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Monday, July 31, 2006

School Uniform

In Indonesia students of kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school and senior high school have to wear uniform to go to school.

When I was in elementary school, 1974-1980, I remember each school had their own policy to decide the style, the color of the uniform and the days to wear the certain uniform. In July 1980 when I started my junior high, I still wore the different color of the uniform for my school. People could easily recognize someone as a student of a certain school from the color of the uniform, without seeing the badge of the school

In 1981, the government started to apply a policy that decided the color of the uniform for each level. Elementary school students had to wear white shirt and red skirt/shorts. Junior high school students had to wear white shirt and black blue skirt/shorts. Senior high school students had to wear white shirt and sky blue/trousers. This policy was mostly applied in state schools. Private schools were free to decide for their own students.

The main reason why students have to wear uniform to go to school, in my opinion, is to reduce the gap between the haves and the haves-not. Rich or poor, the students wear the same kind of clothes, the color, the style, and also the material when going to school. Parents do not need to provide many clothes for the children to go to school. Perhaps wearing uniform will also make the students look neat so that the teachers will be happy to see it. LOL.

In fact, the school also has a rule how long the skirt is for the girls; but not now long/short for the shorts and the trousers for boys. LOL. For the girls, their skirt must be 5-7cm under the knees. I remember during my first days in senior high school, my schoolmates mocked me for wearing such a “too long” skirt, coz following the rule. They said, “That girl is wearing her mother’s skirt.” LOL. And as a rule, teenagers listen to what their friends say more than what their parents say. LOL. It made me argue with my mom. She insisted that I follow the rule, while I felt embarrassed to go to school. At last, I hemmed my skirts by myself after I won the arguments with my mom. LOL.

Some weeks ago when taking Angie to a tailor to have her school uniform made, I didn’t find any difficult situation. Angie agreed with me to have her skirt made 5 cm under her knees, and for the sleeves 5 cm above the elbow. However, when taking the uniform, Angie complained to me coz the skirt was too long, and sleeves were too long too. She pleaded to me, “Mom, my friends will laugh at me wearing this too big skirt and shirt!!” I remember my own experience in 1983, LOL. I gave in. LOL. I asked the tailor to fix it as what Angie wanted.

Recently, many serials on television made by local producers showing the story of teenager life. The characters in those serials usually wear a knee-long skirt, and shirt with very short sleeves. I seldom watch television so I don’t realize how big the impact of this phenomenon. In order to look “modern”, students love to imitate the way the “students” in the serials get dressed. And in order to follow the trend, Angie begged me to listen to her pathetically. LOL. And as a democratic mother, I always open a healthy discussion with Angie and we will find the way out together.

However, since we live in a community where people judge other people only by the clothes, sometimes, I know people will easily judge the students to wear such “modern” style of the uniform as “immoral” ones. I must say that sometimes I am fed up with this “fossilized” way of thinking of people—reducing women only as a pile of flesh and bones.

With so many people still have this way of thinking in Indonesia, I am wondering when people will fairly see a woman. In academic situation, of course it is not appropriate to view women only from the skin, it must be from the inside of her brain. In “beauty pageant” situation, perhaps it is appropriate to view women highly only from the way they get dressed and their outer performance. LOL.

PT56 18.55 300706

Gatherings

I just read an article in a local newspaper about some women who are “crazy” for joining any gathering. The main reason is that they need to socialize with other people. Other benefits to such activity are they will get more friends—in some certain time friends can be like family members--, they will get more business clients, and sometimes they also can get financial aid.
In Indonesia, especially in the scale of neighborhood, it is very common for women to have such a gathering. And it is especially for women who have got married. They meet once a month in one member’s house. Some things they usually do are (1) collecting some money; after the money is collected, they will do lucky draw to decide who will get the money, (2) the head of the neighborhood will give some information related to the need of the housewives, sometimes it is related to the welfare of the toddlers, (3) some neighborhood gatherings have cooperatives that offer the members to rent some money or some daily needs (such as rice, sugar, flour, frying oil, etc.)
This kind of gathering is for married women, and I recognize that in this community women are no longer addressed using their own names, they already become “Mrs. X”. I read it as the “killing of the old self of women”.
Such gathering also happens in many companies. Again, mostly this is for the wives. The husbands work in the companies, the wives get to know each other via this gathering.
Once, a private student of mine who joined a fitness center told me that she and her gym friends also have such gatherings. And from the article I read this morning, I found out that there are many other kinds of gatherings—mostly have women as the members.
When I was a kid, I didn’t find it strange to see my mother attending such gatherings. I saw it as a “normal” thing to do. She has four children, a fulltime housewife, and she had one housemaid at home. Absolutely she had some free time to do that. Besides, I also saw it as she did some social jobs, such as visiting the orphanage and the house for the elderly with her gathering friends, etc.
After I got married and my mom forced to join one gathering in our neighborhood, I realized that in fact I felt reluctant to do that. With the neighbors calling me as “Mrs. X”, I felt more unease. I had to lose my old self as single Nana.  Besides, different from my mom who is a fulltime housewife, I am an employee. With my teaching schedules mostly done in the evening, I often couldn’t join the gathering. And in fact, it aroused a new problem, at least for me, the neighbors started to “see me differently” as someone very busy. They mostly still stick to the old principle of course that women’s place is at home, if a woman works, she had better not do it until late; women are not supposed to work until evening, coz evenings are time for the family. Some neighbors started to “greet” me, “Always busy, eh? Much money then? What if your husband is not satisfied with your being busy like that?” bla bla bla … It made me feel they violated my rights to work, and also to do any other thing to my heart’s content, as long as I don’t harm other people. What did they know about my life?
So, instead of seeing such gathering as beneficial, I saw it as something useless. Some members tend to gossip about the other members. Sometimes it got worse by making the members ‘categorized’ into some groups; one group dislike the others and vice versa. Some members tend to show off what they have to the others.
One workmate of mine who got married some years ago and started to live in a rented house in one neighborhood and join such gathering there also felt fed up with it. “It is very useless for me to join such a gathering.” She said to me some weeks ago. However, she still remembered that her mother warned her to join such a gathering coz “It is very beneficial.” But she didn’t see the benefits for herself.
For fulltime housewives, perhaps it is a good thing to do. For employees, like my workmate and me, we already socialize with our workmates, with our students, private students, so we no longer need to spare some time to attend the meetings of such gatherings in the neighborhood. We still can be good neighbors without joining it, as long as we don’t do any harm to the others.
PT56 18.09 300706

