The Malaysian government was forced to apologize after its Women’s Development Department advised women to wear makeup, to dress up and to avoid nagging their husbands during the coronavirus lockdown. Malaysia, which currently has 2,908 confirmed cases of COVID-19 seems like it should have bigger issues to address.
One campaign poster shows a man sitting on a sofa, and advised that women should refrain from being sarcastic if they need help with household chores. Another suggested that women should use humor and imitate the high-pitched, infantile voice of Doraemon, a blue robot cat from Japan that is popular across Asia. Yet another showed a picture of a woman wearing leggings with a giant slash through it. A picture of a woman’s face was shown with two make-up brushes and a lipstick.
Not surprisingly, the campaign was met with fierce backlash online, and the posts which were placed on Instagram and Facebook have been deleted from the department’s social media account. “We apologize if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the ministry’s women development department said in a statement.
Last week, the Malaysian government specified that only the “head of the household” should leave the house to purchase necessities. While they didn’t specify gender, NPR reports that men were typically the ones braving the grocery store. Sexists messages from the supermarkets implied that the men were not up to the task.
Yet another gender issue potentially impacted by the virus is domestic violence. Women’s groups around the world have warned that the lockdowns could result in a rise in domestic violence. The fear is that some victims will find themselves trapped at home with their abusive partners. France and Spain have started suggesting victims who are unable to call the police should head to the local pharmacy to report abuse. If they are afraid to speak openly, they can use the codeword “mask 19” to alert the pharmacist.
In times of crisis, problems that existed before the crisis tend to be exacerbated. Gender issues seem to be no exception to this rule.
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