Bangkokpost 25 Sep 2008 Sexist logic of a ‘progressive’ movement by Sanitsuda Ekachai
Good Girls Go to Heaven. Bad Girls Go Everywhere. This song title has become a popular T-shirt message of Empower, an advocacy group for sex workers’ rights, to make fun of the good/bad girl stereotype which is at the heart of sexual discrimination.
The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is not convinced.
Declaring its protest site at Government House off limits to sex workers, the PAD security guards did not only warn the protesters against sex workers on the prowl, they also posted a picture of a woman, complete with an enlarged photocopy of her ID card, on the wall of Government House, describing her as a loitering prostitute to be shooed away on sight.
The PAD guards believe they have got the proof. During a strict bag check, they reportedly said they found condoms in her bag and a pornographic magazine. Pictures of her bag and the “evidence” were also posted next to her photo and ID card. The rationale is that proper women never carry condoms around with them. Nor should they read porn. If they do, they must be bad girls, and thus deserve to be put to shame.
How can a political movement with such sexist logic call itself progressive?
The backbone of PAD supporters are principally women – relatively well-off, urbanised women. With the PAD’s deeply conservative view on what women should and should not do, do you think it can improve the lot of our women – if and when the PAD has policy-making powers? The PAD is now pushing for its New Politics formula which will allow representatives from different professions to be in the House alongside elected MPs. Do you think the PAD will give sex workers a chance since sex workers are the backbone of Thailand’s tourism and entertainment industry?
While condemning women who carry condoms as prostitutes, the PAD security guards did not say what they did with male protesters who were doing the same thing. Why is it a crime for women to carry condoms while it is considered perfectly normal behaviour for men to do so? The PAD guards’ outrageous act was apparently an attempt to counter the allegation from the pro-Thaksin camp last week, that the litter at Government House was full of used condoms because many protesters were using the site as their sexual playground.
In short, the unfortunate woman is a victim in a mud-slinging war between the anti- and pro-Thaksin camps.
Women and rights groups want an apology from the PAD leaders for allowing their men to put a citizen with the right to attend political assembly, to such public humiliation. This offensive act violates both the law and human rights. The PAD guards also can be sued for defamation, they charged.
All that these groups have heard from the PAD leaders is a thunderous silence.
It is the same with women protesters.
Are they silent because they share the security guards’ conspiracy theory that the pro-Thaksin camp is sending sex workers to destroy the PAD’s name?
Or is it because they want to protect their chaste status as good wives and mothers on a holy mission to save the country from being tainted by “bad” girls?
Patriarchy is the source of the good/bad girl stereotype. The goal is to oppress female sexuality and to shackle women with subservient gender roles.
It is a system that allows men to equate sexual prowess with manhood while keeping women down, and outside the sphere of power, with sexual double standards.
If the so-called’ “good” women are blind to sexism which punishes womenkind and looks down upon “bad” women so they can feel good about themselves, the country they are trying to save will naturally end up serving patriarchy.
Their mission might put some men in power, but the oppressive world of women will see no end.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor (Outlook), Bangkok Post.