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Patriarchal Culture

After Angie became a teenager these recent years, I recognized that she often looks uncomfortable when we are going somewhere and guys take a look at us. She often rushes me to leave a certain place when she recognizes that a guy or a group of guys take a look at us.

Some hours ago, we just had dinner in one food stall. A group of four guys sat nearby. I never give a damn to any guy looking at me. Perhaps becauseI have problems with my poor eyesight (I am very lazy to wear my glasses when I am not in front of the computer) so that I don’t have a good look at people around me. I cannot recognize then whether they look at me abusively or just curiously. Therefore, it often makes me ignorant to people around when I am in public places. However, I could feel that those four guys once in a while looked at Angie and me. I could ignore it but Angie couldn’t. After we finished our meal, she directly rushed me out of the food stall to escape.

This reminds me of one article I read in Aquarini’s book—Kajian Budaya Feminis (Feminist Culture Studies). She wrote most women undergo sexual harassment in their life; be it a very “light” harassment such as ‘whistling’ until “heavy” one such as touching or rubbing some parts of women’s bodies when they are in public places. Women are often reduced only as “a pile of flesh and bones” without soul so that women easily become victims for such sexual harassment done by men. Men “wholeheartedly” feel like they have full right to do anything they like to women because women are just “a pile of flesh and bones”; just objects. Men don’t need to feel guilty to do harassment because they are superior. On the contrary, women who get sexual harassment often feel that something wrong in them so that they deserved to be “enjoyed” by men. Perhaps they feel that they have big breasts, big ass, or oven on the way round, skinny breasts and skinny ass. Women with big “ones” get sexual harassment while women with skinny “ones” get mockery. It is always wrong to have female bodies.

Lucky Aquarini because she could overcome that feeling when she was young. She could convince herself that there was not anything wrong in her that made some boys abuse her. When I was in elementary school and got sexual abuse from the boys in the classroom next door, I could just run away and hide myself. Sometimes I complained to God why my breasts grew earlier than my classmates so that those boys nicknamed me, “mountain”, very ridiculous and annoying nick for me at that time.

I still brought that upbringing—that women’s bodies are the source of sin—until I found the answer in the feminism ideology, in 2003. I believe it was coz the very strong religious upbringing I got from my parents and teachers in elementary school, also from the patriarchal culture where I was raised.

I have told Angie to take it easy when there is a guy or a group of guys take a look at her greedily. There is nothing wrong in her. Something wrong is in those guys’ minds. However, Angie still acts the same.
I always dream to have a better world where men no longer consider women as sexual objects. That some women can do the similar thing—reduce men only as sexual objects—doesn’t guarantee that it has already made it equal.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Family Name 2

My parents are cousins so that they have the same family name, “Podungge”. This family name is somewhat strange to Javanese people’s ears so that my family sometimes had funny stories coz of this family name. When I was a kid, realizing that this family name was very strange, I was happy to know that this family name was not put behind my name in the birth certificate so that at school, my friends only knew me as “Nurhayati”. Kids here sometimes like to play jokes on parents’ names and it can be very offensive sometimes.

One day in 1970s, I sent a letter to my cousin living in Gorontalo, North Sulawesi, and I addressed her as, “Dearest Hilma Podungge”. My mom corrected me by saying, “She is not a Podungge.” Seeing me confused, she explained that her sister—my cousin’s mother—married to a man with different family name. I was wondering why my cousin should use her father’s family name and cannot choose to use her mother’s?

When reading Saman—a novel written by Ayu Utami, a feminist writer in Indonesia—I found Ayu’s witty criticism on this family name. Shakuntala—one main character in the novel—got difficulty to arrange her documents to study abroad coz she didn’t want to fill in the family name’s column. Her bad relationship with her father made her “kill” the father. At last, to compromise, she divided her name into two; Shakun as the first name, and Tala, as the family name. “Why should my father always follow me wherever I go during all my life? Can’t I live in peace without being related to my father?” this was a question uttered by Ayu Utami via her character in the novel.

Well, as long as there is no violence to women in using this family name, I don’t find it hurtful. However, when knowing in some certain ethnic groups of Indonesia that a woman is forced to bear many babies until she can “produce “ a baby son to pass on the family name, I object very much why a child cannot choose to use the mother or the father’s family name.
Suddenly, I really appreciate my late father’s choice not to include the family name behind my name in the birth certificate. I don’t belong to my father. LOL.
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What is in a name?

“What is in a name?” Shakespeare said. However, I oftentimes think that it is very interesting to know the history why someone is named X or Y. when having a new class with new students, I often ask my students the history of their names; especially if some of them have unique names to me. I often feel curious when they say that they don’t know anything about the history of their names coz their parents never tell them whether there is really a special event preceding the birth of the babies.
I always love to tell my students, and also people who are curious to know the history of my name.

