Ak57\’s Weblog

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Posts Tagged ‘Nazri Aziz

The Fuss Over Jantan and Betina

I was surprised to learn that several Pakatan MPs took offense at Nazri’s usage of the phrases ‘anak jantan’ and ‘anak betina’ in Parliament today. Curious to see what the fuss was about I chose to do some investigating.
Just to clarify, for animal breeders the terms mean:

  • Anak jantan; jantan = male
  • Anak betina; betina = female

Malays also use the terms the following way in reference to men:

  • Anak jantan = brave; strong man; champion
  • Anak betina = coward; weak; American equivalent of ‘pussy’

Betina on its own is also used to refer to promiscuous women (slut), and also I believe to unmarried women who are pregnant. The reasoning for that is that those women behaved like animals by having illegitimate sex, so they should be labelled as such. I don’t recall jantan being used in a derogatory fashion.

Colloquialisms are context-sensitive. I understood the chosen interpretation that Nazri was using and guessed who he was referring to on my first reading.

I read the Hansard and from page 72 – 94 (21 minutes excluding Saifuddin’s speech) this was the sequence of events:

1.    After some discussion/argument with the Deputy Speaker, the Pakatan Rakyat MPs obtained permission to respond to the issue of ‘misleading the House’ brought up by Abdul Rahman Dahlan (Kota Belud), which he had done in response to Anwar’s accusing the government of using alleged Israeli agent APCO to promote 1Malaysia. Saifuddin Nasution (Machang) was nominated to speak.
2.    Saifuddin Nasution stated that the Minister, Nazri Aziz (Rantau Panjang) had referred to the obsolete Ordinance 69 in discussing the limits of Kelantan’s border)
3.    Deputy Speaker asked the Minister to explain
4.    Hatta Ramli (Kuala Krai) and Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena) made some jibes at Nazri, ‘that he need not answer now, he can take a week if he likes’ and ‘has he read the obsolete laws yet?’
5.    Nazri responded that he need not fear, because he was ‘anak jantan’
6.    Hatta Ramli asked him to prove that he was ‘anak jantan’
7.    Nazri continued that what he had stated previously was not intended to mislead the House and he was ready to be investigated because all that was needed is to refer to the Hansard. Because he was anak jantan he had no fear. The anak betina on the other side however, were scared of being investigated.
8.    Lilah Yasin (Jempol) remarked that anak jantan ‘plays in the front, not in the back’
9.    Lo’Lo’ Mohd Ghazali (Titiwangsa) accused Nazri of being sexist and asked him to retract the word betina
10.    Siti Zailah (Rantau Panjang) stated that the word was an insult to women
11.    Arguments erupted between Sivarasa (Subang), Lo’ Lo’, Bung Moktar (Kinabatangan), Haji Ismail (Maran), Nazri and the Deputy Speaker
12.    Nazri explained that jantan and betina were references to the gender of animals. The ones standing in front of him were humans, so how could there be a question that he was referring to the human women as betina. Therefore they had no reason to get angry.
13.    Saifuddin countered that meant Nazri just stated he was the son of an animal
14.    Lo’Lo’ asked him to retract the word regardless of his reasons
15.    Nazri said he meant no insult to the women
16.    Zuraida Kamaruddin (Ampang) asked him to retract the word
17.    Nazri explained the Malay saying goes that ‘anak jantan’ are brave and ‘anak betina’ are cowards
18.    Deputy Speaker stated that Nazri had no ill intention
19.    The discussion went back on topic, regarding whether Kota Belud had misled the House and whether he had the right to use the Standing Orders to make the speech
20.    Lo’Lo’ quoted Standing Order 36(4) that states a Member of the House may not used words that are improper or rude. She asked the Speaker to make a ruling on the phrase ‘anak betina’ because it is an insult to all women even if it was directed at everyone
21.    Deputy Speaker stated that the Minister had explained the context of the terms used was bravery
22.    Pakatan MPs continued to ask for the word to be retracted. Arguments erupted.
23.    Bung Moktar retorted that it was just a Malay saying (peribahasa)
24.    Mahfuz Omar accused Puteri UMNO of not having brains, because they had not objected to the use of the word
25.    Ibrahim Ali (Pasir Mas) requested to debate the Royal Address
26.    His request was ignored and the argument continued for 10 minutes. Some quotes:
a.    Zuraida argued that any Malay that understood the meaning of the word would not use it in that manner, and questioned whether any Malay uses ‘jantan’ or ‘betina’
b.    Deputy Speaker reiterated multiple times that the words were used in a different context than what the protesting MPs was referring to
c.    Mahfuz Omar questioned whether betina was ever analogous to coward
d.    Lo’Lo’ and Zuraida demanded that the word be retracted and its usage in any context be forbidden in the House. They had no objection to anyone using ‘anak jantan’
e.    Fuziah Salleh (Kuantan) stated that within context ‘anak jantan’ meant brave, but ‘anak betina’ was sexist
f.    Zuraida later stated that any statement that refers to gender whether lelaki, perempuan, jantan or betina was itself sexist. She did not change her position on anak jantan
27.    Deputy Speaker told the MPs not to misinterpret the words as their meaning and context had already been explained. The argument ended with Ibrahim Ali giving his speech while Pakatan MPs asked the ‘cowardly Minister’ to retract.

Imagine that, 21 minutes spent on this issue. Now who was Nazri referring to when he said betina?

It is clear that as Saifuddin’s speech was in response to Kota Belud’s request that Anwar be referred to the Special Rights & Privileges Commitee (the Commitee), then ‘anak betina’ used in this context likely refers to Anwar Ibrahim. Jempol’s immediate follow-up statement that anak jantan plays in the front, follows that interpretation as Anwar has been accused of sodomy (main belakang, playing in the back). I myself thought betina was referring to Anwar.

But Pakatan is critical of the government stand that Anwar be referred to the Committee if he does not prove his allegations on APCO. So Nazri’s statement can be interpreted as being directed at the whole bloc, which includes men and women. So he just referred to women as betina!

If only Nazri had said ‘anak betina dari Permatang Pauh’ then there would be no misinterpretation and less time would have been spent on the issue.

I see it as a colloquialism to be treated with care. Jantan and betina are not curse words and only betina has a negative meaning attached to it. I don’t believe it is commonly used either, searching online I only found it used negatively in the context of coward and not slut.

Given the evidence I feel that Pakatan MPs were trying to stir up trouble. If the word was slut; prostitute; whore; instead of betina, then the slur is clear. Today I didn’t see Nazri as being sexist, just crass. I would say he is ambiguously sexist at most.

Compare that with politicians like Bung Moktar Radin (Kinabatangan) who made the infamous ‘women leak once a month’ remark, or Badruddin Amiruldin (formerly Jerai) who made the ‘boleh nampak terowong tak?’ remark, both in 2007.

Sexism in Parliament is an ongoing problem, and it remains as long as we have boors as elected representatives. I hope that when there is a change in government that a code of ethics is drawn up to prevent sexist and racist remarks from being uttered in Parliament.

Sources
Parliament Hansard 22nd March 2010 (link)
Pakatan to campaign against sexist MPs (link)
Shouting match after motion to refer to Anwar (link)
MP: Anak jantan berani tapi anak betina penakut (link)
Badruddin apologises for ‘terowong’ comment (link)
MPs apologise for sexist remarks in Parliament (link)

Written by ak57

March 24, 2010 at 4:30 am