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Saturday, June 30, 2007

CHILDREN



“Having children” has mostly become the first priority of a couple to get married in Indonesia. I am not really sure though whether they really love children or just to fulfill society’s norm to be considered happy and “normal”. In her book SI PARASIT LAJANG, Ayu Utami mentioned three most coveted things in Indonesia: getting married, having a job and having children. These three things have become society’s norm so that people will easily feel miserable when they don’t have one of them.
Therefore, people will try hard to have a baby because they are convinced that children will make their life happier, and that the relationship between a husband and a wife will be more loving and harmonious. For religious people, having a baby is also believed to be one virtue because the couple supports to create pious young generation. More pious children from pious family will create a more pious nation in the future. And religious people think that a pious country will get blessings from God.
Having a baby is also considered one way to help marriage run well so that it will not be easily broken. When a couple often gets involved in quarrels, and probably thinks of getting divorced, older people (perhaps parents or uncles/aunts, or even neighbors) suggest them to have a baby because they are of opinion that the baby will “glue” the relationship between the husband and the wife. Children are expected to safe the almost broken family.
Therefore, children have mostly become one “best” reason for a couple not to get divorced. People in Indonesia strongly believe that broken family will create problematic children. When a child or a teenager has problems, and (un)fortunately he/she comes from “broken” family, society will easily condemn, “Aha … his/her parents got divorced, no wonder if the child is problematic.” It gives impression that “broken” family will easily engender problems to the children more than those who come from “complete” family.
And after having a baby (babies) they will try to maintain their marriage no matter how many frictions and problems come to their daily life. Sticking to the stigma that broken family will create problematic children, some (or many?) couples force themselves to keep the marriage although they are not happy with it. They (mistakenly) think that living in an unhappy marriage where the parents oftentimes quarrel is still better for the children rather than to live in broken family. Besides, wanting to be considered as an ideal family by society, many couples try their best to give that false impression to the neighbors/community/society without being aware that inside their heart they are hurt.
Being forced to always give happy impression to society while in fact they are not, many couples then subconsciously suffer from psychological problems that make them not able to treat their children well. Sometimes the psychological problem comes in the form of hating the children because they think that the children become the only reason for them not able to get divorced. Questions from society such as, “If you get divorced, don’t you think of your children? They will become problematic children. It is poor of them because they will lose one of the parents. Or perhaps they will lose both of the parents if then the parents will get married again.”
They don’t realize that “healthy” children will come from “healthy” situation too at home. They are sensitive enough to perceive whether the parents really have “healthy” relationship or not. I assume that they also can sense whether they become scapegoat or not for the parents to go on living in a “complete” family although love has probably disappeared between the couple. It will be worse when the parents really scold the children as an obstacle to be separated, to have a healthier psychological situation when they live separately.
The parents forget that their children have full right to be raised in a healthy psychological marriage to grow as psychologically healthy future generation. Instead of living in a marriage where the parents hate each other, children will grow better to live with single parent who is psychologically healthy.
It is high time for people now to have children because they really love to have children, not only as decoration (for example to be considered happy and “normal” couple) or investment for the parents’ future life. People who are not lucky to get babies from God must think further to adopt children only for those two reasons.
PT56 10.42 290607

Utopia 2

The Bahasa version of my previous article "Utopia".

Aku sedang membaca beberapa file tempatku menyimpan artikel-artikel yang telah ku-post di blog tatkala aku menemukan satu artikel yang kutulis setelah mendapatkan inspirasi dari satu artikel dalam harian nasional berbahasa Inggris yang menyebutkan “satu tempat tanpa adanya diskriminasi sosial hanyalah merupakan satu utopia saja.”
Artikel ini mengingatkanku pada satu email pendek yang kuterima dari seorang teman kuliah beberapa minggu yang lalu. Dia bekerja di sebuah universitas swasta di satu kota kecil yang terletak di Jawa Tengah. PTS ini milik salah satu organisasi massa Islam terbesar di Indonesia. Temanku ini mengeluh karena akhir-akhir ini tempat kerjanya mulai memberlakukan beberapa peraturan yang menurutnya mulai mencampuri kehidupan pribadi pegawainya; misal: para pegawai diwajibkan shalat Dzuhur di masjid kampus dan sebulan sekali harus menghadiri acara pengajian yang dilaksanakan pada satu hari pukul 7 malam. Selain itu, setiap fatwa yang dikeluarkan oleh Majlis Pusat organisasi massa tersebut yang berlokasi di Jakarta harus diikuti oleh seluruh pegawai. Para pegawai seolah tidak memiliki pilihan untuk melakukan apa yang mereka yakini sebagai sesuatu yang “benar” karena segala sesuatu yang “benar” telah ditetapkan oleh Majlis Pusat. Jika seorang pegawai tidak shalat Dzuhur di masjid kampus atau tidak menghadiri acara pengajian, maka dia akan dipanggil oleh atasan untuk kemudian diinterogasi.
Temanku ini, seorang perempuan, bisa kukategorikan sebagai seseorang yang kritis terhadap apa yang dia lihat dan alami, dan tidak begitu saja dengan mudah menerima apa-apa yang di”jejal”kan kepadanya. Dia jarang mengikuti acara shalat Dzuhur di masjid kampus, maupun menghadiri pengajian karena pada waktu itu dia mempunyai kewajiban untuk mengajar. Dia bisa melihat dan menilai bahwa apa-apa yang disampaikan dalam acara pengajian tersebut bermisi politik, maupun bertendensi untuk mengajarkan doktrin-doktrin tertentu yang dikeluarkan oleh Majlis Pusat. Di mataku, temanku ini merupakan seorang Muslim yang baik, memakai jilbab dalam kesehariannya, shalat lima kali sehari, dan melakukan rukun Islam yang lain, bukan sebagai hasil indoktrinasi yang lebih sering dipaksakan, namun merupakan hasil pencarian spiritualnya atas satu Dzat yang serba Maha.
Dalam email pendeknya, dia juga bercerita tentang seorang teman kerjanya yang baru saja dikeluarkan dari kantor. Teman kerjanya tersebut tidak pernah menghadiri pengajian yang diselenggarakan sebulan sekali, tidak melakukan apa-apa yang difatwakan oleh Majlis Pusat (misal: tatkala hari Idul Fitri lalu tidak shalat Ied pada hari yang telah ditentukan oleh Majlis Pusat). Tatkala dia dipanggil oleh atasannya dan diinterogasi apakah dia bukan pengikut organisasi massa Islam dimana PTS tersebut membawa benderanya, dengan tegas dia menjawab, “Bukan.” Hasilnya? Sang atasan pun berkata kepadanya, “Anda diberhentikan dari tugas anda di sini. Silakan mencari pekerjaan di tempat lain.”
“Mengapa sebuah PTS (ataupun perusahaan lain) menilai seorang pegawai bukan dari etos kerjanya melainkan hanya dari bagaimana dia menjalankan aktifitas keagamaannya? Bukankah yang paling berhak untuk menilai iman seseorang hanyalah Yang Di Atas sana? Dan bukannya sesama manusia? Kita tidak bisa menilai ketaqwaan maupun iman seseorang hanya dari bagaimana seseorang tersebut menjalankan aktifitas keagamaannya. Hal tersebut bersifat sangat pribadi. Tuhan tidak akan berkurang keperkasaan-Nya hanya karena seseorang tidak menghadiri acara pengajian maupun shalat di masjid yang telah ditentukan.” Komplain temanku dalam emailnya.
Pada saat yang bersamaan aku ingat kasus seorang teman yang kukenal pertama kali lewat dunia maya. Beberapa bulan lalu dia bercerita bahwa dia dikeluarkan dari tempat kerjanya karena dia satu-satunya pegawai yang non Muslim di kantornya. Berbeda dengan kasus di atas, kantor tempatnya bekerja tidak secara terus terang mengatakan padanya bahwa kasus pemberhentian tersebut dikarenakan alasan agama melainkan karena perampingan jumlah pegawai demi keefektifan dan keefisiensian.
Aku juga ingat kasusku sendiri. Beberapa bulan lalu aku diberhentikan dari PTS tempatku bekerja karena aku adalah seorang pegawai Muslim. Beberapa tahun terakhir ini telah terdengar selentingan yang mengatakan bahwa PTS tersebut akan mengubah visinya menjadi Kampus yang berorientasikan ke Gereja Kristen (Church Campus). PTS tersebut memang milik seseorang yang beretnis Cina dan memiliki profesi sebagai seorang pendeta, yang kebetulan juga merupakan seorang pebisnis. Selain itu aku juga tahu bahwa atasanku langsung, Dekan FBS yang juga memiliki profesi sebagai seorang pendeta yang dahulu merupakan mahasiswaku merasa tidak nyaman dengan keberadaanku di situ. Aku dianggap terlalu cerdas dan kritis di matanya. Sama seperti kasus yang menimpa temanku di atas, Rektor berusaha menyembunyikan alasan sebenarnya (diskriminasi agama).
Diskriminasi memang terjadi dimana-mana. Diskriminasi terjadi tidak hanya kepada kaum perempuan di kultur patriarki ini, namun juga terjadi antar etnik, antar agama, bahkan juga terjadi dalam satu agama yang sama namun bergabung dengan kelompok agama/organisasi massa yang berbeda.
PT56 14.25 290607

