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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'True' woman = modern feminist?

In fact I wrote the previous article was because I was moved by an article in one local newspaper (published on Sunday December 21) where the journalist narrow-mindedly stated that women who choose to work in public sphere are outdated since they follow the ‘obsolete’ women movement; while women who choose to stay home, either to work at home or be a full housewife are applauded as ‘modern feminists’. Moreover, the journalist cited that a ‘true’ woman was a mother who realized that her noble and respected roles were to deliver a baby, breastfeed him/her, raise him/her by themselves, without involving anybody else.
In Indonesia where people still easily ‘mislead’ with the word ‘true’ (e.g. what is a true woman like? What is a true man like?), applause to women who choose to be a full housewife as modern feminists as well as ‘true’ women, will easily force women only to have one ‘voice’. This eventually will lead women back home only because they covet to be labeled ‘modern’ and ‘true’ women.
Indeed there are several reasons why women work outside. In this era where the soaring prices of everything are getting crazier and crazier every year, many families need two breadwinners—both husband and wife. Besides this economic reason, the article stated two others: to make use of the diploma certificate women get and social acceptance.
Referring to Abraham Maslow’s theory, there are five hierarchical needs someone needs to fulfill. They are safety, security, social acceptance, self-esteem and self-actualization. People can refer the economic reason to work to the first and second needs. People need to fulfill their basic needs: food, clothes, and shelter. People need to feel secure that the following months they have pay to cover the first need; by having an established job. Social acceptance the article mentioned refers to the third need Maslow proposed. People need to be accepted by the environment—both by the family members and society. To make use of the diploma certificate belongs to the fourth need: self-esteem. After struggling in college, women feel esteemed to use the diploma as well as the knowledge for their own advantage or society’s. The need to fulfill self-actualization apparently was forgotten by the journalist. Not all women are destined to actualize themselves as domestic creatures—as cook, breeder, breastfeeder, raiser—if I may use harsh words. Many women think that they can actualize themselves in public spheres too. It depends on their call.
As someone who loves writing, I opine that to actualize myself, I need to write.
As someone who loves cooking, a woman absolutely will actualize herself by being an awesome cook.
As someone who loves gardening, a woman will actualize herself by making her garden full of beautiful flowers.
As someone who loves working behind desk, a woman perhaps will actualize herself by working in a company.
As someone who enjoys field job, a woman perhaps will be able to actualize herself by working as a miner, a civil engineer, etc.
As someone who enjoys challenging job, a woman will probably be able to actualize herself by being a pilot, astronaut, naval engineer, etc.
And so on.
As long as women have full command on their own way of thinking and body.
As long as women make their own choice what to do in their life.
Without being labeled as obsolete or modern feminists.
A woman is a true woman without being limited as someone who has delivered a baby (isn’t it God’s secret why some women cannot get pregnant to have their own babies? Obviously a woman has full right to choose not to adopt a baby only to be called ‘mother’ and get ‘true woman’ label.)
A woman is a true woman when after delivering a baby, she chooses not to breastfeed the baby with her full consciousness. (Some cases do happen when the babies refuse the mother’s milk, or the mother’s breasts cannot produce milk so that the mother has to give ‘factory’ or cow milk to the baby.)
A woman is a true woman when deciding to go on working outside the house because that can make her achieve her self-actualization, without being burdened guilt when assigning a nanny or a babysitter to take care of the babies.
A woman is a true woman when choosing to write instead of to cook during her valuable spare limited time.
The same ‘true’ as women who have been applauded as modern feminists as well as true women by the article.
And I have been fussy. As usual. LOL.
PT56 23.33 122208

(I wrote this exactly on the mothers’ day. I am optimistic that I am a true woman as well as a great mom for Angie although I don’t cook for her everyday; although I am not always available whenever she needs me; although oftentimes I choose to go biking/swimming on Sunday morning instead of accompanying her watching CONAN or making her special breakfast.)


I am of opinion that people who classify feminism ideology into several categories and narrow-mindedly think that feminists MUST fall into one of those categories do not know a lot about feminism itself. Or, they are still learning what feminism is. They still know the ‘outer’ part and then talk about feminism as if they know all the contents. As if there were no feminists who were ‘free’ from any of those classification. As if people who claimed themselves as feminists must then ‘follow’ the teachings of feminism category they embrace rigidly. They cannot mix one feminism category with another. For example: a radical feminist cannot embrace what a liberal feminist says.
Indeed there are some ‘waves’ in feminism history: the first—that referred to the struggle of early feminists starting in the middle of the eighteenth century America whose main, or perhaps the solely goal was to give women suffrage; the second—that referred to Betty Friedan’s contemporaries in 1960s whose struggle was to give women rights to work in public sphere; and the third, that recently has been also popularly known as post-feminism starting in the beginning of 1990s. There must be a very clear reason why this process took place and there must be a very strong tie among the first, the second, and the third ‘waves’ of women movement.
In this article, I will write the process as well as the tie in a nutshell. And, since my educational background is American Studies so that I read the history from books written by American authors, I will specifically refer to the history of women movement in America.
America declared its independence in 1776 and started having its own government ever since. From the very first general election, women were not included in the general election. American pious society thought that general election that would select president was considered as men’s affair. Before the industrial revolution really changed the life of American people, this means women were also considered as breadwinner in the agrarian lifestyle, not having right to vote in the general election was the main ‘scapegoat’ that women were considered weaker than men. It is understandable then if entering the eighteenth century, women thought that they would be equal with men when they got suffrage. The first women convention officially held in 1848 in Seneca Falls was the first formal appeal for women suffrage. The women involved in this movement—led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—worked hand in hand with the abolitionists.
American women eventually got their right to vote in the general election in 1920, after struggling for more than seven decades.
Getting the goal they had been struggling for a quite long period in fact ‘weakened’ women’s struggle. They thought that they had been ‘equal’ with men merely because they could join the general election.
The ‘boom’ of the industrial revolution resulted more and more factories that made more and more men leave their dwelling places to work. (Before, they had home industry besides relied their life on the agriculture. This made both men and women stayed home, to earn money together.) The ‘guilty’ feeling of being money-oriented creature due to the industrial revolution, selfish American men, working together with ‘the church’ bodies, created ‘the cult of True Womanhood’ that trapped women to be domestic creatures. When men could leave home to earn money, they insisted that their wife stay home.
The second world war—where many men had to go to war—needed women to leave their home to work in big industries. However, when the war was over, men resumed their position, they forced women to go back home. American society still embraced the cult of true womanhood with its four tenets: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity.
This force made articulate and intellectual women like Betty Friedan question: “then what?” after being a good wife. Women did not have freedom to choose public sphere job. To be a ‘true’ woman, a woman had to give up her public life. While in fact, during the second world war, women had ‘obligation’ to continue American industrial life by leaving their home. This showed that women were as capable as men in public sphere.
It is then understandable if Friedan and her contemporaries in the beginning of 1960s struggled for women to get right to pursue job outside home, because they believed that women were as good as men. Since men did not easily believe in women’s skills and capabilities, they thought that to be ‘similar’ to men, women also had to get dressed as men, to behave as men, women had to be masculine to ‘equalize’ themselves to men, etc.
Domestic chores were just as boring and made women left behind men.
As time went by, women started to realize that the core of equality between men and women lied on the control of our own bodies and mind, and not let other people control ourselves. Society could not force women to work in public spheres or to appear feminine/masculine. This was the main tenet in postfeminism, where in the beginning people mistakenly labeled it as anti-feminism. Working in public sphere or being feminine/masculine is fully women’s choice, and not right of the father, brother, or husband. There is no right or wrong in this matter. Women have full right to rule their own life.
There is nothing that does not change in this world, wise people say. This is natural law. People have to wisely recognize the history, though, how the changes happen.
I belong to the feminist who refuses to classify myself as a liberal, radical, Marxian, or any other feminists.
PT56 22.29 221208

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Say it with colors 2

I hate to see
a guy that has a yellow streak
hiding his lust
behind the verses
in the so-called holy book
makes me so browned-off

15.46 120108

* have a yellow streak = a coward
*browned-off = upset

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sexual Harassment

What is sexual harassment? It is a kind of harassment related to sexual activities done by one person or a group of people to someone else where the latter feels uneasy, upset, disgusted and humiliated. It is not called harassment when both parties enjoy doing those activities; moreover get satisfaction by doing them.

Last Saturday 6 December 2008 I invited my class to watch NORTH COUNTRY, a movie inspired by a true story, about a woman who worked for a mining company and got terrible sexual harassment. To read my review, you can click the following link

My class itself contains eight female students, six of them study in Engineering Faculty, one studies in Economics, while the other one studies in Medical Faculty. The issue of the movie becomes very intriguing since it tells about a woman’s struggle to get justice after getting sexually harassed when working in a so-called job traditionally held by male, and all of my students are female. In addition, six of them study in majors where women become minority, just like the place where Josey Aimes, the main character in the movie worked.