I am the first daughter of my parents after they had two sons before me (unfortunately the first son died when he was around five months old coz of a very serious disease). My mom told me that my dad was very excited to have the first baby daughter so that he called me “Nona”. Nona means a girl, not married yet. After my parents decided to give me a full name “Nurhayati”, they still called me “Nona” as the nickname. “Nurhayati” is an Arabic word that means the light of life. When I was in elementary school and learned Arabic, I loved to make “ti” long that shows possessive adjective “my” so that my name “Nurhayati” means the light of MY life; although my mom told me that their giving me that name was caused by the fact that my coming to their life was like a light they were waiting for in their life. Well, kids oftentimes love to be self-centered. LOL.

However, then they changed my nick “Nona” into “Nana” with the reason, “Later this baby will grow up and will get married. After getting married, she is no longer appropriate to be called “Nona”. In fact, she will be called “Nyonya”.” FYI, “nyonya” is similar to Mrs in English; while “Nona” is similar to Miss.

Btw, both of my parents come from Gorontalo, North Sulawesi where people use family name behind their names. It is different from the tradition of Javanese people who don’t commonly have family name. However, in my birth certificate, my parents didn’t add the family name behind my name so that my full name in it is just “Nurhayati”. Consequently, all of my school certificates only contain “Nurhayati”, without the family name.

When I was in elementary school all of my friends, including the teachers, called me my nickname rather than the full name. In fact, it made me feel so secure with my nickname rather than with my full name. And without my awareness, I always feel uncomfortable when people recognize me as “Nurhayati”.

After I got married, people in my neighborhood started to call me as “Mrs. X”. It even made me feel more uncomfortable. It made me feel like I really had to leave my old self behind, me as a free individual with all of my characteristics and became someone new. Once I complained about it to my mom and she said, “Don’t complain about it. All women will undergo the same thing with you; you are not the only one. No one else complains to my knowing so you are not supposed to complain either.” With strong upbringing I got when I was a kid—that children are not allowed to contradict their parents—I kept quiet.

I was still lucky, I suppose, coz in my workplace people still call me using my own name, and not hubby’s name.

When getting to know feminism ideology, and knowing that many feminists don’t like the idea of putting their husbands’ name behind theirs, I was excited coz eventually I found my “community”—a group of women who don’t like the idea that wives must always be related to the husbands. It seems like women no longer exist after getting married; they are just “part” of their husbands.

I know many women around me love to be called as “Mrs. X” rather than their own names (to show that they are already “sold out”? LOL). However, I think women also have rights to choose how they will be called.

PT56 12.24 250706

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Dangers of Monotheism in the Age of Globalization

http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=5211

Thursday, March 30, 2006


The Dangers of Monotheism in the Age of Globalization
By Jean-Pierre Lehmann


Is there a link between monetheistic religions and intolerance and hostility ?? As Jean-Pierre Lehmann argues, monotheistic religions have caused much turmoil throughout history — and continue to do so today. What is needed is a new global ethical and spiritual role model, and in his opinion, the best candidate to fill that spot is India.

Many in the West and elsewhere were shocked that an Afghan man, Abdul Rahman, was facing possible execution for having converted to Christianity. This is a crime, we were told, punishable by death according to Shariah law, which is the law of the land in Afghanistan, as well as in a good number of other Muslim countries. And even now that Mr. Rahman has safely arrived in Italy, where he was granted asylum, the episode is a telling example of the intolerance that is often the result of strict monotheism. To be sure, Christianity was even worse in its own heyday, not only because “heathens” were exterminated in all sorts of diverse forms, but also those whose Christianity (for example, the Albigensians in the 12th and 13th centuries) was deemed to be “heterodox.” Also, the Spanish conquistadores in Latin America, in collusion with the Church authorities, burned a good number of infidel American Indians. Declining hostility Generally speaking, however,

over the course of the last couple of centuries or so, as the political clout and influence of the Christian churches has waned, the execution, torture and imprisonment of infidels and heretics has greatly decreased. Today, there are a good number of converts to Islam living in Christian countries — and they have encountered relatively little hostility. Religious collusion The idea that Christian civilization (a fairly loose term) renounced religious persecution simply because the power of the churches declined is, of course, belied by the Holocaust. Despite being carried out by secular authorities, the Holocaust took place in Christian countries — and with the silent connivance of the established Christian churches.

A quite vivid illustration is that of the fascist Ustaše movement in Croatia, which was in close cahoots with the Catholic Church. The Jews who were brought to the concentration camps were far worse off than Abdul Rahman, who — before he found refuge in Italy — had been told he would not be executed if he converts back to Islam. The Jews at Auschwitz were not given a similar option. Violent records Although both Christianity and Islam each have their strong points, without doubt, on balance their historical record would show more liabilities, more warfare, more intolerance, more persecution, than truly positive assets. The number of people killed in the name of these two religions must be far greater than the numbers killed for any other cause. Furthermore, in this first decade of the 21st century, religion plays a far more prominent role than it used to. Hijacking the faith In the case of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have all been hijacked by their respective fundamentalists. I am a great believer that the progress of civilization requires the gradual eradication of all forms of established religion.

Not by force, I hasten to add, but by the evidence of history, the rationality of man and the persuasion of humanist secularism. In Western Europe, where the vast majority of the population is no longer Christian in anything but name, sadly humanism has not taken hold. Filling the void An addiction to money, or psychoanalysis or drugs — or a combination of the three — tends to prevail. Whatever has the upper hand, it is definitely not humanism. So it would seem people have a natural desire for religion or something that can be substituted for it — if not god, then mammon. Polytheistic acceptance In recognizing this reality, therefore, it would seem that perhaps rather than eradicating religion per se, we should instead eradicate monotheistic religion in favor of polytheistic religion. If you have only one god, and you believe that god is all powerful and omniscient, and you come across someone who does not agree, then you may feel it is your duty to kill him.

