MARCH 13 — Lately I've been watching a lot of anime and reading manga. It seems easier to just escape into fantasy scenarios when the state of the world now is so grim.

What strikes me is how much of that media is now targeted towards women, when before it catered mostly to men.

Where once female characters in manga or anime were merely love interests or who served only to die, as motivation for the protagonists, now instead they're lead characters — doctors, mages, soldiers, authors and of course that typical trope: hero who forestalls the end of the world.


Korean manhwa, the equivalent to Japanese manga, also do have women protagonists yet what struck me was how similar women protagonists were in one aspect ― how their love interests behaved as well as the people around them.

In these fantasy worlds, women displayed competence and were listened to, with men in their lives who were content to be supportive and not hog the limelight.

I understood then that to many women readers these books were a respite to the world's realities ― where it is a struggle just to have someone, especially men in power, listen.


The recent proposal to give the option to women civil servants fewer hours, with commensurate lower pay, is proof enough that no one in power has been listening to what women actually want.

Feminism is about equal rights. ― Unsplash pic/Becca Tapert
Feminism is about equal rights. ― Unsplash pic/Becca Tapert

One of the least understood aspects of feminism is that at its heart it does not ask for special rights for women.

Feminism is about equal rights.

It is not equal rights to offer one gender less pay. It is not equal rights either to offer privileges to one gender without good cause.

The proposal forgets about single parents, fathers included. It neglects to take into account carers of ageing parents or sick relatives or spouses.

Telling parents that you will pay them less for the so-called privilege of being able to go home to their kids neglects the very reason they have jobs in the first place ― to provide for said children.

Other proposals have been given and it seems they have fallen on deaf ears.

Flexible work arrangements, company on-site or subsidised daycare, parental leave ― these are all better options than just telling women that you will cut their pay just so they can care for the children they will now struggle to feed on a reduced income.

I have noticed the pathetic representation for both women and minorities in the Cabinet; it is like we are going backwards and negating all the decades of progress we have made in acknowledging the contribution of women beyond having children.

There are great minds too, among women. Women invented so many things we take for granted now, including Wi-Fi, windshield wipers, flat bottomed paper bags, life rafts and even coffee filters.

Yet time and time again, in countries from our own to China, South Korea, Japan and the US, women are blamed for not wanting to marry, for eschewing children to build careers.

Instead of making it easier to bring up children, repressive laws are being put into place to try and push women into forgetting about working, to do their supposed duty — procreate.

Too many people mocked the Barbie film monologue by America Ferrera but as the days go by, it just becomes even more evident that whether or not it's too much on the nose or Feminism 101, there is nothing about it that isn't true.

I won't reproduce the whole thing here because it's all over the internet anyhow but this particular line really just sums up what it's like to be a woman: “And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.”

Women aren't being paid as much as men? Don't work then.

Women are being sexually assaulted? Stay home then.

Men are struggling to get married? Women, marry them then.

There are also men who insist on not allowing men to be the gynaecologists and obstetricians looking after their wives, but at the same time do not want women to work.

I guess the choice is either women resign themselves to having a high risk of dying in childbirth due to only having the option to midwives and not doctors (because they're all male, women don't work) or some women will just have to take it for the team and be women doctors only serving women.

Of course we will also pay those women doctors less than men because god forbid we encourage them to keep being doctors instead of quitting early from the profession to raise children.

What women want, again, is just to be listened to and treated equally instead of being forced into arbitrary gender roles because of our genitals.

At this rate women will be back at square one, fighting for the things they should have always had ― the right to vote, the right to equal pay, and what should be fundamental: the right to equal rights.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.