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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on Sunday December 21) where the journalist narrow-mindedly stated that women who choose to work in public sphere are outdated since they follow the ‘obsolete’ women movement; while women who choose to stay home, either to work at home or be a full housewife are applauded as ‘modern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