21 September 2008

A Nightmare to Ibu Kartini's Dream

Most of students or children in Indonesia are familiar with a special day that comes in the month of April, precisely 21 April. Every year schools will celebrate Kartini Day. Just to refresh our memory, in case some of us have already forgotten, Kartini was a heroine to Indonesian women.

Kartini had broken the traditional way of thinking commonly existed at that time that girls were not entitled to have equal opportunity for education liked boys. One of traditional values lived during that old times was girls or female gender stayed at home and there was no room for women outside their houses. Those views were shared among people at all level, even in the aristocratic family liked Kartini’s family, let alone the commoners. Kartini had successfully opened the eyes of society at that time that females did have the right to have the equality in education.

Kartini lived in the era in which the discrimination of sex or gender was quite a normal view. At that time, women were the second or even third class of people in society. Girls, Females or Women were appreciated more to their physical quality, such as sexual appearance, their fertility, the ability to get pregnant. There was not much room left for intelligence appreciation. However, Kartini was quite lucky that she married to a man who could appreciate women in a wider and positive sense. He accepted or even supported Kartini’s idea of improving women in educations.

To cut the long story short, let us see what happened today to most women in Indonesia. My mother went to school for girls back in Padang Panjang, near her hometown, called “Diniyah Putri”. It was during the 50’s era. So, it was like 50 years after the Kartini era. At least it proved that the fights fought by Kartini paid well.

Lately, I have seen a commercial ad of a consumer product on television. The promotion theme is “Play With Beauty”. I was interested in watching the commercial ad because of its attractive colors in interesting animation.

The ad showed the transformation from an ordinary decent girl or young lady to a super duper hot and sexy woman right after she found the product being commercialized. It is understandable that the transformation should be shockingly or extremely shown in the ad, taking into account they are promoting beauty product. Still, I do not think that the transformation from a decent person to a wild one would be the objective of the ad, or would it be?

The ad shows how the product made the girl or young woman become a hot and sexy lady walking like a Halle Berry in the Catwoman. She charmed all masculine figures around her, from a male squirrel to grandpas. Until that point I kept following the flow of the ad and waited with curiosity, what actually the ad tried to tell us. Finally, I found out that the confident sexy walks led her to her final destination after the transformation. It was a place where signboards showed “lounge”, “hotel”, etcetera. So there she goes, to the amusement centre, nightlife.

Simple conclusion: “If a simple girl has transformed to a pretty woman, she would end in the sparkling and glittering nightlife. Who else wants to feel such an experience?” Was that really the message that the ad maker wanted to convey? If yes, then the ad successfully conveyed it as my brain absorbed it well. If that was not what they meant then the ad was totally a failure. Is it true that beautiful women only fit to such a nightlife world? Can’t beautiful women find better and more respectful works or activities, other than being the object of male obsessed passion only? Are we heading back to the era before Kartini was even born? The era where women were treat like products.

Any ad broadcasted on television should have taught a moral value suitable to the ones that lived in people as targets of such ad, in this case Indonesia. If the ad did not send any certain moral value message, at least it should not encourage the spectators to ensue the actions which were conflicting with the moral values that lived in such society. I am of the opinion that the ad reflected the shallowness of people who involved in the creating of such ad. Unconsciously, this kind of hedonistic lifestyle will only benefit men more. And women will pay for it at the end of the day.

It was obvious that the ad showed how woman was harassed in a very cheerful way. Apparently, not many women seemed to be aware of that harassment but I felt insulted.

Surprisingly, we saw no reaction from Non Governmental Organization (NGO), particularly, women’s rights defender NGO as they felt the insult in such ad. Perhaps the understanding that the ad was classified as arts made those women defenders accepted it. I am not surprised if the women defenders NGO did not react in the name of human rights. It is a crazy world, if someone who posed naked in ‘public’ and some government guys made a fuss of it, this would soon drag so much reaction from people, especially women organization, NGOs. They all would fight on the same grounds, for the sake of human right and state of art.
It is so pity that some Indonesian women seemed to have lost their senses on when they should fight and when they should shut their mouth up. Perhaps this reflects the ironic reality on how many Indonesian women were confused to position themselves. On one hand, they refused to be harassed but on the other hand, some of them clearly needed such harassment to support their existence, so ironic.

I wrote this article without having any view that I am better person than other people, particularly the ad makers, as I am also sure that they are not thinking the same way either. I am just a spectator who watched their product and idea. Anyhow, I have a little daughter who also watched television; including the ad per se. Should we send those little innocent angels with false messages?

I believe there are many other ways to describe beauty rather than imprinting ‘be beautiful, then men will come after you”. Is it not a deceitful message that the beauty of a woman just to satisfy men’s desires?

Moreover, the ad gave false impression that the existence of women on this earth is just to please men, whilst we know that duties and missions of men and women as God’s creatures in this world are the same. Women are created with equal rights but now, women positioned themselves as servants of men in a very passionate but undoubtedly low way. It seems like some men have forgotten their extra duties and responsibility as heads of family, leaders to their folks, not predators.

Beauty without brain and decent moral value would not bring any good to the so- called beautiful woman and her society.

Generally speaking, all people know exactly how long the beauty could stay. After certain age when the beauty fades away, then what next? What a shallow point of view showed by the ad. Is it correct that in order to sell a certain retail product we should hurt dignity of women generally? If we failed to justify the sense and sensibility of a very short and simple television broadcast, how come some of us insisted to fight on the elimination of LSF (Lembaga Sensor Film/Film Sensor Body)? To me, the LSF is still needed. At least we still have a Body that protects the interest of group of people who do not want to watch such irresponsible and shallow television broadcasts.

Rasuna, 15 April 2008
Gusnelia Tartiningsih (Nela Dusan)

This article was published in Opinion column of Jakarta Post on 21 April 2008

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