positive contribution to society and all we can think about is how they chose to wear a pantsuit … really?!

If we are ever going to make positive strides in workplace equality, we need to stop obsessing about people’s appearance and focus on what can they bring to the table instead. In this case, Stefanie Sun’s talent and success as an entertainer is the only thing that matters. Everything else is irrelevant.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Can We Stop Asking This Question Already? – Vanessa Tai

It’s 2014. Why are we still fussing over whether a woman decides to have a child or not? Vanessa Tai is annoyed that such a personal decision is even up for discussion.

I was recently scrolling through my Twitter feed and a couple of commonalties jumped up at me. First, there was an article about Cameron Diaz having to explain her decision to stay child-free. Then, there was another article about Karen Mok releasing a statement to dismiss pregnancy rumours after she was photographed entering a gynaecology clinic in Hong Kong.

And I got all this from just five minutes of scrolling through Twitter.

Just today, I chanced upon yet another article that touches on this topic. In an interview for the July issue of In Style magazine, Zooey Deschanel talked about how she’s sick of the sexist double standards implicit in the question “Do you want kids?”. Deschanel says, “Like every woman is dying to give birth! I don’t think so. Nobody asks guys that. And you go into a supermarket and every tabloid is like, ‘Pregnant and Alone!’ [We are] stuck in the 1950s ideal of how a woman should live her life. This brings out the fiery feminist in me.”

Yes, yes, and yes! In this day and age where women have made such strident leaps forward in the workplace and society at large, why are we still obsessing about whether or not she chooses to be a mother???

Even among non-celebrity folks, people seem to think it’s acceptable to ask a married woman, “So, when are you having kids?” As if such a question is not intrusive enough; if the woman reveals she’s not planning to have any, she’s likely to face a barrage of questions and comments ranging from “Won’t you regret it?” to “You’re just being selfish.”

What I wanna say to these “well-meaning” folks.

The Decision To Remain Childless Is Not A Selfish One

There seems to be an automatic assumption that women who decide not to have children are just being selfish by valuing their freedom above all else. The problem with such an assumption is, not only is it reductive, it’s often inaccurate as well. People choose not to have children for a wide variety of reasons but more importantly, they don’t owe anyone an explanation. Even if a woman really chose not to have kids because she wanted more time for herself, that’s her prerogative and she should not be judged for it. In fact, isn’t it more selfish to bring a child into this world simply to fulfil certain societal obligations or as insurance against any future regrets?

Each of us has different wants and needs in life, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like we need to fit into the rigid boxes created by society. We are free to create our own rules.

Now, before anyone misunderstands, I am neither in the “Women should be mothers,” or “Women shouldn’t be mothers” camp. I’m in the “Women should be able to do whatever they want” camp, especially when it involves something as personal as her body. Being a parent is an enormous responsibility that involves huge chunks of time, money, and effort. It’s not an offhand decision to be bandied about casually at parties or during idle Chinese New Year chit-chat with relatives you only see once a year.

At present, I am neither married nor a mother. In fact, I’m still undecided if I ever want to be one. However, if I ever reach a point in my life where I have to make such a decision, I hope the people around me will respect that it’s a private decision between my husband and I. As it should be.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She gets really irked by people who can’t seem to mind their own business. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Denise Li, Opinions

Am I Not Feminist Enough? – Denise Li

Denise Li was forced to ask herself this hard question when she found herself agreeing with – and not opposing – the newly crowned Miss USA’s remarks that all women should learn self-defence to ward off attacks by men.

niagi

This is something I’ve been asking myself lately, following the Isla Vista shootings and, most recently, the newly crowned Miss USA’s remarks during the Q&A segment that women should be equipped with the skills to defend themselves against sexual assault should it happen to them.

Immediately after the Isla Vista killings, the Twitter hastags #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen were used to ignite a fiery debate about misogyny, putting into the spotlight the problem of violence against women,and the propogation of a culture that treats women as the entitlement of men. I’ve read a lot of articles pertaining to this so far, and I’ve been extremely heartened by the fact that a lot of male feminists have stood up to be counted, with many of them acknowledging that men have an active role to play in the fight for fair and equal treatment of women.

At the most recent Miss USA pageant that took place a couple of days ago, Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez was asked about sexual assault on college campuses and this is what she said:

I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don’t want that to come out into the public. But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt (in taekwondo), I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.

