Odd One Out

on Sunday, September 09, 2007

I have a knack of being the odd one out in a crowd. As I mentioned before, I have been the only guy in a group of ladies for many occasions in my life. What you may not have known is that on other occasions, I was the only Chinese in a hall of Irish patriots, the only Chinese in a Jewish synagogue and the only non-Muslim in a closed fundamentalist Muslim community. These are stories to be told at another time but which clearly demonstrate that I have a knack of ending up as the odd one out and standing out like a sore thumb.



Well, I did it again last Friday. My assistant told me that the women's wing of a political party were inviting people to attend a meeting to discuss common concerns. I work for an environmental and conservation organisation and so for me common concerns related to the environment. Although generally, not keen to attend political party meetings, I happened to be very near the venue of the meeting and agreed to drop in after I completed some work.

I went to the registration desk, they took my name and then ushered me personally to my seat. As I entered the hall, I suddenly became aware that there were about a hundred women seated there and as I scanned around, I could not spot another male anywhere (where were they, the cowards!). My usherer insisted on taking me almost to the front. I am sure my arrival was the focus of everyone's attention. I sat down and my spirits plummeted further when I read the program and saw there was nothing on the agenda on the environment. In fact the order of the day was a discussion about "Violence against Women".

As the discussion got going, I began to sense a lot of hostility in the room to the male gender and so I tried not to attract any attention while my eyes surveyed the nearest exits in case a quick get-away was needed.

In the end though, they were very civil about my presence. I also got to learn a lot and at the end I really thought that more men should indeed have been there to listen.

I was particularly shocked to learn how callous the bureaucacy treated women who had been victims of violent crimes in Malaysia. I was disappointed to learn that one-stop Rape Crisis Centres in hospitals had been axed in cost cuts. I was appalled to hear of police officers who asked rape victims if they enjoyed the experience.

Police officers were clearly in need of learning gender sensitivity. Some told victims that the way they dressed implied that they invited sexual attack. Others have actually told some rape victims that they were not pretty enough to attract any one to be interested to rape them.

Honestly, I had no idea that things were so bad. I applaud those who are trying to make a difference. In Malaysia there is even a male organisation that exists to speak out to other males against domestic violence. Malaysia just celebrated 50 years of independence but our attitude and treatment of women clearly shows that we have not matured as a society.

33 comments:

geewits said...

Yikes. Maybe there's a reason you ended up there?

Open Grove Claudia said...

Boy, what an experience! I don't know if I would have stayed or been able to stay focused and present. You are a marvelous being, Squirrelly!

riseoutofme said...

Good for you! I'm very sure Malaysia is not alone in its appaling treatment of women who are the victims of male violence.

Claire said...

I'm the token catholic among my mormon friends. They have ceased trying to convert me. Squirrel, I think the ladies just like you. You are sensitive (able to hang with the girls), yet manly (you love rugby). All woman love a guy like that.
Malaysia is still growing up. Hopefully they will not become overly influenced by muslim extremists who view women as possessions. The women here in the USA have no idea how good they have it.

Molly said...

What a brave fellow you are Squirrel! Did your assistant get a good talking to later on?
all the things you mentioned have gone on here too, but I think there is finally a little more sensitivity on the issue.At least the papers would have you think so........
You had me falling out of my chair laughing at your verse/comment. I think we need to crown you poet laureate of blogdom!

Ruth D~ said...

First~ the pictur . . . where did you find it? I love it. Second~ there is nothing like being a fox in a hen house for having your eyes opened. I know so many men who are aware and sensitive to women's issues. Trust me. Women are not angry at men in the singular, but sometimes it seems that way doesn't it. It's more frustration at a system dominated by men who would never go to a conference like you did. Kudos.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

geewits,
I sure hope there was a reason! At any rate, I had my eyes opened a bit more.

claudia,
I decided a hasty retreat would have also attracted undue attention. I don't know about marvelous....more like petrified with fear! Haha.

