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Monday, May 28, 2007

Poverty Has a Women Face

Gender-based power relation means that women experience poverty differently and more forcefully than men do and women are more vulnerable to chronic poverty because of gender inequality in the distribution of income, access to productive inputs, such as credit, command over property or control over earned income, as well as gender biased in labor markets. (Nilufer Cagatay, Trade, Gender and Poverty, London: UNDP, 2001)

The statement above showed that in poverty, women are more forcefully exposed to it rather than men because of patriarchal culture. This is engendered by some unequal chances women get in social life, such as:
1. Human Development Report stated that in 2000 Indonesian women’s literacy reached 82%, and this number constituted 89% of Indonesian men’s literacy.

2. In the last decade, the participation of women to study in elementary school is only 49% compared to men, 46% in the level of junior high school, 41% in the level of senior high school, and only 33% in the level of higher education, such as in college.

3. Marriage Law in Indonesia that stated that women are only homemakers and not breadwinners resulted in the lower income women get than men because they are considered only as “side” worker, and oftentimes they don’t get as many allowances as men get.

(The above data were taken from Jurnal Perempuan number 42 “Mengurai Kemiskinan, Dimana Perempuan?” published in July 2005)

The three inequal chances between men and women I mentioned above are inter-related very closely. In this era, literacy is very important to get a better job that also means to get a higher income. When women’s literacy is lower than men’s, the conclusion is that women are exposed to a higher possibility to be poorer. It is supported by conventional opinion that men will be the breadwinner later so that parents give bigger chances to their sons to pursue higher education rather than their daughters. This of course mostly happens among poor families that have to decide who must go to school and who must stay at home due to the minimum income they get. Oftentimes their decision is only based on the stereotype that men will be the breadwinner and women will be the homemaker, and not based on who has a higher intelligence or better talent.

Around three years ago when my (ex) workplace applied a new policy that the company no longer paid the income tax for the employees, we found out the unequal amount of tax between men and women. Male employees’ income tax was always lower than female ones. Female employees’ income that generally is lower than male employees’ must be reduced more. The reason was because the tax regulation stated no matter a female employee is single or married (and has some children), she will always be considered single because referring to the Marriage Law, women’s role in a marriage is as homemaker, and not as breadwinner. This regulation is still applied although female employees also have role as the solely breadwinner, either due to divorce, the husband has died, or the husband was laid off from his job, or as a single parent (read  the children were born out of wedlock).

Therefore no wonder if Human Development Report stated that POVERTY HAS A WOMEN FACE (UNDP, 1995).

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Some Portraits of Poverty in Indonesia

Around two years ago I had a private student who happened to have a very rich husband. Her rich husband who is a very successful businessman in Semarang makes them able to send their children to best school. Besides, of course the husband has a lot of successful business associates. I can imagine with good education and many business associates of the father, her children will easily get good connection, access, and facilities to be involved in good business later on.

When someone comes from a poor family, he/she only knows poor people too, with limited education and horizon, how could they improve their own social status?

(I am talking about the situation in Indonesia, and not in America where people believe in American Dream with its’ “from rags to riches” motto.)

I remember one time a neigbor of mine talked to his son, “No need to get high education. I only graduated from junior high school and I can have a job to support my family. You can just follow my path.”

His narrow-minded horizon—only graduating from junior high, getting involved with people with similar background—limited him to think further. Now that he can have quite a good business and get enough income to support his family, didn’t he think that if he sends his son to a higher education, the education will make his son a better businessman? By having a higher education, his son will get wider connections and access to be a more successful businessman?


Patriarchal culture also has resulted in poverty. Believing that the husband must be the sole breadwinner and the wife must be the homemaker has made many people trapped in poverty. One family living in a neighborhood of mine sticks to this opinion.

Wanting to be called as a “responsible” husband, the man (a senior high school graduate) asked his wife (a junior high school graduate) to stay at home only as the homemaker. In the beginning of their marriage, this small family lived “enough” although they still lived together with the woman’s old mother in their small house. After the first daughter was four years old, the couple decided to have the second child. Believing that a woman who is still breastfeeding will not get pregnant, the wife didn’t use any contraceptive. However, two months after the second baby was born, the wife got pregnant again. Ridiculously, (I assume it was due to lack of knowledge, or lack of money to buy contraceptive tool), she got pregnant again and again until the fifth baby!!!

With five children at home, the wife could not help the husband work or do something to help make their ends meet. The fact that the income of the husband as a janitor was of course not enough. They could not give their children nutritious food. It made them grow not well, and lack of intelligence. The first daughter just graduated from junior high school. To reduce the family’s burden, the parents married her off. Ironically, the last news I got, she was forced by her husband to work as a prostitute somewhere in Surabaya. Her younger siblings didn’t do well at elementary school so that the parents asked them to stop going to school eventually.
And we can imagine when later on they grow up, if they don’t have good horizon to view this life (so that they will change it), they will stay poor and create more poor offsprings?

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Poverty: Whose Mistakes?

Some months ago a workmate of mine told me about her being upset to her in-laws that, in her opinion, are lazy to work, to struggle to alleviate their own poverty.

Background: This female workmate of mine married a nine-year younger guy three years ago despite their contradictory family background. My friend comes from a middle-class society, has a bachelor’s degree and has quite a good job and enough income. Her husband is from a low-class society, only graduated from senior high school, and (un)luckily doesn’t have a job that can be considered as “prestigious” in Indonesia—only as a mechanic, in a small garage. I did not mean to underestimate that kind of job, though; I just use public opinion.

(Indonesian people childishly love categorizing professions, don’t they? For example: they underestimate housemaid, janitor, etc.)

This contradictory background between my workmate and her husband once made me suspect that she married him only to change the most annoying tag “old maid” to be “married woman” because she no longer could handle when nosy people besieged her with questions, “When will you get married?”

Answering her question about her in-laws, I told her that it was unfair of her to say that they were just lazy to work so that they kept being poor. I asked her to find whether they had any connections or facilities or access so that they could work hard.

Her in-laws live in a small town. They don’t have any rice fields to cultivate. To make their ends meet, her parents-in-law work as sellers in one traditional market. Their educational background? They only graduated from elementary school. I conclude that their horizon is also limited so that they don’t have any idea how to expand their business. Besides, of course they don’t have enough capital to do that. The only financial help they got was only from the first son who worked as a mechanic. After this first son married my workmate, of course he would spend more money to his own family. It means that he could not give much financial help to his parents.

In that situation, I asked my workmate whether it was fair for her to say that her in-laws were just lazy.
“At 10 or 11am they already go home from the traditional market. It shows that they are lazy. Why don’t they stay longer? And in the afternoon they don’t do anything. Why don’t they produce something and sell it?” My friend commented.

Living in a big city of course will give people more various things to do to earn money. Let’s say by selling some gorengan (kind of snack in Indonesia, or especially in Java island). However, living in a small town probably will not really help. People—with low income—will not spend their money just to buy gorengan. Maybe they would prefer make it by themselves and eat it together with their family.

I do agree that sometimes laziness can be the cause of someone to be poor. However, there are many other aspects too to be analyzed why poverty exists, such as not having connection, access, until patriarchal culture.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Birth Control

Have you read the article entitled “Mari Berkeluarga di dalam Kota” in Ayu Utami’s Si Parasit Lajang? In it, Ayu said that inside a doctor’s clinic the word “berkeluarga” always means “bersetubuh”, while the word, “belum berkeluarga” always means “belum bersetubuh”. How naïve, isn’t it?

I wanna tell you one experience of mine when I was in the hospital, more than a year ago. I asked a doctor to put implant on my left arm, for controlling the hormone in my body, so that I wouldn’t get pregnant, in 1997. It was due in 2002. My ignorant and stubborn nature let it be in my arm, and didn’t ask a doctor to take it away. I just thought that my body had been getting along well with that “alien” thing in my body. LOL. However, when I felt something wrong with my health some time in September 2004, I went to a doctor, I told her that there was an implant in my body. Directly, she suggested me to take it out right away. This is my experience.

I dunno but I felt bothered when the receptionist asked me, “Your husband’s name, Ma’am?” what they would do to me was nothing to do to with my hubby, right, but why did they involve him? It gave me a conclusion that for women who want to get service about birth control must have hubby. How about those who are not married but need such a service? Sex does not exclusively belong to married people only, does it? This “unwise policy” (that hospitals give birth control service only to married people) then engenders some other trouble, I am sure.  My being sakkepenake dhewe, LOL, made me ignore that question by asking back, “What’s the point with that question, eh?” LOL. That old lady seemed shocked with my question. But then, of course, I told her my hubby’s name. Sing waras ngalah. LOL. I didn’t want to “lecture” that that kind of “policy” has violated the most natural human need, sex. LOL.

