Women (and men) in Malaysia were quick to shut down the government’s directive about quarantine behavior
As more and more people around the world go into lockdowns and quarantines to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Malaysia, at nearly 3,000 confirmed cases, has the highest recorded numbers of the disease in Southeast Asia.
But instead of issuing helpful information to teach people how to protect themselves from illness, Malaysia’s Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development released a series of online posters reminding women that they should dress nicely and put on makeup, even if they’re just staying home. Oh, and they should avoid nagging their husbands during quarantine. To make things even more laughable, the posters came with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19. Forget social distancing and washing your hands. Apparently not wearing lounge clothes and donning makeup every day is the best advice this government has to offer women amid a global pandemic.
The posters received pretty swift backlash and they’ve all been taken down by now. But people in Malaysia are still pretty pissed that this was the government’s priority when there are literally people dying.
“(It) is extremely condescending both to women and men,” said Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at the advocacy group All Women’s Action Society. “These posters promote the concept of gender inequality and perpetuate the concept of patriarchy.”
The ministry pretty abruptly abandoned the campaign soon after people started speaking up about it, and said its misguided suggestions were only meant to help “maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home.”
This campaign came after Malaysia issued an order saying that only “heads of household” were allowed to leave their locked down homes to go to grocery stores. Many families assumed that meant men only, and social media posts showed photos of confused husbands trying to navigate the stores, often on their cell phones with their wives who were directing them at home.
What Malaysia should be doing instead? Letting families continue with essential services like grocery shopping as they normally would, and spreading scientifically sound information that will help keep people safe. These bizarre and sexist rules and directives serve no one as we all battle the coronavirus.
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