the long dark teatime of the soul

by Wednesday.

You know, Thursday, I didn’t realise that the only reason we have chronic depression is because we are insufficiently theist.

Or at least The Christian Post Singapore blithely reports that ‘Believing God Cares Cures Depression, Study Finds’.

Well, I never. Medical victim-blaming! My day is so cheered.

I don’t deny that religious or spiritual belief may help with any illness, mental health issues included, but it’s one thing to say that, and another to say, ‘A belief in a God who cares is the solution to depression, new research has shown.’

It’s one step from there to ‘You’re not cured because you’re not trying‘, where ‘trying’ means ‘attempting to be happy’, ‘medicating yourself’, or ‘believing in a deity’. It’s one step from there to Depression Bingo (transcript available here courtesy of adorianmode).

And, in any case, the original researchers only said:

The present study is observational; these results support, but do not prove that belief in a caring and concerned God plays a role in response to treatment for people diagnosed with depression. Persons with depression often describe using religion to cope. The results of the present study suggest that when treating persons diagnosed with depression, clinicians should consider inquiring about and providing support for this important resource.

In fact, they even suggested that depression may be made worse by the emphasis on religiosity that the Christian Post is advocating:

Another perspective on the results of our study is that low RWB scores might indicate a loss of belief or religious struggle (Fitchett et al., 2004) in the face of symptoms, which would add to a patient’s distress. If this is true, it is important for clinicians to assess for religious struggle in persons with depressive symptoms.

Source: Murphy, Patricia E., and Fitchett, George. ‘Belief in a concerned god predicts response to treatment for adults with clinical depression.’ Journal of Clinical Psychology 65.9 (2009): 1000-8.

Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’

Dune is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, first published in 1985 and subsequently a winner of both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards.

Most of the novel is set on ‘Dune’, a desert planet named Arrakis. Its natives are people called Fremen, who are discernible by their all-blue eyes with no whites. The desert wildlife consists mostly of small mice, a few birds, oh, and giant killer sandworms. The planet is important namely because it is the only known source of ‘mélange-spice’, a substance that is used in everything from cooking to space travel.

The main character is Paul Atreides, heir to the Atreides Dukedom, and his mother Lady Jessica. Paul Atreides is part of a secret breeding programme conducted by a shadowy sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit (of which his mother is a member) to create a superhuman. While on Arrakis, the Atreides are betrayed, Paul’s father Duke Leto is assassinated, and Jessica is framed. Mother and son find sanctuary in the desert. While everyone thinks they’re dead, they assimilate into Fremen society, and use legends seeded into the Fremen culture to their benefit. Eventually, Paul leads a devastating attack on his enemies to avenge his father and reclaim his title.

This is not a book to be put down lightly. It is to be thrown with great force.

do something already.

by Wednesday.
Trigger warning for sexual assault.

In today’s Straits Times: ‘PR fined for molesting doctor.’

Well and good, but the article specifies that ‘Pham Thia Ha, 30, a IT engineer was fined $8,000 for using criminal force on a doctor at Raffles Medical Clinic [emphasis mine].’ Criminal force, because ‘he was then aroused, and reached for her hand and tried to tug it towards him’, and he should not have laid hands upon her, but the last paragraph of the article also adds:

Pham left the room but returned a while later to apologise; he also laid a finger on his lips to ask for her discretion. Pham, defended by Mr P.E. Ashokan, could have been jailed for up to two years, fined or caned or received any combination of the punishments for outrage of modesty.

Then why wasn’t he? is what I’d like to know.

Recently, so much fail when it comes to enforcing harsh punishment on perpetrators of sexual assault.

Fair Labour

by Wednesday.

In today’s Straits Times forum, one Alice Cheah writes that we should harshly punish female domestic workers who become pregnant during the course of their employment in Singapore:

Obviously, maids who work part-time or get pregnant are blatantly contravening the work permit conditions governing their employment in Singapore (‘100 pregnant maids sent home a year’, Sept 29; and the Ministry of Manpower’s reply, ‘Why it’s wrong to let maids work part-time’; Oct7).

So more punitive measures should be adopted against them as well as their abettors.

Abettors? Oh, right, there was a recent newspaper article about how some domestic workers resort to back-street abortions (often chemical) in order to avoid being deported. Some employers also pay for professional abortions in a medical setting, although the domestic workers do fear their names coming to the attention of the Ministry of Manpower (in Singapore, doctors who provide abortion services must submit the names of patients who have an abortion to the Ministry of Health).

Clearly this is a terrible thing to do. But why?

In seeking superficial love or prostituting themselves for quick money, they throw caution to the wind, hoping to escape the consequences of their acts.

Apart from repatriation, many may also experience the trauma of abortions.

‘The consequences of their acts’! Dear Lord, why didn’t I think of that? Sex has consequences, don’t you know. Negative consequences, at that. Sex leads to pregnancy, and a pregnant state is the consequence of sex. You shouldn’t escape this. It is your biological role, woman, it can’t be circumvented. Okay. Look. Wanting to have sex doesn’t mean wanting to become pregnant. Wanting to have sex doesn’t take away your right to choose whether or not you want to be pregnant. How hard is that to understand? (This argument is conveniently unpacked here, for 101ers.)