The following question was asked by the doctor, “After we have taken out the implant, what other birth control do you want to use? Or do you plan to have a baby?”

I answered, “No sir, I don’t want any other birth control to be ‘planted’ in my body. I don’t want to have another baby either.”

He insisted, “No, Ma’am, you cannot say that. You’ve got to choose, to have a baby or use another birth control.” Crazy. Don’t I have freedom to do what I want? He said again, “Well, we just want to help you so that you will not undergo “gagal KB”.

I replied, “But sir, that’s none of your business, right, if I get pregnant later on though now I say that I don’t wanna have another baby?”

And then he said, “Ok then, I will write in the document here that you want to have another baby.”
I said, “Write anything that pleases you, sir. It’s not a big deal for me.” LOL.

When I told some workmates of mine about this experience, one of them, a man, commented, “Ms. Nana, why did you act like that? Why don’t you just follow the society’s norm instead?” LOL.

The main reason why I don’t let any doctor “plant” anything to control the hormone of my body to avoid pregnancy is that I want to control my own body, (I believe it really needs high repression, confidence, courage and control) coz my body is absolutely mine, not belong to hubby, nor doctor, nor society, nor government.

Read the following excerpt of Ariel Haryanto’s poem I quoted from May Lan’s book entitled Negara, Pers, dan Perempuan p. 99

“… Di negeri kami tubuh perempuan
bukan milik perempuan
dada dan paha sudah dijatahkan
buat biro iklan dan wartawan
Vagina dan rahim adalah lahan resmi
Proyek nasional KB
Dikerjakan sehari-hari dalam keluarga
Oleh laki-laki kami sendiri
Dilaporkan birokrat negeri
Biar dapat utang luar negeri …”

Ariel clearly illustrated how women do not possess their own bodies in Indonesia. It is very ironic, isn’t it? As someone who realizes that my body belongs to me, I confidently want to control myself.

Going back to my experience in the hospital. In that occasion, I found a woman suffering from bleeding for almost a month, without a clear reason. She suspected that it was caused by the birth control “means” inside her body. Another woman suffered from obesity. Another woman again told me that the IUD “planted” inside her vagina was gone inside her body. After she was examined thoroughly using sophisticated equipment, a doctor said that the IUD was “running” through the blood in her body. What a very scary thing to hear, do you agree?

Sexual desire is a gifted-desire since we were born. It belongs to anybody, male, female, married, single, young, old. To have a baby or to control ourselves not to have a baby is absolutely everybody’s right. When coming to controlling birth (in order not to make this world overpopulated), it is not only the obligation of women, it’s men’s as well. So, why must give the whole burden to women only? Women themselves must suffer from any pain when something wrong comes up with this controlling birth thing.

Well, suddenly I remember one stanza of a song. I don’t remember the singer though. It stated “Alat kontrasepsi paling aman, yaitu ga usah berhubungan ...” isn’t it a good suggestion? LOL.

Women ... please love your bodies!



Have you watched the movie entitled “The Hours”? It was starred by three actresses: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep. Each of them represented a character from three different eras. Nicole Kidman starred as Virginia Woolf, a feminist writer from England who lived from 1882 until 1941. The scene illustrated here was 1921 Richmond, England. Julianne Moore starred as Laura Brown, an ordinary housewife living in Los Angeles around 1950s. Meryl Streep starred as Clarissa Vaughn who lived in New York City around 2000s.

I want to talk about Laura Brown, the ordinary housewife who lived around 1950s America. Around that time, many American women thought that they were the happiest women in the world. The most coveted and adorable “profession” for women at that time was to be a housewife. A married woman, with good-looking, understanding, loving and rich husband, a luxurious house and car, modern household equipment, and happy and good children è those were the reasons why “housewife” became the most respectable “profession” for women in 1950s America. Many women from other countries didn’t have what American married women had, not many women had modern household equipment, a luxurious house and car because other countries were not as rich as America at that time.

Laura had those “things”, a husband, house, car, modern household equipment, a kid, and she was expecting her second baby. People must think that she was happy. However, who can guarantee of someone’s happiness (readàa woman) only coz of those “things”? Was it as simple as that?

Friends, if you watch that movie, you can conclude that Laura was not happy with what she had. In one scene, her husband said, “Life is in a marriage. To be happy is to be in a marriage too.” Laura—who was in the restroom—was crying when she heard her husband say so, but she didn’t say a word. Why? It was because she was not happy in the marriage. She didn’t feel alive in her marriage. She felt dying instead. “There was a time when you don’t belong, and you wanna kill yourself,” that’s what she said to Clarissa at the end of the movie. She felt that she didn’t belong to the community where the people thought that the ultimate goal in this life was being married. That’s why in one scene in the movie, we can see Laura who was about to commit suicide. Laura felt that she didn’t belong to the community of America at that time coz other women thought that “American women were the happiest women in the world, with a husband, luxurious car and house, modern household equipment and happy children.”

Laura didn’t commit suicide, she left her children and husband instead. She moved to Canada, got a profession as a librarian and survived alone. Why did she do that? She felt more alive when she lived alone, not committed in a marriage. By the end of the movie, we can see she survived while the other members of the family had died. She chose life, that’s why she abandoned the family. If she chose death, she would go on living with the family, and died little by little.

Friends, why do you think I talk about all this? I just wanna show you that in this patriarchal society, women also have their own way of thinking—not to get married, for example. Getting married or not is only a matter of making a choice. Get married if you are sure that it will give you happiness. Don’t get married if it is only to conform with the society while you are not sure with that. Be confident with your choice.

Not all women are happy to live in a marriage. Appreciate them who think that way. Respect their choice.

Marriage versus Prostitution

Marriage is an institution that robs a woman of her individuality and reduces her to the level of a prostitute (Dennison, 1914) Via Ussher’s Women’s Madness: Mysogyny or Mental Illness? , 1993:262

Some time ago, I got a message, a joke, from a friend,

Wife: “Give me some money, my darling. I want to buy something special to beautify myself, to make you happy.”
Husband: “I will give you some money, my dereast wife. But, dont forget to give me the best in bed.”

Look, doesn’t that joke strengthen that quoation above about the analogy between a housewife and a prostitute? A housewife “serves” her husband the best she can to survive (e.g. to get food, clothes, and shelter). A prostitute does exactly the same thing to her clients. In addition, when a woman is lucky to get a rich and generous husband, she will be ‘paid’ high. On the contrary, when a woman is not lucky to get such a husband, she still has to do her “obligation”—to serve her husband at home—bed, kitchen, and laundry—and in return, maybe she will just get “less than enough”. And in patriarchal culture where a wife is considered as the husband’s “property”, she no longer belongs to herself, she has to be submissive—to follow whatever the husband says, pure—only to pour her sexual desire to her husband, no matter whether the husband respects her rights as a free individual or not, domestic—only stay at home, go out only under her husband’s permission. No matter how little money she gets from her husband in return of her “service”, Many women still choose to be married coz they are more frightened by society’s judgment as “old spinster”. Besides they are also lullabied and lured by fairy tales such as Cinderella, as if marriage is the only gate to ultimate happiness in this life. After they get married and find the fact that is far from what they dream and expect before, they are besieged by people around them, “You are a woman, you are created as submissive creature, as “the second sex” So, accept it!” and for “religious” people, with addition, “You will go the heaven if you submit yourself to your husband. If not, you’ll go to hell.”

However, prostitutes don't get this discomfort. Their body and life still belong to them. They still have right to say “no” to a client coming to them when they don't feel comfortable to do that. They can charge high fees. More benefit, is, they can “enjoy” different “sizes”, different treatment, different atmosphere, different sensation so that they will not get bored easily. LOL. Well, i just imagine that different men have different sizes, give different treatment, sensation, and atmosphere. LOL.

Women's Roles?

HELMER: Before all else, you are a wife and a mother.
NORA: I don’t believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being.
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, (1999:68)

How many times have those “magical” words—wife and mother—been used by this patriarchal society to marginalize women?

How many times have inferior men in this male-dominated world used those words to oppress their wives willing to have career outside home?

How many times have those two words been “misused” to force women to lose their common sense? To have their own way of thinking? To be creative as human beings? Not just to follow what the consensus has said (without thinking)? Not just to do what the books have said to them?