Utopia 1

“A place without social discrimination would be utopia.”
Kalimat di atas merupakan salah satu pernyataan dalam artikel yang berjudul “Being a Chinese-Indonesian” yang dimuat The Jakarta Post tanggal 13 Juni 2006 halaman 6. Sang penulis artikel adalah seorang laki-laki etnis Cina yang menikahi seorang perempuan pribumi.
Diskriminasi sosial terjadi dimana-mana dalam banyak bentuk; misal diskriminasi terhadap orang-orang beretnis Cina di Indonesia, dan diskriminasi terhadap orang-orang berkulit hitam di Amerika.
Bebeapa minggu yang lalu aku membaca sebuah artikel yang berisikan wawancara dengan seorang laki-laki beretnis Cina di salah satu tabloid lokal. Dia berharap bahwa di masa depan tak ada lagi perlakuan diskriminatif terhadap orang-orang beretnis Cina; misal mereka bisa menjadi pegawai negeri, tak ada lagi proses yang berbelit-belit untuk memiliki sebuah KTP, dll. Artikel tersebut memang khusus difokuskan pada diskriminasi sosial terhadap orang-orang beretnis Cina di Indonesia. Sang narasumber yang diwawancara seolah-olah menutup mata bahwa ada banyak perusahaan milik orang-orang beretnis Cina di Indonesia yang memperlakukan pegawai-pegawainya yang non Cina secara diskriminatif. Dan si jurnalis pun seolah-olah melupakan adanya perlakuan diskriminatif balik terhadap orang-orang non Cina.
Namun, di dalam artikelnya yang berjudul “Being a Chinese Indonesian”, Wijanto Hadipuro menggambarkan hal tersebut. Dia menulis bahwa istrinya mendapatkan perlakuan yang diskriminatif di tempat kerjan; misal dia mendapatkan gaji yang lebih rendah dibandingkan teman kerjanya yang beretnis Cina meskipun istrinya bekerja lebih lama dan memiliki posisi manajerial yang sama.
Hal ini mengingatkanku satu makalah yang dipresentasikan oleh seorang teman kuliah dengan topik yang sama: diskriminasi sosial yang diperlakukan terhadap orang-orang beretnis Cina di Indonesia. Teman kuliahku ini kebetulan memiliki kulit berwarna kuning langsat dan mata sipit, dua karakteristik yang biasa diasosiasikan milik orang-orang beretnis Cina meksipun dia tidak memiliki darah keturunan Cina. Kebetulan pula dia bekerja di sebuah instansi dimana banyak orang-orang beretnis Cina bekerja di sana. Dalam makalahnya dia menyampaikan perlakuan diskriminatif terhadap rekan-rekan kerjanya yang beretnis Cina, baik dari masyarakat maupun dari pemerintah Indonesia, sementara mungkin mereka merupakan generasi kelima atau lebih yang lahir asli di Indonesia.
Saat mendengarkan presentasinya, Julie dan aku mendiskusikan perlakuan diskriminatif yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang beretnis Cina kepada kaum pribumi. Adik Julie menerima gaji yang lebih rendah daripada rekan kerjanya yang beretnis Cina karena kebetulan dia bekerja di perusahaan milik seseorang beretnis Cina; bagaimana mereka memperlakukan PRT (pekerja rumah tangganya) yang kebanyakan kaum pribumi dengan buruk, meskipun tidak semua, terkadang sama buruknya dengan perlakuan kaum kulit putih terhadap budak-budak mereka yang berkulit hitam di zaman perbudakan di Amerika.
Sekitar tahun 1994-2000 aku bekerja di sebuah perusahaan milik seorang pribumi beragama Islam. Ketika aku pertama kali diterima, aku mendengar selentingan bahwa perusahaan mempunyai kebijakan hanya menerima pegawai yang beragama Islam saja. Namun kenyataannya aku mendapati dua orang rekan kerja yang beragama non Islam, dan aku bisa melihat dengan jelas betapa tidak nyamannya mereka tatkala ada pertemuan, misalnya berbuka bersama di bulan Ramadhan. Demikian juga sebaliknya, aku sering mendengar perusahaan swasta milik seorang non Islam yang hanya mempekerjakan orang-orang non Islam. Seandainya kebetulan ada orang Islam yang bekerja di sana, dia tidak akan memperoleh waktu untuk melakukan kegiatan ritual keagamaannya, misal shalat di jam-jam kerja. Bahkan mereka pun diwajibkan untuk mengikuti ritual keagamaan agama si pemilik perusahaan, misal menghadiri misa tertentu.
Betapa aku menginginkan perlakuan diskriminatif ini berakhir. Aku pun berharap masyarakat menghormati anggota masyarakat lain sebagai sesama manusia, meskipun berbeda agama, berbeda warna kulit, juga berbeda etnik, apalagi hanya berbeda jenis kelamin.
“Treat other people just like how you want other people to treat you.”
PT56 09.20 290607
P.S.: artikel asli kuberi judul “Utopia” kutulis pada tanggal 15 Juni 2006

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Blogging experience

From my blogging at http://afemaleguest.blog.co.uk, I got some lively and intensive discussion on some topics, especially on women status in patriarchal culture, and secularism with some bloggers that mostly come from western countries. You can guess that the discussion is mostly on comparison between the condition of women in Indonesia and that of women in western countries, besides the situation of patriarchal society in Indonesia and that of in western countries. I can come to the conclusion that Indonesia is still undergoing what happened in western countries some fifty or sixty years ago. This is exactly what one guest lecturer—a Professor of History—said too when I was pursuing my study at American Studies Graduate Program three years ago. During his stay and lecturing at Gadjah Mada University—one oldest state university in Indonesia—he made some observations and he concluded that Indonesia is left behind around 50 years compared to America.
Some examples of the conclusion:
1. Around a year ago, I posted an article about how some regions in Indonesia started thinking of applying regulation on wearing hijab for uniform for girls at junior and senior high schools. The reason was to “protect” those girls from sexual abuse. The hot issue in some mailing lists a year ago about this made me remember my own experience when I was at senior high school. My mother made my skirt seven cm under the knees because that was the regulation from school. And in fact I was the only girl who wore that and that made me laughed at by many boys at school. I still remember some of them said, “Look at that girl. She is wearing her mother’s skirt!” And that embarrassed me.
When making senior high school uniforms for Angie my daughter, I found the same regulation too from the school, the skirt must be some cm under the knees, while the sleeves must reach the elbow. However, remembering my embarrassing experience, I asked the tailor to make it exactly at Angie’s knees. And still Angie complained because it was still too long compared to her other school friends, except some girls who decided to wear hijab to school, so consequently the length of their skirt reached their feet.
Commenting on my post, some western bloggers said that it also happened in their era when they were teenagers, more than forty years ago. Schools also had regulations to decide how long a skirt had to be. Nowadays, it is not really important anymore. Sexual abuse happens not because of the clothes women wear but because of how men look at women: as human being or as sexual temptation.
2. When I wrote that I needed to be a declared feminist to show people around me that I don’t conform to social patriarchal norms in my community (people in my community still strongly believe that women are just the second sex; that women were born to be domestic creatures; that women must be submissive; that women were born to be motherly, feminine, gentle; that women must always give first priority to their husbands, then the kids, and they were at the last turn), my western blog friends said that it needed to be done in the west in 1960s. Although perhaps nowadays there are still some men who have such an old-fashioned way of thinking, western men accept equality between men and women more openly.
3. When I wrote that getting married is still mostly the ultimate goal in girls’ minds in Indonesia (meaning that Cinderella complex is still haunted many teenagers), my western blog visitors said that many women in the west already see the imbalance relationship between husband and wife, therefore, they would prefer to be in a relationship just for companionship (and not really legally married, I mean legally recognized by the country with some documents as proof) rather than to get married. Or it is already a trend to live single and happy.
A couple of days ago when I posted my article I entitled “Marriage, Polygamy, and Single”, one blog friend said, “How odd! Here in England, people no longer see marriage as the only gate to get worldly happiness. Youngsters would rather choose a more equal relationship which is somewhat difficult to find in a relationship between husband and wife in a marriage.”
I remember what is illustrated in MONA LISA SMILE movie where Katherine Watson, a lecturer of art, encouraged her female students to pursue their own career after graduating from college rather than end up only as homemakers. She was considered weird due to that. Or an imaginary character, Laura Brown in THE HOURS movie that chose to leave her family to follow what her own heart called her—to live all alone rather than to live as a housewife. The setting of these two movies was in 1950s America. Nowadays, it is not a weird thing anymore for women to choose to live single and be happy.
I believe in natural law that says everything changes. Nothing stays the same. I am of opinion that the tendency of this avoiding marriage will happen too in Indonesia sooner or later.
PT56 21.00 230607

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Old Man and a Dog

An old man and his dog were walking down this dirt road with fences on both sides, they came to a gate in the fence and looked in, it was nice - grassy, woody areas, just what a 'huntin' dog and man would like, but, it had a sign saying 'no trespassing' so they walked on.
They came to a beautiful gate with a person in white robes standing there. "Welcome to Heaven"
he said. The old man was happy and started in with his dog following him.
The gatekeeper stopped him. "Dogs aren't allowed, I'm sorry but he can't come with you." "What
kind of Heaven won't allow dogs? If He can't come in, then I will stay out with him. He's been my faithful companion all his life, I can't desert him now.
" "Suit yourself, but I have to warn you, the Devil's on this road and he'll try to sweet talk you into his area, he'll promise you anything, but, the dog can't go there either. If you won't leave the dog, you'll spend Eternity on this road " So the old man and dog went on.
They came to a rundown fence with a gap in it, no gate, just a hole. Another old man was inside. "Excuse me Sir, my dog and I are getting mighty tired, mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?" "Of course, there's some cold water under that tree over there. Make yourselves
comfortable "
"You're sure my dog can come in?
The man down the road said dogs weren't allowed anywhere." "Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?" " No sir, that's why I didn't go to Heaven, he said the dog couldn't come in. We'll be spending Eternity on this road, and a glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now. But, I won't come in if my buddy here can't come too, and that's final. "
The man smiled a big smile and said "Welcome to Heaven."
"You mean this is Heaven? Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road said they weren't?"
"That was the Devil and he gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a comfortable place to stay. They soon find out their mistake, but, then it's too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. GOD wouldn't allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, HE created them to be man's companions in life, why would he separate them in death?"

