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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

pic was taken from here

The story’s setting is after the civil war and it takes place in the Southern part of America. At that time many aristocratic families started to disappear. People did not respect other people only because of their nobility any longer, but people respected others because of their achievement. Therefore, people from aristocratic families who still held old dtradition—that they must be respected because of their nobility—became the center of attention of townspeople because of their awkwardness.

We can see the example in Emily Grierson’s family. Everything Emily does gets full attention of the townspeople because it is considered awkward. For example, her reluctance to pay tax because she says that Colonel Sartoris has remitted her taxes. It is awkward because everybody else pays tax. The tale that her father has lent some amount of money to the town is unbelievable for younger generations.

Another example of Emily’s awkwardness is her behavior toward the ladies who call at her house to offer condolence and aid after her father passes away. She says that her father is not dead and se refuses to dispose the body. It must be hard for her to be left alone. She does not have anybody else to talk to after her father passes away because she does not socialize with other people whom she considers common people—not noble like her.

Her interest in Homer Barron—the foreman of the construction company—is also considered awkward by the townspeople. Homer Barron who is only a day laborer must have a lower status than Emily who keeps her dignity as a noble person highly. Therefore, their relationship attracts the townspeople’s attention. They want to know whether the relationship will lead to a marriage because “Homer himself had remarked that he was not marrying man”. With Homer Barron disappearing, the townspeople become disappointed. They do not know what has happened, only after that, Emily is very rarely seen.

That’s why Emily’s death makes the townspeople pour into her house. Some want to show respect for the last noble person in the town. Some others just want to fulfil their curiosity to see the inside of her house. Their finding a man’s body lying in the bed in a room upstairs revealed long-time hidden secrets. The first secret is about the awful smell spreading that makes people disgusted years before. The second is about Homer Barron’s disappearance. I believed that Emily has poisoned him using arsenic she buys in a drugstore. After Homer dies, Emily treats his body like she treats a husband—the body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace. From the iron-gray hair found in the pillow beside the man, it can be concluded that for years Emily sleeps there as is she slept with her husband.

What a sad life of a woman who keeps her dignity and nobility highly. People in the town always pay attention to her from a distance. However, no one dares to get close to her because of her perverseness and imperviousness. Besides that, nobody loves her so that she lives in loneliness because she herself avoids other people’s presence around her.

Jogja, April 2003

--------------------
What a sad and lonely life Emily had. It must be resulted from the un-readiness and reluctance of people to adapt themselves with the new social life; in this case ‘noble’ people who unwillingly faced the fall of the aristocratic society.

To add my writing above (which I wrote five years ago), I want to focus on Emily’s weird attitude related to Homer Barron. As the only daughter of the only left aristocratic family in the town, Emily must have got a very big burden to live her love life. She was expected to have a love relationship with a man from her kind. However it must have been very difficult since her family was the only aristocratic family. Besides, the townspeople considered her family ’antique’. None of the guys in the town had courage to get close to Emily, I assume. Nevertheless, the townspeople loved Emily so that they poured all attention to her, to anything she did, without realizing that in a way it doubled Emily’s burden.

Feeling lonely as well as disturbed by the continuous attention given by the townspeople, Emily became very introvert and she hid herself inside her big house. Therefore, when Homer Barron came to the town (as an ‘outsider’, it is understood if Homer didn’t share the same reluctance shown by the other guys in the town), got courage to get close to her, Emily did not want to lose him. However, it didn’t take a long time since Homer soon found out the ‘awkwardness’ of Emily as well as the high expectancy of the townspeople for Emily’s husband-to-be. He was considered not equal to Emily. Therefore, he wanted to leave Emily, to come back to where he was from.

Not wanting to lose the only guy who had courage to get close to her, Emily did the weirdest action—killing him. She did it not to get rid of him, but to ‘keep’ him always instead. Afterwards, she treated him as if he were her husband. In order not to make the townspeople curious, she mostly hid herself inside her big house, laid off most of the servants but one most loyal servant to take care of her.
PT56 22.54 190508

Monday, May 19, 2008

Breastfeeding Bill?

