Saturday, 12 November 2011

No woman, no cry

My friend wiped her eyes and decided to give up her dream of running for the position of Thailand's prime minister.
"I cry too easily," she said, almost in tears. "I won't survive it. I cry at the movies, I cry at concerts. I cry when it's flooded and when it's dry. I cry when I suffer, and I cry when others suffer. I even cry when nobody suffers but I think they suffer. I can't be PM, I cry too much, I won't pass the test."
I stopped her from posting that on Facebook. Not because I didn't believe her capable of governing, but because crying is not our flavour of the month. Somebody has been deconstructing The Crying Game too much.
Lachrymose leaders are lame leaders, the opposition believes, and maudlin management is an obvious malady of the female-led administration. Pump water, not tears, they demand of the PM, their fangs bare, hands rubbing salt on the wound.
Suddenly November has become a season of crocodiles. Finding themselves in the democratic sovereign of swampy Bangkok, the reptiles terrorise villagers, eat chickens and upstage monitor lizards as the choice monster of our watery woes. And now - the detractors joyfully add - real crocs are backed up by croc tears, captured on TV and photographs on more than one fateful occasion.
Our PM should heed Sylvia Plath: "I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry..." Too bad, and too late, for Yingluck Shinawatra. The nitpickers will always be nitpickers, and while the PM deserves criticism on too many counts to count with our two hands, the business of attacking her every move, every gesture, every teardrop, going after every little quirk and slip to vindicate the loss of the July election, increasingly speaks of wanton hostility and political divides that benefit no one.
"I might have cried but it is not weakness," said Ms Yingluck. "It's a surge of sympathy when seeing others' suffering."
It's an overwhelming of emotion, sobs and chokes, especially (and here I interpret) because the people who are suffering the most are those who voted for her. It's a cry over aquatic graveyards. But it is not, she insisted, a mark of despair. And we've come to the point in history where we believe her or sneer at her - we herald the tears as real or dismiss them as crocodile - based solely on which box we ticked in the last election. Ideology over humanity? We're all guilty, and that's worth crying over.
Like in Thai soaps, the men are cads but it's the women who swoop down on each other with claws outstretched. Siriwan Pradsajaksatru, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, didn't let the prime ministerial tears go untaunted. "Ms Yingluck's repeated failures and lies have led to a wide debate on whether this is all a northern woman is capable of doing," said the MP. "People are asking if all northern women are like her. When faced with something hard, do we just cry and use our feminine guile in the wrong way?"
There's an accusation of melodrama, craftiness, crybaby, over-pampering, and of the PM sabotaging the image not just of northern Thai girls but of "women all over the world". In only three months, the MP thundered, Ms Yingluck "has destroyed the image that women have spent their entire lives protecting".
Speak of melodrama! Female leaders are historically expected to lead but not to be female, or to be less female in the pre-existing condition obviously set by males. Margaret Thatcher didn't cry in public, but we don't need another Mrs Thatcher. Obama did cry in public, during the campaign when he reminisced about his white grandmother. Suthep Thaugsuban also cried in public, at the rally before the last election. It's true that Ms Yingluck should learn to control her tear-spring - and don't make a geyser out of it, especially at a time when people have already lost so much faith in her. But the female Democrat MPs are practising petty politics that's not ladylike in the least. What's nasty is that it's not even feminist politics but a distortion of it. The attack on the PM's tears and how they damaged the dignity of northern women is surprising when a graver offence was perpetrated directly against northern women by Akeyuth Anchanbutr, who alluded that females from that region are better off in the sex trade. I wonder why the MPs - of all sexes and parties - didn't react to that repulsive remark which exemplifies how ugly our political rift has become.
If the PM's tears signify how "women of the entire world" are so weak, then the Democrat MP's words do nothing but confirm the unfair stereotype of women as a vindictive sex with a weird set of logic. Attack the PM's inefficiency, but not her tears. And if you have nothing else to do, it's time to go after the real crocodiles, not the imaginary ones.

Original From Bangkok Post

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