S-NET 15.07 230607

MAILING LIST

The first time I joined a mailing list was around three years ago, one classmate of mine at American Studies Graduate Program of UGM made one mailing list as a media for the students and alumni of American Studies UGM. At that time, we were still busy struggling to finish writing our thesis so that we did not really make use of the mailing list. After I graduated in January 2006, in fact not many members have made use of it to communicate to each other.
Around a year ago, I joined another mailing list, #Pria_Sehat_Tanpa_Celana# (in English it means “Healthy men without trousers”. LOL. I was interested in it because once in a while I got forwarded messages from some friends that contained funny pictures of stories from this mailing list. So, instead of only getting forwarded messages from it, I joined it by myself. This mailing list is especially for book lovers; mostly we talk about books. From PSTC, I knew another mailing list #Writers_Tavern# for people who love to write, want to learn how to write well, and for some writers whose books have been published, they can promote their books.
The following mailing list I joined was #Perempuan# (Women). I knew this mailing list when one day I read an article in website JURNAL PEREMPUAN ONLINE (www.jurnalperempuan.com) Last year when the first time I joined it, the hot issue to talk about was the Pornography Bill. From some members of this mailing list I knew another one, #Sastra Pembebasan# (Literature for Freedom). I must say that from these two mailing lists I learned a lot. From #Perempuan#, I learned to talk more about issues of women. However, I still remembered a year ago there was one member whose way of thinking was contradictory from the bulk of other members. I was wondering how she could smuggle herself, post many writings that were written from the status quo of patriarchal culture, and the moderator didn’t mind it. Until one day when she posted a writing that insulted Christian/Catholic people, many other members complained, and then I didn’t find any posts from her anymore. While from #Sastra Pembebasan#, the members were from more various background. Instead of talking about literature, in my opinion the members more often talked about politics, religions, culture, etc. From this mailing list, the first time I learned how to debate openly with some other members, especially about some hot up-to-date issues. This was another media for me to learn how to counter other people’s arguments besides via my blog at http://afeministblog.blogspot.com And from this mailing list I got to know some people with whom until now I communicate regularly online, my Abang especially, mbak Icha, and mbak Omie, and some others, like Pak Sumar Sastrowardojo (an expert in history), Pak Danar (a senior banker but very broad-minded in many aspects of life), Kang Becak that until now I don’t know his background (in the past I thought he was the owner of a business of renting pedicabs. LOL).
Different from the previous two mailing lists I mentioned in the above paragraph, most of the members were adults, mature in their age and experience, and older than I am. However, with that reason (the members who were already mature in age and experience) too I one day got fed up with it since they had something like “war”, talked bad things about other members whose way of thinking was contradictory, and not used good and polite words. How could those old people behave like teenagers? My Abang gave me an excuse, “When facing a preman (bad guy) Nana, we’ve got to be preman too. Did you get that?” LOL.
After starting communicating with Abang personally (not via mailing list), he encouraged me to join some more mailing lists to open up my horizon more widely, to know more people whose way of thinking is not much different from mine. It was because I complained to him how I was considered weird in my community. He said, “You are not weird, Nana. The community where you live is weird! Come join other mailing lists and interact with more people.”
However, I didn’t do his suggestion at that time. LOL. Well, you know I am stubborn, and just do what I want to do. LOL. At that time, for me to interact with people from mailing lists #Perempuan# and #Sastra Pembebasan# was already enough for me. I didn’t communicate much with members of #PSTC# since most of them were youngsters. While from #WT#, well, I loved to read the posts, but I was not involved actively.
Several months ago, out of the blue, Abang was kicked out of #SP# only because he defended another member who posted a joke on an airplane crash. (Indonesia was mourning because of that crash, where all of the passengers and the airplane crews were killed in that accident.) That member did not mean to insult the family or relatives of the victims in particular, or Indonesian people in general. Perhaps he just wanted to amuse us with that joke. However, the moderator didn’t want to give a damn. That member was kicked out. When Abang sent that member’s email to ask for apology to SP, without any clear reason, my Abang was kicked out too. Nah lo! And it made me unhappy because I often joked him in the mailing list. I would lose the chance to tease him. It is naughty of me to have a want to embarrass him in public with jokes, LOL, that never worked. LOL.
As a very sociable, friendly and caring person (although he is also strict!!!), he did not want some people who had been keeping in touch well in one community (read è one mailing list) to be separated, he made a new mailing list, #RumahKitaBersama#, (Our House Together) as our new community. (Oh, I remember one member of SP who was kicked out too, mbak Angel, where on earth is she now??? While mbak Ros, what made her not involve actively at RKB anymore? I still sometimes find her posts in some other mailing lists.)
Last April when I decided to be blogging professionally, I joined some other mailing lists to promote my blog at http://afeministblog.blogspot.com such as #Apakabar# (How Are you), #Mediacare#, #Zamanku# (My Era), #Forum Pembaca Kompas# (Forum for Kompas readers; KOMPAS is one big national newspaper in Indonesia), #PPIIndia#, #Islam Liberal#, #BeCeKa# (I forget what it stands for LOL), and #Christ and Buddha#, oh, one more that I usually abbreviate into FIKI and now I also forget what it stands for too. LOL. I also joined #Beasiswa# (Scholarship) and #cnsmagz# a new mailing list that belongs to CnS magazine published by the head office of my workplace in Jakarta. I joined #Debat_Antar_Agama# (debate among religions) for some months but then I unsubscribed since the moderator nosily edited my membership now and again. I did want to send my articles there to tell the members what is on my mind (respect other religions, when debating please use polite words and more educated logical reasons), but the nosy moderator made me fed up.
Some weeks ago Abang and I talked about the possibility of kicking out one member of one mailing list, he easily said, “Well, if we need to do that, we’ll do it.”
“Oh no Abang, No. Don’t be annoying like that.”
Perhaps at that time he did not really think further of what he just said, then he corrected it, “Nana, there is the word IF. Only IF he annoys the members of the mailing list, we will do it. Let’s say insult other people.”
And that reminded me of one very annoying person at SP a year ago that made me stop posting there, LOL. Abang really disliked him. LOL. (Trust me, my Abang is a very nice and sweet person, although strict. But when he does not like someone, he will really dislike him from hair to toe. Wakakakaka …) Maybe if the case is like that, I don’t mind Abang to kick him. LOL.
I replied, “I think as long as that member is not as annoying as that one person, I hope you will not kick anybody.”
Last night, when I sent one article of mine to some mailing lists I join, Yahoo! Groups informed me that I could not send it to one mailing list since I was not listed as one member of it. Oh? I have been kicked out. Perhaps I have been an annoying member in the moderator’s eyes there? As I wrote in a very short email to Abang, “Emang gue pikirin?” (Why the hell should I think of it?) LOL. Anyway, I still have my dearest friends in our warm and loving community, #RumahKitaBersama# and some other mailing lists that always welcome my writings warmly. And I have blogs scattered in some places where I get some loyal visitors.
PT56 07.35 230607

Science versus Religion

The following was from my friend’s blog, Phillip Brown from England, before he deleted his blog some months ago. I have been intrigued by the debate of science versus religion due to my upbringing. I was brought up in a very religious family, no question about my religion as an absolute truth but believed. That was what I got when I was little (and teenager too). After I grew up, my readings (an inevitable risk/impact of readings various sources?) made me question all indoctrination I got in the past.
Here is one example of my reading.

One of the best discussions I have ever heard about the contrast between the way science works and the way religious faith doesn't!
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There is something attractive about absolute beliefs, but we cannot afford ourselves the luxury of waiting for evidence on some issues, says Lisa Jardine in the first of her weekly opinion columns.
Sometimes, if you're lucky as a historian, you find a bit of evidence which illuminates a big idea. That happened to me this week in the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
The thought uppermost in my mind was how odd it is that non-scientists think of science as being about certainties and absolute truth. Whereas scientists are actually quite tentative - they simply try to arrive at the best fit between the experimental findings so far and a general principle.
The manuscript I found was a ship's journal kept by a 17th Century English sea captain, who had offered to carry some state-of-the-art scientific equipment on a voyage to the west coast of Africa and back - two new pendulum clocks.
The job he took on was to test the clocks to see if they kept accurate time in spite of being tossed up and down and generally shaken about at sea. I'll come back to how he got on in a moment.
Science, as I say, is not doctrinaire. Strongly held religious beliefs, however, are.
This week John Mackay from Queensland Australia, a passionate advocate of Creationism, has been touring halls and chapels in the UK attacking Darwin's theory that the human race has evolved gradually from the apes over millions of years.
Mackay maintains that Genesis is literally true, that the earth is only a few thousand years old and that the exquisite organization of nature is clear proof that God's hand lies behind all of creation. Mackay had hoped to debate the matter here in Britain with leading scientists. If evolution is "true", the Creationist challenges - step up and prove it.
Notorious rogue
There is something rather attractive about absolute beliefs. We all find them comforting: give up chocolate for Lent and you are taking a small step towards God's approval. Uncertainty is much more unsettling.
One of the reasons why we find it difficult to make up our minds about climate change and global warming is that the data is so complicated. Glaciers are melting, holes are detected in the ozone layer, emission of greenhouse gases is rising, yet we have just gone through an unusually cold winter and spring is unseasonably late arriving - it is hard to get alarmed.
Even a passionate advocate of the prospect of impending ecological disaster like the government's chief scientific advisor Sir David King, cannot go so far as to say: "It will be so, that is the absolute truth of the matter."
It is a basic requirement of scientific method that a tentative explanation has to be tested against observation of the natural world. And from the very beginning scientists have been suspicious whenever the data fits the hoped-for results too closely.
Which brings me back to my clock-testing sea-captain, and the ship's journal I was reading this week in Cambridge. I was looking for documents relating to attempts by the 17th Century Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens to develop a pendulum clock which would enable mariners to find their longitude at sea (their precise east-west position on the globe).
In 1664, shortly after the first proper scientific research institute, the Royal Society, had been established in London its president, who was an admirer of Huygens's work, offered to organise a series of sea-trials to be conducted by the English navy, using two of his pioneering clocks.
Captain Robert Holmes, commander in charge of the Navy ship the Jersey, agreed to take the clocks along with him on a nine-month voyage down the west coast of Africa. He would keep the clocks wound and in working order, take regular measurements, make the necessary complex calculations and supply detailed documentation in support of his findings.
When he got back to London in 1665 Holmes presented his report to an expectant Royal Society. The clocks had performed spectacularly well. Indeed, he declared, they had actually saved the expedition from disaster.
Astonishing
On the return journey, Holmes had been obliged to sail several hundred nautical miles westwards in order to pick up a favourable wind. Having done so, the Jersey and the three ships accompanying her sailed several hundred more miles north-eastwards. At which point, the four captains found that water was running worryingly low on board.
Holmes's three fellow-captains produced three competing sets of calculations of their current position based on traditional reckoning, but all agreed they were dangerously far from any potential source of water.
Not so, declared Holmes. According to his calculations - based on the pendulum clocks - they were a mere 90 miles west of the island of Fuego, one of the Cape Verde islands. He persuaded the party to set their course due east whereupon, the very next day, around noon, they indeed made landfall on Fuego, exactly as predicted.
London was abuzz with excitement. The Fellows of the Royal Society were elated, and immediately rushed Holmes's account of how the pendulum clocks had saved the day into print. Orders began to be placed for the revolutionary new timekeepers.
But the inventor himself, Christiaan Huygens was not so sure. And his reason for being more cautious than his London colleagues was precisely the fact that the clocks had proved so astonishingly accurate.
"I have to confess", he wrote to the Royal Society. "That I had not expected such a spectacular result from these clocks. I beg you to tell me if the said Captain seems a sincere man whom one can absolutely trust. For it must be said that I am amazed that the clocks were sufficiently accurate to allow him by their means to locate such a tiny island."
Well, Robert Holmes was not 'a sincere man'. In fact, he was a rather notorious rogue. History remembers him as the man whose thuggish and piratical behaviour towards the Dutch merchants along the Guinea coast in the 1660s directly caused the second Anglo-Dutch war.
Tampering
So the Royal Society asked an official from the Navy Board, Samuel Pepys - the same Pepys who wrote the diary - to check the evidence Holmes had provided against the day-by-day entries in his ship's journal. Well, that was the journal I went to look at in Cambridge this week.
Low and behold, it turns out that Holmes had falsified his evidence. The pendulum clocks had proved no more accurate for calculating longitude than conventional methods. The ships had been well and truly lost, the mariners had been extremely lucky to make landfall on the island of Saint Vincent before their water entirely ran out.
Holmes thought that by tampering with his evidence he would please the scientists at the Royal Society. Instead, the too-precise nature of the match between his data and the results they wanted alerted them to the fact that his testimony was unreliable.
And Huygens was right to be sceptical. His pendulum clocks never did prove accurate enough at sea to solve the problem of finding longitude. A scrupulous scientist like Huygens would rather be disappointed, than accept dubious evidence to provide pat confirmation of a pet theory.
That continues to be true in all areas of scientific investigation today. Which is why no scientist will take up the creationist Mackay's challenge to "prove" the truth of Darwin's theory of evolution in a public debate. They know they cannot present a strongly held view based on a body of supporting evidence with the absolute certainty of a revealed truth.
The most today's Royal Society is prepared to say is that a belief that all species on earth have always existed in their present form, and that the earth is "not consistent with the evidence from geology, astronomy and physics". And that is probably not enough to satisfy ordinary thoughtful citizens without a scientific training.
Because most of us want more certainty, we're on the side of the 17th Century's ship's captain, believing the experiments ought to prove the scientific theory once and for all. Unfortunately, where arguments about the ecology are concerned, time is not on our side.
We cannot afford ourselves the luxury of waiting for evidence which clinches the theory. We are going to have to learn how to participate in debates which are not about certainties. We have to decide right now whether we should sacrifice our right to cut-price air travel in order to cut carbon emissions. A public understanding of science has never been more important.


