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Monday, July 30, 2007

A Lesson in Life

One workmate of mine used to work in Lombok island, located in the eastern part of Indonesia. She told me since she was in college, she had set her heart on living in this exotic place. People who have visited Lombok island usually say that this island is even more beautiful than Bali, the most visited place in Indonesia nowadays by foreign tourists, because it is more serene, pristine, and “original” than Bali.

After living there for some years, she went back to Java island. I forgot why she didn’t just go on living there. If I am not mistaken she said that she felt “enough” to have experience living in that remote area and she had to go back to the most populated island in Indonesia, Java island, the “center” of everything, education, entertainment, shopping, etc.

Around three years ago she got married, not because of love, but because being married was “the must-passed step” in someone’s life to be considered “normal” and “happy” by other people. So “cheated” was she in the consensus of patriarchal society that she believed that everything would be alright after she got married. She would no longer be besieged by questions from society, “When will you get married?” She was in the middle of thirties at that time.

Before getting married, she barely had time to know her husband-to-be because they didn’t know for a long time before deciding to get married. This was the result of religious teaching that a man and a woman had better get married as soon as possible, without any time for courting to know each other better. They would have much time to do that after getting married. The main reason for this teaching was to avoid doing sinful things, such as touching, kissing, and intercourse before they became legal husband and wife.

I still remember after the first weeks she got married, she said that it was the best decision to get married soon so that both she and her husband were “legal”, they could do anything they wanted (read  touching, kissing, until intercourse) without any barrier, without feeling sinful because violating religion’s teachings.

FYI, after getting married, she somewhat retreated herself from me, she was not as open as before. We still sometimes had a private talk, but she did not talk as much and as open before she got married.

A couple of weeks ago, she told me two distinct things.

First, suddenly she said that she missed her days when she lived all alone in Lombok island. “I was lonely at that time, but I enjoyed my time being alone. I sometimes feel so burdened to be a mother and a wife. Now I set my heart on spending some time again there in Lombok, all alone, leaving hubby and my two children. I deserve to get my freedom don’t I?”

As a person who still enjoys my “freedom” (I mean not involved with anybody but Angie, my daughter), I don’t want to provoke her though. LOL. Even in this situation I still miss my time when I was pursuing my study in Yogya, where I lived really all alone. I still sometimes want to live some days without Angie’s begging me to do this and that for her.

However, from what both she and I feel, I can conclude that we all sometimes need some time to be alone; one thing that is still considered weird in Indonesia, especially for women. Although men are mostly understood when they want to leave the family, women are forced to be tied closely to the family, if they want to be categorized into “good women”.

What I can do to this friend of mine is just giving her support, “Yes, despite our being social creatures, we also deserve to enjoy being alone. Just do what you think you need to do. Take a break for some time from your job, and enjoy your freedom.”

Second thing she said was, “Now I realize that the Islamic way to get married is not always good. It is even oftentimes misleading.”

“Islamic way to get married? What do you mean?” I didn’t catch what she meant.

“Well, you know in our religion we are taught that it is a big sin to be close to someone—different sex—before he legally becomes our husband, to avoid adultery. We are taught to get married as soon as we meet someone who really attracts our attention. To know him more after getting married is more beautiful because there will be no barrier between us. But what about if after getting married we find out that in fact he/she is not like what we want. We will regret very much. We can file divorce, yes, but isn’t it better that we know each other well first, then we get married, to avoid the possibility to get divorced because our spouse turns out to be not like what we want?”

I smiled to hear her say so. She obviously belongs to the type of person who doesn’t easily believe in what people say before she proves it by herself, by undergoing it in her life.

I am of opinion that religions are created by some brainy people to help other people; to help make this world run better. However then in the process, the good teachings have been messed up by selfish people; even the teachings are used to marginalize a group of people. And as we know, unfortunately, many religions are even abused by people to corner women. And some of the teachings are even abused to create a big gap among people so that they hate each other.

Going back to my friend who inspired me to write this article. :) We used to be close with one more friend, she moved to another town to follow her husband four years ago. Among three of us, she was the most innocent and child-like. Her marriage has taught her a lot about the real lesson in this life.

PT56 17.00 290707

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Erotic dream, anyone?

In her article “How not to have sex with your friend”, Ayu Utami mentioned two possible reasons why out of the blue some people get the urge to have sex with their friends. First, because of alcoholic influence; second, having erotic dreams.

The question is: have you ever had erotic dreams with your friend(s)? The following question is: How could this kind of dream come into our sleep?

How about the first cause? Well, I have never tried any alcoholic drink so that I don’t know whether this kind of drink can really weaken the center of the brain whose function to control ourselves. LOL.

Several weeks ago when awake one morning, suddenly I realized that I had an erotic dream with one of my workmates. I was surprised to remember that. Why him? In my opinion he belongs to the loyal type of husband, with big control to himself. He is also the pious type. (read  pious type is referred to those who have big control of their emotion, passion, and sort of things, so in my opinion, a pious person will not have any idea to flirt other women. If we still find a “pious” person who cannot control himself, it means that he is just “fake”. LOL. If a “pious” person still greedily enjoys looking at other women, it means he even just abuses his religion. )

It was really an accident for me to have that dream. LOL. I don’t think I need to write the details of the dream, right? LOL.

If referring to the psychoanalytical theory saying that dream is the way out of what we keep in our subconsciousness, can I say that in my subconsciousness, I have ever wanted something erotically with that workmate of mine? LOL. I must say that this theory is wrong. I have never thought of that possibility. I have never consumed any alcoholic drink either that probably will “help” trigger that erotic want to come out of its hiding place. LOL.

In episode 7 season 5 of “Sex and the City” with the title “The Big Journey”, Carrie told her good friends about her want to have sex badly. She mentioned of her going to San Fransisco on a book tour, to promote her book, and perhaps to meet Big, her ex boyfriend. When Miranda gave her a stern look, Carried said, “Guys, I need to have sex. It has been too long. Lately I have been having dreams where I run up to complete strangers and I just start kissing them.”

I am of opinion that the psychoanalytical theory is properly applied in Carrie’s case. She wanted to have sex badly so that it appeared in her dream. Instead of doing it with a complete stranger, she chose to travel across the country to meet her ex boyfriend to get laid.

