A PhD? A boyfriend? Which is more satisfying? And is this really the reason behind our ageing population?
At a dialogue with ex-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on 5th September, 27-year-old PhD student Ms Joan Sim stood up to ask him a question on social cohesiveness in the light of the large-scale influx of foreign workers.
His remarks on Ms Sim’s personal life were quickly posted on online, and received plenty of reactions in the following days.
|“A PhD”s fine, but what about love and babies?” | AWARE Singapore
AWARE’s Letter to the Straits Times Forum Page, published September 13, 2011 The stark choice between motherhood and professional advancement presented in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s comments to Ms Joan Sim is not new (“A PhD’s fine, but what about love and babies?’, Straits Times, Sept 6, 2011).
Many Singaporeans did not think that Mr Lee’s comments were such a big deal, and was ultimately meant in good faith (since he ended by wishing Ms Sim well with both her PhD and a boyfriend).
But others felt that the incident betrayed an ignorance of sexism and sexual discrimination in Singaporean society.
|NTU, are you sexist?
Last Monday, at the much-anticipated Dialogue with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the following exchange occurred between the former prime minister and Joan Sim, a 27-year-old female PhD student: Mr Lee: how old are you now? Ms Sim: I’m 27 this year. Mr Lee: Are you married? [audience laughs] You’re doing a PhD?
“The demeaning reduction of a woman to her reproductive status is a classic technique of disempowerment, one that has frequently been used to socialize women into believing that ability to reproduce constitutes her most important function for society.”
As a young single Singaporean female with a university degree, I have no particular fancy or intention to settle down and have children any time soon. I suppose this means that Lee Kuan Yew will now see me as part of the problem, but it would also be overly simplistic to just point the finger at single women.