S-NET 14.39 230607

Friday, June 22, 2007

Marriage, polygamy, Single

In one mailing list I join, there is quite hot discussion about one public figure who married another woman’s husband. They got married some years ago, and only a year ago the case was revealed publicly when the public figure delivered her baby. The first wife together with her two children was reported to attack the second wife’s dwelling last year. It became a national hot gossip last year because the man was one son of the second president of Indonesia. (I also wrote it in my blog last year.)

This triangle love reached a higher peak some weeks ago when the husband decided to divorce the first wife; one proof that polygamy will always bring about sadness and misery to those involved: let’s say the wives and the children. Many women in Indonesia emotionally judged the second wife as a flirtatious bitch who stole another woman’s husband. However, there are also women who support the relationship between this man and his second wife, judging the first wife as lacking some things that made the man seek for another love from another woman.

In the discussion in the mailing list, one woman said that the imbalance number of men and women in the world (more women than men) seemed to be one proof from God that God consents polygamy (polyginy). She said that it was really a very sad thing for women to be single. That means it was better to be the nth wife of a man rather man to live single. I can also conclude that for her it was okay for a woman to hurt another woman rather than to live miserably without a spouse, although only half time spouse. She also said that despite the fact that more people live single nowadays, still the majority dream of getting married. A man said that God created more women than men as the best proof (or excuse?) that men indeed were created to be polygamous.

To counter the statement that God created more women than men, one member of the mailing list gave statistics of population in the whole world and also in Indonesia. Below is the statistics:

sex ratio (world):
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

sex ratio (Indonesia):
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

This discussion reminded me of my students’ essay in the written test two weeks ago. They got three topics to write: first, how to prepare a presentation; second, advertisements on television engenders consumerism, third, being a successful businesswoman and living single or having a family. Seven students chose the third topic, six girls and one boy. All of them would rather get married and have a family than to be a successful businessperson and live single. They mentioned almost similar reason: marriage is the ultimate goal in someone’s life and it will make them live happily.

For your information, those seven students are still in their late teenage, around seventeen till nineteen.
I was not surprised to read their essays of course. They are all still too young to know the real problems of marriage life. They are still lulled by some fairy tales telling them about “Then the prince and the princess got married. They finally lived together happily ever after.”

How did I perceive the woman in the mailing list? Even though I believe she already reached a mature age (since she called herself as IBU XXXX, in Indonesian language, the word IBU refers to a mature woman), her way of thinking to view marriage is just like the rest of (naïve) society that still idolize marriage institution as the only gate to get happiness.

PT56 17.45 210607

Marriage 2

Dear friends,

Some months ago, a workmate of mine, male, got married. On the first day he came back to the office, I asked him teasingly, “So? How do you feel now after getting married? Happy?”

He answered, “I regretted it.”

I smiled widely. I responded, “You regretted it because you didn’t do it earlier, eh? Now that you know it is so heavenly to do it?” LOL. It is a cliché, do you agree?

However, unexpectedly, my workmate continued, “No, I mean it. I regretted it. I just found out that getting married even engenders more problems to my life. Living single is much more pleasant to me.”

I was dumbfounded to hear that. Then, I talked to myself, “Hmm … this is the first time I heard someone saying honestly about getting married, only some days after the wedding day …” I left him to come into my desk located in the corner of the teacher’s room, to do my own duty as a lecturer. But, this short conversation really haunted me.

It reminded me of a good friend of mine who got married in the beginning of 2005. I knew very well that her marriage plan didn’t run smoothly. Despite her family’s disagreement, she married her boyfriend she barely knew because they knew each other in less than 6 months. Though she is my good friend, I didn’t know exactly what made her take that decision: to marry him. One thing I knew, after the wedding day, she was not really happy with it. Therefore, I was really upset and troubled when a workmate visited her after the wedding day and said, “She looked happy. Who is not happy after getting married?” I directly concluded that this female workmate of mine was the sufferer of Cinderella complex, who believed that marriage is the gate of eternal happiness, that all marriage brings happiness. If I use my rude and cynical nature, this workmate is not honest to herself. No matter what happens in the marriage, people must always show happy faces and say, “I am happy now that I am already married.” in front of other people.

How many people are not happy in their marriage? Uncountable. However, since we live in a so-called “marriage-oriented society”, people are not confident to deviate from this. They want to be considered ‘normal’ by living in a marriage, by believing that marriage is the best choice; that it is okay to be miserable inside as long as other people see us as ‘happy’ because having the three things people covet to possess: being married, having a job, and having a kid.

Suddenly I remember a comment of a good friend on my article “marriage”. He said, “You don’t believe that true love between man and woman exists, eh? That eternal love exists?” Simply I said, “Natural law says everything changes in this world.”

Hmm … do I really sound so pessimistic in marriage and love?

Yogya 19.46 December 2005

Why Getting Married?

Dear friends,

Some time ago I asked my students, “What do people get married for?” They came up with various answers. That’s for sure.

1st student answered, “To follow sunnah Rasul…”

My comment, “How sure are you that getting married is one form of sunnah Rasul?”

He went on, “People say so, Ma’am…”

My response, “What made you believe in those people saying that getting married is one form of sunnah Rasul?”

2nd student answered, “To have children…”

My comment, “To have children, people just need to have sex, no need to get married. Don’t you see many people have children without getting married, only by having sex?” LOL.

3rd student answered, “To have someone who will always accompany us, Ma’am…”

My comment, “How sure are you that your spouse will always accompany you till the end of your life? How sure are you that he/she will not turn to someone else?”

4th student answered, “To have a better life, Ma’am. I want to marry someone richer than I am…”

My comment, “That makes sense. But make sure that you will really find someone richer than you are, and he will spend his money for you. The following question is, will you be willing to do anything he asks you to do in return of the money he’ll give you? Let’s say you become his property? If yes, well, … what’s the difference between a housewife and a prostitute?”

She just frowned, didn’t respond my comment.

5th student answered, “For love, Ma’am. I want to marry someone I love. I want to spend the rest of my life with someone I love.”

My comment, “That makes sense too. One thing I want to tell you, make sure that you and your spouse will maintain the love between both of you so that boredom will not come between you.”

Do I sound like a wise-guy teacher?

In general, then, I can make a conclusion that people get married at least for those five reasons; namely to follow sunnah Rasul (for Muslim people, of course), to get offspring, companionship, money, and love. And, because we live in a marriage-oriented society where people believe that to get happiness people must get married, people can add one more reason; to be happy.