riseoutofme,
It seems like we are moving backwards though like losing the one-stop Rape Crisis Centres.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

claire,
Only catholic amongst mormons, yes, that too is the odd one out but perhaps at least you don't stand out like the sore thumb! :)

With Islam in Malaysia, there is a bias against women. In a divorce, the children almost always is given to the man, for example. However, some of the worst atrocities occur because of denial. There is a lot of incest and rape in some remote villagers but the authorities brush it aside with the rationale that the villagers are Muslim and Muslims just don't do these things. They used to deny the drug problem and the teenage pregnancy problem in the same way. It just can't be happening in a Muslim country amongst Muslims. Blind denial.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

molly,
glad you liked the little rhyme I left you. As for my assistant, she just laughs these things off. Perhaps I am not stern enough.

ruth,
I know what you are saying but political meetings are all about whipping up fervour amongst the followers. That can be a scary sight when you are the minority or the target of their attention.

HeiressChild said...

not just in malaysia LGS, but here in the USA as well those attitudes prevail. we do have rape crisis centers now, and they'll assign a female officer, if desired. but i think we as a society still have a long ways to go. there's never an excuse for rape, regardless of how anyone is dressed.

Gina said...

That's kind of funny, looking around for the exits....women can become scary when we have a shared concern, maybe moreso than men?
I can only imagine how awkward it must have felt for you. Did anyone talk to you after the event? Did you hang out afterwards? Sometimes sharing concerns between women can become a bit intense for women who are less vocal as well. Oft times I find myself in this position as well. I do think you are brave and would have probably not lasted in the hotseat but made an excuse for myself to leave. Good for you that you could keep your focus on the issues.

Margaret said...

My hat goes off to you - for sticking it out. It sure can be tough to be a woman, then again it can be tough being a man.

Better yet, it can be tough just being.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

sylvia,
I cannot understand how society blames women for being raped. That really is a perverse way of thinking.

Gina,
someone did talk to me after the meeting but basically to apologise that they postponed the discussion on environment. Actually as I left, I saw one other man but he must have done a good job of hiding himself cause I hadn't seen him earlier.

margaret,
Yes, in a fair world, it is tough just being. But being female is a real disadvantage in many parts of the world where they are not just not treated as equals but worse, treated as property. :(

...Kat said...

wow LGS another great posting


you start by having me chuckling and laughing out loud....
and THEN you have me gasping!

I have experienced crime/violence first hand and know that everything that can be done for the woman must be done...she deserves and needs every consideration

don't get worried for me...
obviously I am OK :-)

meggie said...

Congratulations LGS, for the courage to go, & stay. If only more men went to such forums, I am sure it would improve the world.

Cheryl said...

How embarrassing at first as I'm sure all eyes were on you. Aren't you glad you stayed?

Josie said...

LGS, good for you for having the guts to stay there in that possibly hostile environment. And kudos to you for learning something from it. You were meant to be there. Maybe you can spread the word on behalf of those women.

BTW, check out Leslie’s Blog today. Heh.

Janice Thomson said...

Kudos for sticking it out Lgs. It is sensitive people like yourself who will help make the changes needed.

patterns of ink said...

As the old politically incorrect saying goes, "You must have felt like a ham at a Jewish picnic!"
We can always learn a lot in such settings.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

kat,
I am glad I attended otherwise I was in danger of thinking it was a small problem or one that was on its way to being solved. Instead, because it had lacked public attention, the situation had deteriorated. Sorry to hear that you had experience violent crime first hand.

meggie,
Before I went, I would have been amongst the males who would be reluctant to attend such a meeting but I now understand that more men should indeed attend.

cheryl,
I am indeed glad I stayed. I learnt a lot. Still, it was an uncomfortable experience.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

josie,
I suppose I don't believe in chance so I was meant to be there but what do I do next? Thanks for the heads up on Leslie's blog.

janice,
More men really ought to attend these meetings.

tom,
I sure learnt a lot like asking my Assistant to give me more info before going for meetings. Seriously, though I am more aware, concerned and less flippant about women's safety.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Saying those things to rape victims is utterly shocking. It's a fairly widespread practice still to blame the victim, but it's encouraging that there are men like you who are aware and sensitive to the real issues.

