Malaysia’s ministry for women has apologized for telling women to dress up and keep their voices down for their husbands during the coronavirus lockdown following intense online backlash against a series of animated posters.
The outcry erupted after Malaysia’s Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) posted several graphics online as part of a social media campaign to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown.
Several of the graphics included advice for women under the slogan “Women prevent COVID-19,” although the tips seem more focused on pleasing a husband, not preventing a disease.
One poster encouraged women to dress up and put on makeup “as usual” during the lockdown and explicitly told them not to wear “home clothes.”
Another poster encourages women to use a silly voice or imitate Doraemon, a popular anime cat character, instead of nagging about chores.
A third graphic shows a man sitting on the couch while asking his wife not to be “sarcastic” about the household chores.
Critics accused the KPWKM of ignoring the real problems women can face during a coronavirus lockdown, such as domestic violence from a partner. Many women’s groups have warned that lockdowns could lead to a spike in such incidents, and they’ve been calling for concrete solutions to help women at risk.
Domestic violence hotlines in Malaysia have seen a spike in calls since the country went into partial lockdown on March 18, local media reports.
“How did we go from preventing baby dumping, fighting domestic violence to some sad variant of the Obedient Wives Club?” Twitter user Yin Shao Loong wrote.
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“The KPWKM is really out here telling us to gently tell our husbands how to do housework like Doraemon,” user Deborah Augustin wrote. “I could never in a million years make this up.”
“(It) is extremely condescending both to women and men,” said Nisha Sabanayagam, a manager at All Women’s Action Society, a Malaysian advocacy group.