No easy task talking about sexism
Every Singaporean Daughter seeks to explore gender stereotypes in our society.
For a play produced and acted by a young team – most of the cast and crew are 20-somethings – I expected the issues raised to be bold and current. Sadly, by the end of the 90-minute performance, I was left underwhelmed.
Every Singaporean Daughter is the first public play staged by UNSAID, a new student-led arts collective in Singapore, and is inspired by stories of women from all walks of life.
The play revolves around two young girls, Chloe and Iman, and speaks of their struggles in fighting against social expectations of women.
However, some of the issues raised, such as women being judged for participating in a predominantly ‘male’ sport, or women having to live according to gender stereotypes, were not as current as I had hoped.
Iman, who was played by Rusydina, faces pressures at home to conform to stereotypical ideals of being a woman – her mother often asks her to help in the kitchen so she can learn how to be a ‘good wife’, while her brother disapproved her studying history in university. Instead, he wished for her to settle down quickly to lessen the family’s financial burdens.
While such pressures may still be present, I feel that it is less relatable to young women in Singapore today. To be fair, one element of the play that was more current, and struck a chord in me, was the portrayal of rape culture.
In the play, Chloe, played by Amber Lin, was sexually assaulted by her wushu instructor twice at the gym she had trained at since young. Instead of fighting back, Chloe blamed herself and refused to talk more about it with anyone. Her family was torn between reporting the rapist to the authorities and dealing with family gossip.
This victim-blaming reminded me of the Stanford rape case last month, where the rapist Brock Turner blamed party culture and refused to take responsibility for his actions.
The play is not without merits though. It surprised me by highlighting struggles faced by men.
During a monologue on stage, Chloe’s brother, acted by Darren Guo, was frustrated with having to meet typical expectations for men. He talked about how he felt forced to find a well-paying job after his graduation to provide for his family in future.
It was refreshing that the play tackled sexism from the perspective of men, instead of a one-sided portrayal of sexism against women.
However, to accurately address modern-day sexism issues, I thought the issue of body shaming would have completed the play.
With the rise in social media platforms and citizen-journalism websites, the public is always ready to shame girls for what they wear. Fashion sites are no exception, with articles telling girls what they should wear – or worse – what they should wear based on guys’ preferences.
Even though Every Singaporean Daughter did not fully live up to my expectations, I still admired the young group’s courageous efforts in addressing sexism issues through theatre.
Hop on over to UNSAID now to view more of their other projects.