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Ladies, have you tried leaning in somewhere else?


"Soon, some stupid reporter would write that she had 'stormed the male bastion'. All these women were doing that these days . . . 'Rising against the odds' - they all were. But what great subjugations did these women suffer, what were they denied by their fathers, what opportunities didn't they get, what weren't they fed, why were they so obsessed with their own womanhood?" - Serious Men: A Novel, by Manu Joseph

NOTHING annoys me more than other women who assume that they can speak on my behalf, so I won't put readers through that bollocks. This means though, that as we examine our navels this coming International Women's Day on Sunday, all I have to offer is the lint from my own middle.

Being a girl has been the least of my problems, I can honestly tell you. I was born in a country where I was part of the racial minority and was reminded of this fact every day. I was also obese as a teenager, which as you know, goes down a real treat in high school. So you could say that I've had bigger (hurhur) troubles than the issue of my gender.

In fact, on the gender front, I have much to be thankful for. I have never been sold as chattel, forced into marriage, or denied an education.

Isn't it just the bee's knees that the progress of gender equality and women's rights is measured by how many bad things have not happened to you?

In all seriousness, though, in my 12 years in Singapore, I have never feared for my safety, not even in a poorly lit alley (I mean, where would you find a poorly lit alley in Singapore?).

At my workplace, my colleagues appear to be propelled by a healthy determination to get from Monday morning to Friday night, intact. There is little time to make a fuss about anyone being a woman. So, I have found it exceedingly hard to relate to International Women's Day, at least the way it has been presented this year. Their homepage is filled with Strong Independent Career Women images that are the totemic symbols of my demographic, I suppose: nice suits, lab coats and coffee cups.

Their 2015 theme is "Make It Happen", and what women want to "make happen" this year, apparently, are things like "growth of women-owned businesses" and "more women in senior leadership roles".

My 2015 wish for women, though, is for more things to not happen. I'd like for girls to not be raped. I'd like for them to not be kidnapped by marauding crazies when trying to sit a physics paper in school. I'd like for them to not be stoned to death for adultery.

I know that women like me - born in the right time, country and socio-economic standing - still have their brittle, brightly lit skirmishes to fight. In many industries, the glass ceiling exists, and so does the wage gap. Like any other woman, I sometimes have to wonder if something would have been done or said to me had I been a man.

But focusing on all that while so much hardship befalls other women who did not win the ovarian lottery is like trying to furnish a house while its roof leaks.

So, I would like us to shut up about ourselves for awhile, shut up about our leaning in and our flexi-hours and our boardroom representation while holding an Oscar in one hand.

For just one day, tomorrow, maybe we could channel all that college education indignation into talking about the women who do not have a voice. (But don't let me tell you what to do, you Strong Independent Woman, you.)

For me, this Sunday will be about the women who cannot use outdoor toilets without being assaulted, who have to walk 10 kilometres to get birth control only to reach an unstocked clinic, who are trafficked across borders like animals. This is an outrage not because they are women but because they are fellow human beings.

My goal is for all these things to stop happening to them. Then maybe we can focus on making good things happen for them. Maybe, eventually, they will get to be us, in their Lululemons or 2-inch pumps, trying to unpack the meaning of the word "bitch" in an air-conditioned room, fretting about whether or not we can "have it all" (Spoiler alert: We can't). Wouldn't that be nice.

  • This piece originally appeared on Miss Ann Thrope, a blog on The Business Times website. For more, visit

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