How many times have women become blinded and then forgotten about their capability, talent, freedom to choose what is good in their life, only to conform to the norm constructed by society about being a “good” wife and a “good” mother?

How many times have women lost their common sense that they are not robots without feelings, without want in their very own life?

How long time again should it be like that?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Abortion (again)

The local newspaper just stated another young girl was killed by her boyfriend because she had conceived his baby and she asked him to marry him.

How many women have been killed by their boyfriends who don’t want to be responsible after they made their girlfriends pregnant?

How many women have killed their newly born baby because actually they don’t want to get pregnant (yet)? They get pregnant because their irresponsible boyfriends probably have trapped them.

I expect that the legalization of abortion in Indonesia will reduce the number of such crimes. Which one is crueler do you think, to terminate the growth of fetus or to kill the woman because she keeps begging her boyfriend to marry her?

I expect that women become more independent so that they don’t need to beg a man to marry them only because they are pregnant. This can happen if society accepts them warmly and not being nosy to judge them as immoral only because they get pregnant out of wedlock. This also can happen if society/companies give them job so that they can support their own life and the baby.

I expect that society will no longer idolize marriage institution that will make many inferior women downgrade themselves only to enter this so-called the gate of worldly happiness.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Boys and Girls

Yesterday I gave the Periodic Test 1 to my Advanced 4 class. FYI, this is the highest level for General Program in the English Course where I work. The test comprises 10 questions for LISTENING, 10 questions for USAGE., 15 questions for VOCABULARY and READING COMPREHENSION. The last part was to write an essay, so it must be complete, consists of an introductory paragraph, the body, and then the concluding paragraph. There were two topics to choose:

 Recycled paper is more worth using rather than virgin paper. The students are to write a 100-word argumentative article,

 Falling in love at the first sight: a miracle or a fairy tale? The students are to write a 150-word article, free of any kind of writing. They can choose a narrative, expository, descriptive, or argumentative writing.
After collecting the answer sheets, I found out that all boys chose the first topic, while all girls chose the second one. This is very interesting to me.

I personally would choose the second topic because I am included into romantic type. This is my own “reading” about myself. LOL. Did those girls share the same opinion with me? Or perhaps for girls, LOVE is always a very interesting topic to discuss? Boys think that LOVE is boring or are they included into hostile creature rather than loving? LOL.

When giving the two topics, I heard some students grumbled about the 150-word for the second topic. So, it is possible that perhaps the male students chose the more practical one—only writing 100-word article. LOL.

At that time, I remember what my Abang said to me, “No matter what, Nana, men and women are different. How can you struggle to realize the similarities between them?” (I forgot whether he was just kidding me at that time, or whether he was serious.)

I remember one email I got some months ago from one blog visitor. He somewhat laughed at my idea when reading my profile where I wrote, “I believe men and women are equal in all facets in this life.” “Can you beat me for bench-press?”

Of course men and women are different, not only in their physical bodies, but also in their way of thinking, their way of perceiving something, their experience in this patriarchal world that automatically will make them their own way to solve problems, etc.

What I meant by saying, or writing, LOL, “I believe men and women are equal in all facts in this life” is that they have full rights to choose anything they want to do in their life without having to be limited with their physical bodies. Stereotyping of men and women that have happened for million centuries have limited both of them to do what they want to do with reason, “You are man. You are not supposed to do this.” Or similar thing, “You are woman. You are not supposed to do this.” And we all know mostly the limitation for not doing this and that is more for women.

Going back to my class, my students were free to choose between the two topics offered, no matter what sex they have.  I was just curious why it happened that all girls chose the second topic while all boys chose the first one. And my curiosity made me produce this writing to post in my blogs. LOL. LOL.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Abortion and Polygamy

My article entitled “Abortion” has been discussed quite extensively in some mailing lists I join. I posted this article in my blogs/mailing lists some weeks ago. I got two impressive comments too in my

However, when browsing some files I keep in the desktop where I save my articles for blogs, last night I found another article with the same title too. Only at that time, I didn’t clearly express my pro idea for this topic, and I didn’t ‘promote’ it in the mailing lists either.

My Abang that I suspect as one regular reader of my blogs—not to call him the most diligent one LOL—didn’t give comments on this directly. He even responded on a comment about (radical) feminists who would choose to live without men. Perhaps I can conclude that my Abang doesn’t want to get involved with my writing, that I have to be responsible with what I have written and posted in the blogs and mailing lists. 

One very interesting comment I got was asking about my saying, “women have full rights on their bodies so that they have full rights too to choose what they will do with their bodies.” (This is based on one motto of feminism about PERSONAL IS POLITICAL.) With “backup” of some other feminists in the mailing list, the discussion ended nicely. The man completely didn’t with the idea of “my body is mine”, especially for married couple.

However, when one topic related to ‘abortion’ finished, another person opened a new discussion. This time he mentioned about the right to live for the fetus. He inserted some quotes from Mother Teresa about abortion. The main idea is that the late Mother Teresa scolded ‘abortion’ as the same as killing babies.

I responded that practicing abortion is absolutely different from killing babies. Which is crueler, to terminate the fetus to grow, or to kill the baby after the baby was delivered because the mother doesn’t want the baby? I refer to what Alquran has said that a fetus that is less than three months old does not have soul yet because God doesn’t give it life yet. To end the response, I encourage to start establishing an organization to take care of girls who get pregnant without their want, and to adopt the babies, and then give the babies to those who want them.

I am of opinion that that person got annoyed with my response. (perhaps he got a bad day in his office so that it spurred him to write such a response with upset tone to me?)

He said that he and I would not be able to find a good compromise because it would lead the similar discussion of polygamy, pro or con. Hohoho NOT AT ALL. I still stick to say that polygamy can be HARAM by making a thorough interpretation of the whole verses in Alquran wholly, and not partially. I don’t want to rewrite it here. Just check my blogs. Use the search engine (for the visitors of or click the tag of ‘polygamy’ for the visitors of my to find my posts on polygamy.)

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An Obstacle

An Obstacle
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I was climbing up a mountain path
With many things to do,
Important business of my own,
And other people’s too,
When I ran against a Prejudice
That quite cut off the view

My work was such as could not wait,
My path quite clearly showed,
My strength and time were limited,
I carried quite a load;
And there that hulking Prejudice
Sat all across the road.

So I spoke to him politely,
For he was huge and high,
And begged that he would move a bit
And let me travel by.
He smiled, but as for moving! –
He didn’t even try.

And then I reasoned quietly
With that colossal mule:
My time was short—no other path—
The mountain winds were cool.
I argued like a Solomon;
He sat there like a fool.

Then I flew into a passion,
And I danced and howled and swore.
I pelted and belabored him
Till I was stiff and sore;
He got as mad as I did—
But he sat there as before.

And then I begged him on my knees;
I might be kneeling still
It so I hoped to move that mass
Of obdurate ill-will—
As well invite the monument
To vacate Bunker Hill!

So I sat before him helpless,
In an ecstasy of woe—
The mountain mists were rising fast,
The sun was sinking slow—
When a sudden inspiration came,
As sudden winds do blow.

I took my hat, I took my stick,
My load I settled fair,
I approached that awful incubus
With an absent-mind air—
And I walked directly though him,
As if he wasn’t there!

In her poem entitled “Obstacle” as you can read above, Gilman explained women’s struggle to achieve equality with men in a very vivid illustration. In the first stanza, she symbolized ‘a mountain path’ as the ‘road’ a woman has to pass through to reach that equality. We know that it is quite a hard thing to do to climb a mountain, compared to when we walk on a flat road. Moreover, when we are burdened with many things to do, important business of my own, and other people’s too. This woman, or perhaps we can refer her to Gilman herself, walks through that hard way, bringing with her many things, not only for herself. She does that also for her folk—other women who believe that women are born equal to men. However, in the middle of her way, a Prejudice thwarts her effort. Prejudice here refers to patriarchal society—both men and women—who believe that women are the second sex.

Second stanza strengthens the first, that Gilman’s effort to reach equality was not an easy thing to do, moreover with her limited time and strength. We are not Highlanders that can live hundreds or thousands years, are we? Our time and strength to live in this world is limited. Prejudice made her struggle harder because he hindered her journey.

Third and fourth stanza illustrate the first thing Gilman did to continue her journey; that is to talk to Prejudice politely, quietly, trying to use her common sense, to convince Prejudice about the importance of her effort. The Prejudice seemed to listen to her, but he didn’t do anything to approve her intention, to continue her journey.