“Since you study in majors where women are minority, will you tell me whether you experience similar things like what Josey got in the movie?” I asked them.

Indonesia is absolutely a country where women do not need to feel threatened to get terrible and shameful sexual harassment, like in the movie of course. (Therefore, I am against the anti pornography law! Moreover in the practice women even vulnerably and easily become accused as criminals, such as by breastfeeding the baby in public while the baby needs milk badly.) I was not surprised when my students told me that such sexual harassment did not happen to them. The boys in my students’ classes were even helpful and a bit protective, for example when they did assignments together until quite late at nights, they would take the girls home instead of just letting them go home by themselves. However, as time went by, and their relationship was getting closer, no barrier anymore between boys and girls, the boys sometimes treated the girls just like they were boys. My students did not give me any examples of such treatment though.

I compared it with my own experience to get involved in a community where women were minority—b2w Semarang community. Since it was established by the end of June 2005, there have been more or less 50 members with four female members who were quite active to join its activities. My male friends absolutely did not do sexual harassment to us. I barely got their protective treatment though, except one or two members whose ‘nature’ was like that, perhaps. Maybe because so far I seldom join any ‘challenging’ journey (such as off road trips with hilly and stony roads). So far, I have felt ‘safe’ though in the community.

Going back to the discussion in my class …

The two students who study at Medical faculty and Economics faculty said that there were more girls than boys in their majors, although it did not necessarily mean that boys were the minority there.
“How about girls doing sexual harassment back to boys?” I jokingly proposed that idea.

Spontaneously I saw disgusted expression in their face. LOL.

“They would not feel harassed, Ma’am!!! They would even enjoy it!” one of them shouted. LOL.

Then I told them one experience I had on my journey from Jogja to Semarang several years ago. I was sitting next to a guy, perhaps at his late twenties or early thirties. I did not really remember what we talked about, but I remember suddenly he said, “Because of feminism ideology, many women forget their nature as women.”

“Can you clarify what you meant with women forgetting their nature as women? Can you give me examples?

He did not come up with satisfactory answer, but said something else. “When the time comes that women want to rape men, I want to volunteer myself,” said he confidently. LOL.

That made me turn my head and looked at him at a glance. I talked to myself, “When my time comes to want to rape men, you are not included into one of them.” LOL. LOL. To him I said, “Well, when you are willing with that action, it is not a rape then. It is just a usual sex where both of them do it willingly.”
My students laughed hearing this story.

“That’s it, Ma’am. We don’t want to harass men sexually because it even would make them happy, instead of making them feel threatened.”

Apparently they never heard or watched a movie entitled “Indecent Proposal” where a woman did sexual harassment to a man and the man hated it. I also told them one ‘accident’ of an online friend of mine who got sexually harassed by one boss’ niece. The accident made him resign from his job. This showed that men could also feel threatened by sexual harassment done by women.

Sexual harassment can happen to anybody, done by any men/women, usually to the ones whose social status is lower than the doer: men to women where the patriarchal culture is still very strong (read è women are considered the weaker sex), women to men where the women’s social class is higher than the victim, men to male-to-female transsexuals in an unequal relationship or on the way around, especially when the men are straight.

PT56 13.50 081208

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Into the Wild

This movie is based on Jon Krakauer’s book that tells us about the true story of Christopher Johnson MacCandless who was born on February 12, 1968 and died on August 18, 1992. Getting very disappointed by his own parents, Chris (Emile Hirsch) left them and his younger sister, Carine, (Jena Malone) as well after graduating from Emory College, where he studied only to make his parents happy, and not to pursue his own ideal. The disappointment to his parents was supported by his sickness to hypocrite society. This made him leave the crowd of people and go INTO THE WILD.
Some favorite scenes and conversations of mine in the movie are:

“Some people feel like they don’t deserve love. They walk away quietly to the empty space trying to close the gaps with the past.”

Apparently Chris talked about himself; he left his family since his parents’ problematic marriage and their trying to cover it from public as well as from the children made him label the parents big hypocrites. By saying the aforementioned statement, he realized that his parents loved him. However, his deep disappointment toward them made him feel he did not deserve the love. Therefore, he disappeared quietly from his parents’ life. He was pursuing his own happiness in the wild. He did not use the name his parents gave, and named himself as Alexander Supertramp; he even simply told some people he met during his journey that he did not have family.
Hypocrisy in society has been one mainstream topic in my blog. Examples: people who let themselves trapped in a loveless marriage only because they live in marriage-oriented society; many in that kind of marriage, women become the main victims (just like what is illustrated in this movie), then the children. People (mainly women) who think that they are luckier since they find men who are willing to marry them and feel sorry for single (moreover old maids) women, while in fact deep down in their hearts they envy those free women. People who have children not because they love having offspring but only for their own pride and selfishness.

“… get rid of this sick society. Why people, every fucking person is so bad to other people, so fucking awful. It doesn’t make sense to me; judgment, control, all that whole spectrum…”

What happened to Chris’ parents—to be hypocrites, Chris said—was also for the sake of judgment from society—to be considered happy and romantic family while in fact inside, Billie, the mother was bruised. (Why do women always become victims?)
Some people feel like they have full rights to make judgment to other people, to say what is good what is bad using their own eyes, without trying to view things from different point of view.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


“God never made mistakes in creating human beings!”

The statement above was said by one student of mine several months ago when I asked the class to discuss homosexuality/transgender/transsexual. I cited a statement of one transsexual I found in a book entitled Transekssualisme: “I was trapped in a wrong body.” And then I asked the class consisting of college students to discuss in small groups. The background of the discussion was the ‘gossip’ of one celebrity in Indonesia, Krisna Mukti. (Absolutely I am not a fan of infotainment program. However, I was interested in discussing this gossip in my class since the movement of feminism is indispensable from the movement of LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. And I am an open claimed feminist as you can find in my blogs.)

In responding my student’s opinion (I directly realized that I was facing a group of students who would probably oppose my way of thinking that is pro to freedom of choosing sexual orientation), I had to do it very carefully and wisely.

Obviously I also do believe that God never made mistakes in creating anything; name it human beings, animals, plants, this universe. Human beings made mistakes though. In this case, including to limit human beings only into two kinds—female and male, and then decide that the ‘normal’ one is when female is attracted to male and on the way around, especially romantically, sexually, and sensually. Outside that, there must be something wrong. Strongly opining that “No one is supposed to think that he/she is trapped in the wrong body” is indeed narrow-minded because we view things only from one perspective, ignoring that there is another—even some other perspectives.

Based on researches done, anthropologists have classified human beings into at least four categories, in terms of sexuality:

  1. Male that is sexually attracted to female
  2. Female that is sexually attracted to male
  3. Male that that is sexually attracted to male
  4. Female that is sexually attracted to female

The strong influence of Abrahamic religions (read: Jewish, Christianity, Islam) narrowed the four categories into only two during the Victorian era, the first and the second categories, leaving the third and the fourth become unknown, and eventually they were labeled abnormal or against natural law.
The Dutch colonial government brought this influence to Indonesia; making some communities that used to give respected position to homosexuals (such as bissu community in Makassar, warok gemblak in Ponorogo, dalaq in Madura, shaman in Dayak Ngaju, etc) cornered and gradually disappear. Besides, the strong influence of two main celestial religions (Christianity and Islam) brought to Indonesia made the homosexual communities come to an end. While before, those communities were viewed normal, even respected.

Isn’t it time to start viewing things from other perspectives, to understand the way others think and feel, to be empathetic.

Irshad Manji (a feminist Muslim that claims herself as a lesbian) said, “Bukankah Tuhan sangat bisa dengan keMahaKuasaan-Nya menjadikanku untuk tidak menjadi seorang lesbian?” (JP number 58) and still she is a lesbian. There was God’s interference behind it.

