By Syeerleena Abdul Rashid
There is no denying that sexism has become a permanent feature in our local political landscape. Given the low number of women representatives in politics, the Malaysian parliament has once again become a circus of misogyny filled with tasteless jokes that undermine women and the barriers we try so hard to overcome in a society that is increasingly becoming chauvinistic as years pass.
Yesterday, Umno deputy minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman had the nerve to pass on such a sexist remark where he referred to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok as ‘a woman with a Kok’. Since then, Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhar has come to his comrade’s defense by stating that such a remark was not serious, therefore, did not warrant an apology. Bung Mokhar has made some eye brow raising remarks in the past and defending such an abhorrent act is expected; as the old adage states, birds of a feather flock together – both Umno MPs are the quintessential poster boys for women haters in this country.
Regardless of how politicians like Tajuddin try to spin this: Malaysians are not stupid – the pun intended was neither witty nor classy but only stood to remind us all, of the severity of misogyny in politics. Sexist jokes and misogynistic remarks have absolutely no place in our society and more so, in our parliaments.
Political leaders and especially high ranking ones like Tajuddin should have exuded class, showed respect and above all, offered an exemplary role model for Malaysians to emulate. Instead, he has shown us, time and again, that he neither has the grit nor the empathy needed to be a leader our nation needs.
Our fundamental problem is that there exist a consistency of how women are frequently dehumanized and these acts are indeed perpetuated by some male leaders who lack sensitivity chips. This sort of incessant mistreatment and blasé approach when it comes to acknowledging a woman’s worth only endorses bigotry and empowers the chauvinists to do or say as they please.
Malaysians are in danger of becoming too used to degrading, despicable and even violent treatment of women (both verbally and physically) – our leaders becoming desensitized to our struggles and our society becoming to detached to our cause.
If we – peace loving and rational thinking Malaysians, continue to ignore the gravity of such acts, we will only leave a legacy that is too shameful and too debasing for our young girls and young boys to aspire to.
Tajuddin must apologize to Teresa Kok as well as to every single woman and child out there for letting an entire nation down. As an elected representative of this Federation, a deputy minister, a member of parliament and most importantly, a father and a husband, he has the responsibility to present himself in a chivalrous and commendable manner; but before anything else, he owes us all, an apology for his crass behavior.
Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAP Wanita National Assistant Publicity Secretary.