The fifth stanza showed Gilman using a more daring effort, to challenge the Prejudice in a sort of duel. It still didn’t work, though.

Feeling exhausted, Gilman changed her trick. The sixth stanzas illustrated Gilman’s way; no longer logical arguing nor haphazard anger. She begged the Prejudice on her knees, to ask for his pity on her. The seventh stanza showed that Gilman almost lost hope, so I sat before him helpless, in an ecstasy of woe-- . However, in the middle of her hopelessness due to the limited time and unfriendly weather, Gilman got a brilliant idea, when a sudden inspiration came, as sudden winds do blow. She depicted it in the last stanza of her poem. she stood up from her kneeling, prepared herself with all her loads and continued her journey. She concluded her effort in the richest last two lines: And I walked directly through him, as if he wasn’t there! She went on her effort, continued her journey, just ignored the Prejudice, considered him not exist. She eventually realized, for ages men have done whatever they wanted to do, ignoring their fellow human creatures—women. For ages women have been considered not exist. Therefore, it is just fair if women do exactly the same thing, ignore the existence of their fellow human creatures—men. Do what we think the best for us, for our betterment, for our own future.

Yogya 07.27 020106

A True Woman?

I shall speak about women’s writing. Woman must write herself. … Woman must put herself into the text—as into the world and into history—by her own movement. (Helene Cioux --- a French feminist writer)

In the nineteenth century America, the main norm imposed to middle and upper class women was well-known as The Cult of True Womanhood. If a woman wanted to be considered as “good” and “true” woman, she had to follow the four attributes in The Cult of True Womanhood; namely piety, purity, submission, and domesticity.

A woman must be pious in order to raise pious children that later on will be the pillars of the country in the future. (It is related to the fact that America was a Puritan country in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With its Industrial Revolution in the beginning of the nineteenth century, American men were busy outside home, in industry. To raise religious children, they gave that burden on women’s shoulder! American people didn’t want to leave their heritage as a pious country behind.) Since it is her obligation, she will be easily condemned if the children grow up not as religious people. While the father is “free” from this duty. Easily society will judge the mother as a “bad” woman if something “wrong” (read  the kid doesn’t grow up as pious person) happens. Not the father.

A woman must be pure. This is especially in the context that a woman is not supposed to have sex before marriage. (While men can do it to their hearts’ content!! Either before or after getting married) When a man proposes her for a marriage, a woman must give her virginity to her husband in return of the dowry the husband has paid to her parents. Later on, a woman still must keep their being pure, meaning having sex only with her husband, in return of the monthly paycheck her husbands give. No wonder, then, if many radical feminists propose an idea that marriage is just practice of exclusive prostitution.

A woman must be submissive. She must submit herself to her husband. Her husband has a higher position than her. Inevitably, it must be related to the money the husband gives her every month. (Referring to Marx theory, the one who has money has the authority; the one who doesn’t have money is marginalized.) The husband makes any decision related to the family matters. The woman is supposed to say, “My husband knows better than I do. Whatever he says is the best for all of us.” She is not supposed to argue. She must keep all her own ideas for herself. It is not good to debate a husband.

A woman must be domestic. She has to stay home to take care of all household chores, including to take care of the children and the husband as well.

These four tenets in The Cult of True Womanhood do not differ a lot from what has happened in Indonesia, right? Only we don’t know term like The Cult of True Womanhood with its piety, purity, submission, and domesticity. But the practice is just the same. Since I did research only what happened in the nineteenth century America, I don’t have any idea how these four tenets are similar to the condition in our country. What caused that? Can I simply say that Dutch (as a western country that used to colonize us for more than three centuries) brought this culture to our country? Or our ancestors in the past already practiced this for ages? In America, the separation between public and domestic spheres all started in the beginning of nineteenth century with the industrial revolution (during the previous centuries, people had home industry and America was still an agrarian country, so both men and women spent most of their time at home.)

Besides those four attributes, one most conspicuous thing is prohibiting novel reading. A woman is not allowed to read novels because possibly it will excite their way of thinking so that they will be rebellious toward the “good” norm. When a woman wants to read, she is supposed to read Bible only, or Conduct Literature that comprises articles about how to be good and true women. (In our country now, examples of this Conduct Literature are, let’s say magazines such as Kartini. Femina, etc that usually contains articles such as “how to be an ideal wife” or “how to be an ideal mother” or “how to attract men/boys”.)

If novel reading is prohibited, novel writing is more cruelly banned. A woman is not supposed to write, especially to express herself. It can be especially related to the third tenet of The Cult of True Womanhood norm; submission. Expressing what is in her mind verbally is not allowed, moreover in written form that can be read by other parties. When a woman feels that there is something wrong, she must repress it. No questioning.

No wonder during the nineteenth century America more women became patients of mental hospitals than men. The main reason is women must follow what society determines for them. Not all women are created as passive and idle. This unwise norm of course triggers rebel to intelligent, hardworking and creative women. Women have their own way of thinking. Women have their own right to decide what is good and bad for themselves.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist writer living in 1860-1935 proposed an idea that a woman must write to express herself. She cured herself from mental depression she suffered by writing a lot of articles, books, novels, and poems. She also went around America to express her way of thinking that a woman must be economically independent to have her own identity, to be equal to men.

So, girls, start writing from now on. Express yourself openly and confidently. Don’t let things blocked inside your mind and heart.

Yogya 19.08 010106

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Absolute Truth?

In the first chapter of his book, Hendar Riyadi illustrated three stories illustrating the beauty of living in a plural community. I mean the people illustrated have different kinds of religion. The first example is the story of Ahmad Wahib, a Muslim that was born in Sampang Madura. He spent his childhood with two Catholic priests. The two priests took care of him very well during his childhood. When meeting the two priests again in his adulthood, he asked himself whether he had to be hostile to both of the Catholic priests only because they had different religions from him; whether God had a heart to put the two good people in jail, only because they were not Muslim.

The second story is about Farid Esack, a Muslim who was born in Bonteheuwel, Café Flats, South Africa, in a very poor family. He owed a lot to his Jewish and Christian neighbors, especially when he was still very young. He wrote:

“The fact that my family’s sufferings became a shared burden with my Jewish and Christian neighbors made me suspect that the idea of an absolute truth of one religion is a logical one.”

The third story is about a woman who was born in a Muslim family. She converted to Christian when she was in junior high school because she studied in a Christian school. Her parents allowed her to do that under one condition that she would be a good Christian. The freedom to choose what religion to adhere from her parents made her give freedom to her children to choose which religion to adhere.

The third story reminded me of one neighbor of mine. The husband and wife who are Muslim have six children. Both of them (un)luckily are type of people who do not the teachings of Islam very well. Hoping to give the children the best education, they sent the children to Catholic elementary school. They thought that there was no good state or Islamic school around the neighborhood at that time. Five children continued to Catholic junior high school. Since then on they converted to Catholic. The same as Wiwik’s parents, they just asked the children to be good Catholic. The fourth child, however, stayed Muslim because she continued her study to state junior and senior high school. From a distance I saw this family were quite happy family. Apparently they didn’t have any significant friction due to the different religion.

Until one day the mother learned to recite Alquran from a neighbor. It was the time when most of the children already grew up, and the mother had much spare time so that she could come to her neighbor’s house to learn to recite Alquran, and also to learn some other Islamic teachings. The neighbor that got strong indoctrination about absolute truth in Islam told the mother of six children that she had (mis)led her children to hellish path. “Only Muslims will be welcome in heaven later. You are very responsible for your children’s well being later on because you already misled them.”

The mother felt very unhappy and guilty and sinful. But what could she do? Her six children all have grown up. Will they listen to her if she asks her to convert to Islam?

As far as I know, her youngest child eventually converted to Islam, I don’t know what triggered him to do that. Was it because of the mother’s plea? Or anything else?

When reading the chapter one of Hendar Riyadi’s book, I also remember an old friend of Angie’s dad. When we were all in our twenties, he was a secular person, praying and fasting during Ramadhan month if he wanted, consuming alcohol anytime he wanted. After some years I didn’t keep in touch with him, one day, around 10 years ago, he came into my house, telling Angie’s dad that he already got ‘enlightenment’ from God. He joined some missions to spread Islam to some remote areas. His ‘enlightenment’, however, out of the blue made him a very annoying patriarchal man. He pissed me off only because I don’t wear Muslim clothes. He never looked into my face when talking to me coz perhaps in his eyes I became like a temptress Eve who beguiled Adam. When I went to his house four years ago to have Angie’s school uniform made (apart from his missions to spread Islam, he is a tailor.) When I arrived to his house, quickly he said, without looking into my face, “Go the back of the house. A woman is not supposed to sit together with man in the living room.”

