Marina Mahathir: Society must relook gender roles

Azril Annuar
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir attends the Say Something Nice Forum in Kuala Lumpur August 25, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — Gender stereotypes are harmful to both men and women, said socio-political activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

In her keynote address at Zubedy’s #EmpowerSomethingNice forum, Marina pointed out that because society has typecast men in a certain way, they face a lot of disadvantages particularly on what is deemed to be a successful man.

“In Malaysia, men are a privileged lot. If men are successful at work, can buy a house and a nice car they have succeeded.

“Yet men are disadvantaged in so many ways because society wants them to behave in a certain way and men must be successful in a certain way. If a man can’t feed his family, or cannot afford to buy a house while owning a nice car he is considered to be less successful.

“Men suffer more from lifestyle diseases compared to women because of the intense stress they face in trying to fulfil society’s expectations of them,” said Marina.

Since men are expected to strive harder by providing the very best for the family, Marina also noted that many fathers lose out on the joys of raising their children when compared to women, although she did point out that here women lose out in career opportunity.

She said that in today’s society where global economy is becoming knowledge-based (k-economy), women are more suited to this sort of task as they are more predisposed towards detailed meticulousness.

“So we are in a situation now where roles are changing and this of course causes friction. Women are now their own income earners, highly educated and are able to fend for themselves and their family.

“Sometimes women earn more than their husbands and many men find this hard to accept which leads to crisis of (male) confidence. This can lead friction and sometimes violence.

“How do we sort this? We need to recalibrate gender home for greater harmony at home. The only real solution is that we must treat husband and wife as equal partners who are able to pursue their own opportunities, thus creating greater potential.

“This cannot be done overnight. It needs to start from young — sons and daughters must be treated as equals and gender stereotype discouraged. For instance, boys should be able to cook while girls are allowed to play football and both must do housework,” said Marina.

Later during the forum on career, entrepreneur Niney Chong who was one of the panellists echoed Marina’s sentiments adding that women, especially those who are busy and career oriented must empower their husbands at home instead of micromanaging the household.

Chong has observed that many women tried to force their husbands to help manage the household their way instead of allowing the menfolk handle things without interference.

“A lot of women say they don’t get the support they need and that the husband isn’t helping out with the children. But the question is, as women are we able to put down our kiasuness and allow the husband to help handle the household without micromanaging them? The idea is to let go.

“Also is it fair that 50 per cent of the husband’s income belongs to their wives but whatever income women bring in to the household is all hers? used to grow up believing that until I met a man who I share everything with.

“Now I have my own account, he has his own account and we have a joint account to achieve whatever goals we have,” said Chong.

Her fellow panellist Rosehaida Ab Rahman who was formerly with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and Petronas ICT Sdn Bhd also said that women should not give excuses for failure at work due to their role as a mother.

She pointed out that corporate management tend to shy away from promoting women if they demand too many privileges when compared to their male counterpart.

“You need to prove yourself and be the competent employee at work. You need to manage your time and say no to things you are not supposed to do and prioritise your work and deliver things on time.

“You can’t give excuses that your child is sick last week and that’s why you didn’t deliver. Being a mother is not an excuse, it’s your job,” Rosehaida said.

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