In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ an emperor is duped by swindlers who claim they can weave a magical fabric invisible to anyone unfit for their position or incompetent. Fearful of appearing unworthy or foolish, the emperor, his ministers, and the public all pretend to see the cloth, perpetuating a collective illusion. It takes a child, unencumbered by societal norms, to point out the emperor’s nudity.
Today, society faces a different, but analogous, form of collective self-deception. The new narrative suggests, ‘To be virtuous and progressive, one must endorse the notion that individuals can be born in the wrong body.’ While the narrative has evolved from talking about invisible cloth, the human tendency to conform for fear of social repercussions remains the same. In many Western cultures, there is a rush to affirm these ideas, partly as a form of virtue signalling and partly out of fear of the severe social and even economic penalties for dissenting views.
The Era of the Psychological Self
For those less acquainted with this zeitgeist, we live in the era of the psychological self, where inner feelings trump biological realities. In this context, some individuals assert they belong to a gender that doesn’t align with their physiology. A child could tell you what gender ideologues won’t – the concept of non-binary gender defies reality and the entire history of human identity since the dawn of time.
Although this perspective has achieved a level of cultural orthodoxy in many Western circles, it has not gone without contention. Critics argue that this viewpoint is not supported by empirical evidence and that it is sustained more by social coercion than by rational discourse. Those who diverge risk social ostracism or cancellation.
Even Singapore, exposed to the world’s cultural winds, is not exempted from having to navigate the changing tide as well.
The D&I Mirage: SingPost’s Foray into Progressivism
Recently, The Business Times published a D&I piece by Janice Lim. In it, Lim celebrates SingPost’s foray into including the unusual reporting standard of the proportion of their workforce identifying as “non-binary” in their annual report.
While there’s nothing inherently new about a struggling company adopting socially progressive stances, or journalists promoting liberal ideals, what raises concern is the rising prominence of ‘Woke’ culture, fueled by increasingly assertive advocates. This wouldn’t be problematic if diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives were universally positive. However, in many international contexts, these initiatives have become vehicles for advancing a polarising ideological agenda, usually inflaming contested issues around sex, gender, and race. This has the effect of creating divisions among employees based on their deeply held beliefs.
What results from this long march through the institutions then, is the subversion of norms and values, which collectively rewrite the codes of social morality, bringing with them harmful consequences for the community at large.
Why Go Woke?
The inclusion of a “non-binary” category in SingPost’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Policy for the fiscal year 2022–23 aims to “promote greater inclusiveness.” However, SingPost has not disclosed the rationale behind this decision, leaving us to speculate. One angle to consider is the influence of board members who have past or current affiliations with Singtel.
In its 2022 Sustainability Report, Singtel, a prominent local telecommunications company, stated that “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are core to our purpose.” The company has implemented various measures to foster inclusivity, such as establishing employee networks in Australia focused on women, people with disabilities, individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, LGBTQ+ individuals, and veterans.
Given that Singtel owns a 22% stake in SingPost and holds a seat on its board of directors, it’s worth questioning whether this relationship influenced SingPost’s D&I policy changes. Additionally, SingPost’s current chairman, Simon Israel, previously held the same position at Singtel. Another possibility is that a consultant specialising in DEI advised SingPost to take this course of action, and the suggestion went unquestioned through the chain of command.
While the specific reasons behind SingPost’s move remain unclear, what is evident is the power of influence that individuals and corporate affiliations can have on company policies. It serves as a reminder that other corporations should be mindful of how values are transferred and implemented.
What Was Argued in the Article?
Celebrating SingPost’s foray into progressivism, Lim states that it has entered an ‘exclusive club’ of MNCs, virtually lamenting that SingPost is the lone standout in the Top 50 list of Singapore’s companies.
Her article reports that a vanishingly small 0.1% of SingPost’s workforce identifies as ‘non-binary,’ yet fails to consider whether that low number might actually be a reflection of common sense rather than ideological zealotry.
Making the same arguments any woke evangelist would, Lim makes five questionable assertions in her piece:
- She contends that the global trend towards recognising non-binary identities is something Singaporean companies should embrace. That’s a bit like saying, ‘Euthanasia is popular in some parts of the world; why not give it a whirl?’ The appeal of an idea elsewhere does little to confirm its sensibility here.
- Lim argues there’s a clamour for “greater diversity” in senior management. Allow me to decode woke speak into common sense: “Greater diversity” translates to unmeritorious hiring based on arbitrary political identities.
How could someone’s subjective gender identity be relevant in a boardroom, and how does it contribute to the profit of a company like SingPost, which is operating in the red and struggling to sustain its domestic postal services? To borrow from an argument that trended last year, if it doesn’t matter what consenting adults do with each other in their own private spaces, why are non-binary activists foisting upon society, the private thoughts that people have of themselves?
