The subject of the Singaporean male is one that is as endlessly fascinating as it is touchy. Like McDonald’s running out of curry sauce, or McDonald’s discontinuing garlic chilli sauce and then bringing it back again, or McDonald’s offering us McGriddles and then taking them away again. (Quit playing games with our hearts, McDonald’s.)
Whether Singaporean men as a species are as interesting as fast food restaurant condiments is, of course, a debate for another day. But certainly women in Singapore will always be talking about men in Singapore.
I recently spoke at a forum entitled, The Problem with Singaporean Men: Exploring Representations of Men in Singaporean Literature. This was because I and the forum’s three other female speakers had written novels about men, which were shortlisted for last year’s Epigram Books Fiction Prize (the novels, not the men).
None of our novels are feminist manifestos in any way, and I believe the organisers used the word “problem” in an academic context, not specifically to encourage mud-slinging.
As part of the forum, members of the public were asked, via a social media poll, to describe their impression of Singaporean men in one or two words.
The top words submitted were revealing, to say the least:
I found myself gaping open-mouthed at the screen as these words were flashed across it. Wait – even the positive adjectives were backhanded compliments? Not a single unequivocally flattering adjective for Singaporean men?
From this list of descriptors, you’d be forgiven for thinking our men were robotic beings who can be counted on to dabao your kopi but not without dictating what your order should be.
And also, they'd need a GPS to find their way to the kopitiam even though it’s always the same one every single day.
WOULD YOU SWIPE RIGHT ON THIS?
Feeling particularly perturbed by this, I decided to get some answers from the dating experts: Specifically, the folks at dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, which has made more than 200 million introductions in Singapore since it launched here in 2015.
“What’s the top turn-off for people scrolling through the profiles of men here in Singapore?” I wanted to know.
The answer, I’m afraid to say, is that if you’re a gaming nerd, you might be condemned to an eternity of forever-alone-ness. Singaporeans looking for a mate are not impressed by you: The most-liked men here are 57 per cent less likely to include the word “anime” in their profiles, and 45 per cent less likely to include the word “gaming”, a Coffee Meets Bagel spokesperson shared.
This is not great news, seeing as a survey released earlier this year found that Singaporeans came in a noteworthy third globally when it comes to amount of time spent playing video games.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO LEARN TO SKI
So, Singapore women aren't the biggest fans of League Of Legends. What then are they looking for in a male partner, at least online?
As it turns out, the top 25 per cent of most-liked male Coffee Meets Bagel users in Singapore have rather a lot in common. For one thing, they are 124 per cent more likely to include the word “spontaneity” in their profile, making that the No 1 turn-on for Singaporeans looking for their ideal man. And they are also 88 per cent more likely to describe themselves as “fun-loving”.
But how do you prove that you’re “spontaneous”, “fun-loving” and definitely not “boring”?
Well, you make yourself out to be fit, athletic and adventurous. The most-liked male users also showed an interest in sports, with common keywords being “active”, “healthy” and “outdoors”.
Here's where it gets interesting: These popular users were 207 per cent more likely to have the word “skiing” in their profile, and 151 per cent more likely to include “snowboarding”.
Seeing as you can’t really develop a skiing hobby even if you visit Snow City every weekend, is "skiing" code for "I am able to afford regular vacations in mountainous countries"?
After all, it can't just be about being athletic. Sepak takraw, silat and wushu are also sports – how come they’re not as sexy?
Or are skiing and snowboarding seen as desirable because they signal un-Singaporean-ness in the most obvious of ways, screaming, “I’m about as far away from your typical Singaporean man as a snowstorm is from Yishun!”?
POT CALLING THE KETTLE UNDATEABLE
Which brings us back to the big picture – and those negative descriptors for the "typical" Singaporean man. Do our guys really deserve this bad a rap? What about Singaporean women? Are we all paragons of virtue, spontaneity and fertility? Are we really awesome skiers?
I can’t be the arbiter here, but I am pretty sure that if there is a Problem With Singaporean Men, then there’s bound to be a Problem With Singaporean Women, too. To start with, my male friends commonly tell me that the women they meet in romantic contexts can often be difficult to approach, on the sensitive side and possessive and/or controlling (yikes).
Perhaps the sooner we accept that none of us are problem-free, the sooner we can all work towards being better versions of ourselves – whether we’re men or women. Or a Centaur Warrunner who must stomp down Undying Zombies before the tower attack.