Photo: Courtesy of Agatha Tan on Facebook.
Agatha Tan, a student at the Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore, was one of many teens who recently attended a sex ed seminar sponsored by the religious organization Focus on the Family.
Along with a lecture, students were given a booklet that offered, among other things, translations of what men and women "really" mean when they talk. When a woman says "We need to talk," the booklet claims that what she really means is "I need to complain." Another page asks, "No means yes? Yes means no?"
Understandably outraged at the retrograde sexism being taught to her fellow students, Tan responded with a 2,300-word open letter to her school principal, which she posted to her Facebook page:
"While sexuality education rarely manages to teach me something that I have not already learnt through past sessions or mainstream media, this booklet was different. From merely glancing through this booklet, I learned a simple yet important lesson: that bigotry is very much alive and it was naïve of me to think I could be safe from it even in school."
"[The] workshop seemed to emphasize and enforce traditional gender roles in a relationship," Tan continues. "According to FotF, 'gals' – as it is written throughout the booklet – are fragile and need guys’ support, and everything a guy does in the relationship is excusable simply because he is a guy and is wired that way."
Interestingly, the pages of the book Tan refers to were adapted from works by Christian relationship advice author Shaunti Feldhahn, who responded to the controversy on her blog. "We strongly disagree with the idea that teaching the brain wiring and mutual respect is somehow contributing to a 'rape culture,'" she wrote. "That is a clear misunderstanding, and it confuses the real and important issue and teaching that will help both men and women."
But, Tan doesn't seem to misunderstand anything — in fact, she's a rather sharp analyst. She concludes her letter thusly: "By engaging the services of groups such as FotF to teach sexuality education in school, the management hence indirectly participates in promoting rape culture, tells students that we should conform to traditional gender roles instead of being our own persons, demonstrates that the acceptance of diversity in people is unimportant, and erases minority groups in the student population."