8 Feb 2005

Traditional Role of Family

The extended family in Singapore is a myth. (Stella Quah)And printed below is my continuing counter-argument, to constantly promoting the 'traditional family'. Every year the same tired speech is rolled out.

Singapore PM stresses traditional role of family

www.chinaview.cn 2005-02-08 12:34:36


SINGAPORE, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday underscored in his Chinese New Year message the important role the traditional extended family has been playing in Singaporeans' lives.

"To be a resilient society, we need strong and close families. Ultimately, helping out relatives who are in need, and bringing upchildren into upright, productive adults, are acts motivated by kinship bonds and emotional ties," Lee said.

He encouraged young couples to have more children as birth figures in the city state have been declining since 1990, which threatens the country's population replacement.

He noted that to keep up with changing circumstances such as the prevailing nuclear families and globalization, the government is taking pro-family measures and strengthening social safety netsto make Singapore a great place for families.

Satisfied with the country's economic performance in the past year, Lee wished all Singaporeans a prosperous Year of the Roosterahead.

Smash Patriarchy



The word on the street is that our recently enrolled eugenically engineered clone is going to turn its attention to the falling birth rate. And the usual approach to fixing this problem will be applied. No. 1 assume that it is the females job to look after children, so increase maternity leave, ommitting paternity leave. No.2 Throw some more money at the problem. This tactic of viewing child-rearing as the Sinagaporean females national service has not worked, even with the introduction of the Singapore Development Unit in 1984.

My argument is simple. If you remove the emotional connection and see it in instrumentalist terms. For a long long time the male has dominated life in Singapore, hell he can even go to Bintan to wife number 2, Gaylang if he feels like being unfaithful.

If a company had failed to be productive for the last 16 years and you owned that company what would you do to the employees. You could sack every employee or you could change the management. Put the female in charge, empower women.

There is a silent revolution going on in Singapore.

Read a previously published article... from the last time this same old problem arose and they threw the same tired solution at it...

The Battle of Sexuality in Singapore
Recent debates in the national media and newspapers are attempting to defend male domination in Singapore, (patriarchalism). Whether it is a debate focusing on the birth-rate, homosexuality, (gay and lesbian) or oral sex legislation I feel that the following section from a well known and highly regarded sociologist seems to place Singapore's 'problems' in a wider global issue. The statistics referred to in the article are American, but finding statistics on this area in Singapore is not possible. However, survey conducted by Durex concluded that Singaporeans have the least sex in the world. I wonder if that survey questioned the frequency of other sexual activity. How would Singaporeans have been ranked if the "perverse" pleasures had been assessed?

In the TODAY newspaper (long time ago)there [was] a letter from someone condemning 'oral sex'. Here is my rebuttal. What follows are not my own words but those of Manuel Castells.

"[C]onsumerist sexuality" appears to be on the rise, although the indications here are rather direct. Laumann et al. analyze their sample in terms of sexual normative orientations following the classic distinction between sexuality (procreational), relational (companionship), and recreational (orientated towards sexual enjoyment). They also isolate a "libertarian-recreational" type that seems closer to the images of pop-sexual liberation or, in Giddens terms, "plastic sexuality." When analysing their sample by major regions in America, they found that 25.5 percent of their sample in New England, and 22,2 percent in the Pacific region, could be included under such a "libertarian-recreational" category: this is about one-quarter of the population in some of the most culturally trend-setting areas of America.

A meaningful indicator of increasing sexual autonomy, as a pleasure-orientated activity, is the practice of oral sex which, I remind you is catalogued as sodomy, and explicitly prohibited by law in 24 American states, albeit under conditions of doubtful enforcement. Laumann et al., (1994) commenting on these findings, assert that:

The overall trend reveals what we might call a rapid change in sexual techniques if not a revolution. The difference in lifetime experience of oral sex between respondents born between 1933 and 1942 and those born after 1943 is dramatic. The proportion of men experiencing oral sex in their lifetime increases from 62 percent of those born between 1933-37 to 90 percent of those born between 1948-52. The timing of sexual techniques appears to have been responsive to cultural changes in the late 1950s, changes that peaked in the mid to late 1960s, when they approached saturation level of the population. The lower rates among the youngest groups in our survey are not evidence of decline in oral sex; these groups simply have not yet engaged in sexual relationships in which oral sex has become likely if not normative. [Laumann et al., (1994)]

Incidentally, between 75 and 80 percent of women in the latest cohort also experienced oral sex, and in the younger groups their occurrence is higher than for men. Laumann et al. Also report widespread incidence of auto-eroticism (associated with high levels of partnered sexual activity), and of masturbation, hardly a novel technique, but that seems to involve two-thirds of men, and over 40 percent of women.