And I still don’t find the answer why I had such an erotic dream with a workmate of mine. If I could choose, I would rather have erotic dreams with complete strangers, just like what Carrie had. LOL. I don’t need to feel awkward when seeing that workmate of mine at the office after the dream. LOL.

PT56 11.17 260707

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Violence to Women

LRC-KJHAM, one non-governmental organization concerning on women and children in Semarang, Central Java, reported that during November 2006-june 2007, there were 412 cases of violence to women in Central Java. The highest number, 125, was rape cases, and the second highest, 113, was domestic violence. Some other cases were violence done by boyfriend to girlfriend (66); sexual abuse (13), violation of female migrant workers’ rights (34), violence toward female prostitutes (54) women trafficking (7).

Fatkhurozi from LRC-KJHAM said that the high cases of violence to women mostly are caused by the weak law to protect women, supported by patriarchal culture that still marginalizes women so that they are very vulnerable to physical, sexual, and psychological violence, plus exposed to trafficking.
Even though the government already issued the law on domestic violence, it does not mean that Indonesian government is really serious to diminish the discriminative treatment toward women. There are still many government officials who still do not understand gender equality in making public policies. Women parties view the Marriage Law number 1 1974 as very discriminative and oppressive toward women, there are still many parties who do not realize that, and even think that the law is to protect women. (For this, you can check my post I entitled Islamic Law in Indonesia).

This bad condition is supported by the (still) gender-biased media in reporting cases. For example, when reporting a rape case, the media still views women, the victims, as the seducer, who triggered the rape to happen. In this globalization era, one cannot deny the strong influence of the media in life. When the media is still patriarchal, it will be more difficult to “change” the public way of thinking.
Referring to my previous post, it is really high time to include women’s studies into school curricula to introduce the idea of equality between men and women in all aspects, without any exception. It is also high time to give gender awareness to the media workers (newsmakers).

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Feminist Theory

“Why ‘Feminist Theory’?”

In her article “Taking the Gold Out of Egypt: The Art of Reading as a Woman”, Susan Schibanoff emphasizes that feminist theory means “reading as a woman”. How important is this “reading as a woman”?

In this era, it is still very important to use this theory because it is undeniable that everywhere around the world, the patriarchal culture still stays put strongly, in many aspects of human being’s lives. Women are still considered the second sex, no matter big progress in women’s lives has been reached after the women’s movement started to spread to all around the world.

‘Reading as a woman’ is really important so that people will really listen to what women want, based on their way of thinking, and not based on patriarchal society’s way of thinking. Saying that all women want the same thing (let’s say for education and profession) is a na├»ve thing.

Yesterday a female student of mine told me about her mother’s suggestion to take English Department major after she graduates from senior high school. Her mother reasoned, “To be an English teacher is feminine, very “woman”. Besides, it is easy, not hard. You don’t need to study hard, for example by studying in Engineering faculty. That is your future husband’s responsibility.”
If I use Schibanoff’s “reading as a woman” to view this simple ‘text’, I will come to the conclusion that what my student’s mother said did not purely come from women’s point of view that was free from patriarchal culture’s influence. She just followed the stereotyping that as weaker sex, women did not need to study hard, or to work hard, because as women we were born to be feminine creatures.

It doesn’t mean that I want to blame that idea. No. The choice to work hard or not is on my student’s hands. But of course I do hope that “reading as a woman” consensus is spread more widely so that women know that it is okay for them to make their own choice, to make up their mind, free from patriarchal culture’s stereotyping. They can choose “feminine” profession, such as teacher (however, I never think that my being teacher makes me more feminine LOL), nurse, secretary, flight attendant etc. Women can also choose to study in “macho” or “masculine” majors, such as mechanical engineering, and have “masculine” profession, such as boxer, scientist, astronaut, etc.

I am wondering if one day this theory “reading as a woman” is no longer needed because people stop viewing women as the second sex. And people choose education and profession not based on sex, but based on interest and capabilities.

PT56 11.35 240707

The Death of the Author

I consider myself as one “student of Lucien Goldmann’s Genetic Structuralism school”. Therefore, I somewhat do not agree with the idea of “the death of the author”. When a writer writes a piece of literary work, he/she must get influence a lot from the era when he/she lives, the place where he/she lives, the culture that many people adhere in that era and in that place. The era, the place, the culture, plus the worldview at the time of writing will more or less influence the result of the literary work.
I believe in Goldmann’s theory very much so that I shape my students to follow my way of thinking. Before analyzing one literary work—novels, poems, dramas, biography, articles, etc—I suggest my students to study the background of the writing of it, to get the best interpretation. I am of opinion that the best interpretation is to produce an interpretation which is similar or exactly the same as what the writer wants to convey to the readers. So, how can I “kill” the author?

Perhaps one can say that it is all caused by my inferiority, not really confident with my full interpretation if only based on what is stated in the work itself, to study the semiotics, the diction, the plot, the character portrayed in the work, etc.

When reading the discussion “the death of the author” in one mailing list I join, I remember the day when I got my thesis examination. One theory I used in writing my thesis was “feminist literary theory” with its core “READING AS A WOMAN”. This in fact invited one examiner’s curiosity, “Isn’t it enough only using Goldmann’s theory and Freud’s psychoanalytical criticism?” she asked me. “Don’t you think that we will be able to come to the similar interpretation that you have produced with the two theories, without feminist literary theory?”

My answer was that no matter what, men and women would likely have different way of thinking in viewing things and experiences in life. “Protection” can mean ‘love’ for men, while women can refer “protection” to ‘imprisonment’ and ‘misunderstanding’ just like what I see in the case of the narrator in THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Going back to the discussion “the death of the author” in the mailing list. One member wanted to mediate between those who support this theory and those who disagree with it. He said that both sides are right, they only result in “the early interpretation” (for those who disagree with it), and “the later interpretation” or “more modern” interpretation for those who “kill” the author and ‘fully’ (?) use their logic when producing it.

I remember what one of my professors said during my study. Theory is just a tool to digest one piece of literary work. There is no exact thing in literature or any other art fields. I do agree that different theory we use in dissecting literary work will create different interpretation, especially in this case the use of feminist literary theory (because I am a feminist). The use of another new literary theory such as “post-colonialism” can result in a new interpretation of an “old” literary work.

