when we became feminists,4 sexist moments in Singapore that made us feminists

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we look back at the moments when these Her World writers first took a stand against misogyny.

1. When my doctor told me my ‘ovaries are going to waste’

“I didn’t just wake up one day and realise I was a feminist. Rather, it was a culmination of little incidents and a lot of reading that opened my eyes.

One of the people who definitely helped was my former family doctor, who used to take it upon herself to lecture me about my lack of children every time I went for a consultation (“Your ovaries are going to waste,” she’d say), never mind that I usually saw her for less than five minutes – and that I was only 25. Needless to say, I don’t go to her anymore.”

– Tan Min Yan, associate lifestyle editor

2. When my friend said sexist lyrics were ‘no big deal’

“Last year, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), the leading gender equality advocacy group in Singapore, took issue with national servicemen singing a song ‘Purple Light’ with lyrics about sexual violence towards women during marches.

One of my male friends posted the lyrics on Facebook, saying that they weren’t such a big deal – after all, women can’t be physically assaulted by song lyrics.

I sent him a long message explaining how a society that treats mocking references to rape as ‘no big deal’ makes it hard for victims of sexual assault to come forward. Unfortunately, that put a strain on our friendship, but I don’t regret vocalising my opinion.” 

– Jaclyn Gunasilan, beauty writer

3. When a book suggested that wives should be submissive to their husbands

“At 14, I read an article in The Straits Times about The Surrendered Wife – this book was very controversial because the author seemed to imply that the secret to a good marriage was for women to submit to their husbands.

I was so outraged that I penned an angry missive to the editor – I never expected it to be published in the papers a few days later, in all its uncensored glory.

I’ve mellowed over the years in words, but not in spirit… and I still keep that newspaper clipping as a reminder of my feminist awakening!”

– Jeanne Tai, associate features editor

4. When people kept repeating sexist stereotypes; and I spoke up about it!

“I’ve always identified as a feminist, but I’m more vocal about it now.

Recently, I’ve started calling out my mum for making blase comments about women being lousy drivers. Increasingly, I’m less tolerant of women reinforcing gender stereotypes.” 

– Amanda Lai, beauty writer

This story was originally published in Her World magazine March 2015.