It does not matter who the words uttered by Gerakan leader Baljit Singh are directed to. The crux of the matter is that Baljit, as a politician, should not have uttered such references to anyone.
Some may view it merely as a joke, but to activists who are struggling to fight for gender equality and gender bias policies, Baljit’s remarks are deemed sexist and not tolerated at all cost.
While some leaders in Gerakan are saying that Baljit’s remarks could have been taken out of context, the words that were uttered – ‘beautiful, sweet, energetic, sexy..’ – are often connected to negative impressions when directed at women.
Baljit was reported to have said in his speech at the Gerakan annual general assembly over the weekend suggesting that instead of fielding older men in elections, the party should nominate women who were “beautiful, sweet, energetic, (and) sexy” to boost its chances, reported Malaysiakini.
While Baljit has issued an apology, he is not the first who had used such words publicly when commenting on women in politics.
If any Malaysian politicians bother to remember, this is not the first time such remarks were made.
There were the sexism remarks made against Melati Rahim (when she announced to join DAP) Dyana Sofya (for her candidacy in the Teluk Intan by-elections), Datuk Bung Mokhtar who made his infamous remark ‘Where is the leak? The Batu Gajah MP also leaks every month’ and the list goes on.
Says the party’s Wanita chief, Hartini Tan, she is unable to comment as she was not present when the remark was made.
However, Tan says it is the party’s visions and hope that more young politicians will join Gerakan whether it is the Wanita division or the party as a whole.
“We have been constantly encouraging more women to join us, we need more women voices especially with more women-related issues that are on the rise which need improvement of policies.
“It isn’t that we don’t have women voices in Malaysian politics but it could be a matter of getting the women to be involved actively.
“We have women voices, but we can do better than the numbers that we have now,” she says.
Hartini adds that if the mindset of choosing or voting for politicians that “sexy” and “pretty” or with good looks is a criteria, where would women with average looks stand?
“If these were the criteria of being voted as politician to be in power, then I think I would not qualify at all,” Hartini jokingly says.
Her advice for future reaction to similar remarks is that politicians should be voted or chosen based on their capabilities and abilities to carry out a portfolio and should never be about outward appearances.
“As for politicians and ministers who have made such remarks previously it even in the future, if you know you are speaking publicly, choose your words carefully and think care carefully before you say something.
“You never know how your words would be brought out of context or misconstrued,” she adds.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of Wanita Gerakan declined to comment.
Soo Wern Jun