Monday, June 21, 2021

IPS lecture: Govt review needed to promote positive masculine norms in S’pore, says Aware executive director


MAY 25, 2021

  • Ms Corinna Lim called for a study on masculinity to be done as part of the Government’s review on gender equality
  • She said this can help promote more positive masculine norms among men
  • She pointed out that few studies on men have been done here
  • She also renewed calls to expand National Service to include non-combat roles

SINGAPORE — To better promote positive masculinity norms among men and boys here, the Government could commission a study on masculinity in Singapore as part of its review on gender equality.

The suggestion came from Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), a gender advocacy group.

She was speaking on Monday (May 24) at a lecture series organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), a think tank under the National University of Singapore.

In her lecture, Ms Lim laid out the various issues that men face when it comes to their gender, such as the pressure to conform to ideal models of masculinity, facing violence and bullying from other men, and being influenced by pornography from an early age.

The authorities have been collating feedback and recommendations from interest groups and the public as part of the gender equality review, titled “Conversations on Women Development”. This will culminate in a White Paper that will be delivered in Parliament later this year.

Ms Lim said little research had been done on the topic of masculinity in Singapore.

She said a review into some of these issues could be helpful in understanding how these aspects of masculinity impact gender equality here, as well as violence against women, and health issues among men.

She noted that similar reviews conducted overseas such as in the United Kingdom and Canada have been helpful in understanding how to improve gender relations there.

The former lawyer added that the review should include areas such as equality in the family, intimate partner relationships, and the health and well-being of men, noting that suicide rates among men here are double those of women.

Ms Lim was speaking at her third and final lecture as the eighth S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore at IPS. In the first and second instalment of the series, she spoke about the history and future of the fight for gender equality here, and the care economy in Singapore.

Aside from a review of masculinity in Singapore, Ms Lim also called on the Government to include research into the sexual behaviour and sexual needs of the youth today as part of its gender equality review exercise.

She cited a 2015 study which found that nine out of 10 of teenage boys here have watched or read explicit materials, and are therefore getting their sexual education through pornography, which conveys unhealthy beliefs of sexual relationships.

She added that research has shown that those who watch violent porn were more than six times as likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviour, and teenagers who frequently watch pornography are predicted to have more sexist atittudes and perpetuate sexual harassment later in life.

Therefore, a review of the sex education curriculum is needed here to impart the “critical life skills that (young people) need to navigate this sexualised world”, and ensure that porn is not the “default educator” for young boys, said Ms Lim.


Ms Lim said that National Service (NS) remains a key obstacle to getting men onboard conversations of gender equality in Singapore, and renewed calls for the authorities to expand NS to include other roles that can also be opened to women.

Aware has long argued for the Government to expand the roles available in NS such that it is not solely focused on military service.

Reiterating this, Ms Lim suggested for NS to allow the option for people to serve in non-combat roles such as social and community work and roles in the healthcare sector.

Alternatively, she said the authorities can review Basic Military Training, and other aspects of NS, to reduce “any unnecessary practice that promotes unhealthy masculinity norms”.

The equal participation of women in NS will automatically make NS less toxically masculine,” she said.

[So she's suggesting that NS be expanded to include other roles for women, which might be non-combat roles such as social, community, or healthcare work. Presumably, women would do this non-military defence NS. BUT just adding women to NS will make (military) NS less "toxically masculine". Wow. Magic bullet.]


Ms Lim also suggested that the Government initiate or lend its support to establish more dedicated support services for men, where men can share their difficult experiences and receive support and guidance from their peers.

The men whom she spoke to for the lecture had said that they wished to see more specialised services to support men who are facing stress and challenges in their lives.

“The crisis could be going through a divorce, or being caught for a sexual crime, and it is at these points that we can start to work with men on trying to make sure that they don't go back to these things,” said Ms Lim.

[So if you are facing stress like being accused of a sexual crime, AWARE can work with you so you don't go back to these things... So basically, they assume that you are guilty and your stress comes from your guilt, and they will try to help you with your guilt. No presumption of innocence. Good that they already know the solution.]

“So it's important to have this service, and it should be designed to take into account masculinity norms, and men's aversion to seeking help.”

Ms Lim said men should not feel judged or shamed when coming forward to use the service, and it should be a place where they can be vulnerable without being shamed or seen as weak.

[Don't feel "judged or shamed". The correct feelings are "guilt" and "remorse".]

After the lecture, a question was asked whether women play a part in contributing to “toxic masculinity”, which refers to negative traits that cause harm to men and the people in their lives, such as being violent, emotionally controlling and exhibiting sexually promiscuous behaviour.

Responding to this, Ms Lim agreed that women are “part of the problem” when it comes to reinforcing negative models of masculinity.