If, on the other hand, you believe there are hundreds, indeed thousands of gods, and that none can be totally almighty or omniscient, then you are likely to be far more tolerant. Intolerant tendencies The great pre-Christian civilizations of Greece and Rome had no religious wars and had a far healthier view of their frolicking gods and goddesses than the intolerant monotheistic Christianity that later came to dominate Europe. Polytheistic religions also tend to have a far more positive and healthier attitude to sex, which is seen as a good thing, than do the monotheistic faiths, where there is a much stronger tendency to equate sex with sin. Militant Christianity As concerns the United States, militant Christianity is clearly in ascendance, indeed it has one of its own in the White House. According to a recent Pew survey, 15, 14 and 20% of the U.S. population said they would have reasons not to vote for a presidential candidate who was Catholic, Jewish or Evangelical Christian.

However, when that candidate was an atheist, the percentage, at 41%, was substantially higher. This is extremely worrying and does not portend well for the future. While it would seem that religious Americans are more tolerant as concerns their respective religions, they remain brazenly intolerant of atheists. Perhaps the most encouraging development in this early 21st century is the emergence of India as an increasingly global force, economically, politically and culturally. Managing multiculturalism There are many anomalies, problems and injustices in Indian society — and some of these, such as the caste system, have been perpetrated by religion. But India is a microcosmic reflection of how globalization can work, especially in its generally remarkable ability to have managed multiculturalism to such a brilliant extent. Diverse Unity India’s one billion plus population is the most heterogeneous in the world.

There are far more ethnic, linguistic and religious groups than in, say, the European Union. Yet, a far greater degree of unity has been achieved among India’s disparate ethnicities than among the tribes of Western Europe. Thus, though Fareed Zakaria in "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy" has rightly pointed out that democracy can more often than not be the problem rather than the solution in inter-communal relations — witness Iraq! Perhaps the greatest achievement of India is to have maintained a very robust democracy in an extremely multi-ethnic environment. Contrast that with Egypt, for example, which used to have a highly multi-ethnic make-up, but which has now been mostly dissipated. Hardly Utopia Of course India is not Utopia. No place is — and no human is perfect. Against the remarkably inspirational preaching of non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, India has opted to become a nuclear power.

Nehru’s alleged egalitarianism notwithstanding, India has the dubious distinction of having the world’s greatest number of illiterates, especially among women. So, yes, there are failings galore and there are also, alas, Hindu fundamentalists. A global ethical role model? But in a global environment desperate for ideas, philosophy and religion, India is the most prolific birthplace of all three — because of the great synergy of democracy and diversity, and the much greater degree of self-confidence that Indians now feel. Indians and members of the enormous Indian Diaspora — over which the sun never sets — are the thought leaders in economics, business, philosophy, political science, religion and literature. The planet needs quite desperately a sense of moral order, spirituality and an ethical compass. The Indian religious and philosophical traditions can provide a great deal of all three. It was in a recent conversation with an Indian religious guru that I was also pleased to discover I could adhere to his religious tenets, while maintaining my secular convictions. No imam or priest would allow me that. More than a global economic force The planet also needs an alternative geopolitical force to the American Christian fundamentalist brand of hegemonic thinking that the Bush Administration has generated — and that is not likely to evaporate even after his departure from office. Europe is an inward-looking and, in many ways, spent force. China is a dictatorship. The Islamic world is going through an awkward moment — to put it mildly. Hence the importance of the role India must play in this respect — both because of its innate qualities and because there is no other serious contender. The 21st century better become the century inspired by the virtues of Indian polytheism — or else we are headed for disaster.

Ain't I A Woman?




Ain’t I a Woman?
Sojourner Truth
(1797-1883)


That man over there says
That women need to be helped into carriages
And lifted over ditches,
And to have the best place everywhere

Nobody ever helps me into carriages
Or over mud-puddles,
Or gives me any best place!
And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me!
Look at my arm!
I have ploughed and planted,
And gathered into barns,
And no man could head me!
And ain’t I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man
When I could get it
And bear the lash as well
And ain’t I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children
And seen them most all sold off to slavery
And when I cried out with my mother’s grief
None but Jesus heard m1!
And ain’t I a woman?

That little man in black there,
He says women can’t have
As much rights as men
‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman!

Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with Him!

If the first woman God ever made
Was strong enough to turn the world
Upside down all alone
These women together ought to be able to turn it back
And get it right side up again!
And now they is asking to do it
The men better let them.

Sojourner Truth, born as Isabella in Hurley, Ulster County, New York, was one early abolitionist and feminist in America. Before fleeing herself to freedom in 1827, she was a slave and had already witnessed the sale of two of her surviving children when she settled as a domestic servant with her youngest son and daughter in New York City around 1829.

In her most well-known speech above—Ain’t I a woman? we can see how she criticized the unfair treatment toward the Negro women confronted the appearance of the Cult of True Womanhood in the beginning of the nineteenth century.

One impact resulted in the Industrial Revolution in the beginning of the nineteenth America is the domesticity of women. Society considered women as the weaker sex so that women needed to be protected. While in the previous centuries women together with men could be the breadwinner for the family (such as doing agriculture, home industry), the industrial revolution with the establishing of factories spread all over America gave ideas to men to domesticate women at home and be the breeder, the cook, and the exclusive servant for the husband and the children they delivered. The reason—just like the reason mostly used by selfish men nowadays—was that men were already outside of home most of the time so that women had to stay home to take care of the children.

However, such principles were not applied to all women; they were only for white women coming from the middle and high social class. The “protection” was only given to them, but not to others, let’s say white women from low social class (e.g. the new immigrant who had to work hard to survive) and Negro women. This is exactly what Sojourner Truth criticized in her speech.

The impact of this application is:

For white women coming from middle and high social class, gradually working outside home was something coveted very much after they were bored to be domesticated and “protected”. Therefore they struggled to get their rights to be equal with men by pursuing career outside home. This could be seen as the one struggled by the second wave feminist movement in 1960s.
For Negro women—and also for women coming from low social class, working hard outside home bored them and they considered being a housewife—being idle, “only” doing household chores they believed not as hard as working outside to augment the income—as something luxurious. On the contrary of the white women coming from middle and high social class, they struggled something different.

Going back to Sojourner Truth’s speech, she also criticized the religious bodies that put women in the lower position than men with reason that Christ was a man. I am of opinion that Muslim women can also use the similar reason to respond Muslim men’s accusation that women are not as capable as men to be leaders or to have equal rights as men to pursue career outside home coz all prophets Muslim people know were men. Those selfish men use this “weapon” to eliminate any struggle for women to be leaders. As Amina Wadud illustrates in her book Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from A Woman’s Perspective that men want to ignore the existence of women as the leaders in Alquran in order that men will always become the leaders in this world and women will only be the followers.

PT56 12.37 150706

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Housewife 2

To be a housewife is one modern thing that most women are supposed to covet in this era.
This statement was proposed by one member of the mailing list I join, Sastra-Pembebasan. (Sastra = Literature, while Pembebasan = freedom). I assume that the one who proposed this idea is one member of that Islamic fundamental group. He came to this conclusion when his wife one day, some years ago, told him that she would quit working outside and pay more attention and time for the family. It happened when he and the family lived in America some years ago.

The ridiculous thing is then he considered it as the standard of being modern for women, LOL, also as the standard of happiness for women. Moreover, then he somewhat forced other women to follow his wife’s path coz he said that nowadays many American women choose to be housewife more than to be working mothers (and would “produce” naughty, unhappy, rebellious, bla bla bla children coz women would not have enough time for the children.)

If I relate it to my previous article on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s criticism on housewife’s role promoted by the Cult of True Womanhood in the middle of the nineteenth century, this ridiculous man is left behind many centuries before. LOL.

The second wave of feminist movement in America starting in 1960s showed the tendency of most feminists to abolish the façade that being a housewife was the most coveted “profession” for women. I am of opinion that this was the heritage of the cult of True Womanhood in the nineteenth century America that still covered American culture during the first half of the twentieth century. Therefore, many feminists showed their dislike for women who chose to be a housewife.

However, the post-feminisms ideology offered new things. Women have their full rights to choose what they want to do in their life—whether to pursue their own career outside home or at home. We emphasize more on the rights of women to make their own decision. When a woman chooses to be a full housewife, it must be from the woman’s decision, and not the husband’s choice, moreover the husband’s command. On the contrary, we also respect women’s decision to work outside and become financially independent.

The main point of feminisms ideology—in my opinion—is that women have full rights for their own choice for their own life: what to wear, what to do, whom to marry, what profession to have, etc. Women no longer need husbands’ permission only to do something that sometimes is only a trivial thing.

Only not confident men will not let their wives do this and that. Only not confident men will abuse the verses from their holy books—the Bible or the Alquran let’s say—to justify what they do to control women from their rights to have their own life.

PT56 12.11 140706

The Housewife 1

THE HOUSEWIFE
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
(1860-1935)
Here is the House to hold me–cradle of all the race;
Here is my lord and my love, here are my children dear–
Here is the House enclosing, the dear-loved dwelling place;
Why should I ever weary for aught that I find not here?

Here for the hours of the day and the hours of the night;
Bound with the bands of Duty, rivetted tight;
Duty older than Adam–Duty that saw
Acceptance utter and hopeless in the eyes of the serving squaw.

Food and the serving of food–that is my daylong care;
What and when we shall eat, what and how we shall wear;
Soiling and cleaning of things–that is my task in the main–
Soil them and clean them and soil them–soil them and clean them again.

To work at my trade by the dozen and never a trade to know;
To plan like a Chinese puzzle–fitting and changing so;
To think of a thousand details, each in a thousand ways;
For my own immediate people and a possible love and praise.

My mind is trodden in circles, tiresome, narrow and hard,
Useful, commonplace, private–simply a small backyard;
And I the Mother of Nations!–Blind their struggle and vain!
I cover the earth with my children–each with a housewife's brain.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one favorite feminist writer of mine. Spending half of her time in the end of the nineteenth century America, Gilman of course still underwent the cult of True Womanhood in which one of the tenets is the cult of domesticity—being a housewife.

Appearing in the beginning of the eighteenth century, the cult of True Womanhood soon got a strong support from the religious bodies. The clergymen “trickily” and quickly were trying to find some verses in the Bible to strengthen the place for women—at home; forgetting that in the previous centuries women were also active in the public sphere. Not wanting to leave the puritan heritage of their ancestor as a pious nation, Americans put the burden to raise pious children to women’s shoulders. These pious children would be the future national leaders. The “interference” of the religious bodies successfully made most women coming from middle and high social class easily believed that they were born to stay home, to do household chores, to serve the husbands who worked in the industry outside home (after the Industrial Revolution was spread from England starting in the end of the seventeenth century and America in the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Gilman was one victim of the mother who strongly believed that she was born to stay home, no matter what happened. Her father left her mother and the two children in 1869. Her mother’s financial dependence forced them to move from one relative’s house to another, nineteen times in eighteen years. This also made the mother not able to show the care and love the children needed.
This bitter childhood made Gilman determined since a very young age to think that it was important for women to be financially independent. Being a full housewife would hamper a woman to be financially secure coz a woman wouldn’t have enough time to actualize her own skill, talent, and want. She wouldn’t have ample time to pursue her own career.

