Commentary: What is behind the different attitudes towards gender equality in Singapore


The thinking is this: If gender equality means that men and women should be held to the same standard, why do women need concessions like maternity leave or different standards in athletic competition? Why should they benefit from these advantages?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to differentiate between “sex” and “gender”.

The first refers to biological differences that change little between societies or periods, such as a woman’s ability to give birth that men do not have. The latter describes the roles that society assigns to men and women, which include models of domestic tasks between husband and wife.

In sports and athletics, where biological differences result in certain gender differences, the creation of women’s sports with different standards recognizes fair competition based on fair standards.

Advocating for gender equality means giving both sexes equal opportunities to achieve their aspirations. On the other hand, imposing blind uniformity in rules or policies could end up putting women at a disadvantage.

Some one-income households adopt a traditional gender division of domestic labor – one works while the other stays at home to care for children and housework – often out of economic convenience rather than role conviction gender. Couples should be able to make their own lifestyle choices.

But it’s interesting that while women have long been stay-at-home wives, even the norms change here. In 2017, the Ministry of Manpower found that the number of stay-at-home fathers had doubled from 700 to 1,500 in the previous decade.

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