Is the “more modern” interpretation always against “the early” interpretation? Is it possible that they even support each other?

It reminded me of my college years, when the same professor said, “There is no wrong interpretation in studying and analyzing literature”. However, I often found disagreement from my lecturers when I presented the result of my research.

I also said the similar thing to my students. And I got shocked when one student asked me, “In the final test, should we give the interpretation as freely as possible or should we follow your interpretation if you give us the same work that we have discussed together in class?” LOL.

My students forgot that free interpretation does not mean free without any limit. They must give the best arguments based on the theory they use, and not just “write free composition”. :)

To sum up, whatever theory we use in analyzing a “text”, it is all back to us, the readers. Although I am a fan of Lucien Goldmann’s “Genetic Structuralism” (as the result of my inferiority LOL), I admire those who can give their best interpretation using any other theories.
PT56 09.50 240707

Women's Studies

In one message I got from one mailing list I join, there is news in one newspaper in Indonesia stating the importance of putting women’s studies in school curricula. Absolutely I do agree with this idea. I think it is high time to do it to realize the awareness of equality between the two sexes (read  human beings born with penis and human beings born with vagina) in Indonesian society. There are at least three reasons behind this. They are:

During my teaching experience so far, I have met many students who are really not familiar with the word feminist. They cannot differentiate between ‘feminist’ and ‘feminine’ while in fact they do refer to two different things.

One example. When discussing “Daisy Miller” by Henry James, and asking my students to view Daisy’s actions and behavior from feministic view, they thought what I meant with ‘feministic’ here was ‘feminine’. They gave me some illustration some feminine characters in Daisy as feminist characters.

Sometimes when I introduce myself to a group of new students, I tell them that one of my hobbies is reading. When they ask what kind of book/magazine I like to read, I tell them that JURNAL PEREMPUAN as one favorite book of mine. They then refer JURNAL PEREMPUAN as kind of reading that is not far from women magazines or tabloids such as KARTINI, FEMINA, or WANITA INDONESIA. After that, some ask me, “Do you think it is really necessary for you to shape yourself as feminine creature?”

When being a paper consultant, I often propose literary work that can be digested from feministic perspective to the students under my consultation. Some of them who did not meet me in the classes, didn’t know that I was a feminist, thought about femininity when I proposed, “How about using feminist literary theory?”

When I asked my students to watch “Mona Lisa Smile” or “The Stepford Wives”, I often found misunderstanding of the feminism ideology exposed in those films from my students’ interpretation.
In my experience in another sphere, not at my workplace, I also often find similar happenings. An example that is still stuck closely in my mind is when one day I was reading Aquarini’s book entitled “Kajian Budaya Feminis” (Feminist Cultural Studies) in the fitness center where I have become the member for more than a year, the fitness instructor came to me, borrowed the book that made me occupied, looked at the title of the book, then looked at my appearance, and commented, “Oh … no wonder now you look more feminine than before. So, is it because this book you are reading? ” LOL.

I still often find people’s saying, “Hey, you are a woman, please be tidy, behave well, don’t laugh loudly because that is not good for a ‘real’ woman,” etc. In this globalization era, I still find the strong stereotyping of “the real man” and “the real woman” in Indonesia. And this stereotyping is still supported strongly in many programs in television, such as the local soap operas, talk show, and moreover religious programs that indoctrinate the viewers the patriarchal teachings of religions (which are resulted from patriarchal and misogynist religious teachers). On the contrary, programs to spread the feminism ideology is not really welcome in television. It proves that the media world in Indonesia is still very patriarchal, gender-biased, and misogynist.

PEREMPUAN (women) mailing list I join has been discussing the possibility of having gender counseling/short course to people who work for the media—both printed and electronic—so that they will produce more programs that show the equality between men and women, and not marginalizing women (although it is “only” in the form of humor program). This is especially for those who have left school. It will be very good if we start from the younger age in the school curricula.

When I attended an International Conference held by one private university in Semarang in the middle of January 2005, one presenter reported the result of her research based on her teaching a subject called LITERATURE AND GENDER in one private university in Surabaya. In that occasion, she reported the similar experience as mine dealing with her students when introducing the idea of ‘gender’ and ‘feminism’. I was of opinion that it was great to have such a subject in English Department. Since there is no such a subject in my workplace, the only thing I can do is just giving the material—either prose, poem, or drama—that can be viewed from feminist literary theory. It is better than nothing. :)

Realizing that to many Indonesian people “gender” or “feminism ideology” is still an “alien”, I am convinced that Indonesian government had better include this into school curricula, to create a more equal culture for the next generations. The fact that this ideology is still not well-known by the majority of Indonesian people cannot be denied, not only in big cities, but also in small towns, people with low education as well as with high education.

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Document to Work

The government of South Sulawesi, one province in Indonesia, recently has planned to issue regional regulation to minimize or diminish the practice of children and women trafficking. There have been many cases where women from this area are employed in “indecent places” such as bars, nightclubs, as naked dancers or prostitutes abroad. (NOTE: they were cheated. At first they were promised to work in ‘decent’ places, such as waitress, but then they were employed as naked dancers or prostitutes). The local government thought that to anticipate it, they needed to issue a certain regulation. One article in the regulation stated that to work abroad, a woman/a child has to get written permission from the chief village. When she doesn’t have such a document called SIBPA (Surat Izin Bekerja Perempuan dan Anak/A Permission Letter to Work for Women and Children), they are not allowed to work.

However, then, it creates another problem: the unfair treatment toward male and female workers. Male workers are free to work anywhere they want, they don’t need to undergo a complicated process by getting such a permission document from the chief village where they live; while female workers need to get that document. The impact? If a female worker doesn’t have that, and she insists working, she will be exposed to some risks:

1.She will be arrested and put in jail because they are considered to violate law.
2.She will get no protection from the government when something wrong happens to her, such as violent treatment from the employer.

Not to forget that those women who are willing to work abroad, and who sometimes are cheated by the irresponsible agent are from poor family. They need money to survive, and not just for self-esteem or self-actualization (according to the hierarchical needs of Maslow’s theory). They have to go abroad because the local government cannot provide them enough job vacancies whose salaries are expected to secure their future.

