Women and Sexuality: Heather, the Totality

I read this book recently. Here’s a vox article about it (I like vox).

Image result for heather the totality

‘Being a girl’ isn’t an identity I think about often. This book was quite badly received by the public, but I quite liked it because it made me think about things I didn’t really consider before and felt it was quite apt in Singapore’s context. Basically it’s about a very privileged family and their relationship with a construction worker who hits on the daughter.

I come from a privileged background, like Heather. She doesn’t see danger in places, in people. She easily speaks to the construction worker, Bobby (so relevant to Singapore) and her father is angry. “To her attempted rapist, Heather is purity to be defiled; to her father, she is purity to be preserved; to herself, she is just … pure” (Vox, 2017). Similarly, I don’t feel afraid in Little India, and I feel annoyed when my male friends – my mother too, not about Little India, but she always talks about the dangers in the world – ask if I am. Why should they ask? Is it 1) chivalry/ ‘masculinity’ – which I think is bullshit, 2) racism, even worse, 3) is it because I’m really ignorant of the dangers of the world? Could I be like Heather, unaware of the effect I (women) have on other people (men)? I am like Heather, I want to see and be part of goodness in the world, I am unhappy sometimes at the lack of ‘good’ in the privileged people around me, but also unable to be better than I already am (*aside, thought about this over the weekend and realised the importance of community and support. I think I’m currently not in the best environment yet. It’s possible to do things that are different, alone, but I’m currently faltering?), I’m uncomfortable in a comfortable place. Indeed, are there inherently dangerous places and people in the world?

About sex though. Mark, the father, is unhappy that a construction worker, Bobby, looks ‘sexually’ at his daughter and spoke to her. (Is it a class thing? Weiner didn’t address it). I wonder about the experiences of men, and fathers. Surely they’ve objectified females before, had lustful thoughts. I wonder what their thoughts in relation to their daughters and spouses are: do they feel angry if another male thinks dirty/graphic thoughts about those females, do they empathise and understand, do they have a right to be angry? And females too: we usually don’t talk about the sexual wrong doings that females commit against men, but…? What are they? Do Filipino women make eyes at Singaporean men?

Additional links about gender:

Paedophiles. We need to look at them in a different way. They can’t control their feelings, their sexual orientation. Many of them don’t end up sexually abusing children. They may be constantly unhappy with themselves and never receive sexual fulfilment. I’m thinking about this in relation to gays (to an extent)? Gays being seen as a ‘mental illness’ in the past and we’re more accepting now, but, to what extent should we accept ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour? And also, to what extent are sexual orientations ‘natural’/innate/ ‘I always knew’: people weren’t always sexual (young children), can preferences change?

‘I’ve lived as a man and a woman – here’s what I learnt’. Love this stuff. Very interesting too. I liked the perspective brought forth: in the same era she was a male and female and hence could judge the differences both sexes faced. She didn’t talk so much about being transgender (which actually may be something she identifies more with? I don’t know).


Check your privilege (genders)

I don’t particularly think of myself as a girl.

What I mean to say is that while that’s a part of my identity, I never thought it was particularly significant. I used to get annoyed at those feminists/ gender rights people: I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bi, lesbian etc. I don’t care (too much) who you prefer, who you identify with, what you look like. Why do you have to fight against the law? Just be whoever you are and go ahead and enjoy whatever you like though it may be ‘illegal’. No government authority (at least in those places where this discourse is most prevalent) is going to barge into your house and arrest you for whatever you do in your own bedroom. Why make such a huge fuss? Because you are being ‘discriminated’ against? Being stared at, getting called names, being anxious about going to public toilets, being bullied in public? Everyone faces this kind of stuff, it’s a part of life. Be it because you’re too fat/thin, dark/fair, ugly/pretty. There’s fat and skinny shaming, there’s racism, there is unfair rights of single parents etc. As long as there is a distinction between you and someone else, there will be all this negative stuff. There are bigger causes to fight for.

I suppose I’ve come to understand a little more about what people fight for.

Privilege is when you don’t have to think about something. It’s an automatic, taken for granted fact. Like grace: to understand that you literally don’t deserve anything, there is no concept as ‘natural’. What you have is something that someone else lacks and wish they have, that it is not equal.

While I had questioned why people are so caught up with gender as their identity (I mean, once again, I didn’t understand this before since people are so deep and complex: we’ve so many different roles as humans: to our family, in our workplace, in our spiritual lives, we’ve got so many interests, things we engage in etc) but I’ve realised that honestly, I’m no different. Who am I as a person? If you took away my ability to think and write, my histories and milestones in life. I don’t think I’ll know who I am. Inevitably, some things make me more me than others. And for some people, gender is something that is important. While some may feel ashamed about their genders, perhaps that feeling of embarrassment is precisely what makes their gender them.

I think about it in this way: perhaps we’re just not comfortable with ourselves. No one is going to judge me too much if one day I decide to become minimalist and only own 100 items. No one is going to judge me too much if I decide to go vegan. Yet I will probably be quite conscious and feel uncomfortable about it if people around me keep talking about it, asking me questions about why I decide to make these lifestyle choices (hmm another train of thought which I had: how much of ‘discrimination’ can we control? Perhaps we can choose our religion – really? – And the way we carry/take care of our bodies. But we can’t change our skin colours) How much harder is it for people who are gender non-conforming? What kind of worse questions will they get?

Perhaps our main issues are our insecurity. Our inability to accept ourselves as being different. We have all these fights about rights and acceptance. For others to acknowledge us and accept us when we cannot ourselves. We fight for others, ensuring that other people who went through the same thing that we did would never feel the same crappy way that we did.