While the Western world is being reintroduced to outspoken sexism in the offices of government in the form of US president-elect Donald Trump, we Malaysians have long known politicians who have no qualms about displaying their lack of culture.
It was therefore not much of a surprise when deputy minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman called Seputeh MP Teresa Kok “the only woman with a Kok”. It was especially not a surprise that such a tasteless, racist and sexist utterance came from Tajuddin. He’s done it before.
With his immunity as a member of the ruling party – and a member of the administration at that – what does he care about the 2012 amendment to parliamentary rules that banned sexist remarks?
Before that, in 2007, we had Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin making remarks about an opposition MP’s menstrual cycle. A little further back, the then Works Minister, S Samy Vellu, compared toilets to new brides, saying that they “get a bit spoiled” after some time. For a more recent example, we can point to Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim’s reference to Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto as a “pondan” when she raised concerns on the education and welfare of Orang Asli in Gua Musang.
What does all this say to our children in these days when not even they are shielded from information? What does this tell them about how they can behave in public?
Tajuddin’s words sound like a schoolyard taunt. They dehumanise and devalue part of Teresa’s identity, and while no one can explicitly condone Khalid Samad for fighting fire with fire, it is only right that her colleagues should react in her defence.
The insults traded among our male MPs are sometimes so appalling that they cause a cringe of shame in ordinary members of the public. How could anyone imagine that insulting and demeaning your colleagues, even the ones you don’t like, is a way of getting anything done or, at least, earning respect?
Remember that Teresa is hit with a sexist insult at a time when the government is ostensibly trying to promote women leaders and at a time when women leaders of great talent are appearing everywhere. People like Tajuddin live in a cave. They are unaware that the society we live in is changing and that the role of women in the workplace is changing.
If it’s too much to ask our elected representatives to treat each other with respect, then we’re asking them to display a modicum of human decency.
Tajuddin’s crying foul for the sake of his dignity is rich when his own insult is considered. He went out of his way to demean a woman when all that was needed of him was a well-argued rebuttal. Alas, that is apparently a task beyond him. Instead of owning up to the mistake, he has chosen to run from his remarks and lash out at reporters for allegedly lying.
We live in the digital age, and everything is recorded and remembered forever. That is reason enough for Parliament to clean up its act for good. Our parliament is just short of emulating some of the rowdier and more amusing parliaments that actually physically brawl on the regular. -FMT