While for children who are supposed not to work, but to get education to prepare their future, they can be legally employed after they get that permission document.

Therefore, women groups think that instead of protecting women and children from trafficking, this regulation even violates their rights to work for women, and to pursue their education for children.
PT56 12.25 230707

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poverty and Education

There is a quite interesting true story in the local tabloid today. It is about a girl who is now working as a migrant worker—a housemaid—in one neighboring country of Indonesia.

She was born in a very poor family. When she was born, her poor parents had to give her to one relative, a widow, because they did not have enough money to raise her. They focused more on her older siblings. However, as poor as her own parents, the widow could not support her education well. She stopped supporting the writer’s education after she graduated from elementary school. Luckily, her first sibling who already worked at that time was willing to support her education until she graduated from senior high school.

After graduating from senior high school, she lived together with this first sibling and helped doing household chores, taking care of her niece and nephew. Unfortunately, the first sibling in fact treated her as unpaid maid. Perhaps it was as a way to pay back for the fund for her education?

Feeling worried about her future, the writer who was smart enough, joined one PJTKI, one institution in Indonesia whose business is to send workers abroad. She worked in Malaysia for four years. Her experience, luckily, belongs to the lucky migrant workers who can get much money. Her plan actually was to get enough money to continue her study to college. However then she changed her mind after going home. When she saw that her adopted mother lived in an almost broken house, she decided to use her money to help build a decent house for the widow who raised her. This caused jealousy in her own parents. Besides, the first sibling asked her to pay back all the money she used to study in junior and senior high school. Her other relatives also came to her to ask for her help in finance.

Her disappointment because she could not make her dream come true—to continue to study in college—made her go abroad again. This time she worked in Hong Kong as a housemaid too. She was “lucky” too because she got good employers. Her problem was still the same—her relatives who kept asking her to send them most of her paycheck.

However, this time she was determined to continue her study. She started to be strict to her relatives. She told them that she wanted to use her money for her future investment—education. She wanted to study in Hong Kong while she was still there. Of course her relatives were very disappointed to hear that. They said that she had better think of getting married, being a good wife, and taking care of children now that she was almost thirty years old. However, she stayed put.

If you have any suggestion for her, you can send email to her email address at


Reading the above true story reminded me of one student of mine. He came from quite a big family too. His parents have seven children. The way his parents raised the children is: the parents supported the first child’s education. After that, the first child would be responsible for the second child’s education; the second child for the third child’s education and so on.

I don’t remember the age gap among those seven children. Since everybody got the same responsibility, no one felt jealous why they had to spare their paycheck with their younger siblings for their education.


Another story again is my own good friend. She comes from less wealthy parents who have seven children. She was the only one who continued the study to college while the others were just senior high school graduates. She told me that she already worked since she was in college, to support her own education, and also to help her parents’ finance.

Several years ago, she told me that she was sometimes tired; she worked hard but she never enjoyed her own paycheck. When she gave little money to the parents, her siblings complained. She didn’t think of marriage because she was worried not able to give some money to her parents that eventually would make her siblings complain.

She got married though at last, in January 2005. I don’t know anymore how she managed her money—for her own need and for her parents.


Another story is a family of five children in my neighborhood. Different from the previous stories, the parents didn’t think that education was important. Due to poverty, they could not send their children to school. The first daughter stopped her education after graduating from junior high school. Then the parents married her off.

Having four children left to raise probably was not as hard as before. But still they could not give enough nutritious food and education facilities to the four children.

Three years ago, the second and the fourth children got accident. They were killed due to that. From their deaths, the parents got enough insurance money from Jasa Raharja insurance company. However, instead of using the money wisely to send the two children to school, the parents used the money to support their daily needs because the father’s wage is low. The woman didn’t work.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Globalization and Divorce

I still want to talk about divorce. In this article, especially the number of divorce cases in Semarang.
Last Friday, one local newspaper stated that since January 2005 until June 2007, there have been 3570 cases, in 2005 1376, in 2006 1454, while January 2007-June 2007, 740 cases. From the number given one can conclude that the number is increasing every year. And more interesting is the data which stated that from 3570 cases, 2050 cases were from women (in Bahasa Indonesia we call it “gugat cerai”, the women were the one who filed the divorce), while the rest, 1520 cases were from men (in Bahasa Indonesia we call it “cerai talak”, the men filed the divorce).

From the statistics given, the highest factors of divorce were caused by irresponsibility. It can refer to both parties—the men or the women’s irresponsibility. Unfortunately the data did not mention which was higher, the men or the women’s irresponsibility. However, the second highest factor—financial constraints—gave illustration that it was more the men’s irresponsibility. The fact that Indonesian people still adhere to patriarchal culture strongly shows that the main breadwinner in one family must be the man. (The phenomenon of househusbands is obviously still not well-liked.) When the breadwinner cannot carry out his role well, it can become a very easy factor to file a divorce. This is supported with one important factor, though: the women must feel at ease with their “new status”: being a divorcee since in Indonesia, it is still very insecure to have the status of “divorcee”. People are always suspicious that those divorcees (moreover if the women are still young) will steal other women’s husbands. This is one main reason why in the past women chose to go on living in hellish marriage rather than being suspected unfairly by society to steal other women’s husbands.

The third factor of the divorce is having quarrel continuously. The quarrel can be spurred by different way of thinking, or by other man/woman. The following factor is moral: be it bad moral of the man/woman, jealousy, and polygamy. Some other factors are ranging from domestic violence, imprisonment, force to get married, until physical deformity.

Commenting to the high number of women filing divorce, HM As’ad Fathoni, the secretary of the Religion Department of Semarang said that probably it was caused by globalization era that influenced women’s point of view; they are of opinion that they are now equal to men.

It cannot be denied that one impact of globalization era is the changing behavior of attitude in people, including their perspective in viewing life. We can foresee that in the future, in Indonesia there will be no marriage-oriented culture anymore; or at least the idea that the only way to pursue happiness via marriage will weaken.

