I Don’t Think You’re Ready For This Jelly

Image Credit : Brian Massey

Tee Lin Say is entitled to her own opinion. And that of the newspaper who publishes her work, it would seem. If it had to be published, I just wished they published it very clearly as an opinion piece.

I have three things to say:

(1) Thank you so much, Ms Tee, for kick-starting the discussion on body image in this country. You could not have chosen a better way to have yourself remembered. The young men and women in this country now have a very real idea of what goes on in the heads of people who entertain the stray thoughts of a judgemental world that you neatly put in one stinger of an article. Now we can talk about how to change that.

(2) To the Star. You’ve finally realised your potential. More than ever, you are a game changer. Your distinct ability to polarise views is making us stronger debaters, stronger thinkers, better discussionists. I don’t think I’ve appreciated you from this angle.

(3) To large people. To underweight people. To any people who have to battle opinions about how they look. To those people who look in the mirror and actually think about how much money they need to spend, and how painful it might be to sharpen out that nose, remove that whisper (or shout) of a double chin. You already ‘know’ that the opinions of people who are consistently invested in your well-being are the only opinions that count. I don’t need to tell you that.

All I hope you can do is laugh. Laugh at how much time people spend judging you when they could be reading a good book, playing with their dogs, or designing an awesome website.

Laugh at everything that irritates you.


Okay, so not like this:

But you get the picture.

Go get ’em, Malaysia.


Okay. So here’s my perspective about everyone playing the ‘calm down, move on’ card on people ‘attacking’ Ms Tee. The paper printed her opinion. It is her life’s work to write opinions based on her knowledge. It’s her craft, and because the paper is responsible to the public, SHE is responsible to the public. This wasn’t her personal blog. This wasn’t the Verge, or some wide-read website which welcomed and facilitated discourse. This was a newspaper. No need to talk about who is behind said newspaper – unless we’re going to launch into a discussion about the blurred lines between MSM and new media. I believe pretty hard in never misusing a position to say things that count.

I do not think character assassination is the right way to go about this. Noone should be calling her mean names. I hope you’d be able to keep the outer limits of your vocabulary to yourself. This is still a human being. I do admit to making tongue-in-cheek fun of her to make light of the situation. It’s my way of grieving for every other person who was hurt by the article. Darn, I was hurt by the article. So, I wrote the post above the fold.

The key is, talk about it because you want to make sense of it together. Anger is exactly what the article was full of, if you ask me – and why perpetuate that? We take ourselves far too seriously. I honestly think it’s funny now. I’m relieved I can laugh at it.

I’m glad there are people among us who can find ‘sense among the madness’ and dismiss people’s overreactions. If you’re mature enough to not react, that’s good for you. Your need to shepherd the wayward amongst us into non-reaction is noted but guess what? Intellectually, Malaysia is a growing nation. We’re not the Swedes. We still need to fight it out and learn how to get an emotional reaction get out of our systems. We’re learning to be nobler. We’re learning to not let these things get to us.

But listen : we’re learning.

Once,I spoke about rallies to a former superior of mine. This person was from Singapore, and thought that Malaysia didn’t need to be so immature about our need for change. I said we were developing our voice. We needed to stretch our legs and it might be messy now, but it’s neccessary.

He said we were rebelling pointlessly and we should calm down.

This is our coming-of-age story, we are writing it.

If we’re not the best versions of ourselves yet and we’re reacting messily to Ms Tee’s words, deal with it. We’re not very good at facing what upsets us. I’m grateful to Ms Tee for giving us a chance to do just that.

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