Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun became an overnight sensation on social media recently when she flaunted a svelte figure – unrecognisable even by the Rina of yore.
It’s the kind of transformation that is beyond the expectation of particularly reformasi-inspired Malaysians.
The resolve and resourcefulness of the Titiwangsa MP to cut a trim figure makes some Malaysians wonder whether the same could be done to the bulging federal cabinet, which takes a toll on the national budget, especially when the performance of some ministers leaves much to be desired.
It is unbecoming, though, that she had reportedly turned her office into a makeshift fashion studio where she donned her latest wear that snugly fitted her newly trimmed body. It is irresponsible of her to make a place of serious work look frivolous.
Incidentally, her ministry was the one that put up a few controversial posters on its website in March last year, one of which advised homemakers to always look neat and appealing to their spouses. Another poster called on them to not nag but instead humour their husbands with a Doraemon-like voice.
To be sure, looking good is not enough, especially for a minister. It is expected that Rina, while attempting to look pretty, will need to perform her duties conscientiously and with much commitment and dedication to serve the people. Her resourcefulness ought to be put to better use.
The brickbats already thrown at Rina by social media users clearly indicate their displeasure at her insensitivity towards the challenges ordinary Malaysians face amid the pandemic. It’s as if she is completely immersed in her comfort bubble.
One posting on social media cheekily compared a photo of emergency rule in 1948 Malaya with the current one. In the former, a group of vigilante women were seen holding their rifles for target practice while in the current one, Rina was busily attended to by beauticians before her fashion shoot.
It’s one thing to do whatever it takes to exercise and enjoy a makeover in your private space, but it’s quite another if you flaunt it for all to gaze upon, while many people are clamouring for government assistance during the pandemic. Put another way, her action appeared to be devoid of empathy and sympathy.
Rina presides over a ministry that shoulders a heavy responsibility of meeting the needs of a wide spectrum of people, ranging from women, children, single parents to the elderly.
As traces of patriarchy are still visible in our society, there are women who encounter discrimination, verbal and physical abuse and other forms of injustice daily. The ministry has to be alert and proactive in the face of these issues.
This is especially important now, as the pandemic exacerbates the problems of vulnerable women, such as a spike in domestic violence that may also affect children. Some single parents are also having a tough time putting food on the table, aside from having to attend to the educational needs of their children.
Faced with searing public criticisms, Rina finally responded to what was happening on the ground. She rightly called for an investigation into alleged sexual harassment of women by policemen at roadblocks recently. She also assured her critics that the much-awaited sexual harassment bill is being looked into.
These are some of the pressing issues that her ministry needs to handle efficiently and effectively, without having to be distracted by such sideshows as a loud photo shoot.
It is also incumbent upon Rina to avoid doing or not doing things that would only reinforce the sexist stereotype of attractive women incapable of doing good and serious work.
Otherwise, the spectre of the dumb blonde will not be put to rest. – The Malaysian Insight