By Peter Soh
We live in a world where borderless and genderless take the centre stage in today’s mode of living. I come across photos of friends and family travelling around the globe in my Facebook newsfeed almost every day and I even lose track of my sister’s whereabouts as she travelled between the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore in just a week time owing to AirAsia’s Now Everyone Can Fly policy.
And it is not just about the ease of travelling that fulfils the concept of ‘borderless’; being borderless for one’s gender role seems to be the ideal mechanism for contemporary men and women. It is perceived that such ‘borderless’ gender roles provide a more accommodative, empathetic and balanced environment for humans’ well-being because one is not expected to strictly conform to the societal demand for boys’ and girls’ behaviours.
In a recent news posted by The Guardian in August, UK documentary No More Boys and Girls: Can Kids Go Gender Free? supports the idea of going genderless and demonstrates that gender roles are not the products of biology; a series of experiments point to the adults as the main agent in perpetuating gender roles for boys and girls. The upcoming documentary vows to show the outcomes of children’s behaviours if we would treat them as ‘genderless’ and not according to the toxic notion of boy-loves- blue-and- girl loves- pink.
If being genderless does bring a positive outcome to one’s health, surely Malaysian parents need to adopt Dr Javid Abdelmoneim’s idea of going genderless in raising their kids. A photo posted by my lecturer yesterday on her Facebook had generated a temporary hype among us, the students of School of Communication. The photo showed the new intake of students of School of Communication taking their vows and what brought us shock is the extremely low number of male students as compared to the female students in the photo.
Apparently, one can only spot a male in the picture who was also the one leading the ceremony. Although it was known later that he is not the only guy in the course, the fact that the low number of male students choosing Mass Communication this year is beyond one’s imagination even though it is known that the percentage of men who engage in Mass Communication is always lower than the women’s – we don’t see the percentage is that low this year.
Malaysia is not the only country that observes the high percentage of women choosing Mass Communication as compared to men since 1987. The United States and Singapore witness the same phenomenon where women in Public Relations and Mass Communication greatly outnumber the men respectively. In Nigeria, 63% of female students consider Journalism as a good profession for women and in New Delhi, Mass Communication is purportedly taught in female colleges only.
There is no holistic answer to these gender differences in studying Mass Communication but it has been suggested by some that women have a better grasp of language and men have their forte rooted in physicality. Some have even come to think of Mass Communication as naturally a female thing. Such perception is rife with stories about the high unemployment rate among Communication graduates and only a handful could graduate with a first class degree, nourishing the idea that Mass Communication is simply feminine, lack of social values and is not worth spending three to four years just to end up with a sheer possibility of landing a job.
One misconception that I would like to clarify is Mass Communication is not just about majoring in either Broadcasting, Journalism or Public Relations and that’s it. It is the art of communication behind each of this study that matters the most. It is not about writing some scripts and producing some films, writing a piece of news and handling a communication process with one’s client. It is about producing films that get their messages across effectively, writing a wholesome piece of work for the benefit of a society, and building a healthy relationship with other human beings.
Even if one is not doing a job that relates to these majors at all, it does not discount the fact that communication is not important. In fact, to me, it is the most important thing that everyone should master for the sake of human sanity.
Throughout my four years of working experience with people from all walks of life, I have learned the essence of effective communication and I take pride in my ability to establish a healthy and genuine relationship with other human beings compared to years back where I literally screwed up many relationships. I learn to present my views and thoughts in a convincing manner without having to shatter one’s dignity. I learn to reject things without upsetting someone and I learn to deliver the subject matter in a concise manner, especially when my supervisor or superior is someone with a heavy schedule and every minute is exceptionally precious to him/her.
I even pick up the essence of communicating with my readers through just words and interestingly, I gain new friends through mastering the marvels of words. At the end of the day, my view is it is not about female or male that dictate what one should study. It is not about women are bad at Mathematics and men are bad at Communication Studies. It is about how one draws something out from a seemingly- nothing-much- to-offer- thing and how one integrates what he/she has learned into the life. It is not just about picking up the technical skills required for the media industry; it is about picking up skills needed to establish a non-pretentious relationship with others. It is not about women having a talent in language and men are slow in picking up words; it is about one learning how to smooth out different value systems without neglecting others as human beings.