Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sexual objectification & misogyny towards female teachers (Malaysian context)

Earlier this year, when school session reopened, there were Facebook posts that were being shared regarding teachers, they were mostly about female teachers. At first glance, they were considered as jokes. However, if we look at it critically, through a feminist perspective, those posts reflect society’s habit of sexually objectifying women and reinforcing implicit misogyny towards women. In this post, I will be revealing how sexual objectification and implicit misogyny are reflected in those posts, as well as in classrooms.

With regards to sexual objectification, on social media, there was this one post that says ‘Ayah Tak Nak Balik Sanggup Teman Anak Di Sekolah kerana Cikgu Dara Cantik. Ohh CIKGU Cantik!!! Kalau CIKGU Macam ni…ayah teman anak setahun pun tak apa!!!’ which in English generally means the father won’t be going home because there is a beautiful teacher at his son/daughter’s school and the father won’t mind staying at school for a whole year. There was another post that went viral. It says – ‘Kalau mcm nie punya cikgu posing…jgn kata hantar anak sekolah…bapak budak duduk kat sekolah...alasan teman anak tak nangis’ which in English means when a teacher poses like this, it’s better not to send children to school. Otherwise, the father of the child will just sit around in school while saying to accompany the child so that the child won’t cry as an excuse.  Of course we can acknowledge these young female teachers for their beauty, but is it necessary to express it in a way that a father, a male and who is also someone else’s husband would drool at them? Doesn’t that sound disgusting? This post went viral earlier this year and it was shared by netizens without thinking of the meaning behind it. 

As for cases inside classrooms, when I was a teacher trainee, some of the lecturers reminded us female teacher trainees to not face backwards when erasing the whiteboard. The rationale for this was to not face our buttocks towards the students, especially to the male students, with fear that they would get sexually aroused. This is a rationale that is not rational at all. This is another example of sexual objectification of female teachers. It is a known fact that adolescent male students are hormonal. But doesn’t this require them to be taught to control their sexual urges and lust? They should be taught since young to not sexually objectify women. Instead, female teachers were the ones being told not to face backwards in front of classrooms. Personally, I don’t give a damn about this advice anymore. There are times where I directly advise my male students to control their sexual urges. Our culture of regarding sex as a taboo topic is what reinforcing things like these. Not only that, it also reinforces rape culture. There was a case where a male student proudly talks about having sex with his female teacher on a social media platform with his classmates. When she complained about the incident to other teachers, zero fucks were given. This situation will also reinforce rape culture. 

How about implicit misogyny? I remember a post that was shared on Facebook earlier this year when school reopened. It was a post stating that female teachers these days only know how to post selfies and claiming that this habit is one of the causes of the decline of the quality of (Malaysian) school students. This is a post hoc fallacy. Don’t you think that there are other factors that could come into play? Laziness of the teacher could be one of the factors, but the act of taking selfies itself isn’t an indication of laziness. It would be illogical to think that all we do is take selfies 24/7 and have our phones in our hands all the time. Won’t that be tiring? This is an example of implicit misogyny whereby the target is only on female teachers. This habit of taking selfies is of course apparent in our generation - the Millenials and within that group of Millenials, there is a group that has teaching as a profession. However, I believe we still have a sense of duty (whether the motivation for this is intrinsic or extrinsic) to always do better for our students and not let the act of taking selfies get in the way of our profession. 

 These are few examples whereby sexual objectification and implicit misogyny are apparent in social media and schools. By writing this blog entry, I hope everyone who reads it will be aware of sexism that are occurring in educational institutions. 

p/s: I hope to translate this post to Malay so that it could reach to non-English speaking audience because this is a serious issue and all levels of society need to be aware of it. 

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