The poem I quoted above clearly shows Gilman’s criticism of the pride to be a housewife for women during her era.

In the first stanza, Gilman’s choice of word “lord” shows the unequal relationship between the husband and the wife. The word “lord” is used to show respect for someone who has a higher status. The husband—man—is the superior, while the wife—woman—is the inferior. A mother is even also less important than the children.

This condition is also criticized by Aquarini when her husband complained to her, “Why can’t you be an ordinary wife coz I am also only an ordinary husband?” After trying to find out what is the definition of “ordinary wife”, she came to a conclusion where one of them is when the family having meals, this housewife who has busily prepared the meals must let the husband eat first while she feeds the small children. After everybody is full, it is time for the “good” wife to have her own meal. After that, the husband will watch television or read newspapers, the wife continues working—doing the dishes. This illustration shows that the husband—the one who earns the money—is the “lord”, the respected one. The woman is the inferior.

The second stanza illustrates how doing the household chores has become the main duty for a housewife, all day long. It shows that the working hours for a housewife are almost for twenty-four hours. When can she have her own leisure time to do things she wants to enjoy for herself? However, a woman must accept it. Stanzas three and four explain more what a housewife must do—preparing the meals and clothes for the whole family members.

The last stanza is Gilman’s ultimate criticism of the existence of housewife as one “profession” for women in that era. When a woman is busy doing all those household chores and she doesn’t have time to improve knowledge, and do other intellectual things, how can society put the burden of raising the future national leaders on the shoulders of women whose mind is always occupied with doing household chores?

PT56 11.45 140706

Monday, July 10, 2006

Feminist Critical Studies

I am reading a book entitled KAJIAN BUDAYA FEMINIS (Feminist Cultural Studies) written by Aquarini Priyatna, one feminist writer in Indonesia. This book contains the collection of her papers having been published before in some journals or presented in some seminars.

The way she writes in those papers is like the way someone writes autobiography; it is similar to my way of writing articles in my blogs. That’s why I easily like reading it. And I agree with her that this way wil make the readers—especially women—feel like the “I” in the papers is themselves with their daily experiences dealing with patriarchal soceity.

One thing that I want to write here is her complaint on the local language used mostly in Central Java,East Jave, and DIY, three provinces located in Java island. Javanese language—so it is called, just like the ethnic group is also called Javanese—applies three different hierarchies. The highest is called Kromo Inggil, the middle is Kromo Madyo while the lowest is Ngoko.

People speak Ngoko to other people who are about the same level (social class including age). They speak Kromo Madyo to people they are not really close to although they are about the same level. They speak Kromo Inggil to people they respect. On the contrary, people who are respected can speak Ngoko to people who come from lower level.

Husbands speak Ngoko to their wives while wives speak Kromo Inggil. It shows that men have a higher level than the wives so that they must show their respect by using Kromo Inggil when speaking to the husbands.

Aquarini who is married to a Javanese man didn’t know this. When one day she used Ngoko language to the husband, the husband’s family members didn’t like it and consider Aquarini an impolite woman. As a feminist, It directly left a bad taste in her mouth coz using Javanese language made her less important than her husband. Then she asked her husband to speak the national language—Bahasa Indonesia—that doesn’t have such a hierarchy. She is lucky, I suppose, coz her husband didn’t complain and agreed with her.

In a way, it is a dilemma. When more and more people think like this, it will make Javanese language vanish. However, I agree with Aquarini that the application of three different hierarchies in this local language will make women feel inferior, as someone less important.

It reminded me of my own bitter experience in my first marriage. I didn’t use Kromo Inggil to speak to him in the past. However, I used to call Angie’s dad “Mas”, one term mostly used by Javanese people to show respect to men. He just called me my name. After we got divorced, I no longer call him “Mas”. It left a bad taste in my mouth! It really made me forced to be the less important party only coz I was born female; and he the respected one only coz he was born male!

Perhaps for many people it is just a trivial thing. But to me—also to Aquarini—and perhaps also to some other feminists—this is a principle thing in life.

It reminds me of questions asked by many people to me, “Why do you feminists bother those things taken for granted for centuries and try to deconstruct them? Why don’t you just live in peace by accepting everything just the way it is? (Read => to accept that men are the better sex, the superior, the smarter, the stronger, etc.)

We just want to have equality. It sounds easy but difficult to make it real.

PT56 11.26 100706

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Breast Ironing

'Breast ironing' to stunt girls' growth widespread
1 in 4 girls in Cameroon suffer this abuse to protect against rape

Friday, July 7, 2006; Posted: 9:49 a.m. EDT (13:49 GMT)

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (Reuters) -- Worried that her daughters' budding breasts would expose them to the risk of sexual harassment and even rape, their mother Philomene Moungang started 'ironing' the girls' bosoms with a heated stone.

"I did it to my two girls when they were eight years old. I would take the grinding stone, heat it in the fire and press it hard on the breasts," Moungang said.

"They cried and said it was painful. But I explained that it was for their own good."

"Breast ironing" -- the use of hard or heated objects or other substances to try to stunt breast growth in girls -- is a traditional practice in West Africa, experts say.

A new survey has revealed it is shockingly widespread in Cameroon, where one in four teenagers are subjected to the traumatic process by relatives, often hoping to lessen their sexual attractiveness.

"Breast ironing is an age-old practice in Cameroon, as well as in many other countries in West and Central Africa, including Chad, Togo, Benin, Guinea-Conakry, just to name a few," said Flavien Ndonko, an anthropologist and local representative of German development agency GTZ, which sponsored the survey.

"If society has been silent about it up to now it is because, like other harmful practices done to women such as female genital mutilation, it was thought to be good for the girl," said Ndonko.

"Even the victims themselves thought it was good for them."