However, when I remember again some writings produced by my teenage students that they would rather get married than live single, it made me think that if Indonesian people will still adhere to marriage-oriented culture, we can avoid the increasing number of divorce by making men (or patriarchal women) respect women more; that women are not the second sex so that they also deserve to be happy, to be respected with their choice and their individuality in life.

PT56 10.10 170707

Monday, July 16, 2007


Today Monday 16 July 2007 the local newspaper quoted data from Dirjen Bimas Islam (Islamic Societal Councelling) that mentioned high percentage of divorce in big cities. In Jakarta, 75% married women filed divorce, in Semarang, my hometown, 70% women did it, while in Surabaya, the capital city of East Java, 80% women did it. This data was stated by Khofifah Indar Parawansa, the chief of Muslim women division of Nahdlatul Ulama, one biggest Islamic social organization in Indonesia yesterday in Sragen, one town located in Central Java.

Khofifah stated that the high percentage of women who filed divorce was engendered by irresponsible husbands toward the wife and family. Irresponsible husbands caused unhealthy and disharmonious relationship in the family. Furthermore, Khofifah also mentioned that the high death rate in pregnant women was also caused by husbands who did not really care toward their wives’ health and welfare. The representatives of United Nations Children’s Fund in Indonesia added that financial constraints gave a high impact toward the relationship between men and women. Thus, eventually this triggered the increasing rate of women filing divorce.

In my opinion, we must not forget that the increasing number of women filing divorce is also caused by at least two factors:

  1. The fact that more women become more financially independent. More women work so that they no longer depend on their husbands financially. They do not need to feel worried that they will be difficult to survive after divorce due to financial constraints.
  2. Women become more confident and comfortable in their life. They no longer view marriage as a sacred institution so that they have to sacrifice their happiness only to go on living in hellish marriage due to irresponsible and selfish husbands. They believe that they also human beings—and not just the second sex—that deserve to make their own choice in their life.
  3. On the contrary, this change in women’s behavior (refer to options one and two above) does not mean that men change their behavior. They still consider women as the second sex so that they can go on treating their wives to their heart’s content. They still think that their wives will still adore them no matter how badly they treat the women only because they are phallic creatures.

If people from religious organizations condemn what those women do—not viewing marriage as a sacred institution anymore and break their marriage more easily than their predecessors, women from feminist organizations will support them. Besides, Khofifah, as one representative of one Islamic social organization, daringly mentioned that the increasing number of women filing divorces is caused by irresponsible husbands. Isn’t it high time for those so-called “religious” and patriarchal people change their perspective in viewing this phenomenon?

PT56 14.35 160707

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Semarang Pesona Asia

Semarang, my hometown located in Central Java province, will have a huge event next 10-15 August 2007, that is called “Semarang Pesona Asia” (Semarang the beauty of Asia). In fact, as one dweller that was born and grew up here, I myself am not quite sure with this event, too bombastic, since I realize that Semarang does not really have many interesting “assets” to sell. It is different from Jogjakarta, the city where I pursued my study both for my bachelor and master’s degree. Jogjakarta, or Jogja for short, is well-known as one exotic city that has many cultural buildings. Besides, it is also popularly known as THE STUDENT CITY, where every year many students from all over Indonesia go there to pursue their dream in education.

However, when one mailing list friend asked me, “If I visit your hometown, where will you take me?” I started to think what places I can show to her? Or to my other online friends that show their interest to visit my hometown.

It reminded me of what I did during Idul Fitri (Eid el Fithr) last October 2006. My siblings, Angie and I visited Buddhagaya vihara (temple), Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (Grand Mosque of Central Java), and Marina Beach. Besides those three places, there is one very popular place in Semarang that is called Gedung Batu (Stone Building) Sam Po Kong. Probably Semarang is not as exotic as Jogja that has Kraton (a palace, since Jogja used to be a kingdom many centuries ago before Indonesia “was born” on August 17, 1945), Malioboro (the longest street in Indonesia where there are abundant street vendors selling many kinds of cute things, and white sand beaches. However, Semarang does have some interesting places worth visiting.

Here are several reasons why Semarang has its own characteristics that will not be found in some other areas:

1. Semarang is located in an area where the surface of the land is divided into two: high land and low land. The high land is usually called “CANDI”. It is very beautiful to see the down area from CANDI, especially in the night. The high and low land is not far separated that makes Semarang really different from other cities in Indonesia.

2. Semarang has some buildings that show the peaceful religious plurality, such as

a. Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (Grand Mosque of Central Java)

MAJT is not the only grand mosque in Semarang actually, but this is the newest grand mosque. To make it different from some other grand mosques, it has a high tower, around 99 meters, referring to Asmaul Husna , the 99 other names of Allah. During holidays, many people visit MAJT to go to the tower, to take a look of Semarang from a high place.

b. Gedung Batu Sam Po Kong (Stone Building Sam Po Kong)

This temple used to be a mosque built by Cheng Ho admiral from Tiongkok (China) that dropped by in Simongan (one area in Semarang) in his journey to go around the world in the fourteenth century. After being renovated now and again, GB SPK is the biggest temple in Indonesia, even some people say in South East Asia. GB SPK does not only have temple, but in the area, tourists will also find the replica of the ship Cheng Ho used to go around the world, and big trees where their roots are hanging around in their branches. Besides that, GB SPK is also unique since the visitors who want to do some ritual ceremony come from various religions, Confucianism, Catholic, Christian, until Islam. They believe by doing some ritual ceremony there, their business will thrive well because they are convinced that the place is sacred.

c. Gereja Blenduk (Blenduk Church)

This church was built during the colonization of Holland. That’s why the dome is similar to domes found in buildings in Europe. Since it belongs to assets of old buildings in Semarang, this church must be conserved well by the government and society. There are some other churches built during Dutch colonization but they are not as famous as Gereja Blenduk.

Below are the pictures of the church in the old time and the present time.

d. Vihara Buddhagaya (Buddhist temple Buddhagaya)

This temple is located in one street that relates Semarang and Ungaran, one region to the South of Semarang, quite far from the downtown. Besides used for Buddhists who do their ritual ceremony, many tourists visit it during holiday season.