These remarks sparked a furore on Twitter:

 

… and so on.

As a card-carrying femininst myself, I am, frankly, quite bewildered. I could see nothing wrong with what Sanchez said. And, in fact, as a student of martial arts, I am in full agreement.

I can see where the feminists are coming from though: They think remarks like these Sanchez’s dilutes the message that “men shouldn’t rape”. It is probably the same crowd of people who disagreed vehemently when Mia Freedman suggested that women shouldn’t drink too much as it poses a risk to their safety. Again, I see nothing wrong with Freedman’s views.

So all of this has led me to think long and hard about this: Am I just not feminist enough?

And I think the easy answer is this: I am a feminist at heart, and I don’t think being a feminist is mutually exclusive to my stance that all women should learn to pick up some basic self-defence skills, and here’s why:

We’re not living in Utopia.

In an ideal world, all men would respect women and their boundaries. They would not force themselves on women and know when no means NO. In the meantime, isn’t it more realistic to come to the terms with the fact that rape happens more frequently than we’d like to admit? When we shove any suggestion that women should learn to protect themselves under the category of “victim blaming”, we are overlooking about what can be done about the problem NOW.

Being equipped with basic self-defence skills means a higher chance of surviving an attack. It means feeling a teensy bit less vulnerable if you’re walking home alone at night. Knowing a martial art can be immensely empowering for women because it makes them acutely aware of the fact that THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE VICTIMS. More lives can be saved if women took proactive steps to protect themselves.

How can I not be on board with that?

I’ll still be joining the chorus of voices against rape culture and victim blaming. The tide is turning against violence against women and I am not without hope that one day, all women would be able to walk the streets at night without fear, or attend a party without considering the possibility that their drinks could be spiked with roofies. Until that day comes, I am going to be holding a key between my fingers and mentally rehearsing defensive techniques in my head when I walk on a deserted street. Despite what some feminists think of that, it’s the smartest thing to do.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Are Women Being Too Sensitive?

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Are Women Being Too Sensitive? – Vanessa Tai

The video of Emma Stone calling out boyfriend Andrew Garfield on his “casual sexism” has been making its rounds on the Internet. While most people reacted positively, there was also a group of people who predictably thought Stone was being “too sensitive”. 

Writing about gender issues has never come easily for me, yet I return to it time and again. Why? Because sexism is still an issue we face on a daily basis. Sexist behaviour may not be as overt as back in the day, but it still exists in our day-to-day interactions. From your male buddies cracking a joke about your figure to netizens posting memes like, “Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich”, everyday sexism is still alive and well in today’s society.

The difficulty in calling out such inappropriate behaviour is two-fold. First, it’s not always easy to speak up, especially in our culture of “playing nice”. Second, how do you tell if the person making the remark was truly being sexist or if it was just a misguided offhand remark? This is something I struggle with often, especially when in the company of men. In a group setting where everyone is cracking jokes and poking fun at each other, calling out a sexist remark makes you seem humourless or like a “crazy feminazi”.

Does calling out sexist behaviour in a group setting make you a party pooper?

Does calling out sexist behaviour in a group setting make you a party pooper?

There have been times where I did speak up only to get shut down by people who said things lke, “Oh c’mon, I was just joking,” or “Don’t be so sensitive. Not everything is a gender issue!” These remarks made me second-guess my convictions and wonder if I was really being oversensitive. That was before I chanced upon this illuminating article on The Good Men Project.

Titled “Why Women Aren’t Crazy”, the male author explains why remarks like these are a form of emotional manipulation. When somebody tells you to “Stop overreacting,” they are feeding into the stereotype that women are emotionally unstable, and need only the slightest provocation to set them off. The writer adds that such behaviour is akin to “gaslighting”, which is a term to describe manipulative behaviour used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy. In other words, when people tell you over and over that you’re being too sensitive, you start doubting yourself and your beliefs. After having our opinions undermined time and again, it’s no wonder most women practice self-censorship and stay silent on things that bother them.

However, as much as we wouldn’t tolerate racist or homophobic behaviour, we should not stay mute on issues of sexism. When handled with grace and dignity, I believe we can call out everyday sexism and still walk away with our friendships and relationships intact. How?

