I remember one day during my college days, a male senior lecturer of mine protested the portrayal of ‘modern’ women in many soap operas in television (Indonesians call them ‘sinetrons’). ‘Modern’ women were portrayed as women who left behind the stereotypical characteristics of ‘traditional’ ones, such as submissive, soft-spoken, feminine, weak, motherly, etc. To my disappointment, he also opined that that kind of portrayal of women was triggered by feminist movement; feminist movement seemed to be the scapegoat that eventually resulted in women’s hatred to anything feminine.
Since I hardly ever watched sinetrons on television, I did not have any idea what kind of portrayal he meant. Therefore, I did not debate my lecturer at that time although I was strongly convinced it was not merely because of feminist movement.
Years passed by.
Today I remembered it again, especially when reading one article in a scientific journal ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA vol. 30, No. 1, 2006; the title of the article is “Menjadi Perempuan di dalam Sinetron: Kekinian Femininitas” (“Becoming women in Sinetrons: the recent femininity”) by Widjajanti Mulyono Santoso. This article was resulted from her research based on one sinetron played on television in 2004; the title was “Inikah Rasanya”.
What kinds of women were portrayed in “Inikah Rasanya”?
First, a woman who has a crush on a man. Since feminist movement believed that women also had right to express their feeling to men earlier (until now I still find many men and women who find it embarrassing and unfeminine for women to ‘shoot’ men first), it was okay then for a woman to do it. However, in this sinetron, Rena, one female character was portrayed very aggressive so that she made the boy whom she had crush on feel insecure and threatened. She was highly emotional and temperamental.
Second, a single mother/woman who was illogically emotional. Jason’s mother as well as Nadia’s aunt was portrayed as a woman who had psychological problems since none of them had a spouse. Having these problems made them treat their kid or niece cruelly. In fact this is not far from the portrayal of single women—especially those who have reached certain age brackets—in patriarchal society. Since people adore marriage and consider only in marriage both men and women will achieve ultimate happiness, they—especially women—are accused of feeling insecure when they are single. Therefore, they will do anything to cut the insecure feeling, even sometimes by grabbing any guy. Oftentimes, to express their depression due to the society’s insecure accusation to them, they do aggressive things to people close to them, such as kids and nieces. Feminist movement teaching women to be more expressive seemed to be the best media (as a scapegoat): because of it Jason’s mother and Nadia’s aunt became uncontrollably aggressive.
Third, a female teacher who was irrationally annoying and irritating. Women with capabilities are considered unconventional in patriarchal society. Power that (female) teachers usually have in front of their students is a weird thing. This resulted in the students’ laughter at their female teachers. Mostly female teachers are also illustrated as old maid that have mental problems because of no spouse. Worse, they are also portrayed physically unaccepted: their voice is ridiculously high-pitched, wearing thick glasses, stiff uniform, unfriendly facial expression.
I am of opinion that the visualization of three women above is not only in “Inikah Rasanya”. Many other sinetrons portray similar characteristics of women like that. Realizing that many scriptwriters are male, I concluded that there was a very wrong deviant of feminist movement on men’s head. Or I can also say that men (although not all) felt threatened by feminist movement so that they portrayed very cruel images of women who were independent. What kind of men blaming feminist movement (READ => movement for equality between men and women)? They are men who feel confident before women ONLY when women are weak, stupid or uneducated, submissive, controllable.
What did they expect? Society will stop feminist movement because it will make women heartless, monsters, unfeminine, against natural law for women, etc.
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