THE OPPRESSED WOMEN :
Discussion on the Development of Indonesian Women Novel and its Comparison with the Malaysian and Indian Novels*
Maman S. Mahayana
Literature is the spirit of culture. It is born through a complicated process as the result of the literary persons’ anxieties upon the social condition in its tension with his culture. Sometimes, literature emerges as a social protest to portray the social condition at a particular time. It is also viewed as the spirit of its age. And from there, literature contribute the particular insight upon the social situation, belief system, ideology, and individual expectation as the real representation of the national culture.
In this context, studying literature of a nation has basically no difference from the attempt to comprehend the culture of a nation. In other words, learning culture of a culture will be incomplete without learning the existence of a related culture. Here the position of literautre can be taken its advantage as the entrance gate of understanding a particular nation. It does not only represent the social dinamic and condition of a particular era, but also the reflection of the thought development and literature of a particular society. Therefore, learning literrature and the attempt to express the richness of text, should not only use structural approach, but it should relate the culture with the socio cultureal which gives the spirit to a prticular text, either as the background problem, or as the expectation or vision as the foreground of a text.
Literary writers can actually be viewed as the representation of their societies and as the spriti of their ages. “Every society has its unique arts, every period has its own arts,” so did Armyn Pane say that a writer does not only represent (the thought and culture) of his society, but also represent the spriti and dynamic of its society and era. This thought is also revealed by Rene Wellek and Austin Warren that literature is frequently considerd as the social portray to express the spirit of a particular age. “literature is an expression of society.”
Compared to poetry or drama, novel is considered the close portray of social representation. It is so close that novel is sometimes related to the religious doctrines, norms and the real condition of a society, or even frequently related to the political power and government. Although this assumption cannot be generalized to all kinds of prose (:novel), in a particular cases, at least, we can use novel to see the dynamic of culture or social portray as well as the spirit of age. Here in this paper, we are going to discuss the social portray and the spirit of age by focussing on the woman issues in several Indonesian novels. The writer will also allude several Malaysian and Indian novel to complete the discussion.
The Journey of Indonesian Women Novelists
The existence of the women in Indonesia, as seen an many countries, is losely related with the literary development. In Indonesian literary history, the birth and early development ofn Indonesian literature is frequently seen in the line of the development of Balai Pustaka. The historical fact is actually different. Actually, Indonesian literary development – as that of the Indonesian language – was born and developed according to the three lines.
First, it is through the private publishers, mainly the one managed by the Chinese descendant. According to the note of Claudine Salmon, the earlier mastery of this community to the printing machine facilitates them to establish publishers for books, magazine, and newspaper. Hence, they managed the publishing company earlier than that the natives.
Later, the natives also tried to establishe the publishing company. Tirto Adhi Soerjo was the first native to start the publishin company, althogh the financial support was derrived from several regents and natives officials who take a sympathy to such attempt . He published newspaper called Soenda Berita (February 1903) in Cianjur, which was contined with the publication of Medan Prijaji in Jakarta (January 1907) and the first woman newspaper Poetri Hindia ( July 1908) in Batavia. Poetri Hindia provoked several women writers. After that, several publishers appeared various publishing company in Java, Sumatera, and Minahasa. In Medan, Hamka and Helmi Yunan Nasution tried to publish a magazine entitled Pedoman Masjarakat (1935—1942). Several Hamka’s works were firstly published through this magazine. Since then, the publishing company managed by the natives got more and more spreading all over the cities in Indonesia. Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, also established the publishing company Dian Rakyat. This publisher then produced Belenggu, a novel by Armijn Pane. Publishing line also occured in Medan, Tebingtinggi, and Bukit Tinggi (Sumatera Barat) as an indicator of the emergence of publishing companies established by the natives.
The second line is through mass-media –newspaper and magazine. In Indonesian literary history, works published in mass media have never been mentioned as the part of Indonesian literary works. However, when we see the mass media published in the early twentieth-century (1903—1928), it could not be denied that many literary persons were born outsied of Balai Pustaka lines. Even many contemporary women writers started their career through mass media.