PT56 20.20 261008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Parents’ role in building child’s self-image

One of my workmates has a daughter who is at her early twenties. I have known her since she was in elementary school. She had somewhat plump body and she was a bit tomboy until graduating from senior high school. In 2002 she moved out of town to continue her study. Last year, she was seen again at the office, to visit her mother and she looked very different. She was not plump anymore and looked very feminine with her long hair. So slim was she that my workmates and I suspected that she was an anorexic or bulimic. We felt pity for her. And we were wondering if her mother did not warn her to take care of her health. But then I remembered, this workmate of mine, more than a decade ago, used to complain about her body a lot. She always felt she was plump although I thought she was not.
I assume that the way the mother valued her body has influenced the way the daughter saw her own body. “It is really a big disaster to gain weight, although only a little,” once she said, when attending a workmate’s wedding party. Therefore, she didn’t eat anything but some slices of watermelon.
Some time ago, another workmate saw the mother purging after having meal. It means the mother as well as the daughter suffer from the same thing.
I must say that I was somewhat anorexic when I was at junior high. Some friends (especially a boy I used to have a crush on) said that I would look prettier when slimmer. Therefore in senior high, I used to fast outside Ramadhan month without eating ‘sahur’ (having meal early in the morning before dawn) and successfully decreased my weight. Luckily I didn’t do it so terribly that I suffered from stomach disorder.
Realizing that it was not good for health, I keep telling Angie to love herself, and feel at ease with her body, slim or plump, especially after Angie entered adolescence. I opine that as the mother, I have a big role in helping Angie shape positive attitude toward herself. After that, I also ask her to do the same thing toward her friends. “God never creates ugly things. Human beings give values that are sometimes not necessary. Appreciate everyone the same way.” Still, sometimes she finds a schoolmate who says rude and ugly things toward Angie, and she complains to me.
“Honey, his mother or his father doesn’t teach him to appreciate God’s creature fairly. It even means that inside his heart he feels something wrong or he lacks of something so that he keeps looking for weaknesses in other people, especially physically. He deserves to get pity instead, not you.” I was trying to comfort her.
Meanwhile I still remember at kindergarten, Angie did not like one of her classmates. She kept protesting when her class teacher paired up her with that classmate until this mate felt afraid to Angie. She didn’t tell me about it but her class teacher did. When I asked her why she didn’t like working together that classmate, little Angie said, “She is so slow, not energetic, not lively.” Gosh!!! I never taught her such things, to treat her classmates differently based on their intelligence.
However, after Angie entered adolescence, I did tell her to value people on intelligence more than physical things, especially in looking for a boyfriend. :)
PT56 19.37 140908

Saved!, Juno, Gilmore Girls

A coin has two sides.
Just like a movie has many interpretations, not only two.
I plan to watch JUNO with my students this Monday. I have watched this movie with another class before, around a month ago, and I think this movie is quite ‘safe’ to be watched by teenagers: there is no vulgar scene, although the story is about a sixteen-year old teenager who gets pregnant outside the wedlock. I opine that the script writer as well as the producer of this movie wanted to give an alternative to teenagers how to face unwanted pregnancy; and to parents a kind of suggestion how about to stand together with the pregnant kid, to be supportive with the kid’s choice, instead of just blaming her without showing any comforting response, without realizing that sometimes female teenagers get pregnant not merely due to their own mistakes—such as accusation to have low moral because having sex out of a wedlock—but can also be engendered by the parents who don’t give enough attention, or too much controlling.

Saved!, Juno, Gilmore Girls

In this article, I want to compare three movies that have similar cases: SAVED!, JUNO, and one serial GILMORE GIRLS. They all have the similar topic: a sixteen-year-old girl who got pregnant outside the wedlock. Nevertheless, the cause of the pregnancy is different. The way to handle the case is different too.
SAVED! was produced in 2003/2004. This movie has very strong Christian teachings as the background. Mary, the leading character, got pregnant because she wanted to “save” his boyfriend who admitted that he was a gay in a telling-secret-under-the-water game. Feeling shocked, and with her head crashed something hard when she was about to go out of the pool, Mary saw a vision of Jesus coming to her, telling her that she was chosen to ‘save’ Dean (from being sinfully homosexual). Being able to make Dean enjoy their lovemaking, Mary thought she was successful to “cure” his ‘psychological/mental disease’. Therefore, she was very disappointed when knowing that Dean’s parents still sent him to Mercy House, a kind of rehabilitation to ‘solve’ any kinds of problems; such as addiction to drugs, homosexuality, until girls getting pregnant outside the wedlock. She felt cheated by Jesus’ vision coming to her.
JUNO was produced in 2007. The cause of Juno to get pregnant was merely she was curious to know what sex was like. ‘Playing’ something she didn’t know with one good friend, Paulie Bleeker rewarded her unwanted pregnancy.
GILMORE GIRLS was produced in 2004/2005. Lorelai Gilmore got pregnant when she was 16 years old merely because she wanted to rebel her controlling parents, especially her mother, who never gave her freedom to be herself. She always felt strangled in her parents’ luxurious house. Meanwhile, her teenage boyfriend, Chris, did that to get rid of his parents’ obligation to continue his study at Yale because he didn’t feel sure to be able to do that.
The solution to face the unwanted pregnancy is different. Mary, at SAVED! kept it secret, trying to hide her pregnancy She even did not tell Dean about it, not to her mother either. With help of her two schoolmates, Cassandra and Roland, she tried her best to hide her swollen belly under some special clothes. In another word, it can be concluded that Mary decided to keep her baby, although at the very beginning she was thinking of abortion.
At Gilmore Girls—as people can easily guess, because this serial focuses on the very intimate, best-friend-like relation between the mother and daughter—Lorelai decided to keep her baby too, but by leaving her parents’ home and doing her best to survive, as well as raising her daughter. She refused Chris’ offer to marry him because she thought both of them were not ready yet to live together in a marriage, moreover she knew very well that Chris was not psychologically and financially mature yet. This would just make the marriage not work well that possibly would just ruin the relationship of three of them—Lorelai, Chris, and Rory, their daughter, especially Rory’s mental development.
At JUNO, a bit similar to SAVED!, Juno was thinking of terminating her pregnancy too. However, then, she got a very brilliant idea, to find a couple of husband and wife who wanted to have a baby very much. She got one. The difference from SAVED was that Juno didn’t try to hide her pregnancy from her parents as well as her schoolmates. Bleeker, the father of the baby-to-be knew too the result of their ‘playing game’.
None of the three movies gave solution to marry the sixteen-year-old girl with the boy with whom they had sex, or with any other guy who was willing to “save” the good name of the family, a typical solution that usually happens in Indonesia.

Solution in Saved!, Juno, Gilmore Girls

SAVED! The failure of Mary to ‘cure’ Dean to me means that the producer as well as the script writer wants to tell the viewers that some people indeed were born to be homosexual, not because of the influence of wrong socialization. Before Dean told Mary about his secret—being a gay—he was involved in a Christian community, dedicated his life following Jesus’ steps. Any celestial religion will consider homosexuals sinful therefore they must be ‘saved’. In fact, Dean eventually had to give in his innate call.
Mary—who was involved in the same Christian community as Dean—was excited to be ‘chosen’ to help cure her boyfriend with the Jesus vision inside the pool. However, after she ‘sacrificed’ by having sex with Dean, Dean was still a gay. Furthermore, she seemed to be ‘punished’ by God to have sex outside the wedlock with the unwanted pregnancy. This ‘accident’ made her lose her strong belief that people would always find solution in religious teachings blindly, without using their common sense. Eventually, her mother accepted the fact that Mary got a baby; she did not need to send Mary to Mercy House because Mary was not a problematic teenager only because she was pregnant outside the wedlock. Mary needed the support of her mother to live her life much more strongly than to be sent to that kind of rehabilitation center which in fact did not really help the ‘victims’.
JUNO. Juno had decided to give away her baby to a couple when she told her parents about her pregnancy. Feeling shocked, but trying to hide it, the parents showed a strong support to Juno’s decision. The father—worried if Juno would be cheated because she was just a kid—accompanied Juno when meeting the couple who would adopt her baby. The mother protected Juno’s mental condition when people accused her a problematic teenager with her unwanted pregnancy. Juno expected that she would continue her life ‘normally’ (read  just like any other teenagers who didn’t get similar accidents) after she delivered her baby.
GILMORE GIRLS. Lorelai decided to run away from home, to deliver her baby, and to raise her using her own way—having intimate relationship with the baby, open communication, without ‘you’ve-got-to-listen-to-me-coz-I’m-your-mother’ trait toward Rory, a way to raise up a baby Lorelai believed would work much better than just controlling. By doing so, she believed that Rory would not end up getting unwanted pregnancy at a very young age.


Especially the two movies above—Saved! and Juno—some people around me opined that the movies even encouraged teenagers to ‘play’ with sex because when they accidentally got pregnant, their parents would even support them and didn’t punish them anything, not even to scold them. (This reminded me of one article in a local newspaper stating that in the movie of BERBAGI SUAMI—LOVE FOR SHARE in English—Nia Dinata wanted to encourage men to be polygamous.)
I have never invited my students to watch SAVED! so that I don’t get any input yet from my teenage students. However, in JUNO, my teenage students could see the complicated things Juno had to undergo, the insecurity a teenage girl had to face in their daily life when getting unwanted pregnancy. This obviously will NOT encourage them to get similar problem, moreover if their parents punish them for embarrassing their ‘good name’ by getting pregnant outside the wedlock.