An enlightenment, huh?

Reading the book also reminded me of one ex workmate, a Christian who married a Muslim man. She told me when she visited her in-laws living out of town, she often felt oppressed because her in-laws asked her to pray five times a day, to fast during Ramadhan month, and they also encouraged her to wear Muslim clothes. As far as I know, when living in Semarang, she still goes to church that means she is still a Christian. I conclude that she still goes on with her religion, while her Muslim husband still keeps his Islam. She used to complain to me, “I am wondering why my Muslim in-laws are so arrogant, thinking that Islam is the only absolute truth. I am a Christian, I don’t consider this religion as an absolute truth. I respect my in-laws. Am I too much if I expect my in-laws to respect me too? I still keep my being Christian now because this has been my religion since I was born. I have no idea to convert to Islam yet. Even if that happens, I want it to happen naturally, without any oppression. I will let my daughter choose which religion she feels comfortable with.”
She and I dream to have a conducive atmosphere where people respect one another’s religion. So people will live peacefully.

LL 17.24 190507

Going Beyond Pluralism

Is it possible to create a country where there is no prejudice among people who adhere various different religions?

Two days ago I visited a book fair held in my hometown. I bought a book entitled “Melampaui Pluralisme, Etika Alquran tentang Keragaman Agama” (Going Beyond Pluralism: Ethics in Alquran on Varieties of Religion) by a young writer, Hendar Riyadi. The main goal of Hendar Riyadi to write such a book is to offer a new interpretation of Alquran in viewing relationships among religions in Indonesia to reach a more conducive situation in Indonesia.

He realizes that some clashes that have happened among religious communities in Indonesia are mostly caused by shallow interpretation of some verses in Alquran. He also realizes that as the majority in Indonesia, many Muslims arrogantly accuse other religions as wrong religions because they believe that Islam is the only right religion, the only gate to go to heaven. (They have been indoctrinated such a way since they were very young. And their being ignorant or not enough reading other kinds of books has made them believe in such indoctrination without being critical after they grow up.)

The question is: is such an arrogant treatment toward other religions only done by Muslims? People with other religions do not show such a childish treatment to Islam or any other religions?

The answer is of course NOT. We know that in many other parts of the world, people with other religions also do discriminative things to other people with different religions. However, it seems that there is a kind of natural law that the majority controls the minority. In Indonesia, with more than 80% of Indonesian people as Muslim, Muslim people take control.

When women (viewed as the weaker sex) struggle to create a more equalitarian world, it is very understandable if then the minority groups in Indonesia start to show their guts to oppose the arrogance shown by Muslim as the majority: to create a more conducive situation.

In this case I really appreciate Hendar Riyadi’s effort to create a bridge between the majority and the minority. He offered a new way to interpret some verses in Alquran that will create a more conducive atmosphere among people with different religions: there is no absolute truth of one religion.

If you are curious to know what theories Hendar Riyadi used in interpreting Alquran, buy the book and read it by yourself.

(NOTE: Believe me, I don’t know Hendar Riyadi personally, he doesn’t know me either. LOL.)

I am hoping that with Muslim people softening their hostility to people adhering other religions, this latter party will welcome it whole-heartedly and peacefully.

Let us create a better Indonesia in the future hand in hand, no matter what ethnic groups, religions, social classes, etc we have.

PT56 13.20 190507

Friday, May 18, 2007


According to Richard E. Palmer, in his book Hermeneutics Interpretation Theory in Schleirmacher, Dellthey, Heideger, and Gadamer, (1969, page 4 and 6), hermeneutics is one theory in humanities that focuses its analysis on understanding of understanding. When reading something, we will find an interpretation. When rereading it, it is always possible that we will find a deeper understanding of the passage that will possibly result in a more thorough interpretation. When coming to that interpretation, someone will be influenced on what has been stored in his/her mind, be it passages he/she has read, interpretation he/she has produced, or experience/exposure he/she has ever undergone in his/her life.

Therefore, one important question will come up: is there any really objective interpretation, free from one’s storage in one’s mind, free from any indoctrination one has ever got in one’s life, also free from one’s experience/exposure in life? Perhaps the answer is NOT.

The most important, in my opinion, is respecting each other’s opinion, not judging other opinions as wrong without trying to understand it first, without being oppressive to one group of people in one community.
Let us create peaceful world for ourselves, and our next generations.


 Free women from feeling marginalized, oppressed, and suppressed.
 Stop doing violence to women, or other minority groups

LL 14.55 180507

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is Feminism Against Marriage?

Is feminism against marriage?

Indeed many feminists opine that marriage is one institution that often oppresses women. Moreover in Indonesia where the marriage document states that in a marriage

Husbands act as breadwinner while wives act as the housewife/homemaker. Therefore, the husband is to support the family’s daily/monthly needs (as much as the husband’s ability to earn money), and the wife gets financial support from the husband as much as the husband’s ability to earn money.

Husbands lead and guide the family while wives respect and obey the husbands.

Husbands protect wives and children while wives take care of the household.

Husbands find solutions for problems faced by the family and wives respect and obey the solutions.

Husbands help wives do wives’ household chores.

At a glance the statements in the marriage document seem fine. However, when we pay more attention to the statements and read between the lines, we can see the imbalance of husbands and wives’ position in a family. Let us discuss the items one by one.

The first point, the appointment of men as breadwinner and women as the homemaker is an oppression. The use of words “give financial support as much as (or as low as?) to the wives will give space for men to do violence. Moreover with some hadith proposed by many ulemas (experts in Islamic teachings), “A pious woman is a woman who receives the money from the husband no matter how small the amount is and thank God for that.” While in the culture, people believe that a good (and smart) woman is a woman who can manage the money well.

When a man is not lucky to get money to give the wife, the wife must understand that. As a pious, good, and smart woman, the wife even oftentimes has to be able to find a way to survive. For those who are familiar with literary work, you can refer to the similar situation with the marriage between Torvald and Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE.

In fact the oppression here is for both men and women. They cannot choose which role they want to have. They must take it for granted. If not, they must be ready to be labeled ‘not normal’. One college friend of mine who decided together with her husband that she was the breadwinner and the husband was the homemaker once told me that she often got insulting questions, not only from public, but also from their own relatives.

In this era where it is already common for women to work to earn money in public sphere, they are still obliged to be homemakers because the marriage document states so. This made the oppression to women bigger.

The second point to me shows a very clear oppression to women. Not only can men lead and guide the family, women can do it as well. It is better if the statement is changed into both men and women lead and guide the family together, and respect each other. The words RESPECT EACH OTHER is more important to be emphasized, in my opinion. I find many examples of oppression because of the consensus of “the husband loves the wife and the wife respects the husband.” Many men complain to their wives, “Don’t you consider me as a man anymore so that you don’t listen to me?” A very tricky question that miraculously shuts women’s mouth and obey their husband because they are afraid to be labeled not a good and pious wife,
RESPECTING EACH OTHER can also be applied to better the third point. When a man respects his wife’s rights to do things she wants to do, he will understand that. Automatically protecting the wife and also the children will happen. Doing the household chores together will be more fairly and beautifully seen rather than the chores are only done by one side, the wife, and the man just busily observes his wife doing while saying, “You were born to do those household chores, my sweety. On the contrary, I was born only to look at you doing them.” In Indonesia, cooking, cleaning the house, washing and ironing clothes are still often viewed as women’s duties at home (because those women do not get paid professionally for those things.)

The fourth point is very oppressive to women. When facing problems, both man and woman had better discuss them together, measure the positive and negative points of the problems together, and then find solutions together. Both man and woman have equally the same right to express their opinions. And? Doing and obeying the solutions together. No party will be forced to listen and obey the other party.

The last point is good. However, when it is related to the first point—women as the homemaker, doing household chores is the main duty of a wife—many men will avoid doing this. Besides, dividing duties based on sex is still very strong in Indonesia. Many people still consider it as a wonderful thing when the husband helps doing household chores. Instead of considering it as something natural, people still adore men who are willing to help the wife do the cooking or washing clothes, for example.

Is it possible to change what has been stated in the marriage document so that marriage becomes women-friendly? I am doubtful of it thinking that Indonesian government is still very patriarchal (although we already had a woman president). Besides, is the problem easily solved only by changing the statements if the mind of many Indonesian people are still patriarchal?