The third is through Balai Pustaka publishingcompany. Considering that Balai Pustaka is the Dutch colonial institute, the books published by this institute should have the content in line with the colonial policy. The establishment of Balai Pustaka was actually to cope with the influence of readng materials published by the private or individual for whom were accused that “the businessmen has no sacred hearts.” “Illegitimate reading” was then the stigma put to the books published by the private. Through Balai Pustaka is then the Indonesian literature was given the strong influence to the school curriculum.
Balai Pustakais strong and wide influence, is then not followed by the number of the writers and the amount of books published. In this case, quantitatively, the number of books, particularly novels published by the privates or non-Balai Pustaka publishers was much greater amount than those published by Balai Pustaka. Among the writers, three were women, such as Paulus Supit (?), Selasih (=Sariamin =Seleguri), and Hamidah (=Fatimah Hasan Delais). In addition to the novels by Paulus Supit, Kasih Ibu (1932), by Selasih, Kalau tak Untung (1933) and by Hamidah, Kehilangan Mestika (1935), Balai Pustaka also put forward the general theme at that time like the problematic love story and the failed marriage. The women agony as the result of the men betrayal. The women characters, fell as the looser. However, in Kasih Ibu, Paulus Supit described the mother character – a widow- who was successful to raise her children to become teachers.
From around 80 novels published by Balai Pustaka (1920—1941), only Kasih Ibu by Paulus Supit does not put the woman character as a looser. Even, because of the woman character, the society becomes aware of the meaning of education.
Seen from the three lines of Indonesian literary development, the emergence of women writers actually took place outside of Balai Pustaka. Because Balai Pustaka has ideological interest, supported by the government finance, it becomes the source of school reading, and its distribution was supported by the mobile libraries until the villages. Therefore the influence is much deeper to the society. Even, according to the Dutch colonial politics which tries to put the Dutch as a big nation, high civilization, and act as the saviour, so the book published by Balai Pustaka became the important reading in any level of education. Indonesian literatures develop as if it is the virtue of Balai Pustaka.
Two novels published in the Japanese era, Cinta Tanah Air (Balai Pustaka, 1944) by Nur Sutan Iskandar, and Palawija (Balai Pustaka, 1944) by Karim Halim, seemd to represent the Indonesian literature at this age. In these two novels, we would see that almost all the women characters show not only the spirit to defend the nation but also to participate in the war. Mothers, wifes, or daughters put their position as the motivators for the heroes. Even in Palawija, the marriage of Sumardi –teacher, native—and Sui Nio, the chinese descendant, seemed to show the importance of unity in the spirit of Asian nation in the war of Great Asian .
Thematically, pre-independence Balai Pustaka novels, thematically, did not mention about social, religious, or pornographic problems. However, the Islam image as seen on the description of a hajj was negatively put forward. The description of women characters, except in Kasih Ibu and the novel published during the Japanese era, were mostly put as loosers, beaten by the deed of men characters. ***In the post independence periuod, there were increasing numbers of women writers. Some of them could be taken into account such as Arti Purbani (the wife of Husein Djajadiningrat) as the pioneer of this period through her novel Widiyawati (1949). The story itself actually has long disgression due to the long description of each character. However, the focus isthe man character Widiyawati (Widati) who has to face the family tradition holding the noble tradition. Other women writers such as Luwarsih Pringgoadisuryo, Titis Basino, Th. Sri Rahayu Prihatmi, Haryati Subadio (Aryanti), Marianne Katoppo, and N.H. Dini. The last mentioned has the extraordinary position through her novel Pada Sebuah Kapal (1973). As a whole, the theme of the women novel was still around the individual problem: the problem of women solved by themselves. Actually there are still other novels such as Raumanen (1977) by Marianne Katoppo or Selembut Bunga (1978) and Getaran-Getaran (1990) by Haryati Subadio, but they still raise the domestic problems.
The new phenomenon now becomes a kind of movement in the Indonesian literary life as sen by post -Saman Ayu Utami. If Nh Dini and Titis Basino as the senior writer successfully breakthrough and position themselves as the women writers equal to the man writers in their age, Ayu Utami through her novel, Saman (1998) seemed to be successfully spread the viral anxiety of the hidden talent of the other women writers and Saman position on the map of contemporary novels in the 1990decade seemed to be unbeatable . Her second novel, Larung (2001) is not as successful as her first, but Ayu Utami still hold the highest place in the contemporary Indonesian literature.