Thus, if instead of reading sexual behaviour under the norm of heterosexual, repetitive partnership, we take a more "perverse" approach to it, the data reveals a different story, a story of consumerism, experimentation, and eroticism in the process of deserting conjugal bedrooms, and still searching for the new modes of expression, while watching out for AIDS. Since these new patterns of behaviour are more visible among younger groups, and in trend-setting cities, I feel safe to predict that, if, when, and where the AIDS epidemic comes under control, there will be one, two, three many Sodoms, emerging from fantasies freed by the crisis of patriarchialism, and excited by the culture of narcissism. Under such conditions, as Giddens proposes, sexuality becomes the property of the individual.(Giddens, 1992) Where Foucault saw the extension of apparatuses of power into sexuality constructed/construed subject, Giddens sees, and I concur, the fight between power and identity in the battleground of the body.


Click here to learn more.
Castells, M., (2004), The Power of Identity, Second Edition.


Singapore is a patriarchal society in the midst of a quiet revolution, led primarily by females and declining marriage rates and birth rates are the front line. The old male guard will not even admit that there is a battle between the sexes centering on female ownership of their own bodies but also sexuality in general.

16 comments:

The Legal Janitor said...

Singapore is a patriarchal society in the midst of a quiet revolution, led primarily by females and declining marriage rates and birth rates are the front line. The old male guard will not even admit that there is a battle between the sexes centering on female ownership of their own bodies but also sexuality in general.I fail to see how that extract from Manuel Castells supports or validates in any way that last paragraph of yours. Maybe you might want to be more explicit in what the connection is?

soci said...

The PAP and their policies, constantly refer to the 'family' and Traditional family values. The family is refered to in isolation of how society has changed in terms of sexuality and individual choices.

The speech highlights a 'functionalist' account of the family. Its obviously a Parsonian account of the family functioning to create, stabilised adult personalities and socialisation of children and leading to stability of Singaporean society.

This theory was highlighted by Parsons in the 1950's. A golden age of Traditional family is infered. The traditional family for many, in particular women was viewed as oppressive towards women and female sexuality is more than about 'producing babies'today.

Sex no longer takes place in order to create babies. Sex is about personal pleasure.

"Thus, if instead of reading sexual behaviour under the norm of heterosexual, repetitive partnership, we take a more "perverse" approach to it, the data reveals a different story, a story of consumerism, experimentation, and eroticism in the process of deserting conjugal bedrooms, and still searching for the new modes of expression, while watching out for AIDS."

The policies, including the SDU seem to be in denial that what is at stake is the control of female bodies. Control refers to power and the battle for control and the rhetoric that runs with it, is a battle for power of females.

"[...]as Giddens proposes, sexuality becomes the property of the individual.(Giddens, 1992) Where Foucault saw the extension of apparatuses of power into sexuality constructed/construed subject, Giddens sees, and I concur, the fight between power and identity in the battleground of the body."

Sexuality and reproduction is the property of the individual not the state. It is not for the maintenance of Singaporean society or its stability.

The family or 'families' has changed since the 1950's but the rhetoric of the PAP seems stuck in the past.

Eufrasia said...

The question is whether traditional family is really functional. The defenders of traditional family would certainly think that there was a time that traditional family was functioning well. Is it really the case or is it just a myth? Is it true that the increase in divorce rates and decrease in birth rates indicates that there is a crisis in 'family'? The defenders of traditional family (i.e. functionalists) would certainly think so. However, before we really conclude anything, we should really see both sides of the story. We should also consider 'the dark side' of the traditional family. As Giddens pointed out, historians are uncovering more and more about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the traditional family, and this sexual abuse normally involved males abusing females. this remains true if we dare to look at what is going on around us. We see it everywhere, we read it everywhere about it, sometimes we just don't want to admit it...