However, the practice has many side-effects, including severe pain and abscesses, infections, breast cancer, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts.

The survey of more than 5,000 girls and women aged between 10 and 82 from throughout Cameroon, published last month, estimated that 4 million women in the central African country have suffered the process.

"You ask me why I did it?" said Moungang. "When I was growing up as a little girl my mother did it to me just as all other women in the village did it to their girl children. So I thought it was just good for me to do to my own children."
Common in town

The practice is now more common in urban areas than in villages, because mothers fear their children could be more exposed to sexual abuse in towns and try to suppress outward signs of sexuality, the survey said.

Its findings have prompted a nationwide campaign to educate mothers about its dangers and to try to eradicate it. A similar campaign some years ago helped drastically to reduce rates of female genital mutilation in Cameroon.

"A girl...has to be proud of her breasts because it is natural. It is a gift from God. Allow the breasts to grow naturally. Do not force them to disappear or appear," said a leaflet from the campaign.

Moungang said she stopped ironing her daughters' breasts after one girl developed blisters and abscesses.

"I took her to the hospital and the doctor scolded me and advised never to do it again because it could ruin my daughter," she said.

"When Mariane married and delivered her first baby, it took a long time -- about a month -- for her breasts to start producing milk and the child almost died. I was told it was because I had ironed her breasts. I was frightened."

The younger a girl develops, the more likely she is to have her bosom ironed -- 38 percent of girls developing breasts under the age of 11 had undergone the procedure.

The practice is most common in the Christian and animist South of the country, rather than in the Muslim North and Far North provinces, where only 10 percent of women are affected.

The survey found that in 58 percent of cases breast ironing was carried out by mothers worried that the onset of puberty could provoke sexual harassment, inhibit their daughters' studies or even stunt their growth.

Many mothers were alarmed because an improvement in nutrition and living conditions had caused young girls' breasts to develop earlier than ever.
Destroying breasts

"Massaging the breasts with hot objects is painful, very painful, and can completely destroy the breasts," said Bessem Ebanga, executive secretary of women's rights group RENATA, herself a former victim.

"Some girls could be traumatized throughout their lives and their sexual behavior could be disturbed forever."

Thirteen-year-old Geraldine Mbafor could not hold back her tears as she narrated her ordeal.

"I had just finished doing my homework when my mother summoned me to the kitchen. She boiled water and in the water she put a grinding stone. She then removed the stone holding it with a thick cloth to protect her hands, and placed it my breasts and started ironing them," she stated.

"I felt so much pains that I started crying. After that she bandaged my breasts with a band called breast-band ... She did this to me for two and a half months."

According to 14-year-old Amelia, who would not give her family name, her breasts started developing when she was 9. Her elder sister decided to massage them every evening with a towel soaked in hot water.

"This was very painful, and every evening before I slept, she would put a big elastic belt well fastened round my chest to flatten my breasts."

"Six months later the flesh that held my breasts was already weak. At 10, I already had fallen breasts and each time I undress I'm ashamed and it is a big complex."

Nevertheless, support for and opposition to the tradition remains evenly balanced. According to the survey, 39 percent of women opposed it, while 41 percent expressed support and 26 percent were indifferent.

For Ndonko, the campaign is a battle to respect the physical integrity of young girls -- with broader implications for human rights.

"If nothing was done today, tomorrow the very parents may even resolve to slice off the nose, the mouth or any other part of the girl which they think is making her attractive to men."

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Hypocrisy

Another hot topic to be discussed in the mailing list is this “contract marriage”. Some “hypocritical” people don’t call such practice as a prostitution coz the marriage is done properly according to Islamic law—the dowry paid, the ulema, and the witness. It means that the wedding is legal so that sex done after that cannot be categorized as prostitution.

They seem to forget that when doing anything, the most important thing is the intention (in Arabic we call it as “nawaitu”).

It is clearly seen that the practice of such marriage is only to legalize sex, and not really to create a “sakinah” family (sakinah => pious), the one thing believed as the most important when two people get married.

When people just play with such rules, how can they be sure that what they do is blessed by God, meaning not generate sin?

PT56 07.30 060706

Contract Marriage

Contract marriages is not a new trend here in Indonesia. Since the furniture business reached its peak around 5-7 years ago in one small town close to Semarang my hometown, many local people have done that. The foreigners who have the money marry local women to have such a business. This local “wife” will make their business run more easily when dealing with the local government. When they think that the business is not longer fruitful for them, they can just close the business, “divorce” their wife and go back to their countries.

Some parties get benefit from such business. First, the foreigners—they get much profit from this business. Second, the local women—from being poor, suddenly they become the “owner” of a business. When their “husband” is back to the native country, usually these women already have enough capital to start their own business, or, well, as the deposit for their future without having to work hard anymore as long as they can manage the money wisely. Third, the local government—the income resulted from this business of course supports the development of the area—e.g. the infrastructure. Fourth, the local people who get jobs to work in such companies also those who can open other kinds of business to fulfill the need of the furniture companies, such as cyber cafes, until hotels, restaurants, tourist resorts when the foreigners come to visit their business.

Some years ago, I read an information about the practice of a bit similar contract marriage that happned in East Java. One village is popularly known as a place where the women are available for such marriage. Many men go to that place to look for a kind of woman they want to “marry” as the second or third or nth wife. Those men usually already have their “formal” wife in their original place and they visit their “secret” wife only once a week. Although “secret”, the marriage is done “properly” following the “rules”—the men pay the dowry, there is an “Ulema” who marries them in Islamic way and also some people to witness the wedding matrimony. One case I read about a smart woman is that at the same time she can have four secret husbands that visit her at different time. After having some husbands, she no longer needs to work hard to earn her living. The four husbands absolutely don’t know that this woman “smartly” makes use of them.

