AWAW finds the #WanitaCegahCOVID19 posters titled ‘Kebahagiaan Rumahtangga’ issued by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) are problematic because of the visual content and its sexist messaging. The hashtag campaign clearly puts the responsibility of preventing the spread of the virus on women – girls, daughters, mothers, and wives, but also apparently to ensure the peace and happiness of the family during a time of crisis. Women are expected to work, cook, clean, look after children, do laundry, look good, wear makeup, deal with the stress and anxiety while smiling and cajoling her husband (i.e. gelak manja doraemon) to help with housework.
KPWKM should stop depicting care work and housework along gender lines. Right now, we need everyone in the family to play their part. Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing. By playing into gender stereotypes and limiting women’s roles is harmful as it unfairly puts pressure on women without regard for their safety and health. It also fails to take into account women who are single, breadwinners, pregnant, elderly, divorced or separated from their husbands.
This messaging also displaces widowers, single fathers, men who share the burden of housework with their spouse, and men who take an active role in being with as well as caring for the family. KPWKM’s messaging reinforces toxic patriarchal stereotypes that does not work, and does not reflect the real and lived experience of many today.
This narrative is also not as innocent as it seems. By reinforcing the idea that women must look after the husband and maintain a marriage, we as a society are absolving men of their responsibilities when a marriage should be a mutual effort. This type of toxic narratives is one of the causes of domestic violence, and what causes individuals to stay in an abusive relationship – sometimes at the risk of their life, livelihood and physical safety.
AWAM has already seen many sexist jokes about women, especially those reducing women to domestic roles. KPWKM’s messaging serves to encourage such narratives from the public, thereby reinforcing the culture of patriarchy, which places men over women in positions of power.
AWAM urges KPWKM to work with the women’s groups so that we can provide real solutions to problems that women face everyday. Women are human too. Women deserve to be treated equally, with respect, care and dignity.
With the MCO in place, there is a higher risk of violence as tensions rise within the home. Domestic violence survivors are now at a higher risk as contact outside the home is now limited, with fewer opportunities to get help from family, neighbours or friends. AWAM hopes that KPWKM can work together with AWAM and other women’s groups to assist the women, men or children who are at risk.
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
31 MARCH 2020