For the first reason—to follow sunnah Rasul--, well, it doesn’t mean then people are supposed to force themselves to grab any guy/girl when they think that they are already at a “dangerous age”. Right? There are many other sunnah Rasul that Muslim people can do, so that it will give them a feeling that they will go to heaven for that. J

The second reason—to get offspring—gives many problems for couple who don’t get any baby after quite a long time they get married. They blame each other which one is not “fertile” so that they don’t get baby soon. More terribly, marriage regulation for Muslim (made by Indonesian government) corners women’s position. Those “unfertile” women are forced to let their (selfish) husbands get married again, to get offspring. No woman chooses to be born unfertile, I suppose. If they can choose, probably most women will choose to be able to have their own babies. It means it is all God’s secret why one woman can get pregnant easily while the others cannot. Government is not supposed to give “punishment” to these women by issuing regulation that forces women to let their husbands marry another woman only for babies. How about if the condition is on the contrary? When they find out that in fact the man is the one who doesn’t have fertile sperm, and the woman wants to have babies, will the husband let the wife marry another man to have them? Why doesn’t Indonesian government make regulations for this case? To make it fair?

The third reason—companionship—is very logical indeed. However, if I see polygamy phenomenon (especially in Indonesia), I am wondering if having (half-time) husband really gives those women secure feeling? A husband who is not always there for them because they have to share their husband with someone else? Or maybe with some other women? What kind of companionship is it? How about if one night or one day they need their husband to do something, and it turns out that at that time their husband is with the other wife that probably lives quite far, in another city? If they are really honest to themselves, inside their heart, are they really willing to share their husband with another woman? except if they are “promised” to go to heaven? (How about if, later, it turns out that heaven and hell are only tales?) No more life after death?

The fourth reason—money—puts women in a very degraded position, for me. Referring to Marx theory about social class, people who have money have a high position in society, and decide anything. People who don’t have money will be marginalized, don’t have any right to say anything. Women will have similar role as property for men, or even only as a decoration, an angel of the house. Their husbands will show them off when they deserve to be shown off. When they are no longer attractive, it is high time then for them to be dumped. Women cannot complain because they survive with their husband’s money.

The fifth reason—love, to spend the rest of their life with someone they love—is a very touching one. However, maintaining flame in a marriage is not an easy task. Many obstacles and problems come up. Many kinds of bills to pay, and no enough paycheck for all of them, let’s say. Many temptations outside marriage will be on the way too. A proverb saying “the grass is greener at the other side of the fence” may be interpreted into “Another woman’s husband or another man’s wife is more attractive than our own spouse”. LOL. Routines will give us boredom. Right?

The last but not least—people who are lulled by fairy tales believe that marriage is the gate of happiness. However, if we are willing to be honest to ourselves, who will guarantee that happiness will always come after marriage? Three requirements people make to be happy—getting married, having a job, and having a kid—will not always make the people involved in it happy.

Living in a marriage does not always guarantee happiness. Living single does not always mean hellish life.

Yogya 21.52 051205

UTOPIA

I have been reading some files in the desktop containing some old writings of mine that I have posted in my blogs when I found one article inspired by one article I read in one national newspaper published in English. “A place without social discrimination would be utopia.”

Check my post at

http://afeministblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/utopia.html

It reminded me of one short email I got from my college friend some months ago. She works for a private university in a quite small town. The university belongs to one biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia. She complained that her workplace had been acting more strictly to the employees by interfering their private life, for example they were to pray Dzuhur (noon prayer) at the mosque at campus, they were to attend the monthly religious gathering, including they were to obey the fatwa issued by that Islamic organization such as to celebrate the Idul Fitri day on the date/day the Head Office in Jakarta decided. When an employee did not pray Dzuhur at the mosque for some time, or when he/she did not attend the religious gathering for some months, he/she would be summoned and interrogated why he/she did not obey the rules.

My friend, female, apparently belongs to a somewhat rebellious yet determined type. She seldom prays Dzuhur at the mosque and attends the gathering because at that time she has classes to handle. Besides, I know her character which is somewhat similar to mine: hate being indoctrinated by something that to her logical way of thinking did not make sense. She was of opinion that the gathering would just be used for political reason, or perhaps the attendants would just be lectured by some indoctrination. I saw my friend as a good Muslim, wearing veil, praying five times a day, not as a result of illogical indoctrination, but as a result of her own searching of God.

In the email she told me about one of her workmates who got fired when he was summoned and interrogated why he did not join any religious gatherings or any other religious activity, he simply said, “I am not a supporter of Muhammadiyah.” No time to give reasons, no time to talk it over. “You are out!” was the only thing the university said.

“Why on earth did the university value an employee not from his/her work ethic, but from religious practice instead?” My friend questioned.

At the same time, I remembered one case that happened to my online friend. She got fired because she was the only Non Muslim in the company. The difference was that the company did not tell her directly that it was caused by different religion.

At the same time, I also remembered my own case. I got laid off because I was a Muslim employee working for a private university that would change the vision into Church campus in the future; and the university happened to belong to a Chinese businessperson. I know I was also considered too smart for my superior, the Dean of the faculty and she felt really insecure with my presence there. The same case as what happened to my online friend, the company tried hiding the main reason for getting rid of me.

Discrimination does happen everywhere, not only to women in this patriarchal culture, but also among different ethnic groups, different religions, even to the same religions but adhering different religious groups.

PT56 23.05 210607

FANATIK

Below is the Bahasa Indonesia version of my previous article "FANATIC". One mailing list respectfully asked me to translate it into my mother tongue. :)

Ketika pertama kali berkenalan dengan ideologi feminisme tahun 2003, aku begitu terpesona dengan ide-ide yang terkandung di dalamnya (karena aku menemukan jawaban atas pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang menghantuiku bertahun-tahun, yang karena indoktrinasi agama yang sangat kuat yang kuterima sejak kecil membuatku tak berani berpikir bahwa sebenarnya ide perempuan adalah makhluk nomor dua setelah laki-laki hanyalah hasil bentukan konstruksi sosial dan bukanlah diciptakan oleh Tuhan) sehingga aku tak bersedia membaca buku-buku/artikel-artikel yang tidak ditulis dari perspektif feminis. Dengan sengaja aku menghindari berbagai macam tulisan yang ditulis untuk mengukuhkan status quo budaya patriarki. Sebelum aku memutuskan untuk membeli sebuah buku/novel/jurnal, aku harus memastikan dulu bahwa buku/novel/jurnal tersebut ditulis oleh para penulis feminis, atau paling tidak bebas dari bias gender.

Karena itulah seorang teman dekatku menertawakanku atas tindakanku yang menurutnya menggelikan ini. “Hal ini menunjukkan bahwa hati kecilmu sendiri masih merasa khawatir bahwa kamu akan menemukan ideologi lain lagi yang akan mematahkan kepercayaanmu pada ideologi feminisme.” Katanya.

Tatkala membeli buku-buku yang berkaitan dengan Feminisme dan Islam, kebetulan aku menemukan buku-buku tulisan Fatima Mernissi dan Riffat Hassan (diterjemahkan kedalam Bahasa Indonesia dengan judul “Setara di Hadapan Allah”), Qasim Amin (judulnya diterjemahkan menjadi “Matinya Perempuan”), Nawal El Sadawi (novel berjudul “Perempuan di Titik Nol” dan bukunya yang berjudul “Perempuan dalam Budaya Patriarki”), dll. Dalam artikelnya yang berjudul “Menyikapi Feminisme dan Isu Gender”, Dr. Syamsuddin Arif ternyata melabeli mereka sebagai “Feminis Muslim Radikal”. Seradikal apakah ide yang mereka lontarkan kepada khalayak ramai? Menurutku tentu saja tidak seradikal Mary Daly ataupun Germaine Greer yang memutuskan untuk menjadi homoseksual yang sampai sekarang masih dianggap melenceng dari “norma sosial yang normal”.

Ternyata, dalam proses pembentukan diri menjadi seorang feminis, “perkenalanku” dengan ideologi feminisme telah memanjakan diriku sendiri dengan ide-ide liberal (dan mungkin pula “radikal”) untuk memenuhi karakterku sebagai seorang rebel (penentang) selain untuk mencari jawaban atas pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang telah memenuhi otakku semenjak kecil. Bila bagi banyak orang Indonesia kata LIBERAL dicurigai sebagai sesuatu yang berkonotasi negatif, di mataku kata ini menjadi begitu menarik untuk dipelajari. Hal ini membuatku membaca lebih banyak buku yang lebih bervariatif, termasuk buku-buku yang tentu bakal kena sensor oleh guru-guruku tatkala masih duduk di bangku Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (SD Islam), mungkin juga orang tuaku sendiri.

Keingintahuanku yang besar apakah Tuhan cenderung untuk memilih agama mana yang akan Dia ridhai perlu mendapatkan jawaban. Aku ingat chat yang kulakukan beberapa kali dengan beberapa orang yang tinggal di belahan bumi yang lain tentang “kebenaran absolut” atas satu agama, seseorang berkata, “Bagaimana mungkin seseorang akan percaya bahwa hanya agamanyalah yang benar? Dan pada saat yang bersamaan banyak orang lain lagi yang berpendapat sama, dari agama yang berbeda. Bagaimana mungkin begitu banyak orang mengklaim hal yang sama?”

Selain itu, keyakinanku bahwa Tuhan Yang Maha Esa itu benar-benar Maha Penyayang, dan bukan Maha Penghukum maupun Maha Pemarah telah mendorongku untuk membaca buku lebih banyak lagi.
Juga keyakinanku bahwa cara berpikir manusia yang sok tahu itu tentulah sangat jauh berbeda dengan cara berpikir Tuhan yang bukan makhluk, melainkan sang Khalik. Kita sering berpikir (atau menuduh) bahwa Tuhan Yang Maha Esa akan melakukan ini itu, sesuai dengan cara berpikir kita yang tentu sebagai makhluk sangatlah terbatas.

Dan, tanpa kusadari aku mulai meninggalkan sikapku yang menggelikan di tahun 2003 lalu itu. Aku tak lagi memenjarakan diri untuk mebaca buku-buku yang ditulis menggunakan perspektif feminis maupun yang ditulis oleh para Muslim fanatik yang dengan mudah menuduh agama atau keyakinan lain sebagai sesat hanya karena mereka tidak beragama Islam. Tentu saja pada saat yang bersamaan aku juga geli (dan kasihan) pada mereka yang beragama Non-Islam yang beranggapan bahwa Islam maupun agama-agama lain (yang tidak mereka peluk) sebagai agama yang sesat. Hal yang menyedihkan pula bagiku karena kemudian hal tersebut membuat mereka sibuk menjelek-jelekkan agama lain dan menghasut agar orang-orang tersebut untuk murtad.