We all appreciate your feelings and the fact that you are sharing them. It will make a difference.

leslie said...

Very clever Squirrel! Just like the fox among the hounds, facing the same direction to avoid detection :)
Running for the exit would have been very dangerous.
I liked your use of "blind denial". That is what it is, and not limited to Malaysia, by any means.

my backyard said...

I admire your courage and openmindedness!

Top cat said...

I love the picture and when you walked in the room I can feel your pain.lol
I agree more men, especially those in prominent positions should attend these seminars.
tc

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

hearts,
It's terrible that such things are beings said to rape victims. Unimaginable. I think people can be so stupid and hurtful.

leslie,
"Blind denial". If we wish it wasn't there, may be it will go away. What a head in the sand mentality. Unfortunately it is too common.

my backyard,
I just did what any other rodent caught in a trap would do. keep silent in mortal fear! LoL. But seriously, thanks for the kind words.

TC,
Yes, the good thing from this uncomfortable situation is the realisation that prominent men should have too attend these meetings .....perhaps with their wives and daughters and have to explain to them why there is still so much inaction and insensitivity.

CS said...

Good for you for staying and listening. May you be just the first of many men to do that.

Odat said...

Wow, I can't believe that cut that program!!! Sounds like much has to be done there in this area!
Peace

eastcoastdweller said...

LGS, I'm glad You attended ... and stayed. We men just don't realize how much the Ladies of our world have to endure, we just don't get it until it's shoved in our faces like that.

And I can't think of anyone more qualified to be an ambassador from Male World than you, in the interest of making things better!

I know men do get assaulted and even raped now and then but still, I can't imagine trying to go through life having to fear ever being alone, every darkened parking lot, even a solitary hike in the forest.

And then the attitudes! The accusations! The patronization!

I don't think you will ever forget this experience. It's something that every one of us guys should experience at least once in our lives.

Patricia Singleton said...

Lone Grey Squirrel, I am glad that you stayed and then wrote about your experience. If more men would speak out as you have, things might change quicker.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Wow Squirrel. I love the *handle. Well good for you that you had the testicular fortitude to stick it out and listen to the program. That is not easy. I have been to similar functions in the U.S. and even as a woman, the hostility made me uncomfortable. So I feel for you brother.

As for being the odd one out, you know as a fellow odd one, it takes a person secure in their identity to pull that off well. To unabashadly be yourself in the midst of homogeneous groups can be very intimidating to anyone. So kudos to you for sticking to your proverbial guns.

In the U.S. we have similar problems. When you mentioned the incest and abuse issues in remote villages, and the metropolitan Muslims thinking that this isnt a problem because *real {read authentic} Muslims simply dont do that. Well we have the same problem with Christianity, and other religions as well.

No one wants to admit that with all their wonderful people and cultural identities that they too have to suffer with the continuum of humanity that can run the gammut from Saint to Shitbird. But all societies have a mixed back of those and everything inbetween.

This is why trying to deal with these issues from a religious standpoint or even a cultural one seem to be so ineffective. Predators always find a way to manipulate or reinterpret the rules in order to justify their behavior legalistically.

Thats why the justifications for rape and domestic violence and incest revolve around:

Women and Children being Chattel ordained by this or that God and sustained by the state as a legality.

Until we afford all women and children regardless of faith, nationality, creed, race, economic status, sexual orientation, or perceived sexual purity, the status as a Human Being with certain non-negotiable rights by virtue of that humanity, then we will have more problems than solutions.

And it wont matter if it is in the U.S. or Malaysia or where ever.

Violence against women and children is a global epidemic.

That being said. I am glad that your eyes have been opened. You are one step in the right direction.

Perhaps instead of seeing yourself as *the odd one out, perhaps you should recognize yourself as a trend setter. A person on the leading edge, a positive sign of things to come perhaps?

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Anonymous said...

The excellent answer

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