LAST_UPDATEThu, 19 Jul 2018 11pm

How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of ‘Membawang’ This Hari Raya

Whether you've noticed or not, the terms ‘Makcik Bawang’ and ‘membawang’ have started to appear more often on our social media updates as Hari Raya beckons.

A popular term among Malaysians, the ‘membawang’ culture is synonymous with the gathering of family, acquaintances and friends at Raya open houses.

So what does “Makcik Bawang” mean? A literal translation does not work in this case but the term is used to describe a person who enjoys gossiping about other people that casts negative aspersions or plant insinuations.

If you thought that every self-respecting Malaysian on social media is familiar with the ‘membawang’ culture, apparently even PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli profess that he is at a loss over the meaning of this trending term.

“Can someone explain to me the meaning and origin of ‘membawang’?” Rafizi shared on Twitter recently, and asked in a deadpan fashion perhaps in jest, “what is the problem with the onion?”.

His innocent query triggered a wave of responses with his followers tweeting helpful explanations such as “baiting or dissecting a hot topic or incident” or “dissecting an issue just like peeling away layers of an onion”.

Even DAP youth leader Dyana Sofya was spotted replying to Rafizi’s query, pointing out that the term originate from the practice of women in villages getting together to lend a hand in preparing a ‘kenduri’ and they wile away the time spent doing the food preparations by gossiping about anything and everything under the sun.

Another well-meaning tweet also reminded Rafizi that Muslims should curb their urge to cast aspersions and spread negative insinuations in the form of gossip during Ramadan.

“If you want to ‘membawang’, wait till Ramadan ends,” one Dato' Mohammad Pikairi bin Zainudin replied.

Apparently, after getting up to speed on this trend, Rafizi proceeded to add more context and flavour to 'membawang'.

Pic: TwitterPic: Twitter

Should Malaysians put an end to this ‘membawang’ culture once and for all? 

Or as Rafizi pointed out, there is a case to be made for defending the right of every 'Makcik Bawang' that can be found holding court in kampungs and villages throughout the country come Raya season.

Dissecting The ‘Makcik Bawang’ Menace

Pic: Hello HealthPic: Hello Health

Based on this writer’s observation, there are four ways to differentiate a “Makcik Bawang” and if a person ticks all the boxes, be duly warned if you see them approaching especially during the coming Hari Raya celebration.

The first criteria this writer notice is that a “Makcik Bawang” makes it her hobby to find fault in others. Every day, there will be something they can trash about a certain individual as they will dig out the person’s weakness to broadcast to the world whether it is in person or on social media.

A “Makcik Bawang” is often perceived as someone who enjoys seeing other people fail as their bitter heart cannot be happy for other’s success. They also enjoy embellishing the gossip based on assumptions. For example, they can speak about ‘B’ today, but add ‘C’ to the topic tomorrow.

These nosy parkers are also the first to broadcast unconfirmed rumours as the attention they seek and crave causes them to churn out inaccurate and sometimes downright fake news so always be mindful of the juicy gossip you hear from a ‘Makcik Bawang’.

However, just like an onion has many layers, apparently, ‘membawang’ can also be seen in a positive context.

This year’s Telekom Malaysia (TM) Raya advertisement had definitely given a more sympathetic image of a “Makcik Bawang”, painting a picture of an individual who is simply showing her concern for those who are close to her heart and while some of the comments might hit too close for comfort, really it was spoken sincerely without malice.

Typically, this happens often in a close-knit Malay family setting which is why the term “Makcik Bawang” embody a unique trait of such family gatherings and you can see the same scene play out as your aunties, cousins, or family acquaintances gather together, whether it is in the living room or kitchen, as they start catching up on the latest gossip about family or even celebrities.

And since tomorrow we will be welcoming the blissful month of Eid Fitr, we at Malaysian Digest would like to shed light on this ‘membawang’ culture and help our readers to avoid the pitfalls while being on your guard to not become ensnared and entrenched in the toxicity that ‘membawang’ can trigger.

The 'Membawang' Culture: An ‘Infectious’ Epidemic

“In my personal opinion, I am not fan of these terms “membawang”, “makcik bawang”, and everything that strings along with it,” said famous author for Seksi Ovari, Fazleena Hishamuddin as till today, she still can’t relate to how someone can gossip so much whilst chopping onions as she needs a lot of concentration to do it!

“So how can someone have so much conversation whilst teary eyed from the onions? But because it has become such a phenomenon to Malaysians, I simply have to unwillingly accept it.

“This malicious activity of talking about other people does not necessarily mean you have to have a bag of onions with you, it can happen anytime, anywhere. To some, speaking ill about others is far more exciting than speaking about ourselves or other current issues, and without a doubt, this is a very negative habit to have,” said the author.

It is a very infectious and dangerous epidemic, and Fazleena believes that when you speak ill of another based on assumptions and without proof, that is nothing but a waste of time.

“We fail to remember that our mouths are given by God to us not spread beneficial knowledge and conversations without hurting anyone,” she reminded.

Moreover, in today's modern-day technology, ‘membawang’ can be a very nasty behavior which can undermine society's morality.

“Defamation is increasingly widespread with this activity and it can spread like wildfire. An uncontrolled social media can cause misinformation to spread unchecked and this stirs curiosity in people for all the wrong reasons.

“This nosy culture and the need to jaga tepi kain orang (intruding into other people’s personal matters) towards others is absolutely disheartening. Good manners which are supposed to be inculcated in the very souls of a community will then become lost.”

As to how we can use Eid Fitr as a stepping stone for ourselves to stop ‘membawang’ about others, Fazleena believes that when we welcome Eid, that means we had just experienced a month long of purifying our sins in Ramadhan.

“In Ramadhan, it offers thousands of blessings that we can never attain in other months. When we fast, it allows us to strengthen our resolve from succumbing to all the temptations and bad intentions.

“We often also reflect on ourselves to become better people, expressing care about the shortcomings of others while guarding our actions from harming others. We also try to understand and get closer to our Creator,” she observed.

Fazleena added that this mindful attitude ought to be continued beyond Eid Fitr.

“Maintaining a good attitude, as words spoken and our actions will only reflect on our character.

“We cannot control others, but we can always advice kindly and avoid doing the same. Eid Fitr is also a time to forgive each other; not a time to slander. Always be mindful of our words and actions,” she relayed.

To see to the betterment of our future generation, we adults should not encourage or choose to remain silent when faced with acts of malicious gossip.

“Parents, relatives, and friends must take this seriously. I believe it all started from home and school, then social media. And not just ‘membawang’ but any activities that are not beneficial to our wellbeing should be avoided.

“Be exemplary to your children. All campaigns run by the government will not mean anything if we ourselves and the community do not fully support and encourage others to do the same. Society should play a big role in ensuring that this ‘Bawang culture’ does not become an incurable disease. We should learn to see the potential of ourselves to develop the society, economy, and culture, rather than being busy talking about others,” Fazleena advised.

Hence, this is why you don’t often see Malaysian Digest publishing articles that won’t do any good to your wellbeing.

‘Membawang’ - A New Term With An Old Definition

Dr ZubaidahDr Zubaidah
Malaysian Digest also reached out to Dr. Zubaidah Jamil Osman, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer for Department of Psychiatry UPM to share her opinions on the repercussions of the “Bawang culture”.

“This is just a new term with an old definition. Basically, it means talking about others without reflecting on yourself; so you are only focusing on the negative traits of others and ‘correcting’ them as you feel they are rather beneath you. We have to end this senseless small talk, we don’t say it for the sake of saying it. We have to be better than that.

“The need to ‘membawang’ or to include your opinions these days started off from social media. As long as their voices can be heard, they do not care on whether the person they are speaking ill of is hurt by what they have to say,” Dr. Zubaidah offers her expert opinion.

The root cause of it is just people needing to impose their beliefs and opinions on others, she further relayed, and since social media is a platform where information can spread very easily, these modern day ‘Makcik Bawangs’ utilise it to the fullest.

As to the social and psychological effects upon the victims of ‘membawang’, Dr Zubaidah stated that it depends on the subject these ‘Makcik Bawangs’ are talking about.

“If you are talking about things you are not sure about because you are there in the group of people and knowingly, the bigger the group, the juicier the tales become. So the more people in the conversation, the more you will forget to look and reflect on yourself.

“It is easy to get carried away when you are having a good time. Psychologically, if the stories not true, these victims will not get hurt but of course nowadays, especially on social media, many are not evidently sure of what they are talking about but they still carry on spreading these fake news.

“And when things are talked about excessively, it can take its toll upon the victim,” she said.

For example, the Faiz Roslan issue. Today, all his social media platforms are deactivated simply because the overload of ‘membawang’ has gotten to him. An Instagram user @encikkandre who is a close friend of Faiz had shared some images that Faiz had posted on his private Instagram account for his very close friends perusal.

Images shared had shown how Faiz had expressed his dismay upon the predicament he currently faces and how he feels suicide could possibly be the only way out for him.

Yet, some netizens were unimpressed while some empathise to his situation.

However, what we must understand is ‘membawang’ or speaking ill of another can be very detrimental towards the victim. We have to start rectifying our decisions, especially on what we decide to post and share on social media.

“In psychology, if you responding to the membawang behaviour - you basically reinforcing the behavior - and these ‘Makcik Bawangs’ will probably think what they are doing is right. My advice is to simply reply like ‘hmm hmm’ without really responding. Gradually, after a while, you must slowly start changing the topic of conversation.

“So just steer away from the negatively and keep reinforcing this practice. For those feeling victimized, it is important that you remind yourself that you see this people just once a year anyway. Don’t waste your energy getting emotional about it.

“Especially during this holy and blessed month of Ramadhan, you would want to avoid being sarcastic and spiteful. And as we welcome Syawal (the month of Eid), we hope that there will be a change toward a better character among ourselves.,” she points out that it takes a herd mentality to give life to the ‘Bawang’ culture so if one starts to self-censor, the malicious gossip will not take hold.

“I strongly believe, if there are others out there who add fuel to this ‘membawang’ flame, it would only make the fire bigger,” she concluded.

--Malaysian Digest