Stereotyping Secretaries: Is being a pretty female – a sin?

Read a rather funny news just now. Indonesian Province, Gorontalo banned young, attractive female secretaries.

Quoting, Rusli Habibie, Governor of Gorontalo Province,

“For these reasons, (extra-marital affairs and their officials treating their secretaries with luxuries – overlooking the needs of their wives)  I ordered them to replace their female secretaries with male assistants or with old women who are no longer attractive,” he added.

Also,  according to Yahoo 7 news, last year, the Gorontalo administration demanded 3,200 male civil servants to transfer their monthly pay to their wives’ bank accounts in order to limit the number of affairs.”

Now honestly, I find this extremely funny. I don’t know whether to cheer for the Gorontalo administration or be offended at their idea of Secretarial Services.

The idea of bosses and secretary having an affair is…well…very very old. And sad, if you ask me. Sad because, not all bosses treat their secretaries as objects of sexual interest and not all secretaries provoke their bosses sexually. The relationship between a boss and a secretary, is hardly seen as professional and is casually treated like a sex-joke. The truth is, a boss and a secretary work together 80% of their waking hours and by work, I don’t mean “work”; I mean, performing activities within their job roles professionally to successfully run an organisation. They say, it is quite natural for someone to be attracted to their colleague, because they would spend many waking hours together, communicating and sharing common interests, resolving problems together and laughing and smiling at small successes.  Having said that, this obviously does not apply for every individual in an organisation. Otherwise, we’d live in a world today where every working man and woman would be cheating on their partners and no one would be living a simple family life!

Extra-marital affairs can happen to anyone, everyone – if they are lacking serious ethical principles. Extra-marital affairs can, not only happen between bosses and secretaries, it happens between two people.  Note, I mean people, not only a man and a woman.  Extra-marital affairs can happen for a myriad of reasons and the only people who should be  taking decisions involved in it and has the right to take actions are the couple themselves and the “third” person.

I’d like to cheer Indonesia and India, because not so long ago, they recognized a severe problem in their society and implemented a very appropriate solution. Theirs is a conservative society, where most of the time, the female-other half is expected to stay home and look after the family and children. As, such a large percentage of women are not bread-earners. Imposing the married male employees to transfer part of their income into their wive’s accounts is sensible. It is crucial to understand, that these are the cultures, where women are not very educated and do not see themselves equal to their men. Consequently, they are treated badly for their lack of earning. Thus, imposing such a rule, makes sense to protect women and families of irresponsible men.

However, by releasing statements such as the ones by Rusli Habibie, shows government administrations are stereotyping young women because of their age, looks and sexuality. They are actually discouraging to hire a young, vibrant and innovative generation of young women, who has potential careers in the future; instead of addressing a mere handful of male officials who lack ethics and a weak control over their testosterone levels. And not addressing the misconduct of a mere handful of female assistants performing unethically and unprofessionally and participating in having affairs with their bosses for benefits of their own. Genuinely hard working secretaries will be loosing their jobs simply because they are young and look pretty. Morever, the government is insulting the grace of “older” women by calling them unattractive.

Now, I am not an Indonesian, so I understand that I do not have the rights to question their motives. But being a young woman of Muslim-Indian origin, I am well aware of the cultural norms of Asia and its societies. I am also a firm believer of women’s rights and their well-treatment in a society. I find myself smiling helplessly at the attitudes towards women even in this day and time – how much long till the day such silly affairs stop taking place and genuine resolutions are taken ?

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