Julia Suryakusuma is not a newbie in Indonesian feminism arena. Her name is the legacy once one talks about Indonesian gender and sexuality. Her books, writings, speeches have contributed a lot in those arenas. This book is without exception.
The book State Ibuism by Julia Suryakusuma is basically her thesis back in 1998 yet the situation back then is still relevant and similar to the Indonesian situation nowadays; as the mechanism and the outcomes of governmental control are still similar. Gender is still a mobilizing force for programmatic intervention and social control, as so Julia says. Meanwhile, it also means that women are still the object of the social construction- which is somehow formed to be fit into a certain hierarchical and patriarchal order. Even though these discourses on women do not change rapidly from time to time yet one can see that what is changing the the constellation, the role of the state itself. In the past, the construction of womanhood is state-dominated. Yet the discussions are now open to any interpretations as the state is no longer dominating it but it shifts to the religious arena. This shifting causes a gentle ‘force’ that women should return to her kodrat as a domesticated housewife, nurturing person, care taker for the family and the children.
Through this book, Julia Suryakusuma tries to present those portrayal of the social construction of womanhood in Indonesia and its relation to the state. She firstly describes the social construction of womanhood itself in her perspectives. Julia then presents the facts of Indonesian state and women organisation after 1985. Her emphasise is how women is being constructed by the state through the government organisations. She takes PKK, the Indonesian family welfare guidance and the housewification in Buniwangi and Citandoh, two areas in West Java.
From the reader’s perspective, this book to me is very enlightening. What I get from the book is how the women is often constructed in the Indonesian culture through several aspects. Indonesian women is socially constructed through the concept of domestication in which women will have to return to their kodrat as aforementioned. Indonesian women are also culturally constructed through priyayization and the notion of ibuism itself because one of their kodrat is to return to the role as a mother, a caretaker for the family. Meanwhile, in the political arena, the position of women is also challenged by the state power. Those women organisations such as PKK or Dharma Wanita basically place women in the position where they only continue their husband position in the hierarchy. A wife of a military general is likely and technically going to be picked as a leader following the husband’s position in the military hierarchy.
In accordance to that notion, this domestication and notion of housewife to their relation to the family norm and state power will later led into capitalist development for some reasons (I wish that Julia can explain this part clearer- even I can grab what she tries to say). I also think that Indonesian women is ideologically constructed through the mediation of Pancasila- the official, foundational philosophical theory of Indonesia. In the end, it strengthen my opinion that the goals of the state is the domestication of women through these processes the orders (ketertiban), pembinaan (guidance), and stability (stabilitas) and through the notion of ibuism and priyayization.
In the end? it also confirms the strong thick patriarchal system and culture that operate in the discussions of Indonesian gender and sexuality. Women are also the best victim as they are somehow ‘forced’ to return to their kodrat. It seems like women are given their notion of freedom yet the challenge of its feminism is somehow being controlled by the higher power.
This ideology of state ibuism was extremely feudalistic in nature: in its structure, hierarchy, in its undemocratic with organisational positions derived from being someone’s wife and not necessarily as a result of any merit of their own. Women were given activities that on the surface provide them with a certain importance and status. But instead of strengthening women and increasing their power, policies and programmes derived by the state from the gender ideology of state ibuism rendered them powerless. Furthermore as with priyayization, state ibuism was urban-oriented, propagating activities and values that were often unrelated to the realities of rural women.
This-indeed reminds me of Pierre Bourdieu’s notion in masculine domination in which he says
“Male domination is rooted in the society in the most unconscious way.”
The book is written in English and Indonesian version. It enables not only the Indonesian readers but also the English readers who want to get more enlightenment on Indonesian feminism. The book itself is available at Penerbit Komunitas Bambu click and get your own copy at an affordable price.