3. Some historical places

a. Lawang Sewu

“Lawang” means door while “sewu” means a thousand. People can easily interpret that this building has many doors that probably reach a thousand number. This was also built during the Dutch colonization. People can find many narrow and dark rooms on the underground that in the past were used for prisons. So narrow and small are they that with only four people standing very close to each other, they cannot move or breath easily. Many people opine that this building is spooky because many prisoners were killed in the past.

b. Tugumuda

“Tugu” means monument while “muda” means young. This monument was built to commemorate young heroes who were killed in the war against Dutch troops in 1945. Tugumuda was built very close to Lawang Sewu.

c. Museums

There are some museums in Semarang where people can visit to take a look at some historical events (in a form of diorama) or things from the past time.

d. Schools

Some school buildings were built during Dutch colonization, such as SMA N 1 and SMA N 3. They still conserve the parts of the buildings built more than a year ago, besides the new buildings to cover more students coming to study there.

4. Tourist resorts

Besides some places I mention above, tourists can also visit some other places, such as Puri Maerokoco where people can find the miniature of Central Java province. The idea was inspired by Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in Jakarta where tourists can find the miniature of Indonesia with its (used to be) 27 provinces.

Marina beach, although it doesn’t have white sand, also provides stunning view during the sunset or the sunrise.

Going to the South of Semarang, around 40 kms, people can visit Bandungan and Gedong Songo that have cool weather because they are located in the foot of Ungaran mountain. Gedong Songo means nine buildings/temples. Unfortunately because the nine temples (Hindu temples) were not conserved well, especially during the Dutch colonization, now people only can find five temples that are scattered in some areas. This place is good for people who want to do some hiking while enjoying the cool weather, they can hike from one temple to the following temple while enjoying the stunning view of greenery of valleys and mountain. If they don’t like hiking, they can rent horses and go around while riding horses. It is a good exercise too.

5. Shopping places

Although the shopping places Semarang has are not as big as shopping places in Jakarta or Surabaya, shopaholic can also enjoy shopping here. Simpang Lima is the center of modern shopping places with Ciputra Mall, and some other shops around there.

Going to the south area, people can find Java Mall. Besides those two malls, there are many other smaller shopping places around the city, such as Sri Ratu Department Store or ADA Supermarket.
Johar market is the biggest traditional market. It was built during the Dutch colonization. It is located around 5kms from Simpang Lima to the north. Not far from Johar market, people can find Kauman mosque, one mosque built many centuries ago, during the Dutch colonization too.

Below is the picture of Johar market in 1930

The condition of the inside part of Johar market nowadays

To buy food that has special characteristic of Semarang, people can go to Pandanaran street. Semarang is popular with three specialties, namely wingko babat, lumpia, and bandeng presto.

6. Accommodation

Semarang provides many kinds of hotels, from the small ones until the five star hotels with affordable prices. For business people, they can choose to stay in Ciputra hotel or Grand Santika hotel that are located not far from the downtown, Simpang Lima. For tourists who want quiet stay, they can choose to stay in Patrajasa hotel or Grand Candi hotel located around 5kms from Simpang Lima to the south.
If you are interested in knowing more about the huge event, Semarang Pesona Asia, you can click the official site at
PT56 08.35 140707

Maskulinitas dan Femininitas


Kun Fayakun, kata Tuhan. Maka jadilah kami seperti ini. Tetapi mengapa manusia terperangkap dalam dua kutub perempuan dan laki-laki, sehingga kami yang seperti ini dipersoalkan? Mengapa manusia yang diakui sah hanyalah perempuan dan laki-laki? Dan kami dimana? Apakah ini mengingkari sunnatullah? Allah a’lam bisshawab.
(Puang Saidi, percakapan tengah tahun 2003)
dari Srinthil, Media Perempuan Multikultural,
Kajian Perempuan Desantara, Oktober 2003, halaman 5

gambar diambil dari sini

Dede Oetomo, si penulis buku MEMBERI SUARA PADA YANG BISU, mengungkapkan dalam artikelnya yang berjudul “Aku, Gender, Seks, dan Seksualitas” (dimuat dalam Srinthil, Media Perempuan Multikultural, Desantara Oktober 2003, halaman 87-101) bahwa dia mendapatkan kemaskulinannya secara “terkonstruksi” (socially constructred) melalui hubungan-hubungan kompleks yang senantiasa berkembang dan bukan secara “given” begitu saja.

Hal ini menunjukkan pandangan bahwa mereka yang dilahirkan memiliki penis akan serta merta menjadi maskulin, maupun mereka yang dilahirkan memiliki vagina akan menjadi feminin tidak selalu benar.

Mungkin anda kemudian akan berkomentar, “Itu kan Dede Oetomo? Dia kan gay? Ya pantas saja kalau dia bilang begitu. Pengalaman seorang gay tidak cukup untuk kemudian dipakai sebagai tolok ukur orang-orang lain. Itu sangatlah subjektif.”

Seperti komentar seorang teman kuliah waktu dia tahu aku sedang membaca THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY tulisan Michel Foucaoult, “Kamu membaca tulisan Foucaoult? Tentu saja kamu akan mendapatkan pembenaran atas homoseksualitas karena Foucault adalah seorang homo.”

Namun seandainya kita benar-benar bisa menimbang suatu masalah secara “objektif”, seberapa yakinkah kita bahwa pertimbangan itu benar-benar objektif? Dan lepas dari kesubjektifan seseorang, atau kesubjektifan satu komunitas secara mayoritas? Apakah hanya karena sesuatu itu ‘diamini’ oleh orang banyak, hal tersebut akan dengan serta merta dinilai “objektif”?

Dalam artikel ini aku ingin membandingkan pengalaman masa kecil Dede Oetomo, pertumbuhkembangannya dalam mengkonstruksi kemaskulinannya dengan pengalamanku sendiri yang terlahir memiliki vagina.

