Body politics and morality in Malaysia

(Photo credit:…/156677/is-morality-dead/)

A lot has been said of the politician Eli Wong photo controversy in much of the mainstream media as well as the new media. This is because not only has this issue been considered as something of ‘public interest’ by certain quarters, it also has the potential of being sensationalised and, eventually, capitalised to the hilt by these people and certain sections of the media.

That this Eli issue, and particularly the much-sought after photos, have aroused, and rather passionately at that, the interests of many people also bare the kind of society we live in Malaysia.

For one thing, the subject of morality has time and again been reduced to all things sexual, especially – in the Malaysian context – those pertaining to women’s sexuality.

Often, the professed concern for women’s sexuality is stressed so much by certain quarters in society to the extent that it overrides other equally, if not more, important issues of morality, such as trustworthiness of politicians, professional ethics of journalists, fairness and sterling integrity of judges, etc.

One explanation for this is the unequal power relations between men and women in society so that quite often the latter get discriminated and exploited by the former. Hence, it is relatively difficult enough for women to climb up the political ladder, and it is even harder if they happen to be on the ‘wrong side’ of the political and ideological divide.

At times you wonder why, for instance, those who pontificate and moralise about woman’s body, or at least what are considered to be the ‘sexually attractive’ parts of her body that have been exposed, do not seem to publicly display the same degree of moral outrage when it comes to the reported cases of dead bodies in police custody.

Many Malaysians get excited to know about who jumps with whom into bed more than about politicians who jump from one party to another (and, at times, back to the original party) without a blink of an eye.

A woman rape victim receives not only the enrapt attention of certain sections of the media but also becomes the talk of town. The rape of the environment, essentially caused by predatory developers in cohort with unethical politicians and professionals, does not get as much public interest.

The social cleavage that shows the stark contrast between the rich and the poor in regard to access to resources within the society often does not command the attention and excitement of people as compared to the response to the body cleavage of a woman.

Holding hands between loving couple in public places gets much more flak from many members of the public compared to public reaction to the act of clutching packets of ringgit notes by certain government officials and politicians in the most illicit fashion. This is to say that some people are ever ready to close one eye to the conscious blurring of the line between private interests and public positions.

Thus, stripped of all official religious pronouncements and moral posturing, are we really a nation with scruples?


5 Responses to “Body politics and morality in Malaysia”

  1. 1 Ganesan 20 February 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for opening my eyes to the reality of our Malaysian psyche. You have nailed in the forehead of Malaysian Morality. Your good work is very much appreciated. So much injustice all around and people can only see the naked body but not the naked truth in our body politic. If we go this path, we may land ourselves worst than Afganistan. No law and Order.

  2. 2 sal 20 February 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Now that Hilmi is the suspect–I am just waiting to see if Malaysians speaking out on Eli’s so-called immorality will denounce Hilmi if indeed he has had illicit sex (he is Muslim and not supposed to have sex outside marriage).

    Naah.. the guys always get away with it.

  3. 3 Samuel Goh Kim Eng 20 February 2009 at 11:32 pm


    Let those without sin throw the first stone
    While we all know we all have sins to atone
    Must we make private matters contending bones
    Or make the culprits wear their high moral cones

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 200209
    Fri. 20th Feb. 2009.

  4. 4 Alan Chow 4 September 2009 at 2:39 pm

    We have an obligation to check out more balanced opinions of political ideologies apart from the stark raving Raj Petra Kamaruddin and the rest.

    An eye opener is Zprrp Truly Unmasked

  1. 1 Body politics and morality in Malaysia « Mustafa K Anuar’s blog | Zonedeck Trackback on 20 February 2009 at 9:38 pm

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