I often visit the popular drinking night spot: club street in Singapore. Whenever I’m there, I’m flooded with the working crowd from the central business district. The hustle and bustle of it. It’s hard not to notice the expat crowd. They stand out from my everyday Singaporean surroundings, you know, Asian people walking around in office clothes. Secondly, it’s also not hard to ignore the demographic of local Singaporean girls dating foreign men.
It’s inevitable that a question pops out: Are Singaporean men undesirable? Are Singaporean men boring losers?
I did some research on the internet’s general sentiment on this subject. I found out on our popular blogger Xia Xue’s opinion on the state of Singaporean men. (She ended up marrying a foreigner.) This is another long article by a foreigner living in Singapore titled: ‘What’s wrong with Singaporean men’.
The Case Against – Singaporean Men are Not Boring Losers
Interestingly, I found statistics that the majority of Singaporean women are still marrying Singaporean guys. However, marriage can often be seen a rational and economical choice. It doesn’t really go to show the sexual desirability of the Singaporean men. There even evolutionary theories that suggests that girls choose to marry guys because of the long term safety and security. This, arguably, a Singaporean can provide.
Well, I personally don’t think Singaporean men are complete losers in life. The average Singaporean men has gone through mandatory two years of military training, and the majority of us are formally educated. This isn’t a ‘loser’s mentality’.
I take our founding Prime Minster’s Lee Kuan Yew’s quote on this:
You know the Singaporean. He is a hard-working, industrious, rugged individual. Or we would not have made the grade. But let us also recognise that he is a champion grumbler.
Our Culture: The State of Singaporean Masculinity
However, I think Singaporean men are ‘boring losers’ when it comes to standing up for their own ideals and values. This is the opportunity cost of a relatively conservative Asian culture. Free speech is known to be compromised in Singapore to a certain extent.
Then again, wouldn’t that make the general Singapore population ‘boring losers?’, and not just Singaporean men?
I’m writing as a Singaporean male bred and born from the heartlands in Singapore.
I think that Singaporean men are ‘losers’ in a way that our life choices are often dictated by the judgment and opinions of society. This includes our friends and our family. We never bothered to differentiate ourselves in a manner that might be different from a societal norm. This plays out in our career choices as well. Singaporean men often choose the more ‘safe choices’ of being an accountant, a lawyer, or medicine as their career choice. You often also hear people lament that the arts, music scene in Singapore is a dead end, and there’s no money in art of music.
There is often Asian cultural pressure of guys needing to be seen as financially successful. Hence, we often sacrifice our own ideals and values for the sake of financial success. When you adjust your behaviour to follow suit with society with the fear of being seen as different, or standing out, then what does that say about you?
I was always interested in entrepreneurship and knew I would end up doing ‘business’ since I was a teenager. However, I hesitated to launch this business as a Singapore dating coach for years because I was afraid of the controversiality of teaching guys how to attract girls. If I had been honest with myself, I enjoy reading up on psychology, and it was the fear of being different that held me back. I had knew I had to try eventually.
It’s also a norm in Singaporean culture to stay with Mum and Dad till you’re married. Rent is expensive in this city and almost everyone I know stays with their parents (including me). That’s a problem many Singaporean men face.
I often hear friends saying that they aren’t being able to bring a girl back home, as he’s afraid to anger his parents. That’s not only a form of sexual shame, but that’s also a lack of boundaries. Not only that, we never truly break away and learn to be independent away from the safety and comfort of our parents home.
I always notice a stark difference in motivation whenever I’m back home with my parents as compared when I’m travelling alone abroad. I always felt more free and motivated to pursue my own endeavours when I’m living alone.
Modern Freudians believe that the defining emotional struggle for men is emotionally disassociating from the safety and care of the emotional attachment with their mother. If we’re always housed by our parents, fed by our mothers, then how can we break free and define ourselves?
The Singaporean Education System
Secondly, the Singaporean education system doesn’t really encourage you to stand up for yourself or think outside of the box either. You’re spoon fed and told to just follow the system. Sometimes, arguably, the aim going to University of it isn’t the actual role of learning but to get the highest grade in your examinations.
From day one, we’re told by the government, our friends, our parents that our role here on planet earth is to fulfil your parents/society wishes of you being an accountant/lawyer/doctor or an engineer.
However, are you really passionate or least bit curious about those subjects? How can you gain mastery in a subject if you’re just doing to gain examinations entry into another University?
I remembered that I chose to go to a Junior college just to make my mother happy. Some might see it as filial piety. In hindsight, I merely didn’t want to piss my Mum off. However, I would definitely be happier in a Polytechnic environment, rather than a stringent academic setting in Junior college.
Sexual Shame in our Singaporean/Asian Culture
Sexual shame inflicts not just Singaporean men, but Asian men all over the world. We’re often stereotyped to be more shy, conservative and a general lack of masculinity. That’s unfortunately, true to a certain extent as well. I often observed that the female figure in Singaporean families being the more dominant one, making decisions in the household.
For some weird reason, chasing and hitting on girls is something that I shamed upon in modern society. We’re not taught to openly discuss our emotions, and sex is seen as a bad thing. What!?! I remembered that the topic of sex, relationships and emotions were NEVER discussed during family dinners when I was young. Needless to say, I was piss poor with my relationships with girls and that single-handedly inspired my journey as a pick up artist.
This lack of emotional depth and sexual shame may lead to us guys being perceived as ‘boring’ and ‘unexpressive’.
The Endless Singaporean Chase, The ‘5 Cs’
So what happened to the old ideas of going to a good University, pleasing Mum and Dad, getting a secure job, purchasing an HDB, getting out 2.5 kids and living out our lives like that? That model used to work for our parents. That’s because that was what it was required economically for their generation at that point of time.
Our society has evolved to a place of financial luxury. This is true for Western cultures and in Singapore.
Historically, men attached their entire identities to their careers and professions. That’s who they were. That’s where we’ve always derived our sense of self worth. That’s how we asserted out emotional autonomy.
However, it’s is a more well off society, girls have equal opportunities. There even are many cases of girls outperforming men in Math and Science. It’s also not surprising to see women work as hard and even harder than men. Furthermore, in Singapore, it’s a meritocratic society. How can men define themselves through those old identities anymore?
What do you get out of this? Hundreds of Singaporean men working in jobs they don’t enjoy, just to keep impress people they impress people they don’t like, to earn money they don’t need and splash it on the common Singaporean 5 Cs: Condo, credit card, car, cash and country club membership.
You get a generation of successful men who are pushovers, don’t assert themselves, can’t get a date, and end up embroiled with sex with mommy issues.
It’s no longer enough to define ourselves as men through our paycheck. It’s no longer enough define ourselves as Singaporean men through old fashion ideas of stoicism and hard work. That might have worked for our forefathers.
There’s no longer any socially universal norm of masculine achievement. We find ourselves as the first generation of men that must create our own.
This isn’t easy. In a multitude of ways, we’re ill equipped.
Striking out on our own paths and creating our own rite takes courage, ambition, technical skill: all conventional masculine traits. However, it also takes introspection, emotional awareness, vulnerability and a willingness to fail.
Unfortunately, traits that aren’t really emphasised in the Singaporean culture.