“It is not about men or women, it is about patriarchal norms in society which are nested in our heads and in every social interaction that we have with a man or a woman,” she said.

“Women who tease men about being too effeminate — they are part of the problem that is going to make it difficult (for norms to change)... So I think we all have a part to play.”

[And this (below) was how Mothership reported it:]

Make NS gender neutral & review it to weed out toxic masculinity: AWARE chief Corinna Lim

Zhangxin Zheng

May 25, 2021

At her lecture on gender equality, Corinna Lim explored, among other things, the issue of masculinity.

Lim has been the executive director of women's right non-profit AWARE, the Association of Women for Action and Research, since 2010.

In the lecture on May 24, Lim talks about her research on what shapes the behaviour and psyche of men in Singapore as well as what can be done to support men better at embracing gender equality.

"I believe that change will happen once men start to see how much they have to gain when they get out of their prison [of masculinity]. And it's beginning to happen.

I also hope more men’s groups will be formed and become active like the women’s movement.

Women’s groups can’t do this work for men. But you will have our full support."

Toxic masculinity in National Service

One of the topics touched on by Lim was National Service.

NS is the "number one" reason why men oppose gender equality in Singapore, according to research carried out for AWARE, Lim shared at the online lecture.

The men that Lim spoke to for this lecture series described NS as a "hyper masculine experience".

[Really? They used terms like "hyper masculine experience"? I think if I talk to 10, 20 men, none will use "hyper masculine" to describe NS. I guess I need to move around in circles where people throw around terms like "hyper masculine" and "toxic masculinity". Where do you think I will find such people?]

The exclusion of women, the use of homophobic and misogynistic terms as well as the constant shaming and humiliation are forms of "toxic masculinity" perpetuated in NS, Lim said.

It's not just about women, Lim pointed out how unhealthy masculine norms are linked to a higher rate of suicide for men.

This is why one of the recommendations Lim suggested is to make NS more gender neutral through conscription for women.

Women conscripts

Lim said that she knows that this is a "major ask" and will require a lot of consideration.

However, there are other reasons why the government should consider conscripting women into NS.

Lim listed two of them: 1) Shrinking population and 2) the need to ensure Singapore has sufficient care workers to support an ageing population.

One suggestion Lim proposed is to expand NS to include non-military service such as community, social work or healthcare sector.

Lim said for a start "it is possible" to adopt what S R Nathan Fellow, Ho Kwon Ping, had suggested previously; that women do NS, and choose between two-year NS or five-month healthcare or social care work.

"But ultimately, we should make NS totally gender neutral so that everyone, regardless of gender," can opt for total defence areas that need people, Lim said.

"The equal participation of women in NS will automatically make NS less masculine," she said.

Lim also proposed reviewing Basic Military Training.

Some interviewees had noted that some permanent units that people are assigned to after BMT had a less toxic culture, while still retaining military discipline.

Bullying and education

Lim touched on other aspects of toxic masculinity as well.

In particular, Lim highlighted a recent OECD study which showed that fifteen-year-olds in Singapore experienced more bullying than their peers in 52 other countries. This is the third highest, coming in behind only New Zealand and Latvia.

[These "fifteen-year-olds", are they all boys, or both boys and girls?]

Lim said that there is a high level of social pressure in schools to make boys conform to masculinity norms.

She cited AWARE’s 2017 survey, which showed that 9 in 10 teenage boys faced social pressures to be ‘manly’ through teasing, harassment, bullying and social exclusion. They were told to “man-up” and to “take it like a man”.

Lim noted that boys who were pressured to conform to masculine norms were four times more likely to commit violence against others. Which cultivates a cycle of violence.

Another point Lim highlighted was how young people were getting their information on sex. Acknowledging the pervasiveness of pornography, Lim said the only antidote to that pervasiveness is education.

To achieve that, Lim called for comprehensive sex education programme in schools.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you are AWARE, everything is about gender.

I dunno what research she has been doing, I dunno if she shared her research during her lecture. I dunno if her analysis and conclusions were spelt out in her lecture in order to support her conclusions. Or were those simply conjecture.

If she did and the journalist DID NOT REPORT THIS, then the fault is with the reporter.

"Toxic masculinity" is the word of the day/week/month/our age. It's almost a short form for "there's a problem with being male". Again, I am not dismissing her hypothesis out of hand, but certainly there is a distinct lack of evidence or analysis (other than perfunctory assertions) within the report.

"Lim... described NS as a "hyper masculine experience"." But the report does not provide even anecdotal evidence of this "hyper masculine experience".

Then she cites an OECD study:

"Lim highlighted a recent OECD study which showed that fifteen-year-olds in Singapore experienced more bullying than their peers in 52 other countries. This is the third highest, coming in behind only New Zealand and Latvia."