Siapa tahu di atas sana Tuhan yang kita perjuangkan (dalam agama masing-masing) justru sedih melihat makhluk-Nya berperang untuk hal-hal yang sebenarnya tidak perlu sampai mengeluarkan darah, mengorbankan jiwa dan raga.

Atau seperti yang pernah kudiskusikan dengan seorang teman kerjaku yang beragama Kristen, “Eh, siapa tahu ya Tuhan di atas sana malah menertawakan kita yang merasa sok paling benar dalam agama kita.”
Aku tak lagi memenjarakan diri dengan bacaan-bacaan tertentu karena:

1. Aku memiliki keyakinan yang kuat bahwa keberadaan ideologi feminisme membantu mengurangi penindasan yang dilakukan kepada kaum perempuan. Selain itu, ideologi ini juga membantu melepaskan beban berat di pundak laki-laki yang dipaksa untuk menjadi pencari nafkah utama dalam budaya patriarki.

2. Aku memiliki keyakinan yang kuat bahwa Tuhan tidak pilih kasih atas umat-Nya yang beragama tertentu. Aku tetap memilih untuk beragama Islam karena aku pun memiliki keyakinan yang kuat pada agama yang telah kupeluk sejak aku lahir. Satu hal yang tentu sangat berbeda dibandingkan kondisiku di waktu lalu: aku Islam karena orang tuaku beragama Islam, seolah-olah aku tidak memiliki pilihan lain. Saat ini aku Islam karena pilihanku sendiri.

Namun aku bukanlah seorang fanatik. Aku bukan seorang feminis fanatik. Banyak teman perempuan yang kukenal lewat milis maupun dari blogging yang mengatakan mereka tidak perlu merasa menjadi seorang feminis hanya untuk berpendirian bahwa perempuan setara dengan laki-laki. Yang penting mereka tahu hak-hak dan kewajiban laki-laki dan perempuan. Aku juga bukan seorang Muslim yang fanatik yang harus memusuhi (meskipun hanya dalam hati, apalagi ditunjukkan dalam tindak tanduk yang nyata dalam kehidupan sehari-hari) orang-orang lain agama.

Sekitar satu tahun yang lalu aku menemukan satu pepatah bijak mengenai fanatisme ini di salah satu blog seorang teman dari Inggris:

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
Seseorang yang fanatik adalah seseorang yang tidak dapat mengubah cara berpikirnya, dan tidak akan mengubah topik pembicaraannya.
Kataku sendiri, seorang fanatik hanya mempertontonkan kesempitan nalarnya.

Sir James Dewar mengatakan,
Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open.
Otak itu seperti parasut; dia hanya berfungsi tatkala terbuka.
Seorang fanatik membiarkan nalarnya terus tertutup yang berarti otaknya tak berfungsi dengan baik.

PT56 11.30 210607

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Victims ... Victims ...

Around two months ago a workmate of mine (a woman, in her mid forties) got a quite serious illness so that she needed to be hospitalized. That made her drop two classes assigned to her since her doctor said that she needed quite a long time to rest for the medication.

When some workmates and I talked about it, one workmate said that probably her illness was caused by her strict diet she had been undergoing. One new workmate (female, less than thirty years old) showed her surprise with that because we all knew that the sick workmate had quite a slim body. What made her be in a strict diet? So I explained to her that the sick workmate had a slim body because of her strict diet. She indeed easily got upset when she found out that her weight went up although only for one kilogram. She told us openly about it without feeling shy, and without thinking that it was a personal matter. I could say that she was a kind of naïve.

Hearing my explanation, my new workmate said, “Oh poor her … She cannot enjoy her life then. She cannot enjoy eating delicious food as much as she likes. She will keep thinking of how to make her weight stable. Look at me! I am plump and I don’t consider it a big problem in my life. I am confident enough with this condition. Therefore, I enjoy eating delicious food.”

****

Around a week ago, my new workmate read an article in a magazine about some exercises that can help shape some parts of the body. So interested was she that she copied it. That really stunned me since I still remember what she said two months ago, about her being confident with her body. She has changed, eh? So soon?

Since then, I have overheard several times about her complaint about her own appetite. “How can I reduce my weight if I keep eating? But I am starving now. How to make my stomach full without making my weight go up?” One evening I heard her say that in the teachers’ room. I kept quiet. I didn’t want to embarrass her by reminding her about what she said two months ago.

There she was … A new victim of consensus that beauty is slim. What has changed her? I have no idea.

****

This morning, my mood was bad to join aerobics so that I just did some fitness, such as riding a stationed bicycle, and did some other exercises for muscles. (Well, I don’t know how to say it in English. LOL.) When the aerobics finished, and some members went down, I approached one friend. “Hi … were there many members joining the aerobics today?”

“Well, quite a lot. Why didn’t you join it?”

“Oh well, I just wanted to do some fitness.”

“By the way, did you get any offer from someone here—a man—to consume medicine to reduce the weight?”

“Oh yeah? How do you know such an offer?”

“Some of our friends have consumed it.” She answered.

“I see. Well, nobody offered me. Perhaps he thought that I am slim already?” I teased her. LOL.

“Oh, yeah, maybe.” She said.

“Or maybe because I have a frightening face so that nobody dared to offer me?”

“Oh well, not frightening I think. But, people respect you so that they feel a bit reluctant to offer you.”
I just smiled to hear that. Then, she left.

****

Well, it is not easy to offer me anything, I assure you. I will change when I want to change. I will use a product when I think I need to do that. I will buy a product when I need that.

And about being a victim of BEAUTY IS SLIM propaganda, well, I must say that sometimes I am one victim too. LOL. But I can control myself. Well, it is just like propaganda of BEAUTY IS WHITE, I am also one victim of it too. But it doesn’t mean that I will leave my swimming hobby, although I know it has really made my complexion much tanner than before I swam regularly. Besides, my blog (western) friends said that tan complexion is very exotic. 

This patriarchal culture with its capitalism really sucks, doesn’t it? Especially to people who don’t’ have high confidence with their own appearance.

PT56 13.10 160607

Friday, June 15, 2007

F A N A T I C

When getting to know the feminism ideology for the first time in 2003, I was so impressed in it that I did not want to read any books/articles etc that are written not from feministic perspective. I intentionally blocked my mind from other kinds of writing, avoided reading writings that adore the status quo of patriarchal culture. Before I bought books/novels/journals etc, I had to make sure first that they were written by feminist writers, or at least, free from gender bias.

Laughing at this ridiculous attitude of mine, my close friend said, “It means that you are still worried if you found a new ideology (again) that would break your faith in feminism.”

When buying books on Feminism and Islam, I happened to find books written by Fatima Mernissi and Riffat Hassan, Qasim Amin, Amina Wadud, Nawal El Sadawi, etc that just a month ago I found out those people were labeled “radical Muslim Feminists”. Pay attention to the word RADICAL. People mostly refer the word into something negative, just like radical feminists who choose to be lesbians, and in fact until now homosexuals are still considered to deviate the norm.

My getting to know feminism ideology spoiled myself with more liberal (and perhaps people label it radical) ideas to fulfill my rebellious character, besides to find the answers of my own questions since I was a kid. When (some) people in Indonesia suspect the word LIBERAL as something negative, I find it intriguing. This made me read more various books, the ones that were easily red-penciled by my elementary school teachers (and perhaps my parents too). For example, whether there is something very wrong with Syekh Siti Jenar’s ideas so that this particular character was forbidden to talk about in my community.

My curiosity whether God really takes side to a certain religion needs to be answered. It obliged me to be more open-minded and broad-minded.

Without my awareness, I started to leave the “ridiculous attitude” of mine in 2003. I don’t imprison myself to read only books written by feminists, or books written by fanatic Muslims who easily judge other religions or faiths as rubbish because the adherents do not worship the Omnipotent Allah.

Why is that?

The answer is because I have strong faith that feminism exists to help women who are jailed in patriarchal culture consensuses.

I also have strong faith that Allah doesn’t take side to any religion or faith so that people do not need to feel arrogant that their religion is the absolute truth. I keep being a Muslim because of my strong faith in this religion that I have adhered since I was born.

But I am not a fanatic. I am not a fanatic feminist. I am not a fanatic Muslim either.
I found a good quote in one blog the other day:
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

A fanatic—in my opinion—just shows narrow-mindedness.

PT56 09.50 140607

P R A Y I N G

Thursday June 14, 2007

This morning I woke up around 5pm, turned on the computer, not to work on something using it but only to recharge my MP4 player. After praying Subuh (one pray Muslim do in the very early morning/dawn time), I was busy in the kitchen, to prepare something for breakfast, etc.

Finishing in the kitchen, I did my other morning household chores.

At ten to seven I was ready to take Angie to school. Unfortunately when I went to the garage, I found out that one of the tires of my motorcycle flat.  Since I had no much time left to take my motorcycle to the nearest garage, I decided to borrow my youngest sister’s motorcycle to take Angie to school.

One problem solved. I could take my motorcycle to the nearest garage later.

However, I couldn’t go to the Paradise Club fitness center because I had to go home right away since my sister would go to her office before 8am.

On my way home, I dropped by at one small temporary stall close to my house selling some traditional porridge, some Javanese salad (we call it as ‘gudangan’ and ‘pecel’, depends on the sauce we pour on it), and some other traditional Javanese food, such as ‘gethuk’ (made from cassava), ‘ketan’ (made from special rice), etc. Since there were some other buyers there already, I had to wait in line.

Not long after that, a man came. He carried quite a big pan. After serving one customer, suddenly the seller served that man (and ignoring some other female customers who had been waiting in line there for some time). She said, “Here is the only man coming here. It’s not good for a man to wait, so let me serve him first.” Nobody complained. I didn’t complain either because it even made me curious why the seller had to give the first priority to that man.

I came up to two possible answers.

1. The seller got indoctrinated that men had to be served first, or to be given the first priority because men are THE ONE, while women are THE OTHER. It means women have to be the second: second served, second priority, etc. She considered this consensus as the “decision” of God, not as social construction.