This recent week one mailing list I join has been talking about the plan of the Health Institution of South Sulawesi to issue a provincial bill to (somewhat) force women who just deliver babies to breastfeed them as well as to manage the distribution of formula milk in the area. The deputy head of the Health Institution, Saad Bustam said that there was a tendency for women (especially working women) nowadays to give their babies formula milk instead of breastfeed them with practicality as the main reason while in fact it is believed that mothers’ milk is the best for babies. The background of this plan is because Human Development Index of the area is in the twenty-third rank. It is assumed that giving mothers’ milk to the babies will improve the quality of human resources in the area so that in the future it is expected to be able to increase the Human Development Index.


pic was taken from here

The discussion of this subject in the mailing list is related to the anti pornography bill that eventually just makes women criminals. For example, women are not allowed to wear sheer clothes that will turn on men in public places. When sexual abuse is done by those men, due to the sheer clothes women wear, the women will be imprisoned. So, instead of protecting women from sexual abuse, the anti pornography bill just makes women criminals.

So will the “mothers’ milk bill”, I assume. When a woman cannot breastfeed her baby—with so many reasons, such as the woman has to go out of town to work while she doesn’t have money to bring the baby with her so that she has to leave the baby in the village where the grandmother, or any other female relatives, takes care of the baby, or because of natural cause, the woman cannot produce any milk from her breasts, which is oftentimes possible to happen—the woman will be put in jail, or pay fine.

A good thing has been done by the Health Institution though: providing special rooms for women who want to breastfeed their babies in malls so that the women do not do that in open public areas. Related to the anti pornography bill, a woman can be imprisoned too when she breastfeeds her baby in a public area. She will be accused to intentionally show the sensual part of her body—breasts.

*****

When delivering my baby in 1991, I did that in one midwife’s house close to my dwelling place. Before my breasts produced milk, the assistant of the midwife prepared a glass of sugared water to give Angie when she was crying because of feeling thirsty or hungry. We used a small teaspoon to put the water into Angie’s tiny mouth. (She weighed 2.6 kg and 49 cm long.) Several hours after that, my breasts produced milk and I could breastfeed Angie directly. The midwife also prepared a box of formula milk in case we needed that. The midwife opined that it was better not to give the baby any formula milk yet before the mother produced milk.

I concluded that the midwife wanted to indirectly campaign to breastfeed babies for women who delivered babies in her house. This is absolutely good.

FYI, I breastfed Angie till she was four months old without giving her any other milk or any food. After that, I still breastfed her until she was one year old, (because I had to resume my study out of town and she was with her granny) but of course plus food. I started to give her formula milk when I was busy resuming my study.

*****

Recently when some good friends of mine got married, got pregnant, and then delivered their babies in hospitals (not in a midwife’s house like my experience), I heard similar experiences. Before their breasts produced milk, the nurses gave the babies formula milk when the babies cried. They apparently didn’t have patience to wait until the babies’ mothers could breastfeed them. Or perhaps there was cooperation between the hospital and the formula milk distributors for profit.

What happened after that? Some friends told me that their babies didn’t want to drink the mother’s milk, they chose the formula milk instead. That was the first liquid they tasted and they didn’t want any other. Some others said that they still could breastfeed their babies, but not as the main milk, only as the additional one.

*****

Is breastfeeding included women’s destiny? So that they are not supposed to avoid it? I don’t agree with it although only women have breasts, and not men. Under some special circumstances, some women cannot produce milk from their breasts although they just deliver babies. What is wrong? Well, I never know why.

When Angie was born in April 1991, there was a neighbor of mine who delivered her baby several weeks afterwards. Without knowing why, her breasts didn’t produce any milk so that she had to give her baby formula milk. She felt very disappointed but any effort she did to make her breasts produce milk was in vain. Was she a bad mother? Of course not. What happened was really beyond her capability.

PT56 11.45 190508

Freedom Writers 2


the pic was taken from here

After writing the result of the discussion in my class on FREEDOM WRITERS, in this article I will write what I like most from this movie.

Erin Gruwell is always the most conspicuous character. She really did her very best for her students although being a teacher at Wilson High School didn’t give her much money. Her own father, Steve Gruwell, who inspired her to treat others as well as she could, without looking at the different ethnic groups (from Steve’s involvement in the civil right movement), praised his daughter as a gifted person. I do appreciate her willingness to do two other part time jobs to make her earn more money where she used the money to provide facilities her students needed, especially books, and some other experiences they got from the trips they did out of town. The trips as well as the books opened her student’s awareness that there was a different kind of life beyond their own hard life. She opined that assigning her students to read DIARY OF ANNE FRANK would make them realize that they were not the only one to suffer from racial discrimination. Living a life as a gang member would even make their life more chaotic.

Among Erin’s students (I noted down eight of them, Eva, Marcus, Andre, Jamal, Cindy, Tito, Gloria, and Ben), I was very interested in Eva and Marcus. Eva easily attracted my attention since her life was portrayed at the very beginning of the movie. Her father raised her to believe in “Don’t go against your own people, your own blood.” Since she was a kid, she already got to know the racial ‘principle’ in America that the Latino people “are less than the white”. She grew up hating the white since the white cops imprisoned her father although her father was innocent.

Eva amazingly controlled herself well (to show that she was a very careful person, she didn’t easily like other people, moreover if they were white) while her classmates already showed their attraction toward Erin. Her disappointment when finding out that Anne Frank died was resulted from her big dream that Anne Frank, as the symbol of resistance, had to survive. She viewed herself as in the same shoes as Anne in the past. When Anne died, would she have to die too?

Eventually, Eva made a big change when she showed her courage by telling the truth in the court. She decided to do this by herself in spite of the fact that her parents as well as her Latino community asked her to protect Paco. This “seemingly small” step was expected to open people’s eyes to tell the truth so that they would do the same thing.

the pic was taken from here

Marcus also stole my attention. His rebellious character came to an end in Erin’s way of teaching. Erin successfully made him realize that education would really make a big change in his life. Going back to his family’s house showed his seriousness to alter his way of life besides studying seriously.
My favorite scene in the movie is the discussion between Erin and Scott, her husband, before he left the house. When Scott asked her to choose between the class and him, Erin came to her realization that what she was looking for in her life was to make her life meaningful by helping her students get rid of their hard life as gang members where they would oftentimes get involved in racial tensions. Her dedication to her job gave her a much greater satisfaction as well as happiness than to dedicate her life to her husband. ‘Helping’ more people to live decently gave her life more senses than just ‘helping’ one person—her husband.

This reminded me of one character in T.S. Eliot’s play “The Cocktail Party”, Celia. Celia who didn’t find what she was looking for in her relationship with Edward realized that she wanted to dedicate her life to human beings, not just one person, Edward, who happened to be married to Lavinia. This awareness—that what she was pursuing in her life was to dedicate her life to God by taking care of human beings—made her decide to go on a missionary.

Happiness in someone’s life—especially in women’s lives—is not necessarily always related to marriage life. When some women find deep happiness in dedicating their life to their husband and children, some other women possibly find it in different ways. Erin chose her students because that was her call. Btw, luckily Erin didn’t live in Indonesia where women get praised as “true and honorable women” only via marriage, especially by dedicating their life to their husband. Erin would get ‘bitch’ label since she ignored her husband, and chose her students instead. People would say that Erin just cared for her own happiness.

Another part of the conversation between Erin and Scott that attracted me was as follow:

“Why can’t you stand by me, and be a part of it, the way a wife supports her husband?” asked Erin to Scott.
“Because I cannot be your wife,” answered Scott.

The above exchange has always been my favorite dialog in the movie. Scott—or patriarchal men in general—would feel impotent when realizing that his wife was more successful than they were. This also apparently would hurt men’s ego.

Scott had shown his disappointment when Erin had the second part time job at Mariott hotel during weekend. “You even didn’t ask me,” was his first complaint. His second complaint was, “Everyone knows you can do anything!” He showed his being inferior in front of his smart wife since he lost his spirit to pursue his architect degree.

In patriarchal culture, men are always welcome to work hard, they even will get appreciation from society as good husbands. However, when women do that, they will even get mockery and they will be considered to oppose their destiny to be domestic creature, because they don’t do household chores as they “are created”. So, instead of getting appreciation because she had dedicated her life for her “unfortunate” students, Erin would get disapproval from society.

To end this writing, I want to cite my own idea of being a feminist: women are free to choose what kind of life they want. I do appreciate Erin’s choice to make her life more meaningful by dedicating her life to her job and deserting her marriage life. In our life we often come to time when we have to make a choice. Erin has absolutely made the best choice, to help more people (her students) than just one spoiled man (her husband).

PT56 16.10 180508

Freedom Writers 1



the pic was taken from here 


On Saturday 17 May 2008 I invited my class to watch FREEDOM WRITERS. The class consisted of 15 students, 4 guys and 11 girls, and all of them are college students. Before watching the movie, I gave three questions to be discussed afterwards:


  • Which character attracts you most? Why?
  • Which scene in the movie attracts you most? Why?
  • What do you think of the moral lesson conveyed by the movie?


For the first question, since Erin Gruwell has always been chosen by my students (when I invited some other classes to watch this movie), I asked the students in this class to pay more attention to the students in Gruwell’s class.

In short, Freedom Writers portrays the struggle of the new teacher, Erin Gruwell, to make her students—that mostly have been involved in gang life, violence, killing, drugs, etc—realize that education is the most important aspect in their life if they want to make a change to their lives.

Erin and Marcus
the pic was taken from here

For the first question, 8 students chose Marcus to be the most attractive character. They had a similar reason for that: they considered Marcus the most successful to make a change in his life. He left his family to get involved in street life as gang member because he thought it was the only way to show ‘tolerance’ to other African American people who had always been marginalized. In one long discussion/debate between Erin and the class (spurred by one student’s cartoon to ridicule Black people), one can find out how Marcus viewed his life: he felt like a hero when he showed tolerance to the sufferings of other African American people who happened to live on the street. He opined that if he got killed in a racial discrimination, he would get respect from his ‘community’. “We live in a war everyday,” he said to Erin. However, after he got enlightened by Erin, he realized that living on the street by joining gang life to survive was not right. Therefore he decided to come home and show his family that he changed. He proved that by studying seriously and graduating from high school.

Eva Benita
the pic was taken from here
Meanwhile 6 students chose Eva Benita as someone who made a great change in her life. Eva was raised by a father who believed that the white always marginalized the other ethnic groups. No wonder if Eva hated Erin who happened to be white. However, eventually Eva realized that not all white people were like what her father described. Erin who introduced the students to the Holocaust disaster—as an analogy to the kind of life her students had—successfully made Eva break what her father always taught her, “Don’t go against your own people!” In the court, Eva told the judge the truth about one accident where she was the crime witness. Although Eva had to risk being hated by her own father and Latino community, Eva daringly did what she thought it was the right thing to do. She must have been inspired by what Mip Gies did, the woman who help hide Anne Frank during the Holocaust.

Ben Samuel
the pic was taken from here

One student chose Ben Samuel, the only white student in Erin’s class. Outside the classroom, the white were the majority while inside the class, Ben was the minority. If at the very beginning Ben showed his restlessness to be in that class, felt very insecure among the Cambodian, Latino and Black students, eventually Ben stayed put in the class and behaved like one member of a big family consisting of various ethnic groups comfortably.

To discuss the three questions, I divided the class into four groups. For the second question, the first groups chose a scene when Erin did ‘line game’. She put a red line in the middle of the classroom. Afterwards, she asked some questions to her students. If the question applied to the students’ interest (or if the students answered ‘Yes’ to her Erin’s questions), the students were to stand close to the red line. The essence of the ‘game’ was that Erin wanted to make her students realize that they were all undergoing similar lives. When they had similar experiences in life, they were supposed to have one strong emotional tie among themselves and not to hate the other ethnic groups. Erin was successful to make her students aware that they did not need to show hostility to the others because in fact they faced the same problem. While for Ben, the only white in the class, Erin wanted to make him view life from other ethnic groups’ perspective—who happened to be the minority groups in America.

Tito
the pic was taken from here 

The second group chose a long debate—spurred by Tito’s cartoon on Black people, especially to ridicule Jamal—between Erin and her students. This debate made Erin know more what kind of problems her students faced. This also inspired her to broaden her students’ horizon that happened to know nothing about anything else but their own life. This resulted in Erin’s bigger dedication to her job. She did two other part time jobs to get more money to buy books for her students, also to take them on trips: to visit museums, to have dinner with ex Holocaust victims, etc. This “impractical” way of teaching of Erin’s proved to work well.

the journals
the pic was taken from here

The third group chose the scene when Erin read her students’ journals. This made Erin realize how difficult her students’ lives were. That’s why they had bad behavior and didn’t pay serious attention to their studies. Writing to let go off their restlessness and anxiety seemed to help them release tensions in their daily life. Moreover at the same time their writings let the world know their sufferings. To know this would make people give sympathy.

The last group chose the scene when Erin started the first day in the sophomore year by having ‘a toast for change’ session. After making it till the end of their freshman year, the students were expected to have a new perspective in viewing their study. Erin was also successful to make her students feel like they were in one big family in a ‘warm home’ in their classroom, Room 203.
For the third question, the four groups agreed that the movie conveyed “No more racial discrimination, please!” It will be very lovely if, despite difference in ethnic groups, languages, customs (plus religions), people live together hand in hand peacefully as well as respect one another.

PT56 14.35 180508

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Female Genital Mutilation

After claiming myself as a feminist some time in 2003 and reading books as well as articles on feminism, I found out that many ethnic groups in Africa and the Middle East practice female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris, a sensitive part of the female genitals, and the surrounding tissue.

Based on my own experience, I opine that the clitoris is the most important part of women’s genital organ to get orgasm. Therefore, I absolutely agree if feminists strongly oppose the practice of FGM because I believe FGM is done mostly to control women’s sexual desire, or even to terminate women’s ability to enjoy sex. It is obvious that women are only considered as sexual objects. They are not to enjoy sex as subjects.

the pic was taken from here

World Book 2005 (the digital edition) stated that because there is no health benefit from the procedure, the practice is condemned by many human rights organizations and medical authorities. Risks associated with the procedure include blood loss, infection, lasting pain, and a reduced ability to enjoy sexual relations.

Reading about FGM reminded me of what happened several days after Angie was born. My curiosity when looking at her genital organ that looked like mine made me decide NOT TO DO anything with it. I would have been very guilty if I had been involved to make her only as a sexual object because of losing her most sensitive part to get sexual satisfaction. I do hate to be sexual object only. I would never forgive myself if in fact I “help” make her as a sexual object in her sexual life later on.

To reaffirm my definition of being a feminist—a woman absolutely has full rights to make decision and choice in her life—in talking about FGM, let women choose whether they will happily let anybody do mutilation toward their genital organs because they do not want to expose their sexual desire openly, or even to totally “lose” their passion and be happy to be sexual objects for their life partner. Or they will not let anybody do anything toward their genital organs, especially to reduce their ability to enjoy sexual relations because they want to be sexual subject.

To know more about FGM, I will post an article (in Bahasa Indonesia) in my blog here  I got the article from mailing list “Jurnal Perempuan”. Or you can just do googling for that.

PT56 21.48 040508

Sexual Education

In one classroom of mine several weeks ago (FYI, all of my students are college students of one state university in Semarang, studying at various faculties) we talked about the importance of giving sexual education to children. In fact, the main topic for that occasion was about advertisement as an important of media’s survival, especially television. When mentioning some inappropriate ads on television, due to their inappropriate talk, scene, products (such as condom), we inevitably talked about giving sexual education to children.

“What age is considered ‘enough’ for parents to talk about sex openly to their children?” I asked my students.

The answers varied, starting from when young girls get their first period, when boys get circumcised, or when they get the first wet dream, even until when both boys and girls reach the age of seventeen.
Listening to her classmates’ various answers, one student told us about one Islamic kindergarten where her niece was studying. The kindergarten students already got their sexual education from the teacher—this means it is already in the curriculum of the school. One form of the program to give sexual education to those very young children was to watch a movie how a baby is born. Thus, they are expected to know already that babies are not from miraculously coming out of the mother’s stomach.

I was amazed to hear that.

I went to Islamic kindergarten as well as Islamic elementary school. I didn’t get such education. My mother told me that I was out of her stomach, after her obstetrician said, “sim salabim, abracadabra.” After that, her stomach closed again.

I remember when I was a kid, I was very close to my big brother. We used to play a lot together. We played both boys and girls games. We sometimes used to play in the rain together too, with both of us naked. And then we took a shower together. Seeing my brother’s genital organ different from mine, I asked my mother about that. She simply answered, “Girls already got circumcised directly after they were born. Your brother later will be circumcised too, after he finishes reciting Alquran.”

This explanation evoked some feelings in me. First I felt grateful. Since I got circumcised when I was a baby, I didn’t need to feel the pain. I even already forgot if I underwent such a horrible experience. Second, I felt pity toward my brother. He inevitably would undergo the painful feeling when he got circumcised. Third, I became curious what my brother’s genital organ would be like after circumcision.

This made me wait for my brother’s circumcision excitedly and tensely as well.

Unfortunately, I had to get very big disappointment because my curiosity wasn’t answered. My parents strongly warned my brother and me that we could not take a shower together anymore after he got circumcision. He even was not let get dressed in front of me openly. He especially had to hide his genital organ before me.

Guess what happened to the naïve and innocent very young Nana?

I thought that my brother’s genital organ was all mutilated. I naively thought that his genital organ became exactly like mine, a vagina.

When I got married at the age of twenty three, and the first time Angie’s dad asked me to touch his genital organ, I was about to faint because in fact it was not like mine. I thought he didn’t get circumcised yet while in my religion, Islam, a man who is not circumcised is not ‘halal’ to marry. Therefore, he strongly convinced me that he got circumcised (while laughing at my being foolish and naïve). Then he explained that in circumcision process, only the skin of the head of his penis was removed.

More or less a year after that, I delivered my baby girl, Angie. The severe pain I underwent in my vagina made me forget what my mom used to say, “Babies come out of the mother’s stomach.” After that, I talked to myself, “Ah, in fact, my mom used to lie to me!”

Several days later, I looked at her tiny genital organ (she weighed 2,6 kgs) and felt curious, “Her genital organ is exactly like mine. If I do the circumcision toward her, which part of it will be mutilated?”

If only I had got correct and proper sexual education …

PT56 20.50 040508

Friday, May 02, 2008

On Kartini Day 2008

On Kartini Day, 21 April 2008, I was invited as one resource person in one local television of Semarang. The theme was talking about Kartini, as a woman who was popularly known as the ‘triggerer’ of women emancipation movement. The other two resource persons were Fitriyah, the leader of KPU (The Commission for General Election) of Central Java, and Nuki, one public relation officer of one hotel located at the heart of Semarang, Simpang Lima. The hostess was Ayu, one employee of the local television.

To tell you the truth, before the program started, I didn’t have any idea what questions would be asked to me. When reading the invitation letter, I found the main theme of the program was “the application of gender mainstreaming in our society”. For that, I equipped myself by reading JURNAL PEREMPUAN number 50 with the main topic PENGARUSUTAMAAN GENDER (gender mainstreaming). For sure, I didn’t want to disappoint my fellow feminist allies.  It didn’t mention about Kartini day, women emancipation, etc, that probably (so I thought) was already a bit out of date. Now it is the time to apply gender mainstreaming in all aspects of our lives! It is time for the REAL ACTION! ‘Women emancipation’ has been a quite hot issue in Indonesia for many decades but we still can find many unfair policies for women.

However, when the four of us were in the studio, waiting for the time to be aired, Ayu told me that she would ask some questions related to feminism; for example, how many kinds of feminisms, etc. I am of opinion that kinds of feminisms are not important to really improve women’s lives in Indonesia.

After introducing the three special guests to the viewers, Ayu asked Fitriyah what she was thinking about Kartini and the relationship between her struggle and women’s betterment in life in recent decades. One very important thing was mentioned by Fitriyah: “Kartini struggled to improve women’s lives. It is time for women to have rights to make decisions, to make choices in their own lives. They are not always to listen to what their father or brother or husband asks them to do.”
“Making a choice for themselves” is one thing I always underline in my blogs.

When Ayu asked my opinion, I said, “What Kartini struggled for her fellow women citizen was to get education. Being educated is very important so that women are considered ‘able’. Related to what Ibu Fitriyah said before, I completely agree that women must have rights to make choices and decisions for themselves. In the past, women were not believed to be able to make their own choices probably because they were not equipped with what people needed to have to make choices: knowledge and education. With much bigger chances to pursue as high education as possible, it is time for women to ‘enjoy’ their independence to make choices and decisions.”

The question for Nuki was a bit different. Ayu related this issue to Nuki’s job as a public relation officer in one hotel. “Does working in a hotel (which was traditionally stereotyped as having a bad environment for ‘good women’) make Nuki feel at ease in her surrounding?” Nuki said even the first disagreement she got from her parents. But it happened when the first time she started working. After some time, they believed that Nuki could face the environment. Besides, she said people would recognize kinds of people from their appearance. So far, she never got a serious problem (read  sexual abuse).

The following question for Fitriyah was related to her main job as the chief of KPU. “Why, among five pairs of governor and the vice governor, is there only one woman? And she is only as the candidate of the vice governor, not as the governor?”

Fitriyah related this question to the affirmative action for women to be involved as legislative members. Each political party is expected to include women as their representatives until 30%. However, in the election for a leader of one region, (mayors for cities, regents for regencies, governors for provinces, and presidents for the country), there is no regulation to fulfill the 30% number. Political parties are free to choose their own candidates regardless sex. Therefore, Fitriyah thought that it was a good idea that in the next general election, Indonesia will give more chances to women to be chosen by political parties to go to the leader election.

The following question for me was not related to the question for Fitriyah. Ayu asked me about feminism, whether feminism was triggered by emancipation movement. I cited the woman movement in the middle of the nineteenth century America as the main real action by women to equalize their position in society. The nineteenth century American women struggled to get suffrage that they believed would give them equal feeling to their fellow male citizens. This meant ‘emancipation’. The term ‘feminism’ itself was coined in the last decade of the nineteenth century to refer to this woman movement.

“Well, we know many kinds of feminist movement, such as radical, liberal feminist movement, etc, don’t you think that they are really not ‘Indonesian’? Ayu went on asking me.

I said that we must admit that feminist movement was ‘born’ in the western countries, radical as well as liberal (and some other kinds) feminisms represented western women. I agreed if people said that these two feminisms were not really the representatives of Indonesian women.

“There are more other kinds of feminisms though that can represent Indonesian women. For example, multicultural feminism.” I responded further.

This made Ayu go on with the following question about women who want to ‘enjoy’ the equal roles but they also want to be treated ‘special’, such as in the workplace. As an example, Ayu mentioned about right for women to be off several days from the workplace due to menstruation. Fitriyah wisely said that biologically women were different from men. Women who get menstruation every month are to be treated differently from men who don’t get menstruation.

I added that the equal treatment to women was not supposed to be related to that biological difference. As an example I mentioned the income tax for women that generally is bigger than men. A woman—no matter whether she is single or married and having kids—is always regarded single. This makes the taxed income bigger. A married woman who has one child must pay bigger tax than a married man who has one child. (With one note: this man and woman have the same position and the same length time to work in the same company.)

I also said if the special treatment for women to get several days off due to menstruation made men envy, this was really wrong. Women were created having womb and vagina that made them get menstruation monthly. Men were not. How could they envy this? Why should they envy this?
My answer in fact invited two viewers to make a phone calls to ask. The first question was about the regulation that gives women right to be off from the workplace due to menstruation because in her company, there is not such a thing. Even pregnant women don’t have enough days off when delivering their babies. Unfortunately, I was not equipped by the law and regulation about this so I could not give a satisfying answer. However, if there were not such law and regulation yet, I proposed it to be made as soon as possible. (Fitriyah whispered to me quickly that the law and regulation was still being made.)

The second questioner asked my opinion about a career woman who neglected her household chores as well as the husband and children. She even said, “This emancipation movement has made women become too independent so that they forgot their ‘destiny’ to be born as women.” To answer it, I related to the question asked by Ayu about a highly-educated woman who chose to be a housewife.
“As long as the decision to be a housewife is made by the woman herself, it is okay. So, it is not a force from the husband who selfishly wants his wife to be at home only. However, when a woman chooses to have a career outside the house, the husband must support her. And this support is also included to give a hand in doing household chores, plus taking care of the children. There must not be an accusation for this woman to neglect the husband and the children. There must be a compromise between the husband and wife on this.” This was my answer.

