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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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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triesti said...

why do we have ministry on women affair? I dont think they really accomplished much. look at the state of the indonesian female worker abroad & in RI, look at those abuse cases, etc
why not ministry on equality, so we can tackle it from both men & women views? you cant just empowering women while the men still are backwards.

A Feminist Blog said...

As you know, unfortunately, the ministry on women affair is even the continuation of patriarchal government. It means, this ministry still even marginalizes women more.
Like when Megawati disapproved the launching of diminishing domestic violence law, by saying, "Domestic violence is just a matter of inside family, the neighbor, moreover the government is not supposed to interfere," Did she mean including when a husband wanted to kill the wife was domestic affair so that we had better not involve ourselves?