ST Forum: Self-described feminist mentor’s actions invited a reaction

19 May 2009
Straits times Online Forum

Self-described feminist mentor’s actions invited a reaction
I REFER to Monday’s letter by Dr Thio Su Mien, ‘Gay activists a key constituency of Aware’. I would like to highlight a number of statements she made that serve no purpose other than to confuse.

I am perplexed how Dr Thio can, in the same paragraph, say that Aware’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) manual ‘expressly states that homosexuality is neutral and normal’, and then go on to attack the content of the CSE programme as ‘non-neutral’.

But that is a minor point. What strikes me as most curious is how Dr Thio seems to have conveniently forgotten that anal sex between heterosexuals is legal when putting forth the argument that anal sex is against the law. It appears that she perceives anal sex as an activity only homosexuals are capable of, and in which heterosexuals would not engage.

Dr Thio has also chosen to view the support that ‘sexually challenged women’ provided to the old guard at the Aware extraordinary general meeting as a sinister indication that ‘homosexual activists seeking to impose their values’ have become a ‘chief constituency of Aware’. She seems to have overlooked the fact that she and her feminist ‘mentees’ had made unfounded and moralistic attacks on an entire group of society while orchestrating an unjust takeover of a civil society group.

It is hard to imagine that Dr Thio, with her vast experience as a ‘feminist mentor’, did not expect sexual minorities to stand up and defend themselves. How then does she indicate statistically that homosexuals have become a ‘chief constituency of Aware’?

However, I must agree with Dr Thio’s assertion that discerning Singaporeans can examine the evidence to make up their own minds on this issue. Singaporeans are generally progressive and I am confident we are able to see past the smoke to inch towards a more inclusive and egalitarian society.

Tim Mou Hui

Schools should teach only biology of sex and leave morality of it to parents

I REFER to last Wednesday’s letter by Mr Warren Mark Liew, ‘Instilling values a complex task’.

He questioned this assumption: ‘All parents and teachers are sufficiently willing and able to teach their children the best values concerning gender and sexuality.’

As a full-time mother and a part-time educator in a polytechnic, I have this to say.

Just as I cannot be the best parent, and can only do my best, there are also no best values concerning gender and sexuality. There are only values I believe in, and these are the values I want to inculcate in my child.

As a parent, I am definitely willing and able to teach my child this set of values. I chose to be a stay-at-home mum to do just that. And I believe teachers should concentrate on the biology of sex education.

I do not deny the power of external influences. I only hope that over time, the values I have imbued in my child will take root, hold strong, and guide her in making informed decisions and facing the consequences of her decisions.

Meanwhile, I am here to censor. My child is only three years old and, at this point, I am still uncertain when I will lift the censorship. Based on my experience of working with 16- and 17-year-olds, I believe my child will still need my guidance when she reaches young adulthood.

My guidance will be in telling her – yes, you can definitely think for yourself now, but have you considered why you are thinking what you are thinking?

We do not need to worry that Internet-savvy young people are denied alternative views. We have to worry how and why they choose to adopt that particular value.

And when I say ‘we’, I am referring to parents, not teachers.

Pearlyn Koh (Ms)

DPM Wong is right, all should be mindful of Singapore’s secularism
I REFER to last Friday’s article, ‘Questionable takeover but crucial service’. In it, the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Singapore, Dr John Chew, argued that the women who took control of the secular group, Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), performed a ‘crucial service’ to Singapore by highlighting the ‘revisionist sexuality norms’ that were purportedly taught by Aware in schools.

Let me state unequivocally at the outset that I respect all religions and people with religious beliefs. However, the statement, by a leader of the Christian community, is somewhat misleading.

The themes that were advocated in the programmes conducted in schools focused mainly on the virtues of abstinence and the proper use of contraception to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers.

To claim that ‘mainstream society at large would be grateful for the… vigilance of the Christian community’ equates to saying that our secular society should adhere to the beliefs of a narrow segment of a vocal religious minority.

Much has been said about how the group of women seized power and was booted out at the recent extraordinary general meeting. I believe the lessons to be learnt have been well-articulated by Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng – that we have to be tolerant of people with different opinions, and people with different religious beliefs, including those who are not bound to a particular religion.

After all, our society is made up of people from a multitude of religions as well as non-believers, people of different races, and people who are straight and those who are gay. As we continue in our quest to be an inclusive society, let us all be acutely mindful of our differences, but even more conscious of the glue that binds us together as Singaporeans.

Vincent Tan


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