Examine The Context Of The Statement

In early 2013, President Obama came under fire for describing California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris as “the best-looking attorney general in the country.” Many people were outraged, saying the president was being sexist by focusing on Harris’ looks. However, if you read the speech where he made that comment, he also praised her intellect and accomplishments. The comment on her looks was made almost as an afterthought. His comment may have been misguided, but it was definitely not borne of sexism.

As with the recent interview with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, I genuinely do not think he was being sexist. Unfortunately, our culture has been so imbued with traditional gender roles that we tend to have moments where we still think “this is a woman’s job” or “that is so unmanly”. Women are just as guilty of this as men. In such situations, you can choose to let it slide but I think it may be interesting to start a lighthearted but invigorating discussion (as Emma Stone did). Some people may be genuinely unaware about such insidious gender stereotypes, and would be game to exchange ideas with you.

Ask yourself, “Is it the right time?” 

If you are in a group setting and you bring this up, will it cause the other person to become defensive? Or is the person in question too drunk or distracted at that point in time that they’re not going to hear anything you say? Also, will it be better if someone else brought it up? For example, given my reputation among my friends for being pro-equality, they may (once again) dismiss me as being an overreacting feminist. Sometimes, it might be better to get a sympathetic mutual friend to convey the message.

Then again, it also depends on how you raise the issue. In a recent Forbes article about calling out everyday sexism, one woman shared her experience with stopping sexist remarks in their tracks without destroying her relationships. She heard a comment in passing, turned to the two male co-workers and said calmly, “Inappropriate.” One of them responded, “Really?”

“Yes,” she said, and continued walking. The trick it seems, is in the delivery. When we hear an offensive remark, our automatic reaction may be to get shrill or preachy, or both. Don’t. Take a breath, and in a calm but firm tone, say, “Hey dude, that’s not cool.”

That’s it – no raised voices, no hard feelings, and a lesson learned.

Pick Your Battles

It boils down to how well you know the person. If you know your granduncle is never going to stop airing his screamingly sexist views, it’s probably a lost cause if you keep insisting on explaining to him why he’s wrong. As galling as it may be, perhaps this is one battle you don’t want to fight. But if the remark was passed by a friend whom you know to be an otherwise progressive and open-minded individual, it’s worthwhile taking him aside to quietly explain why his comments were inappropriate or offensive.

Because, as much as we really want to make every man understand how upsetting it is when they catcall us in public or make jokes about our figure or our abilities as women, we need to ask ourselves if they will even care. Are they willing to even question their culturally-inspired sexist tendencies? If a person refuses to even entertain the possibility that he/she may be mistaken, any form of argument is basically futile. My suggestion for dealing with such people is to mimimise interactions with them as much as possible. They’re just not worth your effort or emotional energy.

What are your experiences with everyday sexism and how do you deal with it? Share with me in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She really hates the word “uptight”, and everything it represents. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Deborah Tan, Opinions

National Costumes At Miss Universe – Deborah Tan

The national costume round at Miss Universe is a source of much cringing and nausea for me. Every year, when reports and photos go up online about the costumes these pageant contestants wear to showcase the “cultural” side of their countries, I’d look on at Singapore’s “national” costume and wonder why the hell do we even bother.

The thing that irks me about “national costume” is the idea that it has to look (1) traditional (2) flamboyant (3) cultural (4) all of the above. In order to “win” this round of the pageant, the countries’ reps often send these girls out dressed like they are preparing for a poor man’s Mardi Gras.

Singapore, for some reason, is consistently OBSESSED with telling the world that the orchid is OUR national symbol.

In 2009, we dressed our contestant like she was an extra in a period drama.

miss-singapore-2009-national-costume

In 2012, we sent our contestant out like a deranged bride in a poorly designed gown.

miss-singapore-2012-national-costume

And this year, we have decided that our contestant will look like she stole a rejected costume from the Thais!

a1106e3116ce4e49fdb292d2fa75c8d7

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how hard it is to design a national costume for Singapore. This is a thankless job and I do not envy the poor souls tasked with this assignment.

First, let’s talk about the thought process involved in coming up with a concept for the costume. I am assuming we would have to decide what our national identity is because a national costume is loosely defined as a set of garments that expresses an identity through costume which is usually associated with a geographic area or a period of time in history, but can also indicate social, marital and/or religious status.

