Here are two views of Hwa Chong’s “relationship education” and Agatha’s Tan’s viral letter. Have a read at both and be ye entertained.
Here’s letter number one:
My view on Agatha’s letter can be summarised into five paragraphs:
1.) The producers of the course are lazy content makers. What they did was take a bunch of social media gender-stereotype jokes and lazily plonked them into a booklet purporting them to be original. It is not original, and the editor probably thought it was pretty funny. It is not so funny when you pass it off as fact.
2.) Since booklets are mostly made up of social media jokes, it should not be passed off as fact. Relationships are far more complex than the gender stereotype the material suggests. For example – there is nothing wrong with ladies sharing strong opinions – many men like to have an intelligent chat with an intelligent woman. The booklets seems to assume that men want bimbos as partners.
3.) The producers do not understand our youths. Seriously – who uses the word “gals” these days? The editor of the material is stuck in the 90s where the context then would have been totally relevant (or *ahem* totes relevant).
4.) MOE should have stronger views on whether or not these extra curricular lessons should be more liberal or more conservative. They are the governing body after all, they should bear the brunt of decision making and activist attacks thereafter. We cannot, not have a direction on how society is heading.
5.) No means no. Unless you want a rape charge. It’s that simple.
The second (more dissenting) article below is submitted by Dan Huang:
Agatha Tan’s letter to Dr Hon is a well articulated letter that does little to mask the potential and intelligence of this 17 year old. Yet I could not help but feel her views were at times misguided and even bordering on extreme.
Let’s establish two facts first, this is regarding the letter she had written critcising Focus on The Family’s (“FoTF) organised workshop on relationships, specifically hetereosexual relationships.
Secondly, the style in which the workshop was conducted was rather tongue-in-cheek. I was not there at the workshop so I cannot comment on the finer details, but I would like to engage several issues raised in Agatha’s letter.
She begins her letter by expressing dismay that bigotry is very much alive and well in her school (Hwa Chong Institution), presumably due to the workshop organised by FoTF. But bigotry is very much well and alive and exists in the world also.
It is of interest to note that her school has been the subject of criticism for being elitist and exclusive to minority races several times in the past.
I feel that some of the issues were blown out of proportion in her letter, misinterpreted, adverse inferences were also drawn incorrectly from some of the workshop’s content particularly the workshop’s booklet.
1. “No means yes, yes means no”
The most pressing concern Agatha regarded was this phrase. She interpreted this as an attempt to subvert and warp the image of women that resulted in the promotion of gender steoreotypes and rape culture. She did however note that the workshop facilitators had qualified this statement saying that it was subject to “some exceptions”.
These are all generalisations, generalisations are not components of an exact science. The crux of this issue lies within whether we ought to over-analyse generalisations. Should we succumb to hypersensitivity and conclude that this is a “rapist producing” phrase?
To my mind, it takes more than such a phrase stated to 17 year old students in a tongue in cheek manner to produce rapists. Agatha viewed the facilitator’s apparent joking attitude toward the phrase as a means of encouraging students to adopt the literal meanimg of the phrase in treating women. In my humble opinion, that is a bridge too far, these are young adults (and some of our brightest we’re talking about). It would be condescending to believe they cannot discern wrong from right, that they are incapable of drawing their own inferences beyond literal interpretation of the phrase.
2. ” “Gals”are the weaker sex” .
The second issue Agatha found disturbing was the seemingly sexist and bigoted view in which women were potrayed as a subject of a relationship. She seemed to be particularly irked by the term “gal” or “gals”, an irritance that she felt was unbefitting of her maturity and status as a young adult. In essence it was too “kiddy” for her.
With respect, Agatha’s interpretation that FoTF gives is that girls are hopelessly dependant beings incapable of surviving without “guys” is a gross exaggeration.
But no where in the booklet does it state such a sorry state of affairs. While there is no denying FoTF potrayed “gals” as fragile, Agatha’s interpretation is extreme. Let us be rational here and not emotional. Agatha herself has admitted in her letter “many girls feel a need to be loved, and can be emotional”.
While this is by no means empirical evidence, we can safely assume there is a ring of truth to it. Let us consider the fact that the study of anthropology is complex and diverse. Can we then, reasonably expect a workshop to deliver the material pertaining to this study in breadth and depth under the time constraint to a select group of students with next to no academic background with the degree of accuracy that it be deemed an exact science?
The workshop was never designed to be a one-stop-fountain-of-knowledge promising to unlock the mysteries of the mind of both genders. It was a crash course to give teenagers an insight into the teenage dating. Any attempt to construe it otherwise is manifestly unfair and fantastical.
3. The way a “gal” dresses, men are base perverts.
Well, I believe most men, hetro or homo, are visual creatures. That said, our hormones aren’t viruses that compel us to stare, such a literal interpretation is a fallacy. What needs to be stated is staring isn’t cheating and it is certainly not raping or molesting. There is nothing wrong with looking at a “scantlily dressed” beauty. I said look, not stare or oogle and neither did the booklet. Then again is appreciating art or nature shameful and indecent?
Anyway I think FoTF made the mistake of omitting how terrible the fashion sense of teenage males are. Oh and it seems a lot less bigoted, a teenage “guy” doesn’t have to wear what his “gal” wants since he already wears the same thing everyday.
4. FoTF’s conservative and purportedly religious background.
I was very disappointed and disheartened to read the slant of Agatha’s essay regarding her investigation and subsequent condemnation of FoTF for what she perceived to be a subliminal attempt to spread their “god ordained” views.
I can appreciate and sympathise that their conservative views were incompatible with her brand of liberal feminism and individualism. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but its an entirely different ball game to disparage and disregard the religious beliefs that underpin an organisation – especially where there is none.
No where in the booklets were there any references to religion.
“I feel that FotF has used sexuality education as an opportunity to further spread their own conservative, “God-ordained” beliefs rather than to educate students on arguably more important things such as safe sex, sexual identity and shared and equal responsibility.” (Quote)
Whether or not they really did attempt to spread their values is irrelevant, that Agatha actually came to the conclusion that dismissed their believes in such an off hand manner smacks of insensitivity.
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