2. The seller believed that women love gossiping, and men are not supposed to know “women’s talks”. That’s why she served the man first so that he would leave the spot as soon as possible.

I very rarely go to such a place or some other small (temporary) stalls that sell vegetables, meat, etc. However, when I found some women sitting around the stall I dropped by, lingering after the seller served them, I thought that probably they were there gossiping.

After everybody else was gone, and I was the last customer there, the seller served me. She said, “Some time ago, nobody came here. I was very unhappy and at my wits’ end. What if nobody came to buy my merchandise? So, I was sitting on the bench, praying to God, mentioning God’s Asmaul Husna* many times. And alhamdulillah (thank God), many customers came after that.

I didn’t say anything. I just smiled.

On my way home, I remembered one topic discussed in one mailing list I join, whether God listens to our pray and then approves it, what if the two soccer teams play in a game, whose pray (from which team) will be listened and approved by God, etc.

I remembered someone wrote in the mailing list that he went to Church, to pray to God, not to beg something, but to thank God for all things he has got in his life. “I pray to God not for begging but for thanking,” said he confidently.

I remembered my elementary school teachers and also my parents’ advice to pray to God when I want something. “God will listen to our pray and approve it. Don’t get arrogant that when you achieve something it is all caused by your own effort, but always thank God for that.” bla bla bla … And I didn’t know yet at that time that abundant non-believers reach their dream without praying to God, but only because they believe in themselves, in their own effort and hard work.

I remembered my discussion with one workmate of mine some years ago. “When we have problems Ms. Nana, we had better go to God and pray. God has promised that God will always listen to our pray and approve it, if we have good thinking that God will do it. If, before praying we are already pessimistic that perhaps God will not approve it, God will not do it. So, believing that God will approve it is very important.”
I responded, “Don’t you know sir that our strong belief that God will approve our want will hypnotize us to work hard to make our own dream come true? So it is all back to us, our own effort, our own will.”
He smiled and said, “That’s very true too Ma’am.”

Well, I must say that this male workmate of mine belongs to person who loves peace so I suspected that he said that only to avoid friction between us. LOL.

=================
*Asmaul Husna = 99 other names of Allah in Islam. Muslim people are indoctrinated that by mentioning some special names of Allah in different occasions will help them make their dreams come true.

PT56 08.45 140607

MAMAH DAN AA

MAMAH DAN AA

This morning (Friday June 15, 2007) when I was ironing some clothes, my mom was watching a television program called (if I am not mistaken) MAMAH DAN AA. This is a religious program, aired at Indosiar, every Friday from 5am till 6am.

Frankly speaking, after recognizing myself as a secular and having my own interpretation about the religion I have adhered since I was born, I didn’t really like watching such programs. I realize I sound arrogant for my own interpretation. However, in my opinion I often found many ulemas in such religious programs on television very patriarchal and wise guys when interpreting Alquran. As a feminist, I often feel annoyed with what is stated by those patriarchal ulemas (both men and women). As a secular and believing that people from different religions must support religious plurality all over the world, I often feel upset when some (narrow-minded) ulemas talk bad things about other religions, only to attract people’s attention to Islam or to convince the viewers/audience that Islam is the only absolute truth.

That’s why at first I felt disturbed with the sound of the television. While ironing, I was listening to some songs from my cutie notebook. However, when one caller asked the hostess, called as MAMAH, I was intrigued by the question. A married woman asked whether it was okay for a man to have affairs. She has got married for more than twenty-five years, and has four children. Unfortunately her husband was not a loyal one because she already found out three other women in her husband’s life. She asked, “What is the regulation for a married man to have affairs out of the marriage?”

If I read the question between the lines, because the caller emphasized on “a married man”, I concluded that behind the question, it was stated that “It is not okay for a married woman to have affairs, but it is okay for a married man to do that.” I remember around a year ago I happened to find a blog belonging to a Muslim (narrow-minded, misogynist) man who wrote that polygamy can be legally carried out without the consent of the first (or earlier) wife. He wrote (sorry, I didn’t note the blogsite, so I don’t remember it now) that a man is naturally polygamous so that it must be understandable if a man wants to have more than one wife. And to understand that nature, a man doesn’t need the consent of the other wife, and doesn’t need any reason either, such as what is written in the Compilation of Islamic Law in Indonesia (e.g. the first wife is infertile so that she cannot get pregnant, she suffers from a serious disease that will hamper her to serve the husband, she leaves and ignores her husband and children).

The question that can be interpreted as what I wrote above made me turn down the volume of the cutie notebook, and I tried listening to Mamah’s answer. She said, “It is absolutely not okay for married men and married women to have affairs. Allah stated in Alquran, “Don’t get close to adultery”. Only to get close to it is prohibited, moreover to do it. So, to answer your question, of course it is a big sin for your husband to have affairs, moreover to do adultery.”

The answer was quite soothing to my ears because the hostess mentioned that the law to stay away from adultery is for both men and women. It means she wanted to tell the audience/viewers not just to question, “Is it okay for a man to have affairs?” The question must be, “Is it okay for married couple—both men and women—to have affairs?”

The following gender-biased question came from one audience in the studio. “What does the Islamic law say about a woman who opens her husband’s mobile phone to read the messages and his mailbox to read the emails secretly?”

Referring to the consensus in patriarchal culture that a wife belongs to her husband, just like any other properties the husband has, many men think that they have full rights to know anything his wife keeps. On the contrary, since he is THE BOSS, THE PROPRIETOR, the wife doesn’t have any right to know anything the husband keeps.

The same as the first case, I also read the question like this, “It is okay for a husband to check his wife’s mobile phone and mailbox because he owns her. But not on the other way around.”

Different from what other people say that I often hear, husband and wife are supposed not to keep any secret, (once they got married, they already become one, one body, one thinking, one idea, and since it is somewhat impossible to do it, mostly the husband’s way of thinking will represent both of them, and the wife must bury her idea if she happens to have different way of thinking), the hostess said, “If you don’t want your husband to know your private life, I believe that although already married, each of us sometimes still wants to have some part of our life that is private, don’t get nosy to find out what secrets your husband has. It also applies on the other way around. A husband must respect his wife’s privacy too. What is needed between a couple is trust. Don’t bother yourself with unimportant suspicion.

The last question came from a caller living somewhere in Central Java area. A woman complained about her husband’s not pious behavior. He very rarely does the ritual ceremony of the religion, such as praying five times a day. She asked whether it is okay for her to file a divorce.

The hostess said that if the woman really found a dead end to encourage her husband to be a pious Muslim, she could file a divorce.

“Will God be angry with me?” the caller asked.

The hostess said that the reason is quite strong for her to file a divorce. It is much better to live single—or marry another man who is pious—rather than to have a husband whose behavior is annoying and disturbing the peaceful life of the family.

Well, I must say that I felt quite satisfied with the answers and suggestion given by the hostess of the program. Perhaps I took this conclusion very quickly since I have never watched it before. However, I think it is really high time for us to have such religious programs that are really friendly to women. I also opine that it is high time to have religious programs where the hosts/hostesses come from various different religions in Indonesia to create peaceful religious plurality. The most important thing in hablum minannaas (relationship among human beings) is to do good to others, no matter what religion our neighbors/friends have, and not imposing someone’s faith to others. The most important thing in hablum minallah (relationship between human beings with their God) is everybody’s personal affair.

PT56 150607

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Life

Have you ever questioned yourselves what God created this universe for? The earth with the other planets, human beings, animals, plants, etc.

When I was in elementary school (I went to Islamic school), I learned twenty traits of God, from wujud, qidam, baqa’, … till mutakalliman. Do you know that? The second trait, qidam, means the earliest. God has existed much earlier than the others. I imagined God was all alone at that time, in this very spacious arasy. The fifth trait, qiyamuhu binafsihi, means berdiri dengan sendirinya, or independent. I imagined, using my limited capability of imagination, God didn’t have anything to do. Perhaps God was lonely? To overcome that loneliness, (referring to God’s fourth trait, mukhalafatulil khawaditsi, meaning God does everything by Godself, God doesn’t need any help from other creatures) God created malaikat, without passion. No wonder, malaikat never have any idea to do anything else but things that God decided them to do. Since created, malaikat Jibril has given divine revelation to some prophets. Until the doomsday, that will be the only thing Jibril will do, nothing else. Since having no passion, Jibril never wants to cheat, let’s say by keeping the divine revelation for himself/herself. Oh well, in Islam, malaikat doesn’t have sex, right, not male, not female. :)

Facing a creature without passion definitely is very boring, do you agree? Therefore, then God created another creature, syaithon, alias Satan, with only passion. It was also boring. The most perfect creature God has ever existed, human being, was the following creature. God created Adam. (Have you ever heard, anthropologists do not believe that Adam is the first human being in this world, while for Black people, they believed that Adam is the first white man. Before Adam, then, all human beings had black skin. :)) God completed human beings with passion and brain. Humans are supposed to use their brain to control their passion.

Going back to the main topic of this article, God created all this universe to make God busy, not feeling lonely. Observing human beings with their greed will be fun. Do you agree? Human beings that think their conviction is the right one, and underestimate other people, will then encourage them to fight other people, to force them to follow their way of thinking. People like Amrozi that judge people with other religions are just rubbish, so he feels justified to kill them all. Other people who think that their religion is the best, so they busy themselves to provoke other people to convert their religion, by saying bad things about other religion. Don’t they realize that it all started from indoctrination we’ve got since we were a kid?

Since I was a kid, I have been indoctrinated that Islam is the only religion justified by God, only Muslim people will go to Heaven, the others will go to Hell. My rebellious nature made me question myself why this only right religion doesn’t treat women fairly? (e.g. women are supposed to ask their husband’s permission before doing something, while men can do anything they want without their wives’ approval, women are supposed to ‘serve’ their husbands in bed anytime their husbands want, no matter whether their wives consent it or not, etc). I got the answer from my study, feminist literary theory with its main principle Reading as A Woman made me open my mind and eyes, it is not Islam that is gender-biased, but the men behind it, men with their gender-biased way of thinking interpret Al-Quran using their limited capability. When reading Jurnal Perempuan no 32 with the main topic “Perempuan dan Fundamentalisme”, I found out that other religions are also gender-biased, some of them are even worse than Islam in viewing women’s roles in society.