Also, decline in birth rate and marriage rate may indicate that pople now value 'democracy of emotion' more. people don't get married or have children because they have to but because they want to. We now have more freedom of choice than we had last time.

Having said this, I am not trying to say that traditional family is a bad thing. However, as Giddens argued, changing the emotional undertone of personal life is perhaps even more important than changes in the economic structure of the relationship between the sexes or the relationship between the sexes or the relationship between children and their parents. It's in the emotions that a lot of these changes are actually carried. (Giddens, 1999)

So, instead of promoting one ideal type of family, perhaps we should promote democracy and a good relationship which involve : equality, autonomy, respect , communication and non-violence (Giddens,1999).

Eufrasia said...

The question is whether traditional family is really functional. The defenders of traditional family would certainly think that there was a time that traditional family was functioning well. Is it really the case or is it just a myth? Is it true that the increase in divorce rates and decrease in birth rates indicates that there is a crisis in 'family'? The defenders of traditional family (i.e. functionalists) would certainly think so. However, before we really conclude anything, we should really see both sides of the story. We should also consider 'the dark side' of the traditional family. As Giddens pointed out, historians are uncovering more and more about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the traditional family, and this sexual abuse normally involved males abusing females. this remains true if we dare to look at what is going on around us. We see it everywhere, we read it everywhere about it, sometimes we just don't want to admit it...

Also, decline in birth rate and marriage rate may indicate that pople now value 'democracy of emotion' more. people don't get married or have children because they have to but because they want to. We now have more freedom of choice than we had last time.

Having said this, I am not trying to say that traditional family is a bad thing. However, as Giddens argued, changing the emotional undertone of personal life is perhaps even more important than changes in the economic structure of the relationship between the sexes or the relationship between the sexes or the relationship between children and their parents. It's in the emotions that a lot of these changes are actually carried (Giddens, 1999)

So, instead of promoting one ideal type of family, perhaps we should promote democracy and a good relationship which involve : equality, autonomy, respect , communication and non-violence (Giddens,1999).

The Legal Janitor said...

Steve:

I believe the party rhetoric is not as male-centric as you would believe. Indeed, if you take into account the Women's Charter, I think there a significant portion of men out there who think women have MORE rights than men, and not the other way round.

Anyway, I do not believe your contention that all women in Singapore feel like they do not own their bodies can apply equally to all women. Surely many don't feel that way. Others might even choose to 'give up' that 'ownership'.

In a contest between multiculturalism and 2nd wave bra-burning feminism, which side would you take? Not all ideas among the progressive left-wing are consistent or coherent with each other.

Since I do not ascribe to the po-mo 'gender relations is all about power' view, I suggest that the problem can be perceived from a different angle.

Tech Central State - Where Have All the Children Gone?You might find the whole article interesting, but I believe only the subsection titled "Why is the birth rate falling?" is relevant to our discussion here.

Mock Turtle said...

shianux:
Whether or not some people would give up certain rights has no bearing on whether they should have them.

We believe that no one should be convicted of a crime without a fair trial. Just because many people plead guilty is no reason to deprive the defendants who -do- plead innocent of their right to a fair trial.

Similarly, just because some women have been raised to consider themselves as no more than baby machines has no bearing whatsoever on how the ones who've escaped this pernicious mindset should be treated.

True Flight said...

This discussion is stupid.

There is no generic "battle of the sexes" going on whereby Singaporean men are fighting to impregnate their wives and their wives are resisting & mounting some valiant battle for ownership of their own bodies.

In Singapore, husbands who do not want to be fathers are as common as wives who do not want to be mothers.

And their reasons are the same. It always comes down to the same few factors like (1) career, (2) wanting to pursue other interests (further studies, travel etc), (3) financial concerns, and (4) the view that the Singapore education system makes Singapore a bad place to have kids.

Also, all this high-flown airy-fairy debate often misses out on the practicalities of childraising & parenthood (which I, as a father of two, feel eminently qualified to talk about).

Of course women's maternity leave should be longer than men's paternity leave.

Firstly, the man doesn't go through the trauma of childbirth with all that massive loss of blood and other placental & organic tissue. He doesn't need to recover from ANYTHING. Except maybe some lack of sleep.