Whether a marriage is oppressive to women or not, it all comes back to the two parties, the husband and the wife. As long as they respect each other, no matter what is stated in the document, none of them will feel oppressed. However, I must say that it needs a big courage on the husband’s side to oppose the mainstream of patriarchal culture. The example is from my college friend’s marriage life. She acts as the breadwinner while the husband acts as the homemakers and takes care of the children. Another example is my ex workmate. She is a full housewife while her husband is a specialist. She has divided the household chores with her husband. She mostly takes care of the two children they have, the husband does the cooking, the washing and ironing clothes, and cleaning the house. My friend will help her husband when he is busy with the patients.

When this happens, it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE for feminist women to get married. Marriage is no longer a cage for talented women to actualize themselves.

PT56 10.20 160507

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Room of One's Own

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN (1929) is one title of a popular book written by Virginia Woolf, a feminist writer from Britain. A talented woman will be as creative as man to produce literary work as long as she has her own room, her own privacy to expose her talent.

Room here can mean a real physical place, can be a bedroom or study room that exclusively belongs to a woman. In it, she can satisfy her greed to create or produce anything. No other person is allowed to enter it when the owner of the room, a woman, is busy doing something.

However, room here can also mean an abstract thing, such as special time where she can enjoy herself, either to write, to paint, or to do any other creative things. She can do it anywhere as long as nobody disturbs her, perhaps a park, a garden, a kitchen, the living room, or any other place. The most important thing is that she is respected by everybody to be herself.

Virginia Woolf who was born into a very communicative, literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate, late-nineteenth-century world was quite lucky. She could dig out her potential to her heart’s content so that she could produce many masterpieces, such as her novels, Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, until A Room of One’s Own. Charlotte Perkins Gilman had to undergo nervous breakdown to pursue her work as a writer because her first husband, Charles Walter Stetson did not support her effort to “get a name by her own name” and not as a Mrs. Charles Walter Stetson. Alice James—the sister of Henry James, and Edith Wharton were two other examples of women writers who were diagnosed as to suffer from nervous breakdown. Was it because they did not have their own room? Their own privacy to do what they want to do to express themselves?

Anna Wickham in her poem “Dedication of the Cook” criticized the condition a woman had to face when she wanted to do.

If any ask why there’s no great She-Poet,
Let him come live with me, and he will know it:
If I’d indite an ode or mend a sonnet,
I must go choose a dish or a bonnet.
For she who serves in forced virginity
Since I am wedded will not have me free;
And those new flowers my garden is so rich in
Must die for clammy odors of my kitchen.

One century will have passed since Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own. In my country, Indonesia, lotsa women still do not enjoy their own private room, their own privacy, moreover after they get married. A married woman is still obliged to give the first priority to her husband, and then children, and themselves as the least important.

PT56 13.45 150507

Monday, May 14, 2007



Rosemary Radford Ruether in her book entitled “New Woman New Earth” wrote that the root of the misogynist was firstly moulded in the early first millennium B.C. in Hebrew and Greek cultures. It was the starting point of men wanting to free themselves from dependency on nature, and to master nature, they tried subordinating it and linking their essential selves with a transcendent principle beyond nature which is pictured as intellectual and male. This image of transcendent, male, spiritual deity is a projection of the ego or consciousness of ruling-class males, who envision a reality, beyond the physical processes that gave them birth, as the true source of their being. Men locate their true origins and natures in this transcendent sphere, which thereby also gives them power over the lower sphere of “female” nature. (1995:13-14).

In genesis stories created out of this view, the world is no longer seen as evolving out of a primal matrix which contains within it both heaven and earth the organic and the spiritual. Creation is seen as initiated by a flat from above, from an immaterial principle beyond visible reality. Nature, which once encompassed all reality, is now subjugated and made the lower side of a new dualism. Anthropology and cosmology are split into a dualism between a transcendent spiritual principle and a lower material reality. A struggle ensues against the old nature and mother religions by prophets and philosophers who portray it as immoral or irrational. Consciousness is abstracted into a sphere beyond visible reality, including the visible heavens.

This higher realm is the world of divinity. The primal matrix of life no longer encompasses spiritual power, gods, and souls, but is debased as mere “matter” (a word which mans “mother”). Matter is created by an ego-flat from a transcendent spiritual power. Visible nature is posterior and created by transcendent “Mind”. Sky and earth, once complementary, become hierarchical. Maleness is identified with intellectuality and spirituality, femaleness is identified with the lower material nature. This also defines the female as ontologically dependent and morally inferior to maleness.

This view of women as inherently inferior, servile, and “carnal” beings creates a symbol system that is also applied to the relations of masters and slaves, ruling and subjugated classes and races. Aristotle systematically develops this view of women as the type of the naturally servile person vis-à-vis free Greek males. In his biological and political sciences, free Greek males represent the ruling “reason”, which must subjugate the “body people” represented by women, slaves, and barbarians. (Ruether, 1995:14)

A misogynism developed, both in Greek literature and in the later strata of Old Testament and talmudic Judaism. These texts expound the evilness of women and trace the origins of evil in the world to female figures, such as Eve and Pandora (who are probably debased mother-goddess figures).

In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, women are believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical Eve, the temptress, both her guilt and her guile. Consequently, they were all untrustworthy, morally inferior, and wicked. Menstruation, pregnancy, and childbearing were considered the just punishment for the eternal guilt of the cursed female sex. The Old Testament stated:

"I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare ... while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all" (Ecclesiastes 7:26-28).

The Hebrew literature which is found in the Catholic Bible stated:

"No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die" (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24).

St. Paul in the New Testament mentioned:

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner" (I Timothy 2:11-14).

Below is what significant people in history stated:

St. Tertullian was even more blunt than St. Paul, while he was talking to his 'best beloved sisters' in the faith, he said: 6

"Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die."

St. Augustine was faithful to the legacy of his predecessors, he wrote to a friend:

"What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman ... I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children."

Centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective:

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."

In the anthropology of Philo and the Church Fathers, maleness and femaleness are treated as expressions of this body-soul split. Women are defined as analogous to body in relation to the ruling mind: either obediently subjugated body (the wife), or sensual bodiliness in revolt against the governance of reason (the harlot). Women are assimilated into the definition of sin. The bodily principle is seen as so intrinsically demonic that the high road to salvation demands the spurning of bodily life altogether for the ascetical virgin state. Sexuality and procreation correspond to the lower realm of corruption, of coming-to-be-and-passing-away. Redemption demands the flight from corruptibility, symbolized by virginity. In unitary spiritual selfhood, beyond sexuality or duality (“neither male nor female”), men and women might be spiritually equal. Christianity grants women as well as men the capacity to seek the higher life of virginity. For women, virginity frees them from the curse of Eve, which is to bear children in sorrow, and to be under the dominion of the husband (Genesis. 3:16).

Christianity typically produces a schizophrenic view of women. Women are split into sublimated spiritual femininity (the Virgin Mary) and actual fleshly women (fallen Eve). The ideals of virginity are exalted into an ethereal realm of “spiritual motherhood”, untainted by any contact with the flesh, while actual women are imaged along the lines of feared and repressed “carnality”. The cult of the virgin mother arises, not as a solution to, but as a corollary of, the denigration of fleshly maternity and sexuality. Actual sexuality is analyzed as “dirt”, while the repressed libidinal feelings are sublimated in mystical eroticism, expressed by the spiritual sacred marriage of the virgin soul with Christ. The love of the Virgin Mary does not correct but presupposes the hatred of real women.


Hostility to women reached a peak during sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the outbreak of the witch hunts. The antagonisms nurtured by medieval Christianity seemed to culminate in the era from the Black Death through the religious wars. (Ruether, 1995: 18)

The romantic period following the French Revolution secularized and generalized the concept of spiritual femininity of the Virgin Mary. The nineteenth century image of women as naturally more delicate, moral, spiritual, less sexual than men was compounded of the fusion of Mariology and courtly love with the bourgeois Protestant idealization marriage and the home.

In the aftermath of the French Revolution when the very fabric of Western civilization seemed to be undermined, European thinkers went scrambling to recover bits and pieces of a threatened social order. The popularization of the mariological tradition of spiritual femininity was an integral part of this reaction. Romanticism sought, simultaneously, to renew human sensibilities through contact with the mystical depths of nature, from which rationalistic man had become alienated, and to compensate for the depersonalized world of industrialism and democracy that threatened the house of patriarchal society. The Victorian cult of True Womanhood was a compensatory ideology fashioned to serve these needs and negations.