A movie indeed can be interpreted from different points of views. When showing a movie about teenagers’ life, we as parents/teachers are supposed to accompany the teenagers and then have a live and open discussion to come up to a beneficial interpretation for both sides.
PT56 11.54 140908

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why bike to work

“At first my workmates considered me weird. However, since they knew me as someone who usually have weird hobbies, they no longer gave a damn on my biking to work.”

This was what Pak Wargo—one pioneer of bike to work in Semarang—said. He further said that he started biking to work in 2005, the same year when ‘bike to work’ community was first established in Jakarta. The basic reason why he biked to work at the very beginning was because he loved traveling. Another reason was to do exercise to keep healthy since he didn’t have spare time to do that. By going to work by bike, he did not need to spend special time to go to a gym, let’s say, or a swimming pool. He just had to wake up earlier, to go to the office earlier than when he went to work by car. He considered 35 kilometer distance from his house in Klipang—one eastern part of Semarang to his workplace in Mangkang—the most western part of Semarang as a challenge. Practically he biked around 70 kilometers away almost everyday. He explained that he usually went to his office on Monday morning by car, his bike was at the office. He went home by bike, leaving the car at the office. He biked to work from Tuesday until Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, he went home by car.

He usually needed one hour fifteen minutes to cover the 35-kilometer distance, by avoiding ‘hilly’ areas, such as in Kedungmundu. Instead, he chose to pass Majapahit street and directly went straight to the west, till his office located somewhere in Mangkang.

Doing exercise is indeed one most favorite reason for bike to workers in Semarang. Doctors’ claim that the safest exercise done by those who are more than forty years old are swimming, jogging, and biking is often cited. Some bike to workers said that they could not swim. Biking was a better choice than jogging because by biking people could reach further distance, meaning that they could enjoy more beautiful views, than just jogging. Moreover for people who weigh more than 90 kilograms, they say it is much heavier for their legs to support their bodies in jogging than they bike.

People’s complaint about the soaring price of gasoline can be decreased by biking to work too. They can save their money since they do not need gasoline at all when biking. Pak Wargo claimed that he needed around Rp. 300.000,00 per week to buy gasoline before he biked to work. You can imagine how much money he can save since then.

As we all know the fact that gasoline’s price soared did not only happen in Indonesia. One national newspaper stated that nowadays even in the super power country—America—more people are seen biking on the street than before the soaring price of gasoline.

The last but the most important reason for biking to work is absolutely to help reduce the air pollution as well as the negative impacts of global warming. Bicycles obviously do not produce emission gas that pollutes the air we breathe. It even makes the cyclists healthier.

So, what are you waiting for? Join Pak Wargo and the other bike to workers to save our earth while saving your money and making your bodies healthy.

It is expected that in the future, people will bike not only to go to the office, but also to go anywhere they need to do activities.

PT56 22.24 110808

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Legal Bribery in Education?

This year, for the first time, the municipal government of Semarang issued a regulation for education, especially related to the new students acceptance. Besides via the “regular” program, state schools were encouraged to open a “special” program. This program gave a way to students who didn’t get good scores in the examination to be accepted at their dream school, as long as the parents agreed to pay some amount of money. Of course this “policy” got lots of criticisms from society.
I remember in 1980 when I was accepted at one state junior high school, in the announcement board, I saw around 200 test-takers were accepted. They were divided into four classes. However, on the first day of studying in that school, there were eight classes! This meant there were around 200 other students also accepted, not via “regular” program—passing the entrance test (not via high scores of the national examination). Some elementary school friends of mine who did not pass the test also went to the same junior high school together with me. You can guess what their parents did: bribed the school. Therefore, I heard after that the headmaster bought a new car. The rumour said the money the school got from the bribery was divided among the teachers evenly, and the headmaster got the most.
I did not pay attention when I entered the senior high school. I believe bribery cases also happened, only they were done more ‘tidily’ so that they were not easily seen.
In 2003 Angie entered the same junior high school as mine. In the announcement board there were 280 new students accepted, for seven classes. On the first day of school, I asked Angie to find out how many classes were open, and how many students there were in one class. She reported there were (still) seven classes. However, in one class, there were around forty-five until forty-seven students. It means, there were around five until seven “smugglers”. Similar as what happened in my ‘era’ to be accepted at that junior high school, of course the money obtained from the bribery was exclusively for the school only—whether to be given to the headmaster as well as the teachers, or to build some laboratories or to provide some facilities.
It has been a public secret that during the new student acceptance and registration, headmasters and teachers get some extra money.
What happened after the municipal government of Semarang issued a regulation for the “special” program, so that the parents can do “legal” bribery? The money must be divided into two parts evenly, for the schools as well as for the government. What will the government do with the money? The mayor of Semarang must be very careful to carry out something using the money because the society has given full attention to this case. Several months ago, he was accused of getting involved in one corruption case.
The middle-low social class people have been very concerned with this because education has become more and more expensive recently. They have to compete with the rich people. The bitter joke of “orang miskin dilarang sakit” (poor people are forbidden to be sick) will be accompanied by another joke, “orang miskin dilarang sekolah” (poor people are forbidden to go to school) while in fact education is one most important basic to develop our country, to catch up with other advanced countries. How will Indonesia develop itself if the young generations cannot get enough education due to the expensive cost?
PT56 21.50 270708

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Folk Jokes

Folklore is a compound word which comes from two words: ‘folk’ and ‘lore’. ‘Folk’ is similar to the word ‘collectivity’ (Koentjaraningrat, 1965:196-169), as quoted by Danandjaja in Folklor Indonesia, 2002:1. ‘Folk’ is a group of people having particular characteristics in physics, social, and culture that make them different from other groups of people. While ‘lore’ refers to folk tradition which is passed down from generation to generation orally or by using mnemonic device (Danandjaja, 2002:1-2).
Brunvard, via Danandjaja (2002:2) gives definition of folklore as “those materials in culture that circulate traditionally among members of any group in different versions, whether in oral or by means of customary example”. Furthermore, in his newest book entitled Folklor Amerika, Danandjaja again quoted Brunvard (1998:3) states that American Folklore is unrecorded traditions of a collective or folk of one ethnic in the United States, covering form, context, tradition, and the way they are passed on from one person to another.
American folklore is classified into three categories: verbal, partly verbal, and non verbal. Verbal folklore – the type most commonly studied in the United States – covers folk speech, folk proverbs, folk riddles, folk rhymes, folk narratives, folk songs, etc. partly verbal folklore includes folk games, folk dramas, folk dances, folk festivals, folk customs, etc. While non verbal folklore includes both the traditional materials of folk architecture, arts, crafts, costumes, foods, and the non material tradition of gestures, and folk music.
This article discusses jokes, as part of verbal folklore. Alan Dundes – one of famous folklorists in the United States – assumes that jokes give way out to express prohibited opinions. Dundes says that jokes emerge to show hidden aggression toward another collective and to attack another collective they do not like (Danandjaja, 2003:165). The aggression is not always constant and it has certain function of time and place.
Jokes mostly have “appropriate incongruity” perception, a perception which needs two incongruous semantic domains but they are put in one tect as if they are congruous (Danandjaja, 2003:166). Therefore it is unavoidable that joke texts are ambiguous. To understand such jokes, we have to pay attention to the contexts outside them. For example,

Q: What is the first thing President Clinton going to do in the Oval Office?
A: He is gonna have flowers on his desk.

At a glance, people will not understand where the funny thing lies in the joke. The funny thing, in fact, lies in the word ‘flowers which can refer to real flowers, but it can also refer to a woman’s name. To understand that, people need to know that before Clinton has an affair with Monica Lewinsky, there is a gossip that Clinton has an affair with another woman named Jennifer Flowers.
In the explanation aforementioned, “appropriate incongruity” perception is seen clearly.
Next, in this article, I will compare two kinds of jokes related to ex president of the United States (Bill Clinton) and ex president of Indonesia (Soeharto).

When Hillary and Bill Clinton ran out of gasoline

One day Hillary and Bill were driving their car in a coastal area. Suddenly, Hillary said, “Honey, our car will run out of gasoline. Let’s buy it in the next gasoline station.”
They bought gasoline in a gas station called Texaco. When one of the workers of the station was filling in gasoline, Hillary continued staring at him, as if she were flirting him. It made Bill jealous. He asked her after they left the station, “Why did you stare at that man so passionately?”
“Oh, that man was one of my classmates in high school, and we used to go out together often,” Hillary answered calmly.
“How lucky you did not marry him. If you had married him, you would not become the first lady now,” said Bill.
“I am sorry I don’t agree with you. If I had married him, believe he would become the president now,” commented Hillary more calmly.

The reason why Hillary Clinton shaved her pussy

Q: Why did Hillary Clinton shave her pussy?
A: So she could say, “Read my lips! No more Bush!

The first joke only attacks Bill Clinton who is considered not as smart as his wife. On the other hand, the second joke attacks two politicians who were struggling to get the presidency in 1992: Bill Clinton and George Bush.

The following you will find a joke related to Soeharto. This joke appeared in March/April 1998 when Soeharto was elected to be the president again.

Q: Have you heard that Soeharto would be the president again?
A: Oh no … not again.
Q: Oh come on, give that old man one more chance to be the president. He enjoyed being the president of Indonesia only for two years.
A: Who the hell was our president before 1996 then?
Q: Itu Tien Soeharto.

Feminism versus mysticism

In the United States, feminism has become the most debatable discussion since the sixties with the publishing of The Feminine Mystique written by Betty Friedan. Hillary is also well-known as feminist who believes that women are equal to men. Furthermore, American people know Hillary as a smart person, she is even much smarter than her husband, Bill. In the first joke about Hillary and Bill Clinton, we can see that Bill cannot ‘beat’ his wife in discussion. The second joke shows how Hillary makes use of her being smart to make Bill win the presidency. In 1992, George Bush Sr. was famous with his promise in his campaigns, “Read my lips, no more taxes.” In this joke, American people consider Hillary as feminist who actively does anything to win people’s heart to choose her husband as the next president.
In Indonesia, on the contrary, the joke about Soeharto and the late Tien Soeharto above is not based on feminism, but mysticism. It is generally believed that Siti Hartinah Soeharto (her complete name) was the one who got ‘blessings’ from God. Since she was married to Soeharto, Soeharto could become the president of Indonesia for 32 years. After Siti Hartinah passed awy, Soeharto lost the blessings and he could not rule Indonesia for along time.


Jokes can be included in the verbal folklore since they have some characteristics of folklore, such as anonymous, collective, passed on orally, sometimes crude. Jokes are chosen by society to express their dislike to another collectivity without really making the attacked collective offended, because it is only a joke. It works both in the United States and in Indonesia.

Jogja, 2003

Change Your Perspective: Join Student Exchange

I have got an answer to my question to myself a year ago, “Why are the five students selected to go abroad by AFS committee all studying at Islamic boarding school?”
I have been looking for the answer for a year when out of the blue I got the answer. The story is like this.
On Saturday July 19, 2008 I was invited by Yayasan Bina Antar Budaya (The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning) Chapter Semarang to attend the farewell as well as welcoming party. Farewell party is to let go the selected students abroad; while welcoming party is to welcome some students having come back from abroad. The program was held for two days at Bandungan, not far from Semarang. On my way to Bandungan, I was together with Erik, one student who just came back from Norway. Leo, one volunteer, drove his car, while listening to my chat with Erik, and once in a while asking questions to Erik or giving comments.
Among several questions I asked Erik, I asked one crucial question: about religion.
“So, how is the religiosity life in Norway, Erik?”
To my surprise, Erik seemed very enthusiastic with that question.
“I assume that 85% of Norwegian people are atheist.” He directly answered.
Then, he went on telling us …
At first, his father—who works for Religion Department—minded his going to Norway. Erik himself was very disappointed to be selected by AFS committee but was sent to a country he chose the last one to visit. (In fact, it was Erik’s own mistake because he misunderstood the instruction when ranking which country he wanted to visit very much). Before letting Erik go, his parents took him to one relative in Kudus who happened to be one ‘ulema’ they believed could foresee what would happen. Guess why? His parents were worried if Erik would be a non-believer too after getting in touch with atheist people for a year. Fortunately, the relative gave green light to Erik’s parents to let him go.
“Honestly I got mentally ‘slapped’ by my foster parents there when they said, “Erik, you are a Muslim because you were born in Indonesia. We are non-believers because we were born here in Norway. I believe if you were born in Norway, you would be a non-believer too. Likewise, if we were born in Indonesia, we would be Muslim too because it is a religion adhered by the majority Indonesian people.”
My experience living there among non-believer people taught me something contradictory from I used to believe: “Atheist people are not criminals. What people say that atheist people have chaotic life because their life is not divided by the rigid five pray times a day is absolutely not correct. Their life is fine, and they are obviously good people. My foster parents did not know me at all before I arrived there, but they took care of me very well, as if I were their own son. Not recognizing God in their life does not necessarily mean they become heartless people. I have learned something very different from what my religious teachers used to teach me.”
The number of imbeciles in Indonesia has decreased one number: ERIK.
I expect that the other students sent abroad together with Erik (all from one famous Islamic boarding school in Sukoharjo) underwent similar experience in understanding different perspective about religiosity/spirituality.
Absolutely I have been expecting that this number will decrease now and again so that we Indonesian people all will live side by side peacefully regardless different religions, ethnic, etc.
During ‘talent show’ that night, I was sitting next to a woman whose daughter went back from Belgium a year ago. One of our ‘chats’ was also about this religiosity thing. I assume that the daughter got similar ‘enlightenment’ as Erik so she had courage to debate her mother when the mother said, “Atheist people must have chaotic life because they don’t have ‘something’ to hold on –GOD. In Indonesia here there are many religious people but still people do crimes, such as corruption. Moreover in a country where people don’t believe that there will be life after death where everyone must be responsible with everything they do in this world.”
A very narrow-minded way of thinking, do you believe? This becomes the daughter’s responsibility to ‘teach’ the mother a new perspective in viewing life. As stated in the motto of AFS program: CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN VIEWING THE WORLD.
PT56 12.40 220708

Saturday, July 19, 2008


A good friend of mine just went back from Kansas University to pursue her Master’s Degree. She told me some interesting experiences of hers. One of them is ‘safe ride’ facility provided by the municipal government of Kansas City. My friend said the latest city bus was operated around 22.30. When someone wanted to go home later than that, he/she could call ‘safe ride’ and a car would come and take him/her home. It applied from anywhere in the city, and the ride given was to be back home. My friend made use of that service several times when she was too absorbed by her activities in the library of Kansas University that opened until 2.30am.
I was amazed because it showed the good will of the government to protect the citizens.
Compare it to what happens in Indonesia. Some regions issued bylaws claiming to “protect” women while in the practice they even made women as targets for crimes because of some things; such as women were not allowed to go out after 10pm. If a woman were still on the street late at night, she would easily be accused as prostitute, or as a lawbreaker.
If the government really wants to protect women from criminals, especially women whose job or activities make them still hang around on the street, for example to wait for a public transportation, why doesn’t the government provide service such as ‘safe ride’?
PT56 23.20 160708

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Having Children

Having children is one of some other most coveted things in Indonesian culture. I am not sure whether it is closely related to religious teachings since Indonesia is well-known as one country where the majority of the people are religious. In fact, to adhere a religion in Indonesia is a must if someone doesn’t want to be marginalized.
Therefore, no need to wonder if a newly married couple wants to have a baby very much; moreover for those who have been married for quite a long time. It is not clear though whether they want to have a baby because they want to have a regeneration in their family—maybe to continue their family name; or to do one religious teaching—perhaps to make the religion not run out of adherents because of course the parents will teach their babies the same religion and will not easily let them convert; to have “investment” in their old age—for example to take care of them when they are elderly, or to give them financial support after they undergo physical degeneration so that they are incapable to earn money; or just a “trivial” thing—to be considered ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ by society.
No matter the reason is, ‘having children’ idea has made some people become victims in Indonesia.
Firstly is a woman who doesn’t get pregnant soon after she is married. People around her will incessantly question her about, “When will you expect a baby to come in your family?” To some extent, it will really bother her psychologically. She will get tired of the question and probably she will blame herself for not getting pregnant soon. The worst thing is when the husband accuses her to be incapable to get pregnant and decides to marry another woman—Indonesian gender-biased law ‘supports’ men to do this psychological oppression toward women.
Secondly is children who were born in a family where the parents do not realize that (to borrow Gibran’s idea) the children do not belong to the parents. The parents will make the children doll to fulfil their dream; such as to choose an education the parents want, to choose a job the parents possibly used to dream but could not make it.
Some unlucky children were born from parents who in fact do not really want them; they just want to conform to society’s norm—after getting married, to be categorized ‘normal’ and ‘happy’ family, they ‘produce’ children. Unfortunately, they are psychologically immature so that they don’t take care of them well. They even sometimes think that children are just burdens. You can name some examples of this category by yourselves.
Around a year ago, I got an email from a friend who confided in me about this having babies thing. She complained and accused that God was being unfair. She said that she was psychologically and financially prepared to take care of a baby. However, she still didn’t get pregnant although she was already married since 1999. On the contrary, her sister in law even got three babies although she and the husband were not financially enough. As a result, she didn’t take care of the babies well (she was not psychologically mature, she was not ready to be a mother, not ready with the responsibilities, she also didn’t equip herself with some knowledge how to raise babies well). From financial aspect, my friend’s husband—the elder brother of my friend’s sister in law—had to support, such as to pay the Caesar operation the sister had to undergo to deliver the second and third babies, to buy milk every month, to help provide small business to augment the income, etc.
“God is really unfair. I am more psychologically ready and financially safe. My age is already in the middle of thirties. I haven’t got a baby yet. But why did God give my sister in law another baby while in fact she already has two babies?” This was what she wrote in the email to me.
To reply her email—to appease her high emotion—I cited what Ayu Utami said in one article in her book SI PARASIT LAJANG. There are three most coveted things by Indonesian people; they are having an established job, getting married (more important thing is having a responsible and loving spouse), and having children. By God she was given two out of those three things: an established job and a responsible and loving husband. Her husband also was a very supportive person. His idea about having children in a marriage is something certain due to the sex a married couple regularly has. He does not really adore having children.
The fact that people like to compare what they have with what other people have to measure whether they are lucky or unlucky, I compared her to me. “From those three things, I only have one—a child. I do have a job but this is not really an established one, and I don’t have a spouse.
Maybe she saw the “truth” in what I said to her, she no longer complained about her child-less to me anymore.
PT56 22.00 130708

A Wife's Place

“A wife must always be beside the husband” is a very common and taken-for-granted idea in the patriarchal culture. Although this is considered quite obsolete in this era, moreover by feminists, I believe many people still adhere to it. Therefore, it is very easy to find a woman who gives up her job after getting married because her husband—who happens to work out of town, or out of island—asks her to be by his side.
Several weeks ago, a neighbour was seen here while in fact several months ago I heard that she moved to Kalimantan, to follow her husband who worked there. Her mother said, “She didn’t feel at home there. Not many things could she do so she easily felt bored.”
“How could she say she felt bored? She had an honourable duty there, to accompany her husband!” This was my mother’s comment. FYI, my mother was taken to Semarang by my dad five days after they got married in 1962. Despite the fact they were cousins, they barely knew each other. I once told her that she was very lucky because my dad was a very good man so that she was really in the ”right hands” after she was taken away from her loving parents. That’s why it is understandable if she completely agrees with the aforementioned idea, “a wife must always be beside the husband.”
To respond her comment above, I asked whether that neighbour of ours worked before she moved to Kalimantan. She did. So, it was very easy to know why she was bored in the somewhat isolated area. She was accustomed to being busy working, and suddenly she was forced to be idle. Not all women were born to have a housewife instinct, I suppose, so it must be understood if some of them could not find enjoyment being a “Stepford Wife”, who feels excited to do all household chores and become the best servant for the husband and children, as well as become submissive.
Perhaps that neighbour of mine could not get enjoyment being a Stepford wife.
The second reason was it was hard for women who used to work and get her own money and suddenly she became financially dependent. This would be worse if the husband were stingy, calculating money he gives the wife every month and does not really believe in the way the wife manages the money.
Agreeing with what I said, my mom then cited an example. In one community she joins, (she mostly joins religious groups, besides some gatherings in the neighbourhood), several months ago the members planned to have a uniform. However, when discussing the cost of the uniform to make, one of the members desperately said, “It is difficult for me to make it. It depends on my husband’s generosity, because the money is his. He usually doesn’t agree if I want to buy new clothes.” The woman used to work. She stopped working after getting married because her husband asked her to be a full housewife.
I remembered the first wife of my brother. When they got married, she worked as a cashier in one bank. For that, she often went home late, around 9pm while my brother arrived home at 5pm the latest. After the bank got bankrupt, she became a full housewife. She didn’t look for another job because she said she wanted to focus on trying having a baby. I believe it was not my brother’s idea but hers due to Indonesian culture that adores having kids in a marriage. Some time after that, my brother opened a “playstation” rental. She seemed happy when counting the money she got on one day, and said to me, “I used to work and have my own money. After being laid off, I often felt depressed because I didn’t make my own money. The money I get everyday from this small business really makes me happy although only a little.”
Despite the fact she suffered from a physical disease, I sometimes thought that the depression she had by being a full housewife and coveting to have a baby helped “kill” her in 2004. My brother married her in 1992.
I think the two reasons aforementioned were enough to make my neighbour go back to her hometown. Moreover after knowing the possibility of the quiet and not enough entertainment in the city where her husband lives, one perhaps had better understand why a woman chooses to leave her husband and decides to have a long distance marriage.
I reminded my mom that she had a different background. She used to be very young when marrying my dad. She didn’t have any experience to earn her own money. Besides, she belongs to a ‘housewife type’ so she found enjoyment to do household chores. And the most important thing is: everything changes. The era has changed too.
PT56 19.59 130708

Women's Voice

“Suara kaum minoritas elite juga bisa dengan mudah kita jumpai di media semacam Jurnal Perempuan. Meskipun namanya menggunakan perempuan, justru terjadi dekonstruksi makna perempuan oleh Jurnal Perempuan.”

(The voice of elite minority community can be easily found in some media such as Jurnal Perempuan – Journal for Women. Although there is the word ‘women’ in it, in fact Jurnal Perempuan even deconstructed the significant meaning of the word “women”.)

I got the above statement from one article forwarded to Jurnal Perempuan mailing list some weeks ago. It was stated by a woman who was on the other (or even contradictory) boat of women “warriors” labelled as feminists. I remembered the first time I read Jurnal Perempuan (JP) around 2003; the first time I learned there was another ‘voice’ uttered by “women” that was different from “women’s voices” I read/heard from some other medias I had known for decades. I bet I recognized the ‘voice’ expressed by JP as the “real” voice of women – free from patriarchal culture – because at that time I was assigned to read Gilligan’s book “In a Different Voice” by one lecturer of American Studies Gadjah Mada University.

The “voice” expressed by JP was in fact the answer of so many questions having crowded my mind since I was a kid; such as women were not the weaker sex, Islam – the religion I have adhered since I was born – was not the religion that discriminated women because in fact the people – you can label them ulema or Islamic scholars – behind the religion were the ones who discriminated women by producing gender biased interpretation of Alquran and hadiths, etc.

Therefore I do agree if someone says that articles published at JP ‘deconstruct’ what patriarchal culture believes, especially on women’s ‘destiny’. Is it to corner women? The answer is a big NO. It is even to lift women’s position!!


Several days ago I had a long talk with a good friend of mine who just went back from Kansas University. She claimed that she has believed in an equal relationship between husband and wife because her parents gave a good example towards the children. I told her that my parents also didn’t differentiate the treatments towards the children. My late father recognized the intelligence in me more than my big brother, that’s why he supported my education very highly because he didn’t want to see me end up as an exclusive cook for the husband and children. (So I ‘read’ the attention he gave me.) The way my parents divided household chores among the children also without gender stereotypes.

“So, where did you get the idea that a woman had to dedicate all her life for the husband as well as children and be submissive with whatever the husband does? Be the only one who takes care of all household chores, serve the husband, etc to provide ‘heaven’ on earth for the family? Therefore you felt like finding a very precious jewellery after you got to know the perspective conveyed by JP?” She shot me.

I could not answer that killing question.

That made me keep thinking about it and keep trying to find the ‘traces’ that resulted in a deep pain in my heart.

The first possibility was the indoctrination I got when I was at Islamic elementary school. I believe my teachers at that time cited many misogynist interpretations to indoctrinate the students. Besides, they also said there were no dialectics in religion. So? “Take it or leave it.” Read it as “take it if you want to enter heaven. Leave it if you want to accompany Satans in hell.” And usually the teachers frightened the young kids about hell.

I got the second possibility after for a few days trying hard to remember again my childhood and teenage years. I assume it was the beginning moment I shaped myself to be one victim in this patriarchal society because I wanted to fulfil the requirements to be a “true” woman. I remembered at that time my mom subscribed – or at least bought regularly – one magazine claimed for women. Since my reading was my hobby, I also often read some articles or stories – short stories or novella – in the magazine. I still remembered many articles and stories gave illustration of how to be a “true” and “good” woman, how to attract men, etc. The indoctrination of how to be a pious woman I got from my elementary school education plus the shaping of how to be a “true” and “good” woman viewed from patriarchal perspective amazingly shaped me to be a perfect example of Cinderella complex sufferer.

However, it was ruined by choosing a wrong guy to be my Lovely Star’s father.

The perfect example was broken into pieces.