If someone asked me what Singapore’s national identity is, I’d be – honestly – hard pressed for an answer. Yes, we could talk about the fact that we are a country built by immigrants, we could talk about how we are a multi-racial society …  but this would lead us to Problem No. 1: Whose culture and whose history are we going to use? Even though we are predominantly Chinese, we can’t send our contestant out in a cheongsam because that would be seen as if we don’t care about our Malay and Indian brothers and sisters. To send out her in a kebaya ala Singapore Girl would be unimaginative and could reinforce the stereotype that all Singaporean lasses dream about flying the friendly skies. So IF the designer wants to play with the whole multi-cultural thing, it is usually a hybrid of traditional costumes from two or more ethnic groups. Like this one:

2011 (Kinda like a sari with a head-dress reminiscent of what Malay brides wear?)

miss-singapore-2011-national-costume

So moving on. Let’s ignore the culture and the history. How about national symbols? What are some of Singapore’s most well-loved national symbols? The Merlion? Well, we tried that in 2008 and this was how she looked:

2008

Then we have the somewhat neutral, very feminine orchid, which we have used to death [see above again to relive your nightmares]. What other symbols do we have? Chicken rice? Chilli crab? The Esplanade? Marina Bay Sands? The orang utan?!? It is very challenging and I really don’t blame any designer for playing it safe by using the orchid.

What do we do then? Well, we could stop taking part in Miss Universe altogether. I’m sure Eunice Olsen (2000) will still be the fabulous, empowered, intelligent woman she is today with or without the pageant.

euniceolsen

But if we still want to participate in this “parade of exotic beauties from around the world”, perhaps we should just come to terms with the fact that we really have none of the interesting ancient history stuff countries like Peru, India and Thailand have.

I think it’s time we embrace the fact that Singapore is a country best known for existing in the NOW. We tear down our heritage buildings in the name of progress. We allow our shophouses and old estates to evolve into “hipster” hangouts that alienate the ORIGINAL residents. We are constantly building and constructing modern skyscrapers that do not have any links to our history or culture, or for that matter, attempt to blend in with our “older” buildings. So, why don’t we just accept that our national identity is one that is not steeped in the past and send our contestants out in a dress by our own designers like Ashley Isham or Keith Png, who are already fantastic at designing breath-taking gowns and dresses that have NONE of the overt Singaporean-ness we try so hard to achieve in our “national costumes”?

But you know where I really stand on this? I think we should just not participate in any more of these Miss _______ contests. It’s not like we put in a lot of money to support such endeavours and if we are only in them for “PR” purposes, I say there are better ways in which Singapore can contribute in the international scene.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She believes Singaporean women are bright enough and empowered enough to not bother with beauty pageants anymore. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Denise Li, Opinions

“You Box Pretty Well … For a Girl” – Denise Li

Just the other day at the boxing gym, as I was removing my hand wraps after training, a guy that I’d just sparred with came up to me and introduced himself and, probably as a way of making small talk, he said this to me:

“You box pretty well for a girl.”

I’m sure he meant it, in all sincerity, as a compliment. His expression was earnest, without the slightest trace of irony or condescension.

But I couldn’t help feel offended. “For a girl”, to me, was a qualifying statement, and an extremely loaded one.

And it just served as a reminder of why we, women in the First World, still need feminism.

Sexism still exists in our society as an insidious undercurrent. Yes, Singaporean women are lucky in the sense that we don’t have to fight for the right to be educated, for the right to drive, for the right to make decisions concerning our health and bodies. But there still exists the rather archaic perception that women should or should not do certain things on the basis of their gender, martial arts being one of them.

As someone who has spent much of her formal education in girls’ schools, and all of my life in a female-dominated working environment, I have been sheltered from outright displays of sexism. When I worked in a magazine company, I dealt with strong, opinionated, and accomplished women every day. Women with such personalities were the norm, rather than the exception. Women in my industry do not have to be afraid of their career progression being halted by the proverbial glass ceiling.

Trust me, these women are more than capable of holding their own in the ring.

Trust me, these women are more than capable of holding their own in the ring.