And the trauma of abortions which are traumatic because… you mean, because of the stigmatisation and harassment of women who have abortions, right? Right? — C’mon, can I have some sense here?

The Ministry of Manpower should impose stiff penalties on the men who cause such pregnancies.

Work pass holders who make maids pregnant should have their passes cancelled as well.

Surely, the fairer and more effective solution is to hold both parties liable.

And here I was thinking that the fairer and more effective solution would be to stop punishing women for having sex, as is their right, whether or not they are immigrants or foreign domestic workers.

Then again, Alice Cheah supports new domestic helpers working without pay for their first few months #, ‘is in favour of using CCTV cameras to watch over maids’ #, and opposes minimum wages for domestic helpers and opposes giving them a day off # (a rebuttal is available here).

(Surprisingly, the latter position seems to be recently adopted on her part. Back in 2005, she was singing a different tune and actually thought domestic workers should be allowed to have rest days — although perhaps that was because, stressed, depressed, and abused, Guen Garlejo Aguilar of the Philippines had murdered and dismembered a fellow domestic worker. So. We have to give maids a day off! Not because they’re human and have the right to dignified labour, but because they could kill people — even us!)

For more information on resources available to foreign domestic workers:

Maid in Singapore is a blog by a Filipino woman working as a domestic helper locally.

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics offers help to foreign workers in Singapore, as does Transient Workers Count Too. In collaboration with UNIFEM Singapore, both organisations run the Day Off Campaign.

The local Roman Catholic archdiocese runs a a commission for the care of migrant workers. Women migrant workers are eligible for financial education courses at aidha.

Compulsory Heterosexuality

by Wednesday.

Suffice it to say that I am so angry right now.

Many people in society hate queer people for being queer. This is not a newsflash. This is a fact.

But this is a fact which has been rubbed in our faces recently, too. And I am not speaking merely of the late Tyler Clementi, God rest his soul. To all those delightfully, wilfully ignorant folks who like to comment on articles by saying, ‘Oh, Singapore is fair and free, we let gay people live in peace here — we’re not Uganda!’ — well, fuck off.

D’you call jailing two men who had sex in a restroom living in peace? Not for having sex in a public place, mind. We have a law for that. No, the public prosecutor chose to use S377A, the law which criminalises homosexual sodomy. (Not heterosexual sodomy, oh, no. We legalised that three years ago in the same penal code revision where we decided we’d keep this clause.)

D’you call filming and distributing a video of two girls having sex living in peace? So much so that they have been turned out of their school?

The latter disturbs me, yes.

Not for the same reason that many people are disturbed. I find it disgusting and nauseating that the people who are going on about ‘Youth these days should know better’ mean that the girls should have known better. Not their schoolmates who filmed them, no. They should have known better than to be queer.

To anyone out there over the age of, say, 25: don’t act so shocked that teenagers have consensual sex, or that they do it in school restrooms. Tell me, where the fuck else is there to go? When you consider (a) how much the Confucian ethic has worked to ensure that teenagers spend most of their time in school; and (b) that sexual agency is denied to youths and especially to girls — it’s not surprising. Trust me. I’m sixteen and a student. I know.

But look at the words being used to describe the incident. ‘Steamy.’ ‘Tryst.’ Even in the midst of the condemnation, I’m so glad to know society can take the time out to continue objectifying female sexuality and reframing it for the male gaze.

I wonder if the students who filmed the video ought to leave the school as well? Of course not. You can shame people for having sex, you can shame people for being queer — and make no mistake that this was an act of deliberate intimidation, threatening all the more because it sends the message that ‘you are transgressive and that legitimises my hate‘ — but as long as you aren’t actually a filthy lesbian slut, you’re safe within the loving arms of a kyriarchy that sweeps your misdeeds over.

Psychologist Daniel Koh, of Insights Mind Centre, felt several aspects made the ACJC case especially disturbing.

First was the fact that the incident happened in a public place and involved two girls, ‘something society may not accept yet’.

Yeah, it’s your job to make society comfortable. Keep your legs closed, you shameless woman. And for God’s sake, you’re not allowed anything other than to be pursued (remember the passive voice) by a man.

At least nine current and former ACJC students The Straits Times spoke to said they knew of the incident, with one having seen the video on his friend’s mobile phone.

‘What I saw disgusted me,’ said the second-year student, who said he could not bring himself to continue watching the rest of the clip.

I am amazed, my dear, that you weren’t turned on. I mean, we all know that queer female sexuality exists solely for the (straight) male gaze. Or were you disgusted by the fact that they were queer? Yea, for ’tis a monstrous, repugnant thing indeed, queer sexuality. Or female sexuality. Or just sex in general. Carry on, Jeeves.

But if that second-year student was disgusted by the fact that society sees fit to hound and harass and police queer and female sexualities, and if he was disgusted by the fact that the system and the media enable this, then I apologise to him. It’s why I’m disgusted, after all. It’s why we should be.

You think this incident is unimportant? You think this event means nothing? Damn right it’s not funny, but read this (TW for suicide, self-harm).

Another local commentary (here) is really good — points out my arguments a trifle more coherently, too, FWIW.