In the case of the short contract marriage among the Arabian tourists and Indonesian women, some people get benefits too of course, including the women involved. However, oftentimes these women are just made use by the bureaus, they get much money from the tourists but they don’t give the women as much as they deserve. These women must learn to be “tricky” as the woman I mention in the above paragraph.

PT56 07.23 060706

Sex, anyone?

I remember one topic I once discussed with Rick, some time in 1999, about his being upset why he often found chatters from countries where the majority of the pople are Islam adherents—including Indonesia—who always asked him a lot about sex. It seemed to them that nothing else was more interesting to talk about than sex.

I also remember when I often went online via IRC, some time in 1999-2000, I often found guys from Arab countries—e.g. Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Turkey—that easily said to me that out of the blue they fell in love with me and then offered me to come to their countries to spend my holiday there, and for that they would send me the tickets, etc.

For the first topic, I related it to the perspective of people (that come from such countries) about sex: that sex is something taboo, dirty, sinful, etc. Something hidden like this always triggers people to feel curious to know more. However, those people feel shy to talk about that, and they don’t want to be considered as someone sinful (coz they are always haunted by the indoctrination they get from society), someone bad, etc. And they find internet as the best and safest place to find out about sex coz they can hide their identity, people don’t see them directly so that they can talk about anything. In the cyber world, they can fulfill their hunger and thirst on sex. After they go back to the real world, they “come back” again as “good” and “pious” people who consider that sex is something sinful, dirty, etc to conform the society’s norm.

For the second topic, I related it to the abusing idea proposed by the vice president of Indonesia that I mentioned in the previous post—encouraging Arabian tourists to come to Indonesia and “marry” the local girls only during their stay here and then divorce them after the visit is over. I just read a message from one mailing list I join about a special village in West Java (one province in Java island, Indonesia) that is popularly called as Kampung Arab (Arab village) located in Puncak, one hilly area with cool weather and beautiful green scenery. The nicknamed—Kampung Arab—was made coz there is some certain time during one whole year when many Arabian tourists coming there to “have fun”—alcohol and sex parties. Such “business” is not handled by the local people though—such as the hotels, the food, the guides, inluding providing girls for fun—it is carried out by professional people coming from the neighboring cities, such as Jakarta. The local municipality already complained about it but they cannot do much coz those tourists donate much money to develop some infrastructure.

If I blend the first and the second topic, these Arabian tourists in their native country must conform to their society’s norm—that sex is something embarrassing and sinful. However, they cannot control the natural call that sex is something humane and natural and they need that. And as a result, they look for the so-called paradise somewhere else, not in their own countries.

PT56 06.49 060706

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Quote of the day

"Stride forward with a firm, steady step knowing with a deep, certain inner knowing that you will reach every goal you set yourselves, that you will achieve every aim."
-E.Caddy

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Islam

I got the following article from a mailing list I join: #Sastra-Pembebasan#. Very lovely and deep thought. :)

Islam Yang Saya Yakini dan Pahami

Sebagaimana yang saya yakini dalam Islam sebagai agama saya. Dalam Islam kebenaran mutlak ada di tangan Allah SWT. Manusia berhak berpegang pada kebenaran tersebut. Namun demikian, tak berhak memutlakkan kebenaran itu.

Tidak ada manusia di dunia ini yang dapat mendefinisikan kebenaran secara Absolut.

Islam mengajari saya bahwa keragaman itu adalah Sunnatullah. Keseragaman adalah sama hal dengan kemustahilan.

Penolakan atau pemasungan terhadap keberagaman tentunya melawan Sunnahtullah dan penunggalan nilai akan mengalami pembutaan dan kebuntuan abadi.

“ Iman harus menjadi kebebasan nurani Individu.”
( James Madison 1751 – 1836)

Iman dan keyakinan yang benar di inspirasikan oleh persuasi pemikiran rasional, bukan karena paksaan dan kekuatan.

Islam datang pertama ke Indonesia melalui jalan damai, bergaul dengan kebudayaan setempat dan kepercayaan yang sudah ada sebelumnya. Bukan datang membawa golok, kelewang dan pentungan, menghujat kesana-kemari, merusak apalagi membakar.

Sedangkan sekarang ini yang terjadi di negeri yang kita cintai, Indonesia adalah ajaran mengatas-namakan Islam oleh sekelompok orang yang mengaku akhli dalam Islam dengan perilaku kekerasan, pemaksaan, yang seolah-olah suara mereka adalah suara Tuhan.

Umat lain yang non muslim di Indonesia juga bukanlah di sebut Zimmiy. Karena arti sesungguhnya Zimmiy adalah orang non muslim yang di takhlukkan pada jaman Muhammad SAW.

Umat non muslim di Indonesia ada sebelum islam datang. Ini semua harus kita terima fakta dan sejarah yang jelas, tentunya dengan lapang dada serta menerima sebagai keabadian yang hakiki.

Muhammad SAW. Datang membawa rahmat adalah benar adanya. Beliau turut menggenapi agama-agama dari Allah SWT. sebelumnya. Menggenapi bukan berarti membuang yang sudah ada.

Agama di turunkan oleh Tuhan untuk manusia, bukan manusia untuk agama. Artinya agar manusia satu dan lainnya berlomba-lomba berbuat baik dengan sesama.

Lantas, mengapa Allah SWT. Tidak menciptakan semua manusia satu agama, satu ideologi, satu ras, satu bangsa, satu bahasa, atau satu golongan. Tetapi begitu teramat sangat beragam ?

Jawabnya adalah agar kita saling mengenal satu dan lainnya,memiliki tali-rasa pada sesama dan bersikap toleran terhadap perbedaan dan prural. Begitulah sebaik-baiknya iman.