what women face in the creative working world…

i was one of the panelist at the talk at Design Circus’s conversation today about ‘creative sisters’. what i thought could have been a more interesting sharing on what are the gender discrimination that are happening and how they overcome it became more of a sharing of ‘lucky me, i didn’t face any gender discrimination, you should be fine too!’ and of the color pink. hehe i did my share of interjecting with my feminism sound bytes that probably got the rest of the panelist hating my guts but still i wish i could have said more, such as below:

Is there equal opportunity for women in the creative world?

No. although I have not work in any other field than filmmaking and training, I would say we have not yet reach the level of equal access or opportunity for women in most fields other than domestic and difficult labor such as in the factories or as servants. Even then, they usually still get paid less than their male counterpart. We have more than what we had 50 years ago but we have not reach an equal amount. More importantly than the numbers, we have not change the systems, the way we work. Women have all the same glass ceilings as men, the same ladders of hierarchy, cronyism, political games and an additional one- men, gender actually. It’s not the men per se, but the system that seems to value the idea of men more than women, the masculine values such as aggressiveness, the lack of emotions (which is seen as signs of rationality, which seem completely irrational to me) and less responsibilities towards the family are valued more in the capitalist world where profit are above people. and let’s face it, the creative world is also about making money unless one dwell solely in the indie world, painting the streets and singing tunes to a few passers by.

How about appropriate women representations in conferences and forums?

Most forums I’ve been too have a lack of women reps, look at the recent Malaysian indie films hype of 15 Malaysia, how many women are there in the 15? Not even the 30% percent quota that women’s groups demand of our governance. 2. 2 really good ones, none the less but I’m sure there are plenty more out there as well. Even when I’m organizing filmmakers anonymous, me and my crew found it hard to find films from women filmmakers, which inspired me with this new project called HerStory Films Project. Possibly also the reason why you organized this talk today.

Why are there higher ratio of male heads of companies?

Same answer as the first question. It’s a gender discriminatory system. And to complicate it, in any work you do, you’ll find that it is a cross section of many discriminatory system, depending on who or where you work, it may favor a certain race, whether you’re Malaysian or not, if you came from rich or poor background and if you’re fairer or darker, fat or skinny, have all accounted limbs …even though all these things have no relevance to one’s intelligence or capability. Are u smarter cos u’re white, rich, slim, have a dick and sleep only with the opposite sex? No. you’re smarter cos u put in the work, did the research and think critically about the world around u.

How can women contribute at work and have a family?

How come the men never get asked this question? Don’t they have families too? In Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden… they have better gender equal policies that allowed both men and women to take part in family affairs and work. Example, they encourage both husband and wife to take turns at maternity leave, so it’s not surprising to see many men taking care of children at the playground during working hours while their wives get back to work. The men has been cited happier as well, for the bonding with their children strengthen. Maybe that helps make these countries rich?

Is it normal to be sexually discriminated?

Are you talking about sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex? Both should not be normal. Sexual harassment occurred so often, most women thinks it comes with the job, it shouldn’t, it is wrong. Malaysia has one law that comes close to criminalizing this but just deal with the physical aspect, not the mental or emotional. Some credible companies have policies against sexual harassment, so check and see if your company has, if it has, you can take up the case with someone higher up than your perpetrator, if your company don’t have, ask them to put it in, get your fellow workers to sign petitions and make them put it in. Hold strikes if you have to. it should covers all asses, male, females and transgender, from abusive colleagues and superiors too. Happy people definitely put in better work.

Is it normal to be passed over for promotion because of your sex?

It happens a lot. But what is common doesn’t mean it is right. And of cos it doesn’t mean we should just accept things as it is and lay there like a doormat. If people throughout history just accept all the injustices thrown at them, then the blacks would still be slaves, Malaysia and many countries would not be independent, women still would not get to vote. What rights we have today have been fought by people before us, we aren’t alone in our struggle, we stand on the shoulders of brave women and men. And how sad it would be, if they fought for us just to lay like a doormat, we should continue the good fight and make sure the future generations have a better world, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, religion, age and abilities.

So what can you do?

You can organized the workers in your company, work with ngos that deals with gender like AWAM and WAO, there’s also a gender committee of the Bar Council. These people can help you formulate good gender policies for your company, making it more credible and attractive to new women creative talents. Or create another space, safer spaces for women to achieve their full potential and talents. And in the creative world, potential talents can blow one out of the box!


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