Dewi Lestari through Supernova (2001) successfully established the new “mainstream” in the map of Indonesian novel by introducing the scientific descriptiona s the integral part of a story. As also seen in Ayu Utami’s, the second novel of Dewi Lestari, Akar (2002) was still under the shadow of their first novel. Meanwhile, Fira Basuki who starts her literariness through her novel Jendela-Jendela (2001) which turns to be the first part of her trilogy, Pintu (2002) and Atap (2002). complete the map of Indonesian contemporary novelists. Prior to Dewi Lestari and Fira Basuki, Naning Pranoto has previously emerged. She has written several novels, which no one knows that not many people talk about them. Actually she talk about something new in the Indonesian contemporary novel, such as the marginality of the political victims. Her two novels, Mumi Beraroma Minyak Wangi (2001) and Miss Lu (2003) for example, clearly wants to put the authoritary political power as the result of innocent victimization. Here, Naning deliberately describes the political cassualities in the oppressed position, although they know nothng about the political matters. Then, why should they become the victims? On the hand of the authoritary regime, politics become a ghost who can terrorize anytime and to anybody he wants. Naning Pranoto has produced 15 novels, an amazing achievement. Her existence with her works, enrich the library of Indonesian novel. Aren’t the political novels frequently considered to destabilize the national stabilityduring the New Order? It can be said that Naning gives inspiritation to the other women novelst to raise the similar problems. Some of them are Langit Merah Jakarta (2003) and Laras (2003) by Anggie D. Widowati. During the New Order, this kind of novel could be categorized as “taboo and dangerously influence the national stability “
In the Langit Merah Jakarta, Widowati tries to portray the events prior to and post-revormation movement which successfully turn down the Suharto’s power. This novel seems to be an important footnote for the event surrounding the reformation movement. Different from Langit Merah Jakarta, her second novel , Laras, Anggie D. Widowati reveal more abuse done by the new order officials Orde Baru which is not far from corruption and manipulation. Beyond the story, Angie seemed to be talking about the concept of virginity. In this case, men are considered unfair in placing the concept. Laras, the character in this novel is the victim of the scandalous male. Hendra, the male character, ran away after seducing Laras virginity. Only after the though struggle of the women, then she return to the right path.
In the novel of Maria Etty, Hayuri (2004) the character as the political victims were transparantly described. Buntaran, Hayuri’s father, is one of the political victims who later died in the Buru Island. Hayuri is the next victim although without her knowledge about what happens. She was raised in the trauma by her though mother. After she grew up, her love was stranded by her status as the daughter of the ex-political prisoner. Although the story is happy ending, it is eat least revealed that the suffering of the political victim is actually bitter. The stigma can come from everywhere, including the person who actually has nothing to do with the political affair.
In addition to the story related to the reformation movement and the post-tragedy 1965, several women novelist shows their courage to raise the sexual problem as the theme of the novel. Say, the novel of Nova Riyanti Yusuf, Mahadewa Mahadewi (Gramedia, 2003). Beyond, it shows the explicitly sexual behavior of the characters, including the sexual intercourse between the asylum doctor and his patients and the “strange” love affair of the gay character (transexual and bisexual). Nova seems to criticise the social hypocrisy about sex. Therefore, when the biological needs urge, releasing the lust without any attempt to reveal it in the blanket of norms and social convention is a must. That’s what Nova wants to express.
Djenar Maesa Ayu in her first novel, Nayla (Gramedia, 2005), also raises sexual deviation. As implied in several coverr notes “for adult readers” – also seen in her antology of short story, Jangan Main-Main (dengan Kelaminmu) (Gramedia, 2004)— Nayla raises sexual problem in the reference of personal scandalous behaviour which always lead to victim. Nayla is the victim if this bullshit: the sadistic mother, the mother lover: Uncle Indra who makes the servant pregnant. And he also frequently exhibit his male organ to Nayla which leads to sexual harrasment. Under the gloