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Monday, February 18, 2008

One Day in My Life

“You don’t work, do you?” accused a salesclerk when I was about to buy a pair of goggles the other day, in one sport store at Ciputra Mall Semarang.

I understood why she accused me like that. I went there around 11.40 am (usual working hours), wearing jeans, t-shirt, a jacket, and carrying a backpack; not usual outfit for workingwomen, is it?

I wanted to find out what made her fussy like that (instead of just considering it as a small talk to a customer).

The first possibility: Was she jealous of me because she had to work as a salesclerk to make her ends meet?

Referring to women from low social class who had to work hard to earn money, to be able to give their children food and clothing (perhaps including education) in the nineteenth century America, they could be said that they were somewhat jealous of their fellow women citizens who came from middle and high social classes. The latter did not need to keep their nose to the grindstone only to buy food and clothing. Therefore, the first probably did not have any idea what on earth made the latter struggled to get right to work outside home.

This similar phenomenon is also easily seen in Indonesia. Many women coming from low class society do not understand why women from higher social class have to work (they don’t understand self actualization as well as self esteem needs proposed by Maslow) when their husbands can give them enough earnings every month. (enough is always relative, isn’t it?)

The second possibility: did she underestimate me as a financially dependent creature? Since she thought I didn’t work, it was easily concluded that to her I was a housewife. To some people, a housewife is just a pathetic ‘profession’ because she financially depends on her husband. Being a financial dependent, a woman is prone to domestic violence, especially if she has a husband who doesn’t appreciate a housewife because this ‘profession’ doesn’t make money, a husband who thinks that money maker is always superior.

Why should she underestimate me if I chose to be a housewife? Because in this twenty first century, with its gender equality “phenomenon”, women are more honored when they make money?

I assume that she needs to read this blog of mine to know my personal ‘ideology’. LOL. As a feminist I am fully aware that the core of gender equality lies in the right to make choices in life. Women have full rights to have their own kind of life. (You can refer to my previous post.)

PT56 20.17 070108

Gender Equality

I am oftentimes bothered when finding well-educated people don’t understand the importance of gender equality in social life, for both sexes betterment, not only for women, but also for men. To me, this kind of well-educated people are people who limit their own interpretation of what a woman is born for; people who let themselves ‘blinded’ by their narrow-minded interpretation of their religious teachings, as well as the narrow-minded understanding of what a culture is.

One of its examples is when I read an article in one local tabloid. The article was about a profile of a woman who has been busy in social organizations in Central Java. She said that gender equality does not necessarily mean the equal number. It means that she criticized the affirmative action given to women in politic sphere. Women do not need affirmative action to show that they are as capable as men. Furthermore, she said that gender equality clashed religious teachings as well as Indonesian culture.

Unfortunately the article didn’t give thorough explanation of that woman what she meant by saying that the success of gender equality does not automatically result in the more number of women involved in public sphere. Therefore, I had to use my interpretation when reading such a limited accusation, “gender equality is a failure if the success of it lies in the quantity”.

To know my opinion on feminism (gender equality means feminist movement), read my previous post on “Feminism: a western culture?”

I am of opinion that it is necessary to give affirmative action to show that they are as capable as men in politics due to the fact that women have had limit access to politics because they have been considered incapable. Why incapable? Because they have been considered as domestic creatures so that their main duty is to take care of children and husbands. Take a look at the example of the number of students for vocational schools. Many vocational schools offering the skills to cook, to sew, and recently including for makeup have been full of female students. On the other hand, vocational schools offering the skills for machines, electricity, etc have been full of male students. Besides, one thing we cannot deny is that parents give sons more priority to continue their education than daughters when they have financial constraints, without trying to analyze who has a higher intellect.

Because women have been imprisoned in domestic sphere, they have had limited experience in public sphere.
So, how to find out that women are also as capable as men in public sphere, especially in politics? Give them a chance to show their capability. How? Give them affirmative action. Don’t limit them only as domestic creatures.
Women are human beings, and not just the second sex. It means that they have full right to make a choice in their life, without any limitation based on religious teachings or the so-called cultures. They are free to choose
  1. to be single, or married.
  2. to be a full housewife or have career outside home
  3. to be a full mother or a part time mother because they want to have career outside home
  4. to be single parent when they don’t find any man suitable with their way of life
  5. not to have a baby or to be a breeder
  6. to work in public as well as domestic sphere
  7. to be lesbian or straight
  8. including to be a superwoman who is willing to fulfill their religious teaching requirement (read => to get married, having kids, be a super wife as well as mother, not to mention as money maker too, without forgetting her ‘main duty’ as the servant of their husband and children)

Once again, women are free to choose which suits their interest, without any burden in following religious teachings or cultures. Treat women as adult and human beings and then ask them to be responsible with their choices.
PT56 19.44 070108

Racial Prejudice 2

In FREEDOM WRITERS movie, the role of Erin Gruwell, the teacher who happened to be white, is very strong to make her students coming from various ethnic groups—the Black, the Asians (especially the South East Asians), and the Latino—realize that not all white people discriminate the colored.

Eva Benita, one daughter of a Latino family, is raised by her father to see the white as the oppressor. The bitter experience undergone by her father strengthened Eva’s hostility toward the white. He is imprisoned for one thing he never does: he is accused to kill one of his neighbors. The lifestyle she chooses—to involve in a Latino gang, as one ‘heritage’ from her father—obviously shapes her point of view to see relationship among ethnic groups: you only make friends with people from the same origins. People from other ethnic groups are enemies. Eva, with her gang members, believes that their life will be a lot better without those ‘enemies’. Therefore, their life is always full of hostility and hatred, as well as ‘war’.

Fortunately, Eva, with her classmates, gets a white teacher who proves to them that she is not like any other white people (another example of a white teacher who is discriminative toward the colored in the movie is Brian Gilbert, an English teacher who teaches the junior and senior students). Erin, raised by a father who is absolutely not discriminative either, tries her best to show to her students that discriminative treatment toward other ethnic groups is something intolerable.

Erin successfully opens her students’ eyes about the beautiful life without hostility and hatred toward other ethnic groups. Eva shows that she can win her common sense by telling the truth in the court while ignoring her father’s teaching, “you are not against your own people, your own blood”. She chooses to listen to her heart although the impact of it is that her Latino gang, especially her father, hates her. She is even considered betrayer.

If I relate it to my previous post, we always need people like Erin and Eva to create a more peaceful and friendly life among ethnic groups in Indonesia. Elizabeth Widjaja, in my opinion, is one example like Eva: although her ethnic group is discriminated, it doesn’t mean that she has to do the same thing, especially to the indigenous, as a revenge. Besides, we also need help from the indigenous to show that Indonesia will progress more and more when all people, from all different ethnic groups, work hand in hand to develop the country where we live.

PT56 09.56 170208

Racial Prejudice 1

When reading the previous post at THE JAKARTA POST, I remembered one discussion I had with a good friend of mine, especially on the way the Dutch colonial government divided society into three hierarchical classes: the highest class was the Dutch living in this archipelago; the middle belonged to the indigenous people who had blue blood, as well as un-indigenous people, referring to those who had Arabian and Chinese blood; the lowest class was the commoners, the indigenous people who did not have blue blood. In that era, it was almost impossible for commoners to be rich, so it means the lowest class meant to poorest class as well.

Unfortunately, my good friend never heard such a ‘policy’ issued by the Dutch colonial government. (FYI, he is a Chinese Indonesian.) What he learned and remembered was the Chinese have been treated discriminatively since the colonial era until recently. And since I could not refer any published book or article to base my argument, we did not end the discussion satisfactorily. Therefore, when finding such short information in the previous article published at THE JAKARTA POST, I was glad. I can prove to him that I was not just talking bullshit thing to him. I really don’t remember where I read or heard such a thing before. Perhaps I heard it from my history teacher at school.

When I was a kid, I almost never had any experience to deal with Chinese in my neighborhood. And as I have written before in one post of mine, when I was a kid (read  when I was in the elementary school), all of my schoolmates and most neighbors were Muslim. I found a difficulty to start making friend with non-Muslim when I entered junior high school. Therefore, it was more to different religion rather than different ethnic groups. My parents never taught their kids not to deal with people from different ethnic groups (this would be very impossible to do of course since our family don’t have Javanese blood. We are a family having Gorontalo—one ethnic group originating from North Sulawesi—blood living in the middle of Javanese.). They just taught us not to deal closely with non-Muslim. One main reason behind this: they were worried if their children fell in love with non-Muslim boy/girl because that meant let one of us go to hell. LOL.

Therefore, I found it weird when some friends living in the same boarding house with me when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree (1986-1990) didn’t like Chinese at all. I never had any idea why the hell was that except that they got the hostility toward this ethnic group from their parents. I could not avoid thinking that perhaps it was also based on racial jealousy: many Chinese people were successful in their lives while many Javanese people (the commoners, not the nobles) had to live from scratch. They did not want to see the most probable reason behind that: the Chinese worked hard (their parents or grandparents migrating from China passed down the hardworking character to them; China was a place where people had to work hard to survive, be it the weather as well as the social life) while the Javanese did not work as hard as their Chinese contemporaries since they were taught since born that their land was fertile so that they did not need to work hard to survive and they were luckier to have friendlier weather compared to that of China.

Several months ago, especially when Semarang had its ambitious program—Semarang Pesona Asia—I had discussion with some students of mine where one of them had Arabian blood. I found out how this male student of mine had a big hostility toward the Chinese because his parents taught him so. If this is related to what happened to the way the Dutch colonial government divided the society, in the past the Arabian blood people were in the same level with the Chinese ones. This even perhaps strengthened the hostility between them (maybe especially from the Arabian toward the Chinese). After the colonial era ended, the indigenous showed their sharp teeth that they even deserved to have a higher social status in their own land than the non-indigenous. The Arabian were welcome more warmly than the Chinese because of the same religion: Islam. Most of the Chinese did not adhere Islam. Therefore, the Arabian, together with the indigenous people, cornered the Chinese hand in hand. The regimes of Soekarno and Soeharto prolonged and worsened the discriminative treatment toward the Chinese.

From what I wrote above, I can draw a conclusion that it will take a long time to let go of the discrimination toward the Chinese because of the long history. However, we are not to be pessimistic. I personally adore what Elizabeth Widjaja has done (see my previous post) toward her surrounding to decrease the racial gap inherited by the previous regimes. Besides, the cooperation of other ethnic groups is strongly needed to support the future warm and friendly relation among all ethnic groups in Indonesia.

PT56 09.30 170208

Chinese Indonesians

By Lilian Budianto

Elizabeth Widjaja, a Chinese-Indonesian housewife who has opened her cozy home to disadvantaged children, is well known throughout the community.

Since 2003, Elizabeth has designated an area of her home to be a classroom for dozens of needy students. All of her pupils are non-ethnic Chinese children from the surrounding community in Kemang, South Jakarta. Her school promotes an understanding and appreciation of people’s differences and seeks to counter any prejudices.

She says she never designed any special curriculum to educate the children on mutual respect and how to maintain harmony in diversity. She believes children can learn better by the example she sets in breaking prejudice.

“I have learned to be an open-minded person and this school is the result,” says Elizabeth, who is married to an American.

Racial prejudice in this country dates back to the Dutch colonial period, when the Chinese community was placed second in a caste-like social system above other Indonesians. During the Dutch administration, integration among communities was almost impossible.

The post-colonial regimes of Sukarno and later the New Order continued to preserve the Dutch legacy of prejudice by endorsing laws that discriminated against ethnic Chinese descents.

Under Sukarno’s leadership, there was, among others, Government Regulation No. 10/1959, which restricted the business activities of Chinese Indonesians to cities.

The social and political position of Chinese Indonesians worsened during Soeharto’s regime, which banned Chinese names, characters and cultural performances in public. Chinese Indonesians also had to produce an Indonesian Citizenship certificate (SBKRI) to obtain official documents.

Although the government abolished the SBKRI in 1996, Chinese Indonesians were still asked for the certificate when dealing with government institutions.

Since the reform movement of 1998, discriminatory policies have been slowly phased out. In 2002, the government declared Chinese New Year a national holiday. The Chinese Indonesian community has since celebrated the day openly.

Although previous regimes institutionalized discrimination, many members the Chinese Indonesian community were able to advance not only in business but also in Government.

Johanis Tanak, who heads civil legal aid at the Attorney General’s Office, says his Chinese ethnicity has never inhibited his career as a state prosecutor. Hailing from Makassar, he applied to the prosecutor’s office after earning his degree in law.

“I enjoy working here. While people warned me of the many difficulties I would encounter because I am of Chinese descent, I don’t find it true,” he said. “If you show people you are self confident and do not tolerate discrimination people will not dare to take benefit by discriminating against you.

From The Jakarta Post
Published on Friday 8, 2008
Page 9

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Chinatown in Semarang

Sunday evening 3 February 2008 Angie and I went to “Pasar Imlek Semawis”, a special occasion to welcome the Chinese New Year. Usually “Waroeng Semawis”, as the center of culinary in Semarang is open three days a week, Friday-Saturday-Sunday. However, to welcome the Chinese New Year, Kopi Semawis (Komunitas Pecinan Semarang untuk Pariwisata—Semarang Chinatown Tourism Community ) holds a special occasion called “Pasar Imlek Semawis” located somewhere on Gang Pinggir, Gang Baru, and Beteng, not far from the usual location on Gang Waroeng.

Besides the location, another difference is people will find more sellers, both food and other things, such as clothing, souvenirs, etc.

Below is the picture of the gate to enter the location.

Here is the picture of a group of people entering the area.

There is also a doll’s house performance. Although the story was taken from Chinese land, and the puppets wore classical Chinese outfit, the puppeteer used Bahasa so that the visitors understood easily. However, because last Sunday evening there was Duo Maia performing on the main stage, not many people crowded the area where the doll’s house performance was held. Below is the picture.

Suara Merdeka, the biggest local newspaper in Central Java also had a stand and had a giant puzzle attracting people who loved filling in puzzles to join the game. You can see the pictures below.

Below is the picture of someone having to climb a ladder to fill in one box.

Angie and I came very late so that we didn’t follow the talk show talking about Chinese culture in the middle of Javanese environment. We could not get close to the stage either when Duo Maia performed. The main goal for us to visit “Pasar Imlek Semawis” was not to watch Duo Maia though, but to take a look the occasion.

Here is one place to 'see what your future is like'.

Below is a place for pranic healing.

Below are some pictures of “joget kethek” or monkey performance held one day before, Saturday afternoon. When I was a kid, this kind of performance was very popular and always attracted kids’ attention. The vaudeville group (the person didn’t perform anything though, only monkeys) traveled from one dwelling place to another to earn money. There were not many entertainments yet then. I don’t think that in this century, “joget kethek” still exists and competes with “modern” games to entertain kids.

PT56 11.22 050208