“Manus Pa” (มนุษย์ป้า) or “Super Aunties” has recently become the talk of the town especially on the online communities. It is the latest stereotype, generalizing middle-aged women who have awful behaviors. Super Aunties are defined as a “different species”, and “annoying die-hard species”, who claim to be always right, to have the first priority to do anything without shame or respecting other’s rights, and to have forgotten all basic human courtesies, including jumping the queue on public trains. Many Facebook pages are popping up, to dedicate to sharing stories and photos of “Super Aunties” and their unpleasant manners, one of which enjoys almost 200,000 likes within a few months.
Viewing “Super Aunties” not only as ageist but also sexist word, Media Inside Out and Heinrich Boll Stiftung Southeast Asia are organizing a media café on social and media discourses on “Super Aunties”, on Friday June 27, 2014. Four panelists at the MIO café discussion included Wisanpon Authasit and Kwankhao Banjong, webmasters of www.facebook.com/antiAuntie, Nithinand Yorsaengrat, senior journalist and advisor at Matichon TV, and Pimsiri Petchnamrob, writer/human rights activist. The discussion was moderated by Montira Narkvichien, Regional Communications Specialist, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
A male webmaster of the facebook.com/antiAuntie, Wisarnporn Authasit says: “The page was launched early 2014 and is now soliciting almost 29,000 likes. The page’s mission is to share and discuss about annoying behaviors not only of old women but also of all ages and sexes. This is why we use the sentence “super aunties are with us everywhere.” The word “aunties” are used to make the posts “softer”.
The aim of the page, according to Kwankhao Banjong, another male webmaster of the page, is not to blame or to discriminate against old women but to collect data of improper manners of all people from all walks of life in Thai society. “Unlike other “super aunties” facebook pages and comments in www.pantip.com, we focus on “behaviours”, rather than “actors”. The page acts as a centre for venting people’s feelings on such improper behaviours with an aim to change behaviours in order to make Thai society a more liveable place.”
Facebook Page “super aunties are with us everywhere”.
“I use fictional characters to represent myself as “aunty” to share stories in a fun and ironic way. When a fan posts a comment against our posts, I told her that aunties always act like this. I do believe that warning people face-to-face that they act improperly can help change their behaviours. However, it is improper in Thai culture for young people to tell a senior person about their wrong doings. And this is the reason of the launch of our anti-aunties page. I hope that viewers who are mostly teenagers will learn and not do such manners in the future, or tell their relatives not behave that way. This is about protecting our individual rights and respecting the rights of others. When aunties think they have the right to place their belongings on a seat, they have to know that others also have the right to take that seat because it is a public seat. We are trying to set a new norm in Thai society. Those who are trespassing the norm may be seen as being “discriminated against” but I think we need to try to bring them back in the norm as they should be.”
Senior journalist Nithinand Yorsaengrat views that age gap and discrimination against women are the root causes of social and media discourses on “super aunties”. “Young people in Thai society have grown up in Thai male-dominated culture, where men and women are not equally valued. Young people may discriminate against women, intentionally or unintentionally. It is very annoyingly interesting that 30-something women are called aunties.”
And most of the time, high-society, well-heeled women of the same ages are never called “super aunties” as those who are nobody, dressing unsophisticatedly, Nithinand observes. “Most interestingly, at this moment are those Big Brothers who have robbed Thai people’s democratic power blamed or discriminated against to the same level as super aunties are?” asks Nithinand.
Nithinand comments on Thai media who have riveted and painted the image of Thai women as sweet and passive, which derived from “Mae Ploy”, the main character of “Si Phaen Din” (Four Reigns) penned by MR Kukrit Pramoj. “Manus Pa” or “Super Aunties” also has been adopted by the media because it is another trendy buzzword. The word is derived from a male viewpoint. Most young people have fun using this word to make ironic jokes about senior women’s unpleasant manners. Because unpleasant manners do not exclusively belong to “aunties”, but also to people of all ages and sexes, she proposes to use “Super Uncles”, “Super Teens”, and so on, as well.
Kwankhao, in his twenties, argues that we have to look at why the word “Super Aunties”, and not “Super Uncles”, “Super Teens”, and so on. “We need to look at statistics as to whether more aunties, rather than more uncles or teens, act improperly,” he says. However, he agrees that men sometimes also act improperly, and he is also trying to share more stories about “Super Uncles”.
Speakers (from left to right): Pimsiri Petchnamrob, Nithinand Yorsaengrat, Wisanpon Authasit, Montira Narkvichien, Kwankhao Banjong.
Meanwhile, writer and human right activist Pimsiri Petchnamrob shares her opinion that social and media discourses on “super aunties” is a result of double standard and stereotyping of women.
“These “Super Aunties” are undervalued in Thai society. All they have are children and families. They are in domestic sphere, and not seen as contributing to modern work forces, as opposed to high-powered working women who are in men’s sphere. This rings the bell on Plato’s era when women were undervalued in the society, a fundamental concept in Christianity, which paved ways to the rise of waves of feminism.”
However, the word “Super Aunties” has also been used by the media in positive ways in the current political crisis where middle aged women were reportedly at frontline joining protests, or helping those who suffered from tear gas, Pimsiri notes. “These middle aged women were the first group to challenge the military officers in the anti-coup mobs. And there are many other examples of super aunties who have contributed to the global society,” she adds. She also suggested that media, including the webmasters of “super aunties” facebook pages, play a role in negotiating the meaning of this word.
Moderator Montira Narkvichien comments that while many people are against aunties’ improper manners in public transportations, there is a question need to take into serious consideration. “Does the society have provided adequate public facilities or infrastructures for aunties to live equally and harmoniously with other groups of people in the society?”