"How many pull ups can you do?" This ranks as one of the most common questions that I receive in the military. While it may sound like an innocent question, there are many hidden assumptions behind it - correct me if I'm wrong. You can only earn the respect of men if you can do pull ups. You have no moral high ground to command men if you can't even do pull ups. You can't defend the country effectively if you are not strong. The list goes on.
To prove my point, I would like to share something that I found two years ago, which I've kept mum about.
I'm not sure how many of you remember my blog post, I'm not pro-PAP, I'm pro-Singapore. It was a short write-up that I posted on our country's 2015 National Day and it received an overwhelming response from the online community. While I received many compliments, I also received a good deal of...how should I say it? crap. Among these crap was this forum thread on hardwarezone.com, which my batch mate alerted me about.
Although its content is no longer there, I managed to get a screenshot of the title. To break it down for you, I did some googling and found out that "gpgt" is a lingo that means "got picture got talk". "Military Expert 4" is my rank-to-be when I return from my studies and "keyima" is the mandarin pinyin for "can or not". In this context, I suppose it means "can she make it?" In plain English, I guess they are trying to find out if I can make it in the military, based on their judgement of...a picture of me.
Of course, the conclusion wasn't exactly promising since "she looks like she's from the NCC." (The National Cadet Corps, for students who are still schooling.) Well, I can't blame them since I look so damn tiny in my oversized smart 4. Just look!
And to be fair to them, it wasn't JUST based on my picture. They were rather inquisitive, I have to say. "How old is she?", "How many pull ups can she do?", "What business does her father do?". (Although I still can't understand how these questions have anything to do with my capacity to serve in the military.)
OK, I think I've more than sufficiently proved the point that "how many pull ups can you do?" is not an innocent question. At the back of the questioner's mine, it is a measure of how much respect the respondent deserves as a woman in the military.
With more and more women in the military the past few years, I felt compelled to write this. Most people that I've met in the military would deny that they are prejudiced against female soldiers. But honestly, based on my personal encounters, I can confidently say that the military is freaking sexist.
Men and women have different standards to reach in the physical fitness test. Before it was reformed, a male soldier below 25 years old had to complete the 2.4km run under 9min 30sec. For a female soldier, it was under 12min 45sec. I completely understand this (although I hope it was stricter), and I accept that most women are naturally less physically inclined than men. But what I couldn't understand was the reaction of some, not all, of my male counterparts when they heard about it. "What?! 12.45?! I can run 2.4 on my hands in that timing." OK BITCH, SHOW ME.
During my training days, I remember being sent to a female officer for "counselling" because of my attitude problem. (The same one that women MPs have when they offend their male counterparts in Parliament - yup, that problem.) I remember, clearly, her wise words. "As a female in the military, your every single action warrants twice the amount of attention – regardless of whether it’s good or bad. When you do well, your colleagues are going to show you twice the respect. When you do badly, you will receive twice the contempt. It’s up to you how you react to such situations. Make use of them as opportunities to prove your worth." In other words, "you need to fix that attitude of yours, woman."
And I did. Hah - thought I was gonna say something inspirational like "don't let anyone define your worth" or "it's not about excelling within the system but rising above it"? Nah, I still need my pay and promotion. No matter what I say, the military is still going to be a safe space for egotistical male officers who can't get enough assurance at home that they have to use their rank to demand respect. (okay, i am pushing it. really. this is just for comedic effect.) But the point is, the military is sexist. Suck it up - you chose this life.
So, finally, to answer the main question, I couldn't do any pull ups back then but now I do eight. (!!!) Sorry it took two years to answer. Now, can I get my pay?
(I wonder which offended person is gonna ask me to watch my words. Come, show yourself.)