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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  It didn’t mention about Kartini day, women emancipation, etc, that probably (so I thought) was already a bit out of date.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 , 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.

PT56 15.44 010508


johnorford said...

good article!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nana,

Thank you for your blog, it is really great to hear a non-American voice, that I can read in English. Thank you, and I will keep reading!

Cynthia in California, USA