Celebrating International Women’s Day today, men can start taking over their partners’ simple daily chores without fear of being labelled “bucin”.
“Bucin” is a portmanteau of the Indonesian term “budak cinta” (slave to love) popularised among millennials and members of Generation Z as submission by men or women to their partners.
Local baby boomers have their own acronym for men who are “dominated” by their partners, which is ISTI, or Ikatan Suami Takut Istri (the Association of Husbands Afraid of their Wives). The other portmanteau with a religious nuance is Istiqomah, which is short for Ikatan Suami Takut Istri Kalau di Rumah (the Association of Husbands Afraid of Wives When at Home), which usually refers to married men who go wild only when outside of their homes.
In a patriarchal society like Indonesia, these terms, normally used in jokes among men, only reflect deep-rooted gender inequality in the country. The cynical abbreviations suggest that men should instead demonstrate supremacy over women, for example by way of abuse or by leaving all the household chores to women.
The unequal gender relations are believed to be the root of many problems both in the domestic and public spheres. Marital rape, sexual harassment either verbal or physical, disparity in wages, for instance, are rampant and widely accepted as normal practices.
The awareness about a level playing field between men and women came to the fore, at least historically, in Indonesia in the 19th century through Raden Ajeng Kartini. Fast forward, the sweeping reforms in 1998 played a pivotal part in promoting gender equality in the country.
Thanks to the changes, Indonesia has seen its first female president, and more women have held key ministerial posts and public offices such as regents and governors.
But gender inequality has remained an unresolved issue. How to help end the gender disparity, which the world has accepted as a major barrier to sustainable development?
You, men, could start with simple actions at home, such as sharing the burden of household jobs like washing the dishes and doing the laundry with your wives. In a show of respect for gender equality, husbands in Asia’s developed nations like South Korea take one-month paternity leave to help their wives take care of their new-born babies.
I am married to a woman from the Minang ethnic group in West Sumatra. My parents-in-law appear to feel ashamed when they see me washing the dishes after dinner. This despite the fact that Minang is one of the few ethnicities in the country that adopts the matrilineal kinship system.
Another small step is appreciating women’s work and letting them develop themselves intellectually and publicly. In this regard, the husbands of female ministers and the late Taufik Kiemas,
husband of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, deserve appreciation.
You do not have to take to the streets to support the sexual violence eradication bill or to reject the family resilience bill. But if you do care, you can simply express your views on social media. For baby boomers, you may rally support for gender equality in your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts.
The International Women’s Day commemoration comes against the backdrop of potential prosecution of actress Tara Basro under the draconian Electronic Transactions and Information (ITE) Law for uploading a black-and-white semi-naked picture of herself on Twitter. Tara has since deleted the post.
Of course you can join the International Women’s Day march at the National Monument in Central Jakarta today. Never mind people who may call you a social justice warrior for supporting women’s equal rights.
You will also contribute to gender-equality promotion by stopping making sexist jokes and rape jokes during conversations where female colleagues are present, as the anecdotes may hurt them. It is okay not to befriend sexist people.
You can also skip seminars and public discussions that feature male panellists only. If you organise a seminar or other events, you can promote female scholars from various fields, ranging from politics to religion, which this nation has in abundance.
Religion, or rather the interpretation of religious teachings actually, is the “enemy” of gender equality. The family resilience bill, which has been proposed by a number of politicians from several parties, speaks volumes for the efforts to give the state the authority to breach the privacy of its citizens, particularly women.
Those proposing the draft law are apparently inspired by old values or the interpretation of religious teachings that reduce women’s roles to mere domestic work rather than in the public sphere.
Indonesia has an association of women clerics, who study and develop female religious teachings. The group’s activities are still minor but with the help of the media and progressive people from all walks of life, the moderate principles will further spread.
Giving women more opportunities they deserve is important if we are to support equality for all genders. More affirmative action is also needed to help build a just and peaceful world for all genders.
It is quite easy for men to uphold equality for men and women. It starts from simple acts and starts with you. – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
Ahmad Junaidi is also founder of the Alliance of Journalists for Pluralism (Sejuk) in Indonesia.
Did you find this article insightful?