A few days after Malaysia has formed a new government, tales of Datin Sri Rosmah, the wife of Datuk Sri Najib had surfaced. Much of it was about her collection of Hermes Birkin bags found in one of their homes. Another story that went around was how she was the cause of Datuk Sri Najib’s downfall. I agree to that. But what I don’t agree is that most of the conclusion that’s been made regarding this issue was that women is the cause of man’s downfall. Is it because of her existence as a woman or is it because of her greed? Should we look at it in the lens of personality or in the lens of gender?
Taking Rosmah as one of the factors for Najib’s downfall as an example to illustrate how women can be the cause for a man’s downfall is sexist and is a notion that has been passed down through a society that has practiced patriarchy for centuries. Evaluating the situation by her existence as a woman (and thus expecting all women to have such potentials to do the same to their husbands. I’ve seen this narrative going on as a trend in random discussions) is a fallacy. It’s her greed and lack of consideration for the consequences that might follow from her greed was the factor, not because it’s her inherent destiny as a woman.
But is she the only one to blame for Najib’s downfall? No, Najib himself was also the cause. Not because he’s a man, but because of his incompetence in making certain decisions. Blindly following other people’s orders (in this case, Rosmah) without considering the cause and effect and without being firm in making (or not making) certain decisions have led to both of their downfall.
A friend of mine shared a Chinese proverb that meant ‘beauty caused disaster’ which was in fact sexist. I think this proverb alludes to many historical accounts which talked about how a woman becomes the main reason for the downfall of an empire. Even mythology is included. An example is Helen of Troy in Greek Mythology. The idea that a woman caused the downfall was rooted in history which had been influenced by the patriarchy. It was not surprising that people put the blame on Rosmah when she saw her lavish lifestyle. On the bright side, our society has become more mature enough to recognise that while Rosmah ‘could have’ been the mastermind, Najib still carries the huge responsibility for what he does.
Apart from Rosmah, there are other historical examples that pointed toward the lavish lifestyle of the wife of a leader that have become one of the factors of their downfall. The first one was Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) who was the final queen of France and the second one was Imelda Marcos who served as the First Lady of Philippines from 1965-1986.
Apart from history, another famous source for justifying the idea that women can be the cause for men’s downfall is picked from The Holy Bible. Well, it is just a misconception of Eve’s downfall on women’s so-called ‘inherent destiny’. The book ’10 Lies the Church Tells Women’ argues how certain verses in The Holy Bible are taken out of context to keep the patriarchy in power over the centuries. It’s not The Holy Bible’s fault, but it’s the interpretation of it through the patriarchal lens.
Pointing fingers at the woman when the leader becomes blinded which have led the downfall of his empire, it’s just history repeating itself. The character changes, but the plot remains. Remember, humans can be corrupted but it’s not because of their gender per se, it’s because it’s inherent in all of us and it’s waiting to be resurfaced only if we let it.