Are men and women equal today?

Are men and women equal today?

Source: WeAreEquals

“Are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.”

– Judi Dench

Directed by acclaimed ‘Nowhere Boy’ director/conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood, scripted by Jane Goldman (‘Kick Ass’) and featuring the voice of Dame Judi Dench reprising her role as ‘M’, the film will be screened in cinemas and streamed online in a bid to highlight the levels of inequality that persist between men and women in the UK and worldwide. It is the first film featuring Bond to be directed by a woman.

Director: Sam Taylor-Wood. Producer: Barbara Broccoli. Scriptwriter: Jane Goldman. Director of photography: Seamus McGarvey. Featuring the voice of Dame Judi Dench.

Editor: Mel Agace
Post production: Michael Sollinger
Post production coordinator: Harriet Dale
With thanks to all the team at Ascent, including Patrick Malone, Dean Harding,
Grading: Robin Pizzey
Deluxe grade production: Rob Farris
Effects fix: Emily Greenwood
Sound producer: Hannah Mills
Sound: Simon Diggins and Peter Gleaves at Goldcrest

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Man on mission to get more brethren into gender causes

Man on mission to get more brethren into gender causes

Man on mission to get more brethren into gender causes

During his student days, Yu Ren Chung was interested in working on environmental issues and took up electrical engineering in university so he could focus on renewable energy and clean technology.

Yu has changed course since then and is now working for Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), where he is the advocacy manager.

He credits prominent Malaysian women activists, especially Sisters In Islam (SIS) founder Zainah Anwar (below, right), for sparking his interest in gender equality.

As an undergraduate in Northwestern University, United States, Yu said he was first introduced to the world human rights activism when he attended a talk by Zainah in the US.

“By chance, she was travelling in the US when I was studying there and I attended an event organised by Malaysian students.

“She talked about her work in SIS and women’s rights in Malaysia, and I was really inspired by that, so I started researching a bit more and read about people like (Tenaganita co-founder) Irene Fernandez and the work she had been doing with migrant women,” he said in an interview with Malaysiakini at the WAO office in Petaling Jaya.

At around the same time, Yu was beginning to get disillusioned with approaching environmental issues through technology as he realised it was more of a political problem.

Instead of turning his back entirely, he delved into politics and public policies instead, taking up a minor in environmental policy and volunteering with political campaigns in the US as a student.

“I felt like the real challenge that needed to be solved was mainly political problems.

“Science and technology was way ahead and politics was way behind, so I focused my energy on (changing) that, so that exposed me to a number of issues like civil rights issues beyond environmental justice,” he said.

WAO a learning experience

When he returned to Malaysia, he was looking for a job in human rights advocacy and WAO seemed like the right fit for him, he said.

He has now worked for WAO for close to four years now, and it has been a “learning experience” for him.

While WAO provides services, crisis shelter, counselling and case management for domestic violence survivors, Yu focuses on advocacy work to change public policies and public attitudes.

He cited the Domestic Violence Act, where they have been pushing for reforms for three years, working closely with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the women’s parliamentary caucus, the police as well as through joint advocacy with fellow women’s groups in Malaysia.

“The policy division within the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is very proactive and forward-looking and we have a very good collaborative relationship with them,” he said.

WAO also works to improve enforcement of public policies, he said, recalling an instance when a hospital improved their one-stop crisis centre services after intervention from the women’s rights group.

They also advocate to change public attitudes about women’s rights, especially domestic violence against women, he said.

“That’s less about what the government is doing and more about what are people doing by themselves.

“Is violence against women something that people tolerate, like if you suspect domestic violence is happening in your neighbour’s house, are you going to stand by or stand up?” he said, giving an example.

Men have role

Though he has seen a positive impact from their work, there is still “a lot of room that needs to be filled”, he said.

Men, he said, have roles to play in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality as well.

There are two impetuses for men to be more proactive in the movement, he said, with the first being the effectiveness impetus, where there are certain situations where a man can be more effective in advocating for women’s rights.