Aku punya seorang kakak laki-laki yang jarak usianya tidak terlalu jauh dariku, sekitar 22 bulan. Masa kecil yang kita lalui bersama membuatku ikut bermain apa yang dia lakukan. Maklumlah, seorang adik suka mengikuti apa yang dilakukan kakaknya bukan? Dan di waktu kecil, perbedaan gender tidaklah terasa begitu mencolok. Di waktu kecil kita bermain rumah-rumahan, bekel, dakon (yang konon permainan khas milik anak perempuan), sampai main kelereng, mobil-mobilan, lompat tali, naik sepeda, termasuk memanjat tiang rumah sampai ke genteng, (tidak ada pohon di halaman rumah kita waktu kecil karena kebetulan rumah kita sangat mungil, tidak ada tempat untuk pohon-pohonan) plus main layang-layang. Untuk main layang-layang, seperti Dede Oetomo, aku memang lebih sering gagal untuk menaikkannya ke angkasa. Oleh karenanya aku dan kakakku saling membantu untuk menaikkannya ke angkasa, dan kemudian aku akan menikmati memegangi benangnya setelah layang-layang terbang kian kemari di udara.

Kelahiran adikku, seorang perempuan, yang empat tahun lebih muda dariku tidak mengurangi kedekatanku dengan kakakku tatkala itu.

Diam-diam sepertinya Ibuku tidak begitu menyukai kebiasaanku bermain permainan yang konon katanya milik anak laki-laki.

Aku “dipisahkan” secara paksa dengan kakakku setelah dia khitan. Kata Ibu, “Dia laki-laki, kamu perempuan. Tidak baik untuk selalu bersama.” Namun, keasyikan melakukan hal-hal yang maskulin itu tetap melekat dengan erat di benakku.

Hal inilah yang melatarbelakangi keikutsertaanku olah raga karate ketika aku duduk di bangku SMP. Di satu sisi dalam diriku, aku ingin membentuk diri menjadi seorang perempuan yang disebut ‘tomboy’. Rasanya asyik aja. Sementara di sisi lain, aku tetaplah seorang perempuan yang naksir cowo.

Aku ingat meskipun ketika aku duduk di bangku SD, orang tuaku berlangganan beberapa majalah anak-anak sebangsa BOBO, TOM-TOM, dan ANANDA, sewaktu aku duduk di bangku SMP/SMA, orang tuaku tidak berlangganan majalah remaja, semisal GADIS, ANITA CEMERLANG, dll. Kadang-kadang saja kita membeli HAI.

Majalah GADIS, setahuku, biasa “mengajari” atau “membentuk” para remaja perempuan untuk menjadi “perempuan yang sebenar-benarnya”. Misal bagaimana menjadi perempuan yang feminin, bermakeup dengan baik namun masih tetap menunjukkan keremajaan, dan tidak seperti perempuan dewasa; bagaimana seorang remaja perempuan seharusnya bersikap dalam menghadapi satu masalah, dll. Sedangkan majalah HAI, yang katanya majalah untuk remaja cowo waktu itu, memuat artikel-artikel yang khusus “berbau” cowo, bagaimana seorang cowo “harus” macho agar benar-benar menjadi seorang laki-laki.

Karena tidak terbiasa membaca majalah khusus remaja perempuan inilah aku merasa berbeda dengan remaja perempuan sebayaku waktu itu. Kulihat teman-teman perempuan sebayaku sudah mulai membentuk diri untuk menjadi feminin, meniru apa yang mereka baca dari majalah remaja khusus untuk perempuan, sedangkan aku tidak begitu peduli. Kesukaanku mengikuti olah raga karate, dan kenangan novel serial silat yang banyak kubaca di waktu kecil (kakak sepupuku yang bersekolah di Gontor waktu itu tiap kali berlibur ke Semarang di bulan Ramadhan sering menyewa novel serial silat, dan aku suka berkhayal menjadi salah satu tokoh utama di situ) pelan-pelan membentuk kemaskulinanku. Tentu saja juga ditambah pengalaman melakukan permainan khas anak laki-laki yang dulu sering kulakukan dengan kakakku sewaktu duduk di bangku SD.

Aku sudah lupa apa yang kemudian membuatku HARUS melupakan dan menghentikanku dari membentuk diri menjadi maskulin. Yang aku ingat adalah ketika duduk di kelas III SMP, aku naksir seorang cowo, adik kelas, yang justru aktif mengikuti kegiatan ekstra kurikuler menari. Di mataku dia sangat gemulai tatkala menari di atas panggung, namun dia tetap ‘macho’. Tiba-tiba aku menjadi malu pada diri sendiri. Mengapa aku yang perempuan justru membentuk diri menjadi maskulin sedangkan dia yang laki-laki menggeluti hobby yang bisa membentuk dia menjadi feminin. Hal ini yang kemudian membuatku memutuskan untuk berhenti berlatih karate. Kata teman-teman, “Laki-laki tidak suka perempuan yang tidak feminin,” membuatku pelan-pelan mencoba menghilangkan sisi maskulin dalam diriku. Tujuan utama jelas: untuk menarik perhatian cowo yang kutaksir waktu itu.
Mencoba untuk menjadi feminin, agar ditaksir cowo (aku pun telah menderita Cinderella complex sejak remaja yang sayangnya sekarang tidak bisa kutelusuri kembali apa yang menyebabkan hal ini karena aku tidak terbiasa membaca majalah khusus perempuan remaja), ternyata tidaklah semudah yang kubayangkan.

Tatkala pertama kali menginjak masa bekerja sangat berat bagiku untuk harus selalu memakai rok karena pekerjaan yang mengharuskan mobile, pindah dari satu tempat ke tempat lain. Dalam satu hari aku kadang harus mengajar di empat cabang sekaligus. Hal ini dikarenakan peraturan bahwa pegawai perempuan harus memakai rok.

Tatkala aku mulai bekerja di sebuah universitas swasta dan beberapa rekan kerja perempuan memakai celana panjang, aku sangat menyukainya karena tentu saja akan lebih mudah dan nyaman bagiku. Untunglah tak lama kemudian peraturan di kantor lama bahwa perempuan harus memakai rok direvisi.