Therefore when finding out my own “voice” I collected from scratch by my own readings – one of them is absolutely JP – I was like a woman warrior who “woke up late”. However, I do believe in an axiom saying that it is better late than never.

I still have to celebrate my awakening: by writing in my blog.

LL TBL 15.33 120708

Bike to Work

“I am not sure if you will succeed in gathering many people to join that Bike to Work (B2W) community,” this was Angie’s pessimistic comment when seeing the flyer of ‘bike to work’.

I said nothing to hear that. I am more optimistic than she is, I assume.

However, Angie’s comment reminded me of one nineteenth-century American thinker, Henry David Thoreau with his experience living around a pond, all alone, away from ‘civilized society’, that he wrote in his book entitled WALDEN. He did that to criticize American government that he thought damaged the environment by building trans-continental railway during the decade of 1860s. Despite the fact that the railway would help improve the transportation so that it would also result in good business plus profit, smoke coming out of the train would absolutely damage the environment. Thoreau, the true environmentalist, extremely objected the railway building. But what could a Thoreau do to stop it? Even, his good friend as well as teacher, Emerson, only expressed his objection toward the then government’s so-called crazy idea. Emerson did not do any real action to show it.

Bike-to-work idea itself is great and easy to do. This is also obviously more possible to carry out rather than Thoreau’s idea to leave the city he lived to live in a forest, living like a hermit, away from other people, only consuming anything he found in the forest. I believe that it is an absurd thing to do what Thoreau did in this internet era. Do you agree?

So, why is it difficult to attract people’s attention to join B2W community? (This is the result of seeing some people’s reluctant reaction when getting the flyer of B2W during ‘fun bike’ held in Semarang on June 15, 2008) It is essential that we do care for our environment, isn’t it?

I think the answer is on Indonesian people’s way of life. We are ‘popular’ to have high-class lifestyle. Have you ever heard how Indonesian government officials went to a building where they would get debt from some debtor countries? While the officials from the debtor countries came by a simple car, Indonesian officials came by a luxurious car.

Japan that used to colonize Indonesia from 1942-1945 successfully rose from the crumble due to the bomb to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has become one giant country in Asia. But look at the people’s way of living. Although many of them have private cars, they would prefer to go by public transportation. In Indonesia, people would prefer to show off their ‘property’ by driving cars or riding motorcycles that probably they haven’t fully paid. They would rather expose their prestige. Likewise, other people would prefer to show their respect to people driving cars rather than people riding motorcycles. (Try going to a mall or supermarket close to your dwelling place by bike and see how the parking person will treat you!)

Last Saturday morning on my way to my workplace located 11 kilometers away from my dwelling place, when passing Gombel ‘hill’, suddenly I daydreamed to see other motorists riding bicycles. No vehicles on the road but bicycles and buses (as public transportation). I daydreamed not to breathe polluted air.

PT56 21.31 150608

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Zoo Story

the pic was taken from here

Several weeks ago I assigned my class to read THE ZOO STORY, one-act play written by Edward Albee. This was written in 1958 in New York but its premiere performance was occurred at the Theater Werkstatt in Berlin on September28, 1959. It was performed on Broadway on January 14, 1960. The story is about two characters, Peter and Jerry, who meet accidentally in one bench in The Central Park. The main conflict is built while the two are talking to each other. What happens at the end of the play oftentimes startles the audience.

To dissect the play together in my class, I gave four questions to lead the discussion.

  1. What is the main conflict of the story?
  2. What kind of personality traits do the two characters have?
  3. How do their family backgrounds differ from each other?
  4. What is your reaction when coming to the end of the play?

At first one student complained to me, “If you categorize this play into comedy, I don’t think I find funny aspects in it. Or is it due to my low capability in English?”

When I asked her how she perceived the story of the play, she simply said, “The story is very weird.”
The play is indeed weird; that’s why literary critics categorized it into ‘absurd play’. The word ‘absurd’ itself means “plainly not true, logical, or sensible; so contrary to reason that it is laughable; foolish; ridiculous.” The story to some extent is also pathetic.

Another student then said that probably this kind of story was very much impossible to happen in Indonesia but it was absolutely possible to happen in America.

“Why is that? Which part of the story do you think is impossible to happen here?” I asked her.
I suspected that she didn’t finish reading the whole story so that she answered my question just by mentioning the fact that Peter’s family had two cats and two parakeets. “It is indeed a common thing for Indonesian people to have pets. But you know, pets in Indonesia are just pets. Animals. They don’t really mean a lot. In America, as far as I know there is always a very strong emotional relationship between people and their pets.” Meanwhile I expected that she would answer my question by appointing the weird conversation between Jerry and Peter.

Let’s take one example. After a little bit ‘small talk’ about going north, Jerry asked Peter, “Do you mind if we talk?”

In Indonesia, especially in small towns, when two people meet accidentally in a park, or anywhere else, they will just talk, without asking, “Do you mind if we talk?” They will just talk casual things though, to show hospitality. However, as some critics have said, at the very beginning of the time when Albee had this play published, they did not understand what Albee actually wanted to convey to public.

pic was taken from here
In the following discussion, we talked about different family backgrounds Peter and Jerry had. Peter was married, had two daughters, and had an established job in a publishing company. On the contrary, Jerry was single, no steady job, living in an indecent tenement with an abusive landlady who had a crazy dog that liked attacking Jerry playfully. Jerry also came from a broken unhappy family.

This contradictory family background absolutely made them have different personality traits. Peter was an established man, educated, able to control his emotion quite well. Jerry seemed somewhat insane with his almost unbelievable story about his landlady and the crazy dog. Therefore I understood when my students said that Jerry seemed to envy Peter’s seemingly happy life.

No one expected to find someone dying at the end of the story because from the very beginning, the play just showed two men talking about unimportant things in their life. My students said that Jerry was too much to provoke Peter so that Peter lost his common sense in facing him although he seemed careful.

The first question—about the main conflict of the story—was not answered in the discussion. I opined that in fact Jerry was already desperate about his unhappy life. He needed someone to “help” him commit suicide. Peter was just the right person on the wrong place. Jerry succeeded in provoking Peter so that he did what Jerry ‘planned’: to hold the knife on his hand, enabling Jerry to impale on it.
Why did Jerry need someone else’s help to commit suicide? He wanted to share his unhappiness to someone else he assumed to have a happy life—in that decade, to be married, have kids and a good job were ‘requirements’ to be lead a happy life.

Peter’s life would never be the same again as before he encountered a crazy, desperate man who involved him in his death.

What did Albee want to convey to the audience? I assume that he wanted to criticize American values that started to worship wealth and did not care of the neighborhood.

PT56 13.33 190608

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nationalism and Religiosity

the pic was taken from here

Last Sunday, June 8, 2008, after interviewing some participants of students exchange (AFS program), I was involved in a chit-chat with some other volunteers. One of them, a middle-aged woman, wearing jilbab, has a Japanese course at her dwelling place. Another one, a man at his mid-thirties, just opened an English course in Semarang some time ago, after he lived in Jakarta for around fifteen years.

There are two main interesting topics we talked.

1. Nationalism
The woman I mentioned above said about the young generations in Indonesia who did not have enough nationalism. One guest teacher she got from Japan encouraged her to evoke nationalism in her students before they go to Japan. (Note: her institution often gives Japanese training for those who will go to Japan to work.) The guest teacher said that the young generations did not have enough nationalism. It was proven from what they said about their own country when they were in Japan.
As a comparison, Japanese young generations, as well as Korean who work in Japan, have high nationalism so that they do not want to talk bad things about their country.

From the way the woman talked about that, and her concern with the low nationalism among the young generations, I concluded that she tended to scold them, without trying to dig out more deeply what caused it. Therefore, sadly I said, “Well, I don’t really blame them. Let’s take a corruption case as an example. What happened if one government official—let’s say a minister—in Japan was found out that he allegedly was involved in a corruption case? He perhaps would resign from his position, or even would do ‘harakiri’. What happened if that happened in Indonesia? Even in Semarang, there is one government official who has been suspected to get involved in a corruption case, he, without shame, still moves on to join the gubernatorial election.”