Research has shown that a lot of men are more receptive to listening to other men when it comes to matters of women’s rights, he said.

Spaces that need to change the most are also usually the very spaces where men are most dominant, he added.

“Imagine if you are in a boardroom or any sort of high-level leadership where men are more representative because of other gender inequalities… those are spaces that more men have access to so there is a need (for men) to speak up in those areas,” he explained.

Aside from that, men also have a moral impetus to get involved in advocating for gender equality as most often, men are perpetrators of gender-based violence, he said.

Men top of chain

Even for men who are not directly oppressing women, Yu said all men benefit from the patriarchal system and male privilege regardless.

“In terms of fairness, there is a moral responsibility on men to actually do something about (gender inequality),” he said.

Men do not necessarily need to have special roles to play in the movement, he said, but they do have a responsibility.

There are several ways for men to be good allies in the fight for gender equality, he said, such as simply not perpetrating or perpetuating gender inequality and harassment.

More men should learn to question themselves on how they interact with their female colleagues, friends and family, he said.

They should also take it upon themselves to speak out when someone has said something that might be sexist, especially in a space with other men.

“Having more men that can be role models to champion this issue is something that can be important.

“It normalises the idea that men can take responsibility and be part of the solution,” he said.

WAO Hotline: 03 7956 3488

Or SMS/Whatsapp TINA at 018 988 8058 if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.

Transgender models make more than a fashion statement

Transgender models make more than a fashion statement

Transgender models make more than a fashion statement

by Alyaa Azhar | Feb 20, 2017

It was a normal day for Fariesha Adnan who works as a supervisor at a department store in Kuala Lumpur – that is until a stranger approached her and asked her if she would like to be a fashion model.

The stranger, Sharmila Ramanathan (photo below), founder of e-commerce business initiative NativesMY, was looking for individuals from marginalised communities to model her Deepavali clothing collection last year, and the lanky Fariesha caught her eye.

Fariesha had harboured dreams of modelling, but as a transgender woman, she never thought it was possible.

“It was like a dream.”

But after the surprise and elation wore off, she said, doubt and scepticism started to seep in.

For starters, she wondered if this was a scam and Sharmila yet another con artist.

And then, after she was convinced that NativesMY is a genuine operation, she faced a bout of self-doubt.

Chuckling self-consciously during an interview with Malaysiakini, she said she had wondered if she could actually do the job. Prior to modeling for NativesMY, she only posed for selfies, she said.

“I suddenly found myself in front of (another person’s) camera. I needed to know how to pose as well as the correct angles.”

At 39, the youthful Fariesha (photo) did not only get to fulfill her dreams in a fashion shoot.

She also found herself walking down a catwalk thanks to coaching from former Miss World Malaysia, Thanuja Ananthan – an experience she believes has pushed her out of her shell.

“I was quite shy before this, now I can talk to people more openly. I’ve never had an opportunity like this, so I’m thankful to Sharmila,” she said with a smile.

The positive feedback, especially on social media, came as a second surprise for Fariesha who has had her share of negative remarks.

It has prompted Fariesha to consider modelling full-time but this is something she will need to mull further.

More than a fashion brand

She was among four transgender women and a refugee who participated in the fashion show in September.

The Deepavali campaign embodies NativesMY’s objective to be more than a fashion brand.

The socially-conscious brand features handmade accessories by artisans in India, Thailand and Tibet, which are then marketed online.

Underlying the e-commerce, however, is the aspiration to use the business to empower marginalised communities, Sharmila said.

When considering how to market her products, Sharmila said she looked at how other brands had hired professional models and celebrities to endorse the brand online and decided to put a new twist to the concept.

“I understand why companies are doing it but I wanted to do something more meaningful.”

“Actually, I was open to anyone from the marginalised community but when I looked for them, it so happened that I found more transgender women,” said Sharmila, who holds a degree in advertising and marketing.

