Let rip: Theatre stalwart and director Jo Kukathas drilled it into the audience that beyond the laughs, the Aiyoh …Wat Lah?! awards hopes to affect a change in the sexist mindset among the powers that be in Malaysia.
Now in its second year, the Aiyoh … Wat Lah?! awards honour loose-tongued, sexist public figures … again.
THERE is an undoubted connection between politicians and children – they both say the darndest things. But a kid can always be excused, but full-grown adults? Call it foot-in-mouth disease or “slip of the tongue is no fault of the brain,” but at the end of the day, those out in the public domain should be held accountable for what they say openly.
The Aiyoh … Wat Lah?! 2013 awards has no opportunity to crack the whip on or throw the book at some of the inexcusable things being said to the rakyat where gender equality is concerned.
However, what it has done for the second year running, is poke fun at the unjust comments and their owners.
Presenter, the effervescent thespian and director Jo Kukathas, reprising her role as purple-bobbed working girl Ribena Berry, pulled out all the stops at Leonardo’s in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday, which had Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-chairperson of Bersih 2.0 and human rights activist, as special guest.
Aiyoh … Wat Lah?! – an initiative by The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (Jag), a sisterhood comprising nine organisations, including the likes of All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Sisters In Islam (SIS) and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) – aspires to outline sexism, stamp on misogyny and gun down homophobia, and/or transphobia, in the hope that public figures will exert a little more common sense and compassion when addressing each and every layer of society.
Kukathas had the opportunity to roll out the laughs to a packed room, adopting the now de rigeur Chinese-accented, English-speaking Malaysian, which had the audience in stitches through most of the ceremony, though there were the cautionary tales that were no laughing matter, particularly the grossly flippant way rape is viewed in our society.
She dug deep, ridiculing the idiotic remarks that have been levied at the LGBT community – who are indisputably a part of the fabric of our society – and making fun of the ignorance in the sexist behaviour of bureaucrats.
A gifted stage performer, Kukathas was always able to read her audience and seamlessly move from one award to the next, eliciting as much laughter through the seven categories honoured for the evening.
Divided to six “bad” awards and one “good” one, Foot In Mouth, Insulting Intelligence, Policy Fail, Cannot Ignore, Least Helpful To Sisterhood and Enough Already hauls up everyone who’s cared to shoot off their mouth without thinking while Right On Track celebrates the few positive changes in the country, like Dewan Rakyat’s amendment to the Standing Orders prohibiting MPs from making sexist remarks.
Incriminatingly classic comments include the Kota Baru Municipal Council’s stand on unisex hair saloons in Kelantan’s capital, which manifested itself in the quote, “A woman hairdresser fined for cutting man’s hair,” winning it the Policy Fail plaudit.
Then there was, “We must not forget who is involved in this rape allegation, even if she is an adult, in which women have a tendency to exaggerate about a sexual act,” which branded High Court judge Zamani Abdul Rahim a sexist, winning the Cannot Ignore category relatively easily.
But the one that took the cake for the audience was former Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who won the award for the Least Helpful to the Sisterhood category by saying, “It is because of the achievements of the Umno-Barisan Nasional government that … we don’t need to be activists, we don’t need to burn our bras to get gender equality.”
While the show is steeped in humour, it is mired in the display of how regressive the thinking continues to be in many critical areas of the nation’s (re)building process.
And best of all, there was no need for the jokes to side any political divide because Aiyoh … Wat Lah?! simply calls a spade a spade. Naturally, none of the winners were present to collect their trophies.
Fundamentally though, Kukathas reminded the audience to read, and not “burn books”. After all, reading is the source of enlightenment, which is ultimately the way towards a more progressive future.