There is a quite interesting article I read in one local newspaper in my hometown. It criticized some local soap operas in Indonesia that illustrate about teenagers’ life. They sell a dream to be a modern Cinderella: a girl’s life will change to be better after a prince comes to her life, especially a pretty girl who comes from a poor family, and the boy—just like a prince—comes from a rich family, who happens to be very kind, caring, generous, and bla bla bla.
To criticize the soap operas, the writer of the article used Susan Faludi’s theory called backlash. It means the effort done by people who are pro status quo of patriarchal culture, to counter the feminism movement, to go back to the era where women were not independent, because they need men to reach their goal—living prosperously. To attract those men’s attention, girls JUST need physical beauty, no other things, such as intellect and skills, especially academic skills. The writer of the article pintpoints that the soap operas sell dreams to young female teenagers, make them forget that there is a much more important thing they need to sharpen—their academic capabilities—rather than just on the surface, fair and spotless complexion, soft skin, slim bodies, beautiful hair, etc. Furthermore, the writer of the article stated that those soap operas are indeed addressed to teenagers, who are still pure, dont get “infected” yet by feminism movement, not like their elder generations.
However, I view it from a bit different angle. Susan Faludi’s theory about backlash is not really appropriate to be used here. Why? Different from many western countries, in Indonesia there are still abundant women who still don’t realize their rights to be independent women, to have exactly equal right with men, to pursue any dream they have, to choose any career they find cool, without any bounderies, such as “I am a woman, I am not supposed to be a boxer,” or an astronout, etc. When the mother doesnt realize this right, consequently, she will teach the same principle to their daughter as what they believe as “created” by God, to view many aspects in lives using their (out-of-date) perspective.
So, instead of (mis)leading the young generation back to the time when patriarchal norms rule people’s life, those soap operas just want to keep the status quo of patriarchal culture, because the fact shows that in Indonesia, until now the feminist movement is not popularly known yet. Very few of my students know what feminism movement is, they still think that the word feminist is similar to feminine.
Until now, the television world is still held strongly by men who still think it as natural for women to dedicate their life to their family (especially husbands) only, and forget their dream to make a name for themselves. Therefore, they still accept many programs from production houses that support this perspective. Many production houses produce programs to get benefit, so that they will produce programs that attract the owner of the television stations, companies that work in the advertisement’s field. And in Indonesia, it is very seldom for us to find producers who courageously produce different/contradictory programs, such as soap operas that illustrate how girls toughly face their life, without always waiting for the prince charming to come to their life, girls who actualize their intelligence, sharpen their capabilities, and get a job using those, and not just physical performance. Fortunately, I have a friend whose part time job is as a scripwriter. She never gets order to write stories that empower women using their intelligence and skills. When she writes one, no production house is willing to buy it.
PT56 23.08 141206