THE YEAR FOR WOMEN
Natasha VennerPack highlights some of the wins, positives and achievements for women in 2018. ● In a first for Singapore, three women ministers were named in the April cabinet reshuffle: Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs; Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office; and Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. ● Writer J.Y. Yang’s “silkpunk” fantasy novella The BlackTides ofHeaven was nominated in April for a 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella.
● In sports, Martina Lindsay
Veloso, 18, won our first gold medal in the women’s 10m air rifle, plus a gold in the 50m air rifle at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in April. In August, 49erFX pair Cecilia Low and Kimberly Lim won Singapore’s first sailing gold medal at the 2018 JakartaPalembang Asian Games. Para- equestrian
Laurentia Tan, 39, scored a silver at the World Equestrian Games in the individual championship Grade I event in September. Paralympian swimmer and gold medallist Yip
Pin Xiu, 26, became the youngest- ever Nominated Member of Parliament in September. A month later, she won gold in the 50m backstroke (S4) at the Asian Para Games. ● Ms Florence Chua assumed the role of chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in June – the first woman to do so. She also became Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence).
and sexual assault – and before many people in my immediate circle were comfortable with discussing sexual harassment openly.
We are now living in very different times, even compared with three years ago. The #metoo movement has sparked hope in the hearts of survivors of the predatory behaviour that is now slowly being exposed as commonplace in our society – in every society. My own fear of speaking out is diminishing. Seeing so many prominent voices come forward to share their experiences allows us to feel less isolated.
Everyone wanting to help should consider the following vital points, when situating themselves as an ally in the fight against sexual harassment:
If you see anyone, man or woman, being placed in a position where they appear to be uncomfortable – whether it is on a train, in the street, in a bar – ask them if they are okay. Show them that you are in a position to provide support. Fighting sexual harassment need not be with violence. Sometimes, a kind gesture towards the survivor is all that is needed.
If anyone tells you that they have experienced sexual harassment, believe them; do not judge or blame. Remember that sexual violence is never the “fault”
of the recipient. It is not something that survivors should be “ashamed” of. You are there to support, so listen. Don’t push for information that the survivor is not comfortable giving. Ask what you can do to help, and speak up, but only if you are asked to do so.Encourage survivors to seek medical attention if they need it, and to seek assistance in whatever way they see fit – whether it’s to report the harassment to the police, to their supervisor, to speak to someone at the Sexual Assault Care Centre (Aware) or, if they wish to remain anonymous, to Hear to Change at www. heartochange.com. Above all, support this person’s chosen course of action, no matter what they ultimately decide to do. Even if, in the end, they decide to do nothing.
Mine should not be a cautionary tale, although perhaps it reads like one at fi rst glance. I feel no shame for having been the recipient of inappropriate behaviour. I am proud of myself for having spoken up, in the face of continued and, at times, almost overwhelming resistance. I look back at myself during that challenging year with gentleness, knowing that hindsight can be a cruel critic, and with the knowledge that, at the time, I did everything I was able to do, to shelter myself against an environment from which I believed, and which I was told, I was unable to escape.
My experience has taught me a lot about myself, and even more about the world in which we live. I have met the most incredible network of women who have dedicated their lives to helping survivors. I have seen loved ones grow in understanding and acceptance. I now have the tools, and the experience, which I intend to share with the world, to support other survivors and, with luck, to change people’s perceptions of what a “victim” of harassment really looks like. I have the utmost respect and admiration for all the men and women who have come forward. There is strength in numbers, and every voice added to the chorus empowers and invigorates those of us who are engaged in this mission against harassment.
We may yet have a long journey ahead of us, but one day, survivors will be able to stand up, without fear or shame, and report their experience of harassment. They will be believed, they will be supported, and their harasser will be brought to justice. It will take an army, but, thanks to #metoo, I think we fi nally have one. The ability of friendship among women to induce joy and confidence should not be taken lightly, and it's something we need, especially in today's climate, asserts writer and host Jemimah Wei.
Three years ago on Christmas Eve, I got down on one knee in a tiny Italian bistro, the name of which I no longer remember, only that it was dark, candlelit, and had tables squeezed too close to one another. I pulled out a long speech typed on my Notes app, started and stopped a few times, then abandoned the doomed speech entirely, and asked: “G, it’s been seven wonderful years, the next seven I believe will be equally wonderful, or more. Anyway, what I am trying to say is – will you be my friend forever?”
There were tears, gasps, complimentary wine, and way-too-amused servers. One of them said: “Now I’ve seen everything.” There was a ring, an eternity band in rose gold and silver. We were extravagant in our celebration of friendship that night, and lived like church mice in the
● Croatian football fan President Kolinda Grabar
Kitarovic attended all but one 2018 World Cup match, flying economy onherown
dime and often watching from the non-VIP stands to support her team. Just for that alone, Croatia deserved to win.
● 40,000 South Korean
women took to the streets in August to protest secretly filmed spycam porn, as anger over the issue grows. ● For the first time in 38 years, women in Iran were allowed into the Azadi stadium to watch a live broadcast of Iran's World Cup match against Spain. ● India removed the 12 per cent “pink tax” on menstrual health items in July, which it had previously branded as luxury items.
● Iconic '90s newsroom comedy series MurphyBrown returned to television in September. The feisty Brown was an inspiration and a lodestar for working women.
● New Zealand's youngest prime minister, Jacinda
Ardern, took her newborn baby Neve Te Aroha to the UN Assembly in September. What's more, the travel cost for her partner Clarke Gayford (Neve's primary carer) was paid for by Ardern, not taxpayers. ● Showrunner Shonda Rhimes of Grey'sAnatomy and Scandal announced in October that she was (and still is) the “highest-paid showrunner in television” – a big # win in an industry that's mostly dominated by men.