The article then presents the carrot and the stick to corporate leaders, illustrating scenarios both with and without these D&I metrics:
- She warns them that their failure to embrace such D&I metrics will result in poor ESG ratings. The argument boils down to: play by the new rules, or see your corporate reputation suffer. When did a person’s non-binary gender identity enter the rule book?
- Her pièce de résistance is her claim that acknowledging non-binary identities is not just enlightened, but also a fantastic recruitment and retention strategy. Apparently, acknowledging biological dimorphism is outdated and bad for business. Nothing says ‘We’re a progressive workplace’ these days like ignoring biological reality.
- Another dubious incentive that she dangles is that companies will have the reputational advantage of being first-movers in the race to virtue-signal as progressive. She also suggests they would have a head start in their compliance should non-binary reporting become mandated in the future.
In a community that, unlike its Western counterparts, is yet to lose its grasp of reality, it is unclear why embracing fictitious gender categories would be cause for aplomb or something that perceptive corporate leaders will be lining up for.
Making Sense of Non-Binary Nonsense
When will Singapore’s corporate leaders finally signal that they’ve had enough of this sanctimonious diversity lecturing developed by Western gender theorists, compelled by foreign corporate rating standards, and uncritically parroted by woke Asian disciples of the movement to rewrite our understanding of human anthropology?
SingPost’s inclusion of a ‘non-binary’ category in the interest of “diversity” puts the cart before the horse. It should first be established if such a category indeed exists.
The ‘non-binary’ category’s very existence is framed in the negative (non-binary) and trades on rejecting stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman. This is not a coherent or sustainable category for existence. Instead, “non-binary” should be understood for what it actually is – an ideologically driven political identity not based on science; a political proclamation looking for a biological justification.
There is no mystical third sex. The facts are that, biologically, humans are sexually dimorphic, and you shall know them by their gametes, their chromosomes, and their anatomy. There are only men and women, and although there are different expressions or grades of masculinity and femininity, gender and sex do not vary independently.
The Costs of Going Woke
It is already difficult to get women to participate in the workforce, particularly in positions of leadership (e.g. on the boards of listed companies). Adding a new “non-binary” category will not help women’s involvement, and in fact, allows biological men to identify as “non-binary” to occupy these positions.
In today’s climate, where claiming marginalisation has become almost fashionable, failing to keep up with an ever-expanding list of identity groups exposes corporations to allegations of hypocrisy, superficial virtue signalling, and bandwagon activism. If companies like SingPost acknowledge non-binary identities, where does the recognition end? The term ‘Others’ in the CMIO (Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others) classification has already faced criticism for being reductionistic. By the same logic, wouldn’t the term ‘non-binary’ also fall short in a landscape where Meta, for instance, recognises 78 genders?
Moreover, the seemingly benign act of recognising non-binary genders often serves as a precursor to more contentious issues. Corporate recognition of non-binary identities frequently comes bundled with other policy changes, such as alterations to bathroom facilities that could compromise women’s privacy or the enforcement of specific pronoun usage. These changes can infuse the workplace with political tensions, contributing to a toxic culture that diverts attention away from core business objectives to focus instead on identity politics.
Looking ahead, similar dilemmas could arise in the context of recognising same-sex unions. Will companies be expected to provide childcare leave benefits at their own expense? Should insurance companies—and by extension, their premium payers—be obligated to cover the costs of gender transition surgeries for employees with gender dysphoria? These questions highlight the complicated intersection of social progress and corporate responsibility.
Escaping Non-Binary Nonsense
In order to avoid the pitfalls of the progressive game with its ever-changing rules, corporate leaders need only to resolve not to play the game at all, remembering that the emperor truly has no clothes on.
“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) and “Environmental, Social, and Governance” (ESG) have been hijacked by LGBTQ+ activists and become vehicles to impose LGBTQ+ ideas and values in the corporate world, despite Singapore being a largely conservative, multi-racial, and multi-religious society.
If Singaporean corporations genuinely aspire to promote diversity, they should look beyond merely fashionable causes. Effective initiatives should embrace a comprehensive approach to social inclusivity that includes encouraging interfaith dialogue, cultivating racially diverse communities, advocating for people with disabilities, and developing opportunities for those facing learning challenges or cognitive conditions like Down Syndrome. Rather than chasing abstract diversity metrics to signal an awareness of disadvantage, SingPost might better serve marginalised communities by engaging in direct conversations with its employees to identify meaningful avenues for assistance.
D&I programmes should aim not to promote the interests of any single identity group, but to equip the workforce with the skills to recognise and respect diverse viewpoints while maintaining professional focus. While camaraderie in the workplace is important, individuals should not rely on it as an avenue for meeting their needs for social acceptance and belonging. Those emotional and psychological needs are better addressed by therapists, friends, family, and religious communities.