But that’s probably why when I encounter instances of sexism in my everyday life, I find it exceptionally jarring. Let me make it clear that most of the men I train with are very respectful and do not feel that they have to handle me with kid gloves (pun intended). But there are a handful, like my well-meaning training partner, who are unable to look past my gender in the training ring. I have met guys who look utterly crestfallen when they are told to do partner drills with me, and I have even encountered a few who outright refused to spar with me because they “don’t hit girls”.

Don’t even get me started on the spectator sport of mixed martial arts. The standard of women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) has improved tremendously in the past few years, and I have always been impressed by the high level of WMMA in international competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Invictus Fighting Championship. Many of these female fighters have technical skills that surpass that of their male counterparts, and when you watch them fight, there is no sense that they are holding back at all.

Despite all that, you will see many men posting in forums, Facebook fan pages or in YouTube comments deriding the efforts of these women warriors or worse, reducing them to nothing more than objects of sexual desire.

My point here is that the attitude towards women doing cage-fighting is a microcosm of the sexism that still exists in so-called First World, or developed societies. As long as someone refuses to give you respect in a certain area or field on the basis that you have breasts and a vagina, you still need feminism.

But in a strange way, I guess I have my new friend to thank for the reason why I continue working so hard at the gym. I put in 110% all the time – not just because I want to improve, and get fitter and stronger, but because I know it’s currently the only way that I – as a woman in a male-dominated environment – will get the respect and training I deserve as an aspiring boxer.

Of course, I long for the day when a guy will come up to me after a sparring session and say, “That was pretty good” without adding “for a girl” at the end of the statement. But until then, perhaps one of my former boxing trainers said it best when he told off a guy who refused to spar with the women in the gym: “Shut up and show her some respect, or she’ll kick your ass.”

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. The phrase she most often utters at the gym is “It’s okay! You can hit me!”. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Let’s Celebrate Our Differences – Vanessa Tai

Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin.

Robin Thicke’s new single, “Blurred Lines.”

Huffington Post journalist Paloma Goñi and her decision not to shave.

Recently, I’ve been following these news bits (and the surrounding online commentary) with interest, and have observed a common thread among these three seemingly disparate topics. They have all had a polarising effect on women and the “feminist ideal.”

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin

Women are divided as to whether Abedin made the right decision in standing by her husband despite his infidelity. Opinion tends to be harsh on wives of adulterous husbands; if they choose to stay, they’re usually seen as doormats or “Stepford wives.” In a particularly vicious news article, one writer accused Abedin of being “self-serving,” claiming Abedin is only staying on in the marriage because she has political aspirations herself.

Blurred Lines

This ultra-catchy number by Robin Thicke (featuring Pharrell and T.I.) had women up in arms, saying the lyrics promote rape culture and that the video is derogatory. Women who defended the song saying they aren’t offended by it were subject to criticism along the lines of “betraying the sisterhood.”

“I Don’t Shave,” says Paloma Goñi

Spanish journalist Goñi recently outed herself as a hirsute, explaining why she hates shaving, and even posted pictures of her hairy legs and underarms. While many women have commended her courage and honesty in the face of overwhelming societal expectations, others mock her by saying she’s “just plain lazy” or that “she’ll have a hard time finding a boyfriend.”

Let's celebrate our differences!

There is beauty in our differences.

So, what’s my take on all this?

Personally, I find all this in-fighting silly. Yes, I get that there will always be opposing opinions. In fact, conflict – when wielded with the right intentions – can be healthy. It prevents stagnation, and allows new ideas to grow and flourish. Conflict becomes noxious only when groups of people start telling other groups what they “should” or “should not” be doing.

Instead of squabbling over whether an individual’s personal decision makes her a “Good Feminist” or a “Bad Feminist,” shouldn’t we focus on the larger picture at hand ie: the welfare and future of women, and by extension, human beings? When it comes to movements for change, a diversity of opinions and backgrounds actually helps strengthen the movement, not weaken it. But that’s only if we collectively accept the fact that everyone – man or woman – has the freedom to advocate for the cause in a way that they feel most comfortable with. By niggling over petty individual decisions, we run the risk of alienating our compatriots and missing the big picture entirely.

One of the reasons why the four of us chose to set up Material World was precisely because we recognised this need for a diversity of voices to be heard. There are no longer neat little labels to categorise women with – the woman who loves her fashion and makeup may be just as interested in politics and social commentary. We are not a homogenous hive mind, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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