I am ashamed
And not just of my body.
Last Sunday in this column, I made the observation that during the too-long City Harvest Church trial, while former finance manager Serina Wee was getting all the gawkers’ attention for her hotness, her under-the-radar fellow accused, Sharon Tan, had metamorphosised from a “scary old lady” to a “chiobu” before our eyes.
The descriptions in quotes were not mine. I was just reporting what had been said about Tan online. I would never use those words myself.
“Chiobu” is Hokkien for “pretty woman” and since I’m Hainanese, I would say something like “xiang dabo”, which admittedly doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “chiobu”.
But the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) would have none of it.
This is what Aware posted on its Facebook page:
Ouch, that hurts almost as much as the reviews of the Phua Chu Kang movie I wrote.
But Aware was right.
At first, I didn’t fancy Sharon Tan, but by the end of the trial, I did.
Unfortunately, Tan is already married.
And, oh, she could possibly go to jail.
All of which greatly reduces my chances of dating her.
But I also agree with Aware that it’s wrong to pick apart the looks of any woman who appears in front of us.
Unless we do it to men too.
Men such as Mr Cuthbert Syn.
His name may sound like a character from the new Star Wars movie (a transgender space pirate, perhaps?), but he is a real-life Singaporean man with a possible heart condition.
Last week, a photo of Mr Syn sitting under a Reserved Seating sign on the MRT train started showing up on my Facebook timeline.
Even without reading the story, you knew what it was about. Mr Syn didn't look elderly, disabled or with child. So obviously, someone was shaming him for hogging the reserved seat.
He should've used the Jedi mind trick and said: “This isn’t the seat you’re looking for.”
The viral photo was posted by Ms Celine Chia, who wrote in her Facebook rant:
“I never once slammed anyone in public before but today, I really mean it when I tell you that you need to lose your weight and your tiredness is result of your obesity, not an EXCUSE FOR REFUSING TO GIVE UP YOUR SEAT TO THE MOTHER & CHILD!!”
So on top of shaming Mr Syn for not giving up his seat to a mother and child, Ms Chia also called him fat.
While some lauded Ms Chia for standing up (so to speak) for another passenger, she was also criticised for picking on Mr Syn’s appearance.
As one online commenter said:
“Yes, we shouldn’t judge a person by his weight. Who knows what he might have gone through. It's not right. I mean, for all we know, he's pregnant.”
And it wasn’t just fat-shaming. Another commenter targeted Mr Syn’s bald pate:
“Even his hair is embarrassed by his action. See how far they retreated past his forehead, almost wrapped into infinite abyss.”
What’s wrong with these people?
Don’t they know that we as a society have traditionally picked apart the looks of women, not men? What would Aware say?
Mr Syn called it cyber-bullying.
He told The Straits Times: “I'm usually a shy person who will give up his seat to those in need. But I had worked late and was feeling tired and unwell last night.”
In her defence, Ms Chia said: “Since he can be so blatantly inconsiderate, I thought there's nothing wrong with putting up his picture.”
But she later removed her Facebook post, possibly because of comments like this one:
“Ms Celine Chia, I hope you realise you have just ruined someone's life using social media just because he didn't give up his seat. Shame on you.”
So the shamer has become the shamee.
But the manner in which some people have shamed Ms Chia for shaming Mr Syn ought to be shamed too.
“This Celine Chia thinks she owns the whole SMRT train and expects her voice is royal command but being an asshole and insulting to the whole singapore's fat people and spit shit out of her ass mouth. If a person is unwilling to give up the seat if unwell, then don't force. No need to talk shit things extra. You are being a tyrant shit. Which I find it disgusted and vomiting.”
Apart from the obscenities, the grammar is pretty shameful too.
Then again, perhaps I should also be shamed for shaming the shaming shaming.
Just don’t strip me naked like Cersei in Game Of Thrones and force me to walk down the street in the nude with a scary old lady behind me ringing a bell and saying “shame, shame, shame” over and over again.
Unless that’s what Aware has in mind for me.
Just give me some time to get my body into walk-of-shame shape.
I don’t want anyone calling me fat.
- Published in The New Paper, 1 November 2015
UPDATE: Click the comments below!