Secondly, the man can't breastfeed (now if you don't know about the importance of breastfeeding, go educate yourself first, then come back) whereas the woman can. So it is much more important that the woman has time in the early months to be with the baby to breastfeed. That's why she ought to have more maternity leave.

Thirdly, if you must insist on using the term "baby machine" - well, of course the woman has to be the "baby machine". Men can't possibly perform that function. They don't have the necessary equipment.

Fourthly, MANY Singaporean grandparents are actively involved in raising their grandchildren. That's a simple fact, and that's also a good thing.

Also, from my own anecdotal observations, many Singaporean men ARE actively involved in raising their children, much more so than in previous generations. And they want to. It is certainly not exclusively mummy's job.

The Legal Janitor said...

parkaboy:
Whether or not some people would give up certain rights has no bearing on whether they should have them.Oh really? why is that? Rights are not absolute you know. And it is possible to waive a right, as long as it is voluntary and you have an understanding of your actions and its consequences.

Similarly, just because some women have been raised to consider themselves as no more than baby machines has no bearing whatsoever on how the ones who've escaped this pernicious mindset should be treated.That's not my point. My point is that there's no such women any more. The irony is that the characterisation of Singaporean women as being stupid and not knowing their own rights is just as paternalistic as the alleged position of the government.

I think you have to accept that women in Singapore are increasingly better educated, more mature and wiser than men. And among these women, there are a diversity of opinions and lifestyle choices. Some choose career. Some choose family.

Surely, if someone makes a decision to give up something in exchange for something else they want more, it would be anti-freedom to deny that their choice is legitimate? Don't you think its crazy to impose an objective value on to choices which should be calculated subjectively?

Any economist will tell you, life is all about tradeoffs. It is not possible to indulge in all possible choices.

Mock Turtle said...

Shianux:
I think you are confusing 'rights' and 'liberties'. I use the words in a Hohfeldian sense. Rights protect liberties. Even if someone chooses not to exercise certain liberties protected by certain rights, it's not a reason to deny rights to all analogous persons who deserve those rights. That's all I was saying.

There are no stupid, brainwashed women anymore? Just look around you. The country is teeming with 'em. I don't think this is a 'paternalistic' thing to say; it's a recognition of the fact that in Singapore both political and cultural authority are generally exercised by men. (I speak as a woman. I realise that my alias is potentially confusing. This is partially deliberate.)

The following remarks should probably be addressed to GK as well: I think there -is- a gender struggle going on, socially if not politically (insofar as the distinction makes sense), and the controversy over, say, gay rights is an expression of it. It's not a straightforward question of enjoying 'more' or 'less' 'benefits' or 'rights' so much as it is the battle over self-identification. The idea that who you are and what you care for is not dictated by what you have between your legs. If you can deny that Singaporean society is grappling with such questions, then you have never spoken to a woman who felt limited by perceptions of her gender (hello! you can talk to one now) or to a homosexual or to any other sort of gender minority.

True Flight said...

Whatever, whatever and whatever.

My main point is that it is silly to say birth rates in Singapore are falling because men want children but women don't.

There are, for example, many married couples in Singapore where it is the WOMAN wants a child and the MAN who does not.

Finally, it is stupid to link all this to the dominating male presence in the political area. Men dominate politically in most (all?) countries around the world, quite irrespective of whether birth rates are rising or falling in any of those countries.

Mock Turtle said...

GK:
I'm not sure which part of my point of view you think merits that sort of dismissiveness. I didn't attribute a falling birth rate to a "battle of the sexes". I do think the expressions of concern over the falling birth rate, the attempts to deal with it, and much of the discussion relating to it have a tendency to characterise women as baby machines, though. And I don't think any of this is either straightforwardly obvious or necessarily deserving dismissal.

And it's heartening to see that you think the statement "who you are and what you care for should not be dictated by what is between your legs" is best met with "whatever" - great evidence of sensitivity to the concerns of gender minorities there...

Anonymous said...

Parkaboy: You ask GK to be sensitive to gender minorities, yet your argument (apparently against the oppression of women) includes the sentences: " There are no stupid, brainwashed women anymore? Just look around you. The country is teeming with 'em"

There are stupid brainwashed people everywhere, and you are one of them. "Teeming"? This is a term used to describe rats, or to dehumanize the subject you're talking about. It is a term used in racist and chauvinistic remarks.

As always, when ever I hear someone using a blanket term to describe all women, I know that you must never have had the fortune of meeting a woman who is NOT stupid or brainwashed, and this puts your mum, grandma, aunts, sisters, friends, in a VERY bad light.

Anyone who spouts your sentences is obviously a chauvinistic pig, not unlike the ones who view women as baby machines. This stupid statement shows that you really think women are below men, despite the lofty stand you are taking against the government.

Not that I think that the government is asserting that women are baby machines. The truth is that everyone has a duty in society. Raising a family is a great challenge, and thus modern couples are thinking twice. You may think that the traditional concept of family is a myth ( the correct term to use is "obsolete"), and that children are best raised by single parents or a single sex couple. But that gives you no reason to dismiss that the traditional notion of a (female) mom and a (male) dad has worked pretty well for a lot of families.

When I went to Europe, I was surprised to see that they are traditional there as well. There were many tourists travelling as families, with 2 parents, several kids, a dog. So if the concept of a traditional family is defective, then it is not only the Singaporeans who are being misled by conventional wisdom.

You may say that the thought of having a family is oppressive, unnecessary, ridiculous, a method of slavery. And yet the bare truth is that if all humans thought like you, the human race would become extinct. You may not want to be a part of it, yet it is a fact that you enjoy facilities and infrastructure built by tax payers' money, which is sufficient because sufficient money has been pumped in by the people of S'pore. You don't want to give birth, fine, but the facilities you use when old, will also be provided by taxes paid by someone else's children. So puhlease, you may not want to propagate (and I don't blame you), but no country could survive if noone gives birth.

True Flight said...

My point of view:

The government is not forcing anyone to have babies. The policies make it easier and more convenient to have children. That is all. Whether you have children or not is still entirely up to you.

You are defined by what's between your legs? Surprise, surprise. So am I. If I didn't have what I have between my legs, I wouldn't have to spend 2.5 years of my life in military camps.

Oh, btw, I had absolutely no choice about that. Quite unlike you, as far as making babies are concerned. Hmm, and here you are, complaining about being a baby machine.

And you don't like the traditional family concept? Suit yourself. I think it's fair to say that in Singapore, it's quite open to women to choose whatever lifestyle model they like. You want to marry? Marry. You don't want to marry? Then don't. If you as an individual choose to remain single all your life, society doesn't really give a hoot. The biggest objections to your singlehood, if any, would probably come from your mother, or perhaps your aunties. Don't blame the government for that.

Mock Turtle said...

I'm very intrigued by all the things that have been attributed to me which I never said. I haven't said a word about the government (in this post). I'm apparently 'chauvinist', because I think many women have been brainwashed (obviously not the women's fault, to a large degree) (also, for your information, I'm a woman).

GK, I oppose NS being restricted to men as well, just for your information. And I think society's attitudes are problematic, just for your information. Thanks for bothering to clarify!

Anonymous said...

Parkaboy: Err, I thought you were a boy. My bad. However, as a woman of Singapore, I don't think I've been brainwashed by the forces that be. If you want to talk about brainwashing, how abt shows like SATC, Bridget Jones, Cosmo, Vogue, and a gazillion other non-Singaporean influences which tell women that their life's aim should be to shag as many men as possible, that modesty is no longer a virtue, that they should achieve model-thin bodies, that they need to know the "100 ways to satisfy men in bed", that there should be a void in their lives if they don't have a man.

My extended family has never asked anyone about their singlehood during festive occasions. Not all families are like that, as much as people like to bitch about their families.

with regards to this farcical article, I'd like to say that there is a lot of truth in the PM's speech. In every society, familial support is very important. Having a family where both parents behave like responsible adults is obviously important because children need role models to look up to.

If one thinks that families aren't important, then there should be no volunteers at orphanages because orphans would grow up no different than children with strong and close families. Families are a support system, and everyone needs a support system. Some people find that their friends are their support system, and if Steve thinks that friends can take the place of family then so be it.

Agagooga said...

Okay I don't get how the comments thread has spiralled off into space.