I am wondering why my writing deviates far from the main topic I want to tell you? J

When I feel my life empty, friends, I sometimes ask myself why God created all these things? Only for God’s amusement? Later, in the doomsday, we all will perish. All will be back to the previous time. God will be all alone again. (For those who have been indoctrinated that there will be life after death, they then will be waiting for the time to go to heaven or to hell. For those who have been indoctrinated that everything will end when their life ends, no life after death, then.) As a thoughtful and broad-minded people, we are not supposed to judge easily that other people’s conviction is wrong, are we?

Again, dear friends, no matter how many things we have done for our society, or for ourselves, or even nothing we have done, we all will “drift away” to the following kind life (if there is one). Then what?

This world has existed for many many centuries. Billions people have died before us. Then what? Time for us will come too. Also to our offspring. Then what? Does it give any benefit for God, as the Creator?

I still don’t find the answer of my own question what God created all this universe for. I believe God exists. But …

Anybody can help me?

Nana
Yogya, 051205

Friday, June 08, 2007

LYSISTRATA

Lysistrata, written by Aristophanes in 411 B.C, is considered as one of the best comedies in respect to dramatic structure. At the moment of its publication, Athens’ fortunes were at their lowest point: the disaster of the Sicilian Expedition in 413 had stripped the city of a large part of its manpower, many of the strongest allies had revolted, the Spartans were striving for control of the Aegean Sea with Persian support, and internally the city was on the verge of a revolution. In the midst of this situation Aristophanes produced Lysistrata as his last ad best plea for peace. The plot of this comedy is simple: the women of Greece, led by the Athenian Lysistrata, unite and agree on a sex-strike to force their husbands to make a just and reasonable peace.

When discussing how Lysistrata convinced her folks—both from Athens and Spartans—to refuse their horny husbands to have sex, my students laughed. One female student said, “Nowadays, if a woman refuses to have sex with her husband, it will not frighten him. I think the husband will easily say, “What? You don’t want me to make love to you? Fine! There are many other girls out there. I don’t need to worry about that.” LOL.
What can we conclude from this? People in modern times no longer consider sex as a sacred action that is supposed to be done only with the spouse.

When the first time Lysistrata proposed her idea of sex-strike to end the war between Athens and Spartans, all women showed their open disagreement, without feeling shy. Below are some responses of Lysistrata’s idea:

MYRRHINE: I won’t do it. Let the war go on.
CALONICE: Nor I! Let the war go on. Anything else you like. I am willing, even if I have to walk through fire. Anything rather than sex. There’s nothing like it, my dear.
LAMPITO: ‘Tis cruel hard, by my faith, for a woman to sleep alone without her nooky; but for all that, we certainly do need peace.


When I asked my students whether the idea of sex-strike is proposed in the modern times like now (especially in Indonesia) to end something villainous, will women react like those women in LYSISTRATA in that ancient time, or will they easily approve the idea; meaning they don’t mind at all, no need a complicated argument or debate. My students answered that Indonesian women (perhaps also in some other areas) possibly choose the latter.

“Do you know why?” I asked them.

No one came up with satisfying answer. Well, at least satisfying for my common sense. LOL.

“It is because we have been ‘taught’ that sex only belongs to men. Women just serve their husbands in bed, for their husbands’ satisfaction, and not for themselves. Besides, sex has been considered as personal affair. It is taboo to talk about sex publicly. Like what Michel Foucault stated in his book THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY volume 1:

At the beginning of the seventeenth century a certain frankness was still common, it would seem. Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit. Codes regulating the carce, the obscene, and the indecent were quite lax compared to those of the nineteenth century. … it was a period when bodies “made a display of themselves.” …

But twilight soon fell upon this bright day, followed by the monotonous rights of the Victorian bourgeoisie. Sexuality was carefully confined; it moved into the home. The conjugal family took custody of it and absorbed it into the serious function of reproduction. On the subject of sex, silence became the rule.” (1990:3)


“Women are also worried if they are categorized as bitches if they are open about sex. They had better choose to appease their passion very strongly rather than to be called as bitches. For Indonesian people who most of them claim as religious, being very sexual can be considered sinful because it means they just follow Satan’s desire. And they do believe that women were created with low passion. Therefore, they would rather become hypocrite about sex.”

Being more open about sex for both men and women, does it mean that people in ancient Greece are not misogynist?

The answer can be seen in the following utterances in the drama:

LEADER OF MEN: No poet is more clever than Euripides: “There is no beast so shameless as a woman.”

MAGISTRATE: Oh, damn it all! I’ve run out of policemen. But women must never defeat us.

LYSISTRATA; … Now, if you’re willing to listen to our excellent proposals and keep silence for us in your turn, we still may save you.
MAGISTRATE: We men keep silence for you? That’s terrible; I won’t endure it!
LYSISTRATA: Silence!
MAGISTRATE: Silence for you, you wench, when you’re wearing a snood? I’d rather die!


Referring to what Rosemary Ruether wrote in her book NEW WOMAN NEW EARTH, that the root of the misogynist was firstly moulded in the early first millennium B.C. in Hebrew and Greek cultures (1995:13) certainly misogynist culture already existed when Aristophanes wrote LYSISTRATA. Nevertheless, I must admit that I give him two thumbs up with his idea in LYSISTRATA: women held a very important role in reconciling two opposing countries. Lysistrata even gave command to men involved in the war to make truce and find a way out for both countries’ satisfaction.

PT56 12.25 080607

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower





This Zhang Yimou’s colossal movie is starred by Gong Li as the Empress and Chow Yun Fat as the Emperor. The setting is the tenth century in Tang Dynasty (923-936AD), a time of corruption, dictatorship, and warfare.

The Empress is the daughter of the previous Emperor, Liang. She married the Chief Commander of her (late) Emperor father due to the trick the Commander did. He successfully persuaded Emperor Liang to marry him to the Emperor’s daughter. To get the crown, he threw away his first wife (or his secret lover?), by imprisoning her, but then telling lies to everybody that she died. However, he already got one son from her.
Apparently the patriarchal culture in China at that time made the Commander the following Emperor with all power and might. He even had bigger power than the Empress, the legal heiress from the previous Emperor. He also made his first son from the first wife the Crown Prince!

Feeling unloved and treated unfairly (since the Emperor kept the picture of the first wife in a special holy place, and appointed the first son that didn’t have blood relationship with her as the Crown Prince), the Empress took revenge by flirting the first son, Wan. She expected to be able to persuade him to give the crown to Prince Jai, her own son?

Knowing the illicit liaison between his second wife and his son from the first wife, and feeling worried that he would no longer become the mightiest person in the country, the Emperor wanted to kill the Empress slowly, by putting a poisonous substance into the medicine the Empress drank every two hours everyday. He secretly asked the Imperial doctor to prepare the special medicine.

Feeling suspicious that there was a new substance added into the concoction of her medicine, the Empress asked the wife of the Imperial doctor to investigate it. After finding it, the doctor’s wife told her that it was black fungus from Persia. If it was consumed 2 grams daily, it could make the consumer lose his/her insanity in some months. It saddened the Empress very deeply. However, as a woman, she didn’t have power as much as her husband. She still had to obey her husband’s order—to drink the medicine. For a woman, obeying a husband’s order was the same as obeying the natural law. A husband—moreover an Emperor—was considered as mighty as the Omnipotent, the One who created the nature. Whether the man was a real good husband or a murderous devil, it didn’t matter much. A husband still had to be respected and obeyed. In this situation, women were portrayed weak and helpless.

One scene for the above example was when the Empress didn’t drink all the medicine one time, she left one or two gulps of the concoction. She already felt suspicious with it but she didn’t find out about the fact yet. The doctor reported it to the Emperor. In the occasion to welcome Prince Jai from the boundaries, where all were seated together in the terrace, the Emperor forced the Empress to drink the rest. The Empress wanted to rebel, but everybody forced her to obey the Emperor, except Prince Jai. This made her give in. Because trying to refuse to drink it, she was considered to violate the natural law, by the Emperor.

Why did Prince Jay not force her to drink it like all the rest? His experience to get involved in battles, to know the outside world for three years made him more open and broad-minded, that even a woman had right to say no and she was also supposed to be listened to. Unfortunately because he was the only one, he couldn’t really help his mother.

Meanwhile, feeling worried that she would die soon, because she didn’t have any courage to refuse the poisonous medicine, the Empress told Prince Jai about it. She realized that her effort to persuade Crown Prince Wan (by flirting him) failed because she found out that Wan even fell in love with the doctor’s daughter and had secret relationship with her, the Empress planned a coup d’etat, with the help of Jai. She didn’t want Wan to be the next Emperor, she wanted her own son to get that royal crown.

This made Jai in dilemma because he had to choose between his father or mother. He didn’t want to fight his own father because that violated the natural law. However, he didn’t have a heart either to see his father killing his mother slowly with the poisonous medicine.

Meanwhile …

The first appearance of the doctor’s wife at the thirty-fifth minute of the first disk easily caught the audience’s attention because despite the fact that she secretly helped investigate to find out what kind of new substance added into the Empress’ medicine, she refused when the Empress was about to pay her. She said she had her own grudge to the evil Emperor. This made the Empress suspicious about the relationship she had with her husband. Her suspicion grew bigger when she heard that the woman who came to the palace secretly was caught by Prince Wan and taken to the Emperor. The Emperor even released her. She must have had a very special relationship with the Emperor long time ago.

When the Emperor sent the doctor and the family away from the palace—with a very tricky reason: by appointing him to be a governor at Suzhou—the Empress saw it as a sign that the Emperor would kill the whole family of the doctor. The Empress sent secret help because she hoped that the past secret relationship between the Emperor and the doctor’s wife would be useful for her to force the Emperor to step down from the throne. She did not want the key of the Emperor’s past life to be murdered.

It means the Empress had two plans: bloody coup d’etat headed by Jai, and the shameful past background’s disclosure of the Emperor.

Did the Empress’ plan work well and did her favorite son Jai get the throne?

Watch the movie by yourself, pals. :)

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