The cult of True Womanhood appearing in the middle of the nineteenth century comprises: four cardinal virtues, namely, piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. Religion or piety is believed to be the core of a woman’s virtue, the source of her strength. Religion belongs to woman by divine right, a gift of God and nature. The vestal flame of piety is lightened up by Heaven in the breast of woman. Therefore, “the Universe must be enlightened, improved, and harmonized by woman… bringing the world back from its revolt and sin” (http://www.

Purity, the second characteristic of the Cult of True Womanhood, is as essential as piety to a young woman, its absence in a woman is unnatural and unfeminine. Inside patriarchy, where a woman has traditionally belonged to a man, passed ceremoniously on to her husband almost as a piece of property on her marriage, taking on her husband’s name, as she leaves her father’s behind, her purity is the prize (Ussher, 1993:27)

Women are supposed to be pure of heart, mind, and body, not engaging in sexual intercourse until marriage, and even then not enjoying it. Without purity, she is no woman at all, but a member of some lower order. A fallen woman is a fallen angel, unworthy of the celestial company of her sex. To contemplate such loss of purity would bring tears; to be guilty of such a crime would lead a woman to madness or death.

Submission is presumed to be the most feminine virtue expected of women. Men are supposed to be religious, although they rarely have time for it, and supposed to be pure, although it comes awfully hard to them, but men are the movers, the doers, the actors. Women are the passive, submissive responders. The order of dialogue is of course fixed in Heaven. Man is woman’s superior by God’s appointment. Therefore, she should submit to him for the sake of good order at least. A young wife should not feel and act for herself because when, next to God, her husband is not the tribunal to which her heart and intellect appeals—the golden bowl of affection is broken. Women are warned that if they tamper with this quality, they tamper with the order of the Universe.


Industrial Revolution indeed sharpened the dichotomy of public and domestic sphere. With more and more industries developing, more and more people (especially men) decided that women were domestic creatures, forgetting that some time in the past, men and women worked hand in hand to survive, both in and outside home. This view was wrapped by religious teachings knowing that religions have always taken a great part of people’s lives.

The hostility toward women, strengthened by the dichotomy of public and domestic sphere during Victorian Period urged women’s movement to deconstruct their predecessors’ misogyny. The first women convention held in Seneca Falls on July 19, 1848 could be called as the first awakening women’s awareness to better their lives in the still male-dominated world.

Almost two centuries has passed since that convention. What have women reached with their struggle?
 More women go to college to get education.
 More women work in public spheres.
 More women hold governmental positions, such as ministry, president, etc.
 More women hold professional jobs, such as doctors, scientists, astronauts, etc.

Can we say that women have successfully terminated misogyny? Absolutely the answer is NOT YET. There are still many women that cannot enjoy their rights, such as joining public activities, getting education as high as they want, joining politics world, choosing any profession they want, and more important, to make a choice for their own life without interference from their parents or other family members.

In Indonesia itself, women’s struggle face hostility and threats both from men (who naively or foolishly think that women just try to forget their nature when wanting to be equal with men) and women who have been blindly indoctrinated that their imprisoning at home is for their own good. With more and more regions in Indonesia applying the so-called Islamic syariat as law, women are threatened to be back to their “old sphere”, at home. History has proven that religions (such as Jewish, Christian/Catholic, and Islam) have always been abused to legitimate men’s dominant power on women.

Misogyny has existed for many millions centuries, and women’s movement has been done only for two centuries. Women must not stop struggling. There are many things to do for betterment. Hopefully we do not need millions centuries to realize the equalitarian world for men and women.

PT56 13.35 140507

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Love for Share

"Berbagi Suami" is a movie produced by one young female movie director from Indonesia, Nia Dinata. In English, it is entitled "Love for Share".

In short, the movie illustrates problems and daily routines of three different families with different background where the three husbands there practiced polygamy. The first family portrays a quite high-class social family. The wife is a doctor, an obstetrician, I suppose. No matter how high her education is, she does not complain openly when she finds out her husband has the second wife without her permission. She doesn't complain for long but her bitter reaction when she found out about the second wife for the first time. After that, she showed ignorance, as a result of her repressing her feeling. Her only son who didn't like to see his mother treated unfairly by the father always provoked her to rebel. But he didn't succeed. As a result, he grows up as a cynical guy toward love. The first wife's ignorance toward anything her husband does makes her not give a damn when she finds out the third and fourth wife of the husband. Besides ignorance, there is another possibility why she doesn't rebel openly. She is blinded by her interpretation of Islamic teaching that a man can have more than one wife.

The second family illustrates middle to lower class society. The man works only as a chauffeer or a movie producer. Different from the first man whose wife lives in different houses, the second man lives together with his three wives, and later on the fourth wife. The three wives seem to love one another so that they live together peacefully. Is it really true? If they do feel happy, by the end of the movie, the second and third wives do not need to run away from the house. They run away secretly to live together. Apparently both of these women get involved in lesbianism. They find more satisfaction and true love between both of them, rather than from their husband.

The third family illustrates Chinese family. The man and the woman have food stall and manage it together. The man then secretly marries one of the waitresses there. After some time, the first wife comes to where the secret wife lives and scolds her together with her two teenage daughters. They together almost do violence to the young wife. Trickily, the young wife pretends to be unconscious.

Obviously Nia Dinata produced such a movie to criticize the practice of polygamy in Indonesia, and not on the way around, to support people to practice it. However, many people read it wrongly.

Women in Patriarchal Culture

Read one ridiculous article in the following website:

Do you agree that a woman bribes her husband with luxurious things for love?

What do you think of a woman who is willing to buy her husband a luxurious car only to sleep with her? I am of opinion that the woman is ridiculously silly and the man acts like a gigolo.

Why are those women willing to do ridiculous things only to make their husbands treat them lovingly, kiss, touch, and make love with them as enthusiastically as during their honeymoon?

My answer is: They just downgrade themselves.

Is it fully their mistake? NO.

Unfortunately they live in a community that put men’s position very high and women are put in a very low position. This imbalance is wrapped by strict (but wrong) religious indoctrination. Have you ever heard misleading hadith saying that if children’s heaven is under the mother’s feet, while women’s heaven is under the husbands’?

Just look again how Prophet Muhammad treated his wives, especially his first wife, Khadijah. He adored her very much.

This is also supported by kind of culture that adores marriage. By getting married, a Muslim has done one so-called sunnah encouraged by Prophet Muhammad. Marriage is considered as the only gate to get worldly and heavenly happiness. This makes many women let themselves hurt mentally and psychologically (and sometimes physically) as long as they still live in a marriage.

Besides, wrong interpretation of Surah Annisa verse 3 as to encourage men to practice polygamy (instead of prohibiting men to do that) has made women worried that their husband will marry another if they do not serve their husbands well, although the husbands treat them bad. Believing such an interpretation as what God truly has said to human beings without reserved has made many women afraid to question the just treatment between man and woman.

PT56 12.50 130507

Honour Killing (my comment)

Talking about honor killings done in some Arabian countries, I remember my chat with my first online boyfriend some time in 2000. One day he had a chat with a very young girl, in her early twenties. She told him about one of her cousins killed by the family that found out she had sex out of wedlock. She said, “She deserved to die because she could not keep her chastity.”

“How about the man with whom she had sex? Was he sentenced to death too?” Rick asked her.
“Of course not. Different from a woman, a man is not heavily burdened to keep the chastity (?).” The naïve young girl said.

“Don’t you think it is an ugly policy?” Rick asked her again.

“No. She deserved to die, I have told you.”


The naivety made the girl not think further that the different treatment toward man and woman who do exactly the same thing can be included into a crime. Her naivety can be caused by her ignorance. But it can also be caused by the prohibition of women to get more education, difficulty to access books anytime they want, and also religious (wrong) indoctrination that women’s sphere is fully at home so that they do not need to equip themselves with knowledge.

Have you ever heard that men are afraid of intellectual women? Intellectual women will be rebellious? Not all men of course, but inferior men.

Naïve women will not question why they are treated differently. They will consider it as naturally created from God. Moreover, if it is wrapped with religious teachings.

This is one of my worries with the spread of Islamic syariah in Indonesia.

PT56 12.15 130507

Honour Killings?

