My friend linked me to this twitter chain the other day.
Isn't it amazing that every time I make a statement on gender privilege online, at least one boy replies me to ask BUT WHAT ABOUT NS????
— Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) February 28, 2017
TLDR, “boys crying about NS is a tool to shut down the conversation about male privilege in Singapore and is only one example of unfairness towards men, while women are disadvantaged in all other areas”
This came to mind because of a comment I saw today complaining about the “BUT NS” mentality on /r/Singapore.
Newsflash. NS isn’t a singular moment of oppression. It isn’t yes all women have felt harassed by perverts on the MRT, it is literally enshrined in law that all men in Singapore, barring severe mental/physical incapability be subject to two years of involuntary servitude with limited compensation.
I’d like to point out that even if all you did for NS was sit in an air conditioned office 8-5 with the best superiors, it’s still a shit deal that nobody would voluntarily subject themselves to.
That’s not even dealing with the social consequences, the attitudes of people towards NSFs, chao recruits, the way many of your female friends move on with their lives.
If you sat down and really thought about it, it’s an inescapable aspect of life for men in Singapore, and an extremely unpleasant experience that takes up a significant time of your adult life if you’re a young adult in your 20s (aka most of /r/sg, well that and teenagers/kids).
Why does this come up in gender conversations all the time? Because it’s relevant. Because it’s 2 years of your life, not a hypothetical mind you, but an actual reality, gone because of your gender.
You get studies like that showing that women get paid less than men in Singapore. For different work. How do I know? Because they didn’t count NSFs of course. Why not? I guess NSFs don’t have income because they aren’t workers, they’re slaves.
BUT NS!!! is only problematic if you’re trying to push a narrative of privilege. The argument that men’s rights don’t matter because men are privileged is all too common from certain nutjob organizations though, and it is these organizations/individuals that seem to have the biggest problem with “BUT NS” because it flips their narrative of privilege on its head.
Does privilege exist? Of course! But privilege doesn’t cut one way. It’s not a stick you should use to beat on other people and say I am oppressed and you are not. NS doesn’t mean women are more privileged than men in society and women should shut up about women’s issues.
I’ve been told to check my Chinese privilege. I was born in Malaysia, a country that’s openly racist against Chinese people, and we live in a region where Chinese are the minority. Should I therefore ask people to check their regional Malay privilege?
Sexism, Racism and any sort of ism isn’t black or white. Stop using those things to shut down conversations. Play fair. Play nice. It’s probably too much to ask for but we can hope.
This post first appeared on a popular local forum.