Kenangan masa kecil ketika aku sering melakukan permainan “khas cowo”, berlatih karate ketika duduk di bangku SMP, memaksa membentuk diri menjadi feminin untuk menarik perhatian cowo, semua ini berbaur menjadi satu pada diriku. Hal ini akhirnya membentuk diri seorang Nana yang tidak feminin namun juga tidak maskulin. I am in between. Kalau dalam keseharianku beberapa tahun terakhir ini aku lebih sering memakai rok panjang karena aku merasa nyaman saja, bukan karena aku ingin tampil feminin. Pembentukan diri menjadi seorang feminis telah membuatku meninggalkan keyakinan “untuk menarik perhatian cowo seorang perempuan harus feminin”. Aku suka memakai sepatu berhak tinggi juga bukan agar aku tampil feminin, melainkan agar aku tampil lebih tinggi karena Tuhan menciptakanku bertubuh mungil. LOL. (Sorry God, You become a scapegoat here. LOL.) Meskipun memakai sepatu berhak tinggi, aku tidak merasa berjalan dengan lemah gemulai. Kadang-kadang saja aku melangkah gemulai, kenangan tatkala melihat Angie latihan berjalan di atas catwalk, dan menirukannya. LOL.

Kembali ke tulisan Dede Oetomo, adakah maskulinitas dan femininitas yang benar-benar gifted from God? Aku lebih percaya bahwa maskulinitas dan femininitas merupakan produk konstruksi sosial budaya. So, tidak ada yang salah ketika seorang laki-laki tampil feminin atau seorang perempuan tampil maskulin.

Mengapa kita tidak mulai dari sekarang mengubah mind set kita bahwa jenis kelamin yang diciptakan oleh Tuhan hanya ada dua: perempuan dan laki-laki. Bahwa laki-laki (baca: makhluk berpenis) seperti Dede Oetomo diciptakan oleh Tuhan untuk menjadi makhluk “in between”. Seperti halnya perempuan (baca: makhluk bervagina) pun ada yang diciptakan oleh Tuhan menjadi makhluk “in between” karena memiliki jiwa laki-laki.

PT56 10.25 140707

Friday, July 13, 2007

International Standardized School

The hubbub of applying for a new school (for elementary school graduates to junior high school, and junior high school graduates to senior high school), especially to state schools (because the fee is cheaper than private schools) was over two days ago with the announcement of who was accepted.
I am interested in SMA 3 Semarang, Angie’s school.
Last year the policy of “rayonisasi” was applied to all state schools. (Can I translate it into ‘regionalization’?) LOL The statistics was like this:
A state school had to accept
 60% for students who dwell in the same regions with the school
 30% for students who dwell out of the regions but still inside the town
 10% for students who come from out of town.
The impact of that “policy” was that last year SMA 3 Semarang “suffered” from being forced to accept students with low standard of NEM (the original score of examination) because they had to fulfill the quota of that 60%. Meanwhile, the competition was very high for students who dwell out of the regions and come from out of town. The result was the various capability of students accepted. SMA 3 Semarang got many very smart students (proven with their high score of examination), but at the same time, it also got many less intellectual students.
(FYI, SMA 3 Semarang is located in the middle of housing complexes. Due to the development of Semarang, nowadays more citizens live in the suburb area rather than in the downtown. Seemingly, students who live in the downtown are not that smart. LOL.)
This became a big problem and also a big issue for the government, besides for the school itself, because starting last year SMA 3 Semarang was chosen to be the pilot project of SNBI (national school but following international standard). SMA 3 Semarang was chosen to be the pilot project in Semarang because of the quality of students. How could the pilot project become successful if the input was not as good as expected?
During last year (July 2006-June 2007), I went to SMA 3 Semarang several times to attend school-parents meeting. The headmaster and also some teachers kept complaining about the input. The teachers complained a bit different though. They have been “spoilt” only getting smart students (due to the high competition to be accepted at SMA 3) and last year they had to teach less intellectual students. I got a bit bored anytime I heard this complaint. If related to the success of the government’s pilot project to have a national school but following international standard, the complaint still sounded okay to me. Smart students were one important element to succeed the program. However, when it came to the teachers’ complaint about having to deal with less intellectual students, it showed that they didn’t have deep empathy to their fellow teachers who happened to teach in some other less favorite state schools, located in the suburb.
Learning from this experience, the government approved the expectation of SMA 3 Semarang: SMA 3 is not included into the program of “rayonisasi”. All students can apply for SMA 3 Semarang to compete together without any “special treatment” to some students who live in the same region with it. The result? Of course the competition is very high. This year, just like many previous years (except last year), SMA 3 Semarang only accepted smart students (or well, lucky students who got high score for their examination. LOL. Some people say “lucky people can BEAT smart people.)
Looking at the news in the yesterday local newspaper, I talked to Angie, “If you graduated from junior high school this year, you wouldn’t be accepted at SMA 3 Semarang suppose you got the same score: Math 8.2, English 9, Bahasa Indonesia 9.” She just smiled bitterly. She doesn’t belong to the hardworking student category although her I.Q is quite high, 122.
I remember the time when I was at school (elementary, junior, and senior), score 8 was already good, score 9, very good, 10 excellent. It was almost impossible for a student to get 10 in his/her report. I suppose I worked harder than Angie does now. I am wondering if the students now are much smarter than the students of my era? Because they belong to the globalization era generations?
I remember one question that I considered absurd from my student a week ago. He asked me whether there was student who didn’t graduate when he/she reached the third grade. The background of the question was his mother’s statement, “It was easy to graduate in my era. We didn’t need to study hard. The most important thing was to behave well at school.” Again, the background of this question was the protests of students nowadays with the minimum standard of a score to graduate. This policy has made many smart students become victims. For example: for the three main subjects, Mathematics, English, and Bahasa Indonesia, a student must at least get score 4 to graduate, and the average is 5. A student failed when he/she got score less than 3 in one of those three subjects.
I don’t remember if there was such policy when I was at school. However, when saying that it was easy for a student to graduate as long as he/she behaved well at school, I don’t agree with that. I saw some students not graduate from the third grade in my time (both in junior and senior high school). It did not always happen to some “naughty” or problematic students. No.
Going back to the main topic. Next week Angie will go back to school. She will be in the eleventh grade. It means that she will enjoy looking at her junior who usually are still shy coming to a new school. I asked her to prepare her mental: probably her batch will always be considered as “thorn” by the teachers because it seems that most of her juniors belong to smart or hardworking category. Her teachers probably will always compare her batch with the younger batch. :) And keep complaining. LOL.
PT56 08.14 130707