Two job offers on dec. 31st actually, and is quite flattered that they were thinking about me. But why is the writing business and journalistic profession SO gender biased in Singapore? If you are a woman, you can be certain that the jobs you immediately will get offered and expected to take will be within the “soft” areas. Like the two I got today, who were both requests to write travel and travel related stories.
It’s not really something that I would reject immediately out of hand without thinking about it, but I did about the first offer on a permanent role anyway, because I couldn’t imagine myself getting stuck behind a desk writing travel stories and not going anywhere other than to the Google machine for inspiration.
The second offer were a little more interesting, because it would be a free-lance offer and all they wanted was first pick of stories that I could offer and an ongoing schedule about where I would be going in the world, where they at anytime then could request a less than 2,000 word piece including photos from wherever I went to – Yay freedom!. I would still be salaried at a non negotiable Singapore base rate that is not even close to what NVJ – Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (Dutch Association of Journalists) is requirering me to ask for when working freelance. On the other hand it could be nice to get something published in Singapore again (it’s really been quite a while now) and with a byline.
My interest lies within what you in Singapore know as of “Out of Bounds Marker” or “OB Marker” topics ie. topics that is not acceptable to write or even investigate about. Namely politics, political nepotism and social issues. That for most employers in the media is like a red light to many and will make me a persona non grata. Or that my employers will play whac a mole with my head until I resign. Something that I already for a brief period of time in my life tried. This is also why I freaking love working for European and to a certain degree US news and media houses.
If you want to work in journalism or media in Singapore then you need to learn to
be a good girl and bow your head (don’t stick too much out), don’t dress “Lesbian” (a request I got once when a potential employer heard that I liked women). This includes that you put a framed picture of your dog, kitten or Aloe Vera plant on your desk and not your girlfriend – else you will find her picture in the trashcan, every time you return to your desk.
I copied (stole) a graph showing OB Markers from
bad girl Catherine Lim who on several occasions have been writing about Press control in Singapore, and one whom I am a great fan of.
You might have to maximize the picture to see what the text says.
But in general the closer you get to the red circle the more in trouble will you be with the government and with your employer. Generally it is “acceptable” in Singapore to only write within the circles Blue and Green. While Yellow and Orange can or will land you in trouble (and might even get you a can’t say no invitation to a friendly talk in a room without windows at the Internal Affairs Office, who as well will kindly help you rearrange your furniture in your home and help you to do a back-up of all you computers and external hard-drives while you are there). Red will leave you out on the street with your personal belongings in a box, immediately.
Encouraged to write about
Blue Circle – Bread and Butter Issues E.g.: Housing and CPF (Pension)
Tolerable to write about
Green Circle – Non-political and Moral Issues E.g.: Homosexuality and Prostitution. Caucasians as a group also falls under the green circle from time to time.
Semi tolerable to write about
Yellow Circle – Government Style E.g.: Manner of carrying out political and countrywide activities with Governmental support. Yellow Circle also includes governmental owned companies and institutions. For example you can find yourself in the Yellow Circle by criticizing Singapore Airlines for it’s sexist policy not employing female pilots on it’s long haul flights.
Not tolerable at all
Orange Circle – Government Morale / Policy E.g.: Corruption and Nepotism.
Red Circle – Religion, Race and Racism.
What do I think and feel is interesting to work within? – tadaa! Orange and Yellow Circles!.
Homosexuality has for many years been in the Orange box, but lately it’s been moved into the (light) green area – It does not mean that if you are a public media figure, just can out yourself on national TV. Actors and Artists is a protected lot whom it is more acceptable to be out in public. Especially if you are a comedian or entertainer – but you still can’t kiss someone of your own gender on live TV.
The idea of Bi-Sexuality is very confusing for the powers to be, so they don’t really know what to do about that group.
I’m even sure, that if I managed to go to the South Pole (or the Moon) to plant a rainbowcolored flag, then Singaporean TV would have “technically difficulties” the moment I raised the flag …so to speak…
What does that mean to some of my dreams or ideas? (that I’m going to write in greater details about later on) Creating and selling a 6 episode per season TV show like a Singaporean version of Lip Service, will be a challenging task and will not be able to air on TV in Singapore at all. Not even Cable TV. I believe that even getting permission to shoot in (semi) public spaces can/will/might provide a challenge that requires all your skills in negotiation and brown nosing – even nepotism would not help me out in this case. It will likewise be a challenge to launch a monthly Lesbian Magazine within Singapore, both something that I have put some thoughts behind in doing and could get some financial support to do as well. More about this much later.
It’s so bad, that when I some years ago ordered old back issues of UK’s DIVA Magazine, I got a letter, stating that if I wanted to receive the 10 magazines, I would have to pay for the time to censor sensitive materials before they could be released into Singapore. Too bad I don’t have a copy of that letter any longer.
Back to my job offer. I’ll think about the former offer and stay in contact with them. They are not bad guys to know, it’s just yawn on the edge as an emotional career killer (with all kind respect to those who make a good living focusing on that), to settle on doing “just” travel and related feature stories when my heart is somewhere else.