Turkish honour killings: A dishonourable practice
By Diyarbakir And Van
Source: The Economist
April 12th 2007


Despite a government crackdown, honor killings persist in Turkey

With his soulful eyes and timid smile, Murat Kara, a 40-year-old stocking seller in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, is an unlikely murderer. Yet 13 years ago he pumped seven bullets into his younger sister. His widowed mother and uncles told him to kill the 17-year-old after she eloped with her boyfriend, staining the family's honour. Mr Kara resisted for three months because “I loved my sister and didn't believe she deserved to die.” But then the neighbours stopped talking to him, the grocer refused to sell him bread, the local imam said he was disobeying Allah, and his mother threatened to curse the milk she had breast-fed him. So he gave in.

The killing of women by male relatives who believe they have dishonoured the family—eg, by getting pregnant outside wedlock or wearing revealing clothes—has haunted Turkey for centuries. Bowing to pressure from the media, feminist groups and the European Union, Turkey's mildly Islamist government has launched an unprecedented campaign against honour killings, disarming even its fiercest critics.

State-employed imams now declare honour killings “sinful” in the Friday sermons they deliver across the country. Tens of thousands of army conscripts and police recruits are taught that violence against women is bad. Brooking the ire of his conservative constituents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, told a gathering of foreign Muslims that “discrimination against women is worse than racism.” Nor is this mere talk. Turkey's penal code has been tweaked to stiffen penalties not only for those who commit honour killings but also for those who plan them. Had Mr Kara, who got seven years thanks to a judge who deemed he had been unduly provoked, killed his sister today, he would in all probability be serving a life sentence.

The trouble is that, despite the government's efforts, honour-related crimes show little sign of abating. A parliamentary report last August found that 1,091 such crimes had been committed in the past five years—over four a week. Only three of 51 honour killers interviewed for another study said they had any regrets.

In a society where female chastity is venerated and the motto “my horse, my gun and my woman are sacred” is common among men, “this should not come as a surprise,” notes Zozan Ozgokce, a female activist who runs an EU-funded project in Van to counsel abused women. Fatma Sahin, a deputy from Mr Erdogan's AK Party who drafted the parliamentary report, blames the deeply entrenched patriarchal and feudal system in the Kurdish provinces, where many of the murders occur. Rampant poverty and illiteracy have been exacerbated by the forced eviction of millions of Kurdish villagers by the army in its war against PKK rebels in the 1990s.

With refugee families of up to 20 or more crammed into tiny slums, incest and rape have shot up, says Handan Coskun, a social worker in Diyarbakir who is investigating links between female suicides and honour crimes. One survivor said she was ordered to take her own life (and locked in a room with a bottle of bleach) by her father, who sought to disguise his daughter's failed murder as suicide. She managed to escape; less fortunate souls have been found dead with their wrists slit or hanging from a rope.

In Diyarbakir and elsewhere in the south-east, new efforts are being made to protect vulnerable women through emergency hotlines and shelters for abused women. The first government-run refuge opened its doors outside Diyarbakir two years ago. Many of the residents are pregnant teenage rape victims, who risk being killed by relatives who blame them (and not their rapists) for their plight.

Still, male accomplices or perpetrators are often targeted, too. And honour crimes are not a uniquely Kurdish phenomenon, says Leyla Pervizat, an Istanbul-based expert. This is especially true of the fiercely conservative Black Sea region where “after the men are killed, their penises are cut off and stuffed in their mouths,” she adds laconically. What gives her hope is that the number of those willing to tip off the authorities about a planned murder is growing—so more lives are being saved. And many of the whistleblowers are male.

Friday, May 11, 2007


There is a very interesting article I found in one mailing list I join. It is about the legal abortion law in Tunisia, one country whose population is 99% Muslim. You can find it at (the article is in Bahasa).

As a feminist who believes that women must control their bodies by themselves, and not other people—such as their parents, husbands, boyfriends, or the country where they live—of course I do agree that option to have abortion is exclusively in a woman’s hand. Women—especially those who are more than seventeen years old so that they can be considered as mature enough to make big decisions for their own life—must really control their own bodies. They are free to do anything they want to do with their bodies; namely to choose what clothes to wear to cover their bodies, to have sex with whom they are willing to do it, to be pregnant with their sex partner(s) that they want, until to get abortion when they don’t want the fetus to grow up. And not to forget with the advanced technology that can make a woman pregnant without having sex with a man, or without sperm produced by a man.

Some advantages from practicing abortion legally in my opinion (there must be a strict regulation though; that is to do the abortion before the pregnancy reaches three months old)

1. There will not be any baby born without being needed and wanted by the mother, so that it will create a very good emotional bond between the mother and the baby. I assume that many babies are born from a mother who is not mentally and psychologically ready so that it can cause the mother to neglect the baby. Feeling neglected by the mother will create psychologically troublesome kid.

2. There will not be any new-born baby disposed in a garbage can, for example. It often happens in Indonesia because many women who get pregnant accidentally are not ready to get their babies, but they cannot get professional treatment for abortion. To avoid shame to deliver baby out of wedlock, many women dispose their babies.

3. All babies will be born in a ready family so that they will be raised well; mentally, psychologically, socially, and financially. They can get good education to pursue their future. This will result in a good future for the country as well.

4. No woman will die uselessly because she has to face unprofessional, unhygienic and careless abortion.

5. It helps succeed the government’s program to control birth (the government’s family planning program).

When the government succeeds to decrease the birth rate, the government will be able to give their best service to the citizens because they do not need much and much money for the citizens’ welfare (to provide good facilities for education, health, food and drink, transportation, etc).

To end this short article, I want to quote what Germaine Greer stated in her book THE WHOLE WOMAN:
What women ‘won’ was the ‘right’ to undergo invasive procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies, unwanted not just by them but by their parents, their sexual partners, the governments who would not support mothers, the employers who would not employ mothers, the landlords who would not accept tenants with children, the schools that would not accepts students with children. (p. 86)

PT56 12.20 110507

Marriage Law in Indonesia

Since feminist movement was spread in Indonesia widely in the beginning of 1990s, more and more women organizations have done their best to awaken women’s awareness about the gender bias applied in many rules, regulations, policies, etc. Those gender-biased rules, regulations, and policies are not to be viewed as naturally created, but socially constructed.

One example is what is stated in the Marriage Law Number 1 issued in 1974. The chapter 4 of this law says that men can have another wife as long as under some conditions; such as the first wife suffers from one disease for a long time so that she cannot serve the husband; the first wife is proven infertile so that the couple cannot have children. On the other hand, it is not stated that a wife can marry another man if those two unfavorable things happen to her husband; i.e. the husband suffers from one disease for a long time so that he cannot support the needs of the family; the husband is allegedly infertile so that he cannot make his wife pregnant.

Women organizations have tried to awaken women about this unfair treatment. It is very important because the strong indoctrination done by Islamic religious leaders—that it is acceptable for Muslim men to practice polygamy—has blinded many common women so that they see the rules as naturally created: men are the only right sex while women are the other, so that women have to follow what is decided by men.

After struggling for more than one decade to make another more fair marriage law for both sides—man and woman—women must admit that it is not as easy as to turn our palm down. There are still many women (including those who have high education that are supposed to be able to think critically) who think that men are created superior so that they can have more than one wife; a group of women who believe that by sacrificing their life in this world will lead them to heaven in their life after death.

Shockingly, recently there is a group of people that want marriage law to be reviewed again because it does not support Muslim men to practice polygamy. The two reasons—the wife has suffered from disease for a long time, and the wife is infertile so that she cannot get pregnant—are considered to make Muslim men difficult to practice what has been done by Prophet Muhammad; that is to have more than one wife.

Obviously they see the polygamy done by Prophet Muhammad only from one side without trying to view the reasons why Muhammad did that, without taking a look at the first marriage (that is monogamous) Muhammad had with Khadijah that lasted for twenty-five years. Muhammad’s polygamy had social and political reasons.

Ø Social reason è to help women whose husbands died in one big war—Uhud war where the Muslim were beaten. Living as a widow in that era was a very disadvantageous thing, a woman could not become the proprietor of her own things. Her riches would belong to her brother or uncle. If the brother or uncle cheated her, her children would lose their right.

Ø Political reason è to unite many ethnic groups that often had war to one another to seek power at that time. Muhammad’s wives came from different ethnic groups so that it was expected they would not get involved in wars that would just kill innocent people.

In this era, what reasons do those selfish man have to marry the second, third, and fourth wives but their greed in sex?

Indeed it is not easy to realize the more equalitarian culture, to make people to have equalitarian perspective in viewing life. The same Marriage Law can be viewed from two contradictory perspectives: women view it as not women-friendly, it can easily encourage violence to women; while selfish men view it as a big obstacle to have more than one wife.

PT56 08.25 110507