Thu, 18 Aug 1994

On feminism

Apparently having a name that is slang for the male genitals, gives John Thomas the right to be an expert on the gender divide. So let us take John Thomas in hand, so to speak, and look at the dichotomy he draws between feminism and the feminine.

I can heartily recommend a book to you John. It's called Feminism for Beginners. I would be pleased to lend it to you. I think it may help to clear your obviously cluttered and slightly paranoid mind of some major misconceptions about what women the world over, Indonesia included, are struggling to achieve.

Not equality John, 'cause as we all know, women who aspire to be equal to men are under achievers. Feminists are trying to gain access to decision making and to achieve those rights that are automatically accorded men. We seek the right to have language that is not denominated by the male gender item. We seek a world free of violence and militarism which destroys the environment and the lives of men, women and children alike.

We seek recognition of women's roles in the development of the world (for instance how many men know that women were the first horticulturists, and Zubaidi the wife of a ninth Century Caliph, was an engineer who designed Mecca's water supply). We seek the right to enjoy equal status in our religious observations and rituals. We seek the right to be heard and represented politically, and mainly, we seek the right to be free of people like you, whose uneducated phallocentricity and specious arguments about body builders obliterate the fact that women have lost their lives simply for speaking out and seeking the rights that men take for granted.

Feminism predated Marxism and is only one of the analytic frameworks used by women to try and explain why men have the right to control the future of the people and resources of the planet. Feminists try to elucidate why a celibate old man in Rome, and others like him, has the right to control women's bodies, and why women's contribution to the global economy is under-enumerated. Feminists do not deny the feminine. It is after all, our power to create and nurture life that is the stem of women's power and the possible source of fear in the male collective unconscious. By feminine I suspect that you mean pretty, compliant and obedient.

Indonesia has a long history of women warriors, Rasuna Said was one. To say that Western women are leading Indonesian women astray is to deny that there is and will always be a global indigenous women's movement. Look around John, Sisters are everywhere.