Further, Ayu asked Nuki whether her workplace—one three-star-rated hotel—gave enough ‘protection’ to women employees there. Nuki answered that her boss was very supportive. She mentioned one incident when there was a sexual abuse done by one male employee to another female employee; the boss directly laid off the male employee so that the atmosphere became conducive again.

This is really interesting to me since mostly I heard or read articles somewhere about contradictory things. The way patriarchal society accuses women as temptress is still strong, in my opinion. The pornography bill proves this. (Check my article on this pornography bill in my blog at here. One example: in many rape cases, the victims were even accused as the ones who “tempted” or “encouraged” the rapist to do the rape, such as from the way the victims got dressed, or talked or behaved.

Btw, this led Ayu to the following question to me, a question which was very immature and sexist, in my opinion. She mentioned about women’s want to be considered equal with men but they still want to get special treatment. For example when there was an accident in a ship—let’ say a ship is sinking—the order to the ship crew was: “Save women and children, first!” why women? If they were equal with men, there were not supposed to be such ‘unfair’ treatment to men.

“No matter what,” I responded, “when talking about physical power, everybody must agree that men are stronger than women. Men are expected to have enough power to swim to the seashore. Therefore women—who don’t have such a strength—must be saved first, together with children.” Again, I mentioned when men envy what women are supposed to get—let’s say several days off at the office due to menstruation—this was really illogical. When men—who generally have bigger body and power—envy women who get saved first in a sinking ship accident, how do you call such men?
Ayu’s another question about which kind of feminist ideology was suitable to be applied in Indonesia, I refused to mention one kind of feminist ideology. (Just like in one article I wrote some time ago in my blog at http://afeministblog.blogspot.com , I refused to include myself as the follower which feminist ideology.) Kinds of feminist ideologies are not important. The main core to apply the movement to equalize women to men is giving women rights to make their own choice and decision in their life.

The last question from Ayu to end the program was what Fitriyah, Nuki, and I expected in the future, in the name of the betterment for women’s lives. I expected that gender mainstreaming is really applied in all aspects in our lives. To do so, we have to make sure that all country decision makers understand what gender mainstreaming is, issue policies that support the betterment for women—that eventually will also be good for men. Fitriyah mentioned the importance of educating children in families about no stereotyping of gender roles. (FYI, Fitriyah as the chief of General Election Commission is very busy outside the home. Nearing the gubernatorial election in Central Java next June 22, she must be bloody busy outside the home.) This will create younger generations who do not think, “Father goes to the office, mother goes to the market” anymore.

Nuki made me disappointed by saying, “Women must be given as broad opportunity as possible to show their capabilities without forgetting their ‘destiny’ as women.”

Luckily she said so by the end of the program. I didn’t have time to ‘explain’ or ‘lecture’ the misconception of ‘women’s destiny’ as domestic creatures—“the angel of the house” this was how women movement activists in the nineteenth century America cynically chose the term. I knew exactly this was what Nuki thought about “without forgetting their destiny as women”.

P.S.: The article is especially written for

1. Radit, the producer of the program who has invited me. I wrote this article several weeks after the occasion (I was so damn lazy to do it soon. LOL.) Therefore, I already forgot some things discussed in the program. I didn’t have any note on it. I just wrote what I still keep in my mind well till now.

2. Ibu Fitriyah, how proud I am to be together with Ibu in this special occasion. I will be happy if in the future Radit will make us meet again in the next special occasion. Huehehehe …

3. Nuki, I assume that we need to talk a lot about what is created and constructed in our life. You are just still too young and do not get enough exposure to be with ‘women activists’ like me.

4. Ayu. In fact I am wondering who made those questions you had in your list? From you? Who else was involved in ‘creating’ some questions that made me easily see that this particular person didn’t know a lot about feminist movement? 

5. The makeup artist. LOL. I mean the one who made me look more ‘eligible’ to be shot by camera. Angie said, “Mama looks odd!” hahahaha …

6. The other crew who welcomed me warmly.

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