Are these ONLY male 15 year olds? Or BOTH male and female? If both, does this mean that Toxic Masculinity has affected EVEN the girls? If so, would including girls in NS simply create a different set of problems even as you try to SOLVE an (unestablished) problem?

If only the Males, then, how is the conclusion that NS is the CAUSE of Toxic Masculinity valid considering there is a pre-cursor?

Lim also suggests: "for a start "it is possible" to adopt what S R Nathan Fellow, Ho Kwon Ping, had suggested previously; that women do NS, and choose between two-year NS or five-month healthcare or social care work."  

Corinna Lim and Ho Kwon Ping do not understand conscription, or think little of forced conscription. They do not understand that conscription is a violation of human rights, and a suspension of personal choice. They glibly suggests that women (or girls) can "choose" between 2-year NS (presumably military service) or  5 month healthcare or social care work.

In offering this machiavellian "choice", they are obviously steering the girls into choosing the second option which would be a shorter term of slavery. They think they are so clever.

BUT... they are also displaying their misconception about healthcare and social work, and possibly their disdain or lesser regard for these jobs. Will this 5-month stint include training? And how long will they need to be trained? Obviously less than 5 months. All those nurses and social workers must be wasting their time in those long, drawn-out training. Or those must be the stupid ones who need 2 years to learn what any (NS) girl can learn in, say, 2 hours? 

This was at the end of the post commenting on Ho Kwon Ping's 2015 suggestion:

NS is a necessary evil. 
The conscription of men to serve in the military is a basic and base need - to defend the tribe, the home, the country, the nation. It requires men to do nasty things to other men. It requires sons and brothers, and fathers and husbands to kill other sons, and brothers, and fathers and husbands - to protect their home, their family, their way of life.
It is a necessary responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly. Nor to be shirked. 
And it is for this reason that conscription for military service is seen as a necessity, especially when the pool of potential soldiers is small.
Yes, we conceal the nasty with concepts like duty, and honour, and loyalty, and esprit de corp. We glorify military service to make it more palatable, to participate in the autistic conspiracy that what is necessary is also good.
And yes, some good does come out of it. But that is because of the indomitable human spirit, that seeks to find a positive in the most demented situation. 
Extending this necessary evil that has been necessarily inflicted on the men, onto the women is the sign of a deranged and immature mind. 
It is a mind obsessed with naive and infantile notions of "fairness". 
It is a mind stewed in paranoia, and the ideology of victimhood,  and wishing to inflict the same suffering onto women. 
It is a mind confused and enraged by misconstrued ideas about gender equality, and lashing out in retaliation.  
It is a small mind, regardless of the intellectual capacity, lacking in compassion, empathy, and connection to women. 
It is a sad mind that seems to think that the only way to alleviate its pain is to ensure others suffer as well.
NS is a necessary evil.
Conscription is a curtailment of one's freedom to choose. We accept that for drastic and critical need, such suspension of basic human rights is necessary. Like Military Defence (National Service). 
But if one wishes to extend this suspension of human rights, this infringement of civil liberties, it has to be for a clear and present need. Conscripting girls today IN CASE we need to tomorrow is NOT a just cause. It is not a clear and present need.
Conscripting girls to be nurses, when it is possible and feasible to recruit from other countries, is unjustifiable.
But this NS for Girls question and issue will rise again. Not because it is a pressing and critical issue, but because there are always small-minded, vicious, ideologues who will want to make a case for NS for girls. 
They can dress their reason and logic any way they want, but deep down, they are basically women-haters. and they hate because they fear.
What do they fear? 
Sorry, I do not know. My instinct is to protect my wife, my mother, my sister, my daughter. Not force them to suffer. Or deprive them of their liberty. I therefore do not understand those who think their mother, sister, wife, or daughter, needs to learn "real-life" skills in NS. 

Does the above - about people who want to conscript girls to NS being women-haters - apply to Corinna Lim? She is after all the Executive Director of AWARE. She CAN'T hate women, can she?

I don't know. 

I don't know her enough to psycho-analyse her (and that's not how psychoanalysis works).  

But there are signs or suggestions, that some of the accusations above seems to to fit.  

Put it this way: Assuming you are an intelligent person understanding that conscription is a violation of the individual's right, an infringement of his civil liberties, and a suspension of his freedom, and that this violation of personal choice should not be undertaken except under the most necessary of evil, would you casually suggest the conscription of women to help men break out of their prison of "toxic" masculinity?

Apparently, the way to help men break out of this prison of masculinity, is to first put women in "prison" (NS) with them. 

I'm not sure if this is women-hating, but it doesn't sound like it's helping women. 




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