In fact, the Deepavali line was also dubbed “Hope” and dedicated to marginalised communities in hopes for improvement in the lives of those in such communities.

The desire to push for social change had before this seen her leave a plum job at an advertising firm to work for an international NGO, but it was not until she found a way to meld both her interests that she found fulfilment.

But life has not been a bed roses since she founded NativesMY.

“Now, most of the time when I meet my models, I will be taking a cab and carrying most of the bags (of clothes) for them to change into. I have bruises on my arms because I carry these bags.

“But at the end of the day I ask myself – am I happy? I am.”

No restrictions

The venture is fully-funded by Sharmila using her savings, as she does not want NativesMY to be constrained by investor requirements.

For example, she said, she did not want an investor to tell the brand’s models they cannot dress as women.

A group of transgender women last year lost their bid to declare unconstitutional a syariah enactment that criminalises cross-dressing.

Muslim transgender women risk arrest and action when dressing as women, as their identity cards state they are male – the gender they are assigned at birth.

A transgender man recently also lost his bid to change his gender on his identity card, after going through gender affirmation surgery.

“I want Natives to be a platform where people can be who they are. If (the transgender women) want to keep long hair or wear make-up as most of the time they are told not to,” Sharmila said.

Sharmila hopes the experience will help the models conquer their self-doubt and improve their lives.

“At the end of the day, I feel that this fundamental skill is the most important thing in getting a job and living a better life.”

“Especially for individuals from the marginalised community because they are so discriminated, stigmatised that they do not have basic skills such as confidence,” she said.

One of the NativesMY models had a passion for doing make-up, for example, but never had the confidence or the opportunity to pursue it.

After participating in the Deepavali campaign, Sharmila said, the model started following her dreams by becoming the make-up artiste for a local pageant participant.

This is an experience Sharmila hopes to replicate with those from other communities who have had to live on the fringes to society stigma.

Among those she hopes to recruit for the next campaign are those living with HIV, she said.

Employment discrimination

She also hopes to partner with corporate bodies through corporate social responsibility projects, at least to raise awareness among employers of employment discrimination faced by these groups.

“When I was looking for transgender people, I literally went to all malls to find them. It was so hard to find them.

“I think it’s because they have not been given opportunities to get proper jobs.”

“The next step is to see more progress (on this front), in that I hope that more companies will be more open to hiring them and giving them a chance,” she said.

Sharmila believes there is some level of acceptance already out there, evident in the positive feedback to NativeMY’s campaign on social media.

But she hopes Malaysians can do more than just share positive messages on social media.

“Malaysians just share things but that’s just creating awareness. They should go to the nearest NGO and do something.”

Do you agree?

Is ‘Dangal’ girl power or a new form of oppression?

Is ‘Dangal’ girl power or a new form of oppression?

Undoubtedly, Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’ has been one of the hottest movies among Malaysian moviegoers since it hit the screens at the end of 2016.

This should come as no surprise. The movie stars Indian award-winning actor Aamir Khan and features a compelling and uncommon plot about professional wrestling.

UTV Motion Pictures

Spoiler alert!

Is ‘Dangal’ girl power or a new form of oppression?

Based on a true story, the biographical sports drama follows the journey of a former national wrestling champion Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by Khan) as he trains his two daughters to become gold and silver medalists at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The film has garnered much praise for promoting gender equality, especially in patriarchal India where it is still illegal to determine the sex of a child before birth due to widespread female infanticide.

But whether or not it truly challenges patriarchy is a matter for debate.

The film opens with Mahavir expressing desire for a son, so he could train the boy to become a world class wrestler to fulfill Mahavir’s dream of winning a gold medal for India at a world championship. The hopes of Mahavir, who had to give up wrestling to make a living, dies as his wife delivers his fourth daughter.

That is until his eldest daughters Geeta and Babita, enraged after being teased by the village boys, decided to wallop the boys. It was a lightbulb moment for Mahavir – why crave for a son when his daughters can be trained just the same to achieve gold for India?

Girls to men

To achieve his dream, he disregarded objections by his wife and the gossip among his neighbourhood. Geeta and Babita were forced to train at 5am daily, eventually abandoning their traditional salwar kameez and long plaited hair for T-shirts, shorts and cropped hairdo so as to not distract from wrestling.

The scenes of the girls training directly confront gender stereotypes in rural India.

For example, when Mahavir’s wife frets over how her husband is ruining the girls’ chances of attracting a suitor, he tells her that when the girls are champions, it is they who will pick their partners and not the other way around.

When she tells him it is unheard of for girls to be wrestling, he asks: “So you think our girls are not as good as boys?”

Most obvious was the juxtaposition between the Phogat girls and their friend, a teen bride.

Upset that his daughters missed practice for something as frivolous as a wedding party, Mahavir stormed the party and struck Geeta across the face.

Crying to their friend, Geeta and Babita lament that their father is no father at all, forcing them to give up things that matter to them – their free time, their childhood, their long hair – to wrestle against boys in the mud.

But in the pivotal scene, their friend the teen bride tells them they are wrong. Unlike Mahavir, she said, her parents see her as nothing but a burden to be passed on to a groom for a price. Mahavir, she said, was giving his daughters a life.

Two dads little different

Even so, one cannot help but note that both the teen bride’s father and Mahavir are holding on to the same rope of patriarchy.

Mahavir, who had the final say on everything, forced his daughters to bend to his will of winning a gold medal for the country. This was not much different from forcing his daughter to get married. The only difference is that Mahavir’s motive was much more acceptable in the perspective of modern society.

The scene with the teen bride marked a change in the Phogat girls who buy into their father’s dream, catapulting the film many years forward to when a young adult Geeta becomes national champion.

Now a national athlete, Geeta has to leave her father’s tutelage to train at a national sports institution far from home.

Here, Mahavir’s power as “father” is challenged by a greater power – the “state” – represented by the sports institution and the national coach, who immediately undermines Mahavir’s techniques in front of his daughter.

The move to the national sports institution also allowed Geeta to expand her wings beyond sports. If before she was tightly regimented, in this bright new world she starts growing her hair, painting her fingernails, goes shopping and watches movies with her friends.

Slowly, she decides to abandon the so-called “weak skills” that she learned from Mahavir and adapted to what was offered by her coach.

And this ultimately turns to a confrontation between Geeta and Mahavir. In a visit to her hometown, Geeta defeats the now middle-aged Mahavir in a wrestling match.

The treatment of Geeta henceforth is that of a “rebel”, and her rebellion against the patriarchal force of her father was duly punished.

In back to back scenes, Geeta is unable to win a single international match while her sister Babita, who upheld her father, becomes national champion as reward for her “obedience”.

It is only after Geeta makes amends with her father and returns to her role as “obedient daughter” that she breaks her losing spell.

A poignant scene between Mahavir and Geeta, where he advises her to be a role model for all girls in India, may again persuade the audience of the feminist streak in the film. But alas, the denouement brings us back to the question of overarching patriarchy.

As much as the film strongly challenges stereotypes and gender roles in Indian society, ultimately, Dangal is a story of how Mahavir won his gold medal for India through his daughter. In this aspect, Geeta and Babita as women, became tools for their father, a man, to achieve his glory.

After Geeta wins the gold medal in a gut wrenching, nail-biting match (the cinematography and acting are stellar, one is literally sitting at the edge of one’s seat), she scans the stadium to find her father.

In the pinnacle scene, she shows her father the medal, and he for the first time in her life, says: “Syabas.”

If you were watching this, what did you see? Did you see a father who secured a bright future for his daughter, or did you see a daughter who fulfilled her father’s long-awaited dream?

Was Dangal really promoting gender equality and challenging the traditional values of the Indian society, or did it merely show a new form of gender oppression under the guise of national glory?