Feeling concerned about this matter, on Tuesday June 10, I asked one class of mine—there were twelve students present, varying from the second until sixth semester at college—to discuss the cause why nationalism decreased among the young generations. I divided them into three groups. I didn’t tell them what I said in the chit-chat two days before in order that I didn’t ‘interfere’ their way of thinking. Nevertheless, the three groups agreed that one main reason was the leadership crisis among the government officials, it resulted in the young generations’ disappointment toward the government. They felt embarrassed toward Indonesian ‘reputation’ as the most corrupted country.
Some other reasons mentioned were:

Impacts of globalization where the information was not filtered. One example mentioned was when the young generations see a prosperous life in another country, one thing they hardly find in Indonesia nowadays, it will make them dream to live abroad.
Impact of being colonized for some centuries so that we felt inferior toward the colonial country.
Not good educational system, proven by the continuous changing in the curricula every time a new minister of education is elected
Protection from the government toward the citizens is bad.
Disbelieve in our own products
Not preserving our original cultures

Unfortunately, since we didn’t have enough time to discuss, I could not explore more of their answers. I assume, however, it was enough to know the voice of the young generations why they would choose to live abroad, even probably to change their nationality in case they get a good job, good salary and enough facility in another country.

the pic taken from here

2. Religion

The guy living in Jakarta for more than a decade complained about the impolite behavior among children and teenagers in Jakarta. He mentioned the non-religiosity as one main cause of the bad behavior. One example: during Ramadhan month (the holy fasting month for Muslim), people no longer showed empathy toward other people who perhaps were fasting. Without feeling shy—moreover sinful—people enjoyed having meals in public places. Another example was the bigger tendency for people to have free sex recently without feeling ashamed.

On the contrary, he said, living in Semarang—one much smaller city than the metropolis Jakarta—was much more peaceful. Children and teenagers in Semarang behaved much better than their counterparts in the capital of Indonesia.

“The key, in fact, lies in religious teachings.” He said.

I kept quiet.

Then the woman told us a story one time she got an exchange student from Japan staying at her house. A little chat on religion happened between her and the student in the beginning of their encounter.

She asked: “What is your religion”
The student answered, “I don’t have religion. Should I adhere one religion if I live in Indonesia?”

The woman responded, “Oh, you don’t need to. That’s fine. Forgive my nosy question, please.” (Nana’s note: it seems to me that “what is your religion” has become one very common question asked in the first meeting with someone.)

The student said, “My parents never teach me about religion. They strongly teach me not to harm other people, though.”

The woman commented, (to us, to sum up her chat with the student) “See? In fact it is as simple as that the way Japanese raise their children. Don’t harm other people. And I assume that is the key of all religions.”

Then I simply said, “You know what? In Indonesia, adhering religion is very important, even it is a must, I guess, because we are taught that religious people are better than the non-believers. And many cases happen where religious people think that they even can make use of their religions to do violence to others and they don’t feel ashamed or sinful because they believe they harm other people in the name of God.”

Hearing my saying, the woman nodded solemnly, while the guy smiled, a bit embarrassed. :)

PT56 13.23 110608

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Localized English

When reading “We have the right to change English” in The Jakarta Post (you can also check it in Right to Change English I remembered what Jack C. Richards said in the TEFLIN Conference held in Surabaya in 2002. He said that as one consequence to label English as a universal language, people in Britain, Australia, and America no longer can exclusively possess it. This is the high time to accept the emergence of localized English; for example Singlish (Singaporean English) (one most common example for this ‘Singlish’ is when a Singaporean says, “No way lah”. Therefore, one can conclude that Richards also encouraged Indonesian English to emerge.

this pic was taken from here

In 2003, in my workplace there was a native speaker coming as one guest teacher. She is from one area in Britain and she had a very different accent when speaking English. The way she pronounced many words also did not follow the phonetic symbols usually found in many dictionaries (such as OXFORD, LONGMAN, HORNBY). She said that in Britain different areas had different accent as well as pronunciation. Because she learned her mother language since she was born, when she went to school and learned the ‘correct’ way to pronounce according to the dictionaries, she (as well as her fellow citizens I suppose) did not give it a damn. She said as long as they understood each other, that was enough. They did not need to bother themselves with the correct pronunciation. (This talk reminded me of one short article I read in one ELT book, I forgot the title of the book, either “Practice and Progress” or “Question & Answer”, the title of article was “Do the English speak English?” referring to the different ways of British people to pronounce English words.) She also said that even the English teachers in Indonesia pronounce English words ‘correctly’ because they always referred to the phonetic symbols in many dictionaries. They also tried to always follow the correct grammar rules.

To combine what was said by Jack Richards and the guest teacher in my workplace, I felt more at ease when teaching my students, no longer burden them to speak as closely as native speakers’ accent and pronunciation, for example, or to carefully choose the best dictions (that was worldwide accepted) to express something, as long as their interlocutors understand the message conveyed.

How about to ‘create’ Indonesian English, such as saying, “What’s wrong sih with you?” or “So what is it dong?” When Singaporeans can say, “No way lah,” of course Indonesian people can say similar things, such as by adding ‘sih’ and ‘dong’. However, I still insist that it be important to teach students to follow strict grammar rules. In Bahasa Indonesia, one can say, “Saya sudah makan” or “Sudah makan saya” or “Makan? Saya sudah” is very well accepted here. But then to ‘adopt’ this ‘chaotic’ grammar rules when speaking English, I am of opinion that it is not supposed to be done. Moreover, the use of active and passive voice in Bahasa Indonesia sometimes is interchangeable. Pay attention to the previous example I wrote, “Saya sudah makan” and “Sudah makan saya” are meant to be active sentence, “I have eaten”. When the first sentence is clearly active sentence, the word order of the second sentence can be classified into passive sentence although the speaker means active one, only he/she wants to emphasize the word “sudah”.

Therefore, in order to ‘create’ Indonesian English, then Indonesian people mix it with the way they speak Bahasa Indonesia—especially the grammar rules--, I don’t think it acceptable because it can result in wrong understanding.

Some workmates of mine sometimes joke, “My body is not really delicious today” to say “Aku sedang kurang enak badan hari ini (I don’t really feel well today)” is absolutely only for joke. Because if we then ‘label’ this kind of joke as accepted Indonesian English, I am afraid we will even more arbitrarily ‘ruin’ this universal language only because we are convinced that we have right to change English.

PT56 23.02 080608

Monday, June 02, 2008

Stairway to Heaven

Several days ago, a workmate of mine told me about her friend. This friend of hers is married, and having one toddler. She works as an English teacher in one private college in my hometown while she also has some private students. In short we can say that she is busy to earn money. Besides, she also believes in ‘double roles’ of women proposed strongly in the New Order era.
Women are believed to be born as domestic creatures. In this so-called ‘modern’ era, however, many women demand that they also have rights to work outside the home. The New Order regime accommodated this idea. The then government supported the emancipation ‘discourse’ by campaigning, “women are no longer men’s companion to stand behind.” Nevertheless, the New Order regime still did oppression to women, by conveying ‘double roles’ for women: when a woman wants to work outside the home, she is still obliged to do domestic chores. A woman must be a superwoman to do the two things at the same time. In the meantime, men were still public creatures. They were not obliged to do domestic chores although they had spare time at home. Religion teachings were also ‘abused’ here. A woman would get ticket to enter heaven easily if she were willing to do these double roles. If she minded, she would rather be a full domestic creature instead. On the contrary, a man did not necessarily help his wife do household chores because he was created not to do those ‘trivial’ things. Men had bigger and nobler responsibility: to earn money. It was enough for men to get ticket to enter heaven.
Going back to my workmate’s friend. Let us give her an initial: X. X really believes in the double-role idea. (Un)luckily, her husband apparently also believes in it. Seeing his wife busily doing household chores after working outside does not move his heart to help. He even does not care to take care of their toddler because he also considers it ‘a woman’s job’. This situation has happened for several years.
One day X confided in my workmate about how exhausted she was to do the double roles. However, if she stops working, her husband’s income is not enough to make ends meet. My workmate then suggested that X ask her husband to help her do household chores. However, X did not agree with it.
“Why didn’t she agree with your idea?” I asked her.
“She strongly believes by doing the double roles, she will get a ticket heaven easily as the compensation from God.
“Tell her that to enter heaven, there are many other ways. She doesn’t need to put herself in such a harmful situation now that she is so vulnerable to diseases because she doesn’t have enough time to do exercise, moreover to rest at home.” (FYI, X is in her mid thirties, and she is suffering from rheumatism, and some other diseases.)
Furthermore, I cited what Meutia Hatta said several years ago on polygamy case. “Don’t trouble yourself to get involved in polygamous marriage only because you believe that by letting your husband marry another woman again; or by being the nth wife of a man. There are many other ways to get God’s blessings to enter heaven. Don’t hurt other women’s feelings, or your children’s.”
“The problem is,” my workmate said to me, “this friend of mine believes it so much that by dedicating her life to her husband and marriage, she will easily enter heaven.”
“So, she is very lucky then to have already found the best and nearest way to heaven: dedicating her life to her heartless husband. Tell her that she is not supposed to complain if she believes that is her stairway to heaven. She must be happy with that.”
I sounded cynical? Yes. I was also very unhappy to say that. But what else was I supposed to say if X already closed her mind on this case?
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