IN just two days, indignant Singaporeans have reported over 300 instances of microaggressions as they visited relatives over the Chinese New Year (CNY).
Using a simple Google Docs form, Ryan Lim and his friends took to Facebook and Reddit to encourage friends to share their experiences on a document titled, CNY Power Play. Anyone who encounters “power plays and microaggression[s] thinly disguised as harmless CNY banter” may give vent to their frustration in a simple textbox.
It is a completely anonymous and virtually instant way of righting the micro-wrongs committed against yourself or your children. Enter in the offending statements or questions on one end, and they will appear on the other for all to see. The annual festive season has never seen such efficient means for achieving catharsis.
Examples of these microaggressions are as varied as there are reasons for taking offense. Even the most innocuous statements find their way onto the list.
Microaggression is a term in psychology that was introduced by Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce. It was initially used to describe racist insults and dismissals. Its definition, however, has been expanded greatly.
The term now includes, in the words of the UCLA diversity gurus, “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
“It is, after all, the duty of all fertile Singaporeans to get married and have babies.”
The long list of alleged transgressions on CNY Power Play is perhaps evidence of the elasticity of the concept. With a keen eye for insidious undertones, the diligent reader may find in every one of these statements cause for offense.
For instance, if someone asks when you intend to get married (“WHEN MARRY?”), it is obvious that the questioner is actually condemning you for not getting married yet. It is, after all, the duty of all fertile Singaporeans to get married and have babies. The questioner is most assuredly not really interested in knowing the answer.
Whether or not microaggression is the right word to use, many entries reflect the younger generation’s frustration with competitive aspects of Singaporean culture and the stereotyping of their elders. Thus, a wide array of stereotypes about looks, income and education level, social and marriage status, possessions, and even religious faithfulness, find their way onto the list.
The following is a sampling of some of these entries.
- Can’t find Boyfriend yet? Better set your standards lower, you are almost 30.
- 20 already still no boyfriend????? how can??? you must talk to more boys okay… girl must find good husband
- “Going to uni is very important… to find your lifelong partner”
- Why you date foreigner? You mean Singapore got no more guys/girls around huhhhh?
- “You’re 30 already, so when are you getting married? Need uncle help you find matchmaking services?”
- Eh you two same surname. you sure not incest when you marry?
- Haven’t find bf yet?! Don’t be so picky, as long as is guy can already
Money, money, money!
- So you still working as a nurse? Nurse where got good? Must clean people’s ass. You see ah girl she work in bank now very good leh. Ask ah girl pull you in la….
- “Teach?? Pay damn low sia” lol want mould future of nation cannot is it???
- (when asked to gamble) No lah, I don’t play so small one
- My son drove us here in his new car, very hard to find parking you know
- My son say organic veggies healthier, have you tried it
- Gahmen very unfair don’t let my son buy hdb, say he earning too much, aiyoh
- Eh, you boy or girl? girl right? why never wear dress? cut short hair somemore!
- Haiyo, drink more green tea. You got so much pimples on your face eh!
- Wah you look slimmer now? You PURPOSELY (with great emphasise) go and diet ah?
- Ah girl you so skinny, how come your korkor so fat? (he’s my younger brother btw. and he was RIGHT THERE)
- My husband is a plastic surgeon. He can make your daughter more presentable.
- Eh this CNY your girl wear until like that like want to hook up with her cousins.
Shh… Riots can happen anytime
- Brings GF/BF from another race…. “Who is this, why got malay/indian here”
- Your Malay girlfriend where?
- “I thought you become Muslim?” (So? Still Chinese what, how is this relevant?)
We don’t need no education
- You same age as X right? How come she graduate liao you haven’t yet? YOU REPEAT AH
- Huh why you want to study for 5 years? Engineering double degree your parents very rich ah!? Don’t la you girl don’t engineering just find good boyfriend >> im on scholarship…
- My friend’s daughter study arts and can get high paying job. But then her daughter is clever….Hope you can also.
- Oh you study psychology ah? So next time you want to be a social worker?
- You NA? Why never go Express???? Waste one year leh! (NA stands for Normal Academic. Students in the Normal Academic stream are given one additional year to complete the same syllabus.)
- University of Buffalo? Simi sai? Learn farming ah?
- Studying [any arts subject] is it? Next time you can do what one? Teacher is it?
- Eh you study geography in NUS ah. about what one ah. look at fengshui isit? can help me look at the fengshui in my new house next time?” (fengshui is a Chinese form of geomancy.)
- You study Physics???? Next time help old people do physio ah???
- Liberal arts??? Is what??? Got painting????? Drawing??????
And my favourite. “What you working as now ah? Journalist? That one real job ah?”