Thespian & Writer
Fatimah Abu Bakar grew up having no notions about gender. The idea that women couldn’t do certain things never occurred to her.
“I never had that feeling,” she states. “Maybe it was the way I was brought up. Although my father was very religious, he would never discourage me. It was only when I entered ITM, I started to question myself. I became more aware that girls were not supposed to do certain things but they were never there when I was growing up.”
Nonetheless it was also when she moved to Shah Alam that Fatimah could immerse herself in culture. Her evenings were spent dancing and acting at Panggung Drama. It was also at that time that she met Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba and the late Mustaffa Noor.
As an actress and more so, as a journalist at New Straits Times, Fatimah was always conscious about the need to portray women in a positive light.
I would not choose any role that were obviously derogatory to women. For example, if a woman is being hit, I would ask, why can’t she hit back?Fatimah Abu Bakar
“I would not choose any role that were obviously derogatory to women,” she says. “For example, if a woman is being hit, I would ask, why can’t she hit back?”
At the newspaper, she also met other “like-minded” women who also worked to change stereotypes of women.
“Malay Mail used to have a page 1 girl,” she says. “We fought the idea because it perpetuated the myth that women were merely a decoration. After a while it moved from page 1 to page to 3 to page 5 and eventually it disappeared.”
This spirit has been passed on to her four daughters, who she says are all very vocal. She jokes that her eldest, Sharifah Aleya often refers to herself as Fatimah’s “eldest son.” Her other children are Sharifah Amani, Sharifah Aleysha and Sharifah Aryana, all actresses.
At the New Straits Times, Fatimah wrote a column, I Am Woman. The idea behind it stemmed for the fact that a woman carries many roles – mother, daughter, friend, wife. Helen Reddy’s “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore,” also played a part in the title.
The Women’s section also pushed the agenda of women’s rights. She recalls the case of a high-profile divorce where the woman decided to defend herself, after finding the lawyer’s costs too high.
“We dedicated a journalist to just follow her case. We followed it until the day she won the case. We put it on the front page, to show that although it was very hard, very tough, if you are really very determined, with the right support, you can help create your own destiny.”
The objective of the column was to highlight intelligent, creative and brave women. “We felt that this was not reflected in the main newspaper. Every time a woman is featured in the main newspaper pages was when she was robbed, raped or whatever.” From an early age, Fatimah always wanted to be a journalist. It didn’t seem an odd choice for a woman.
I didn’t really know what it was about but in my mind, I thought it would enable me to go places and meet people.Fatimah Abu Bakar
The much adored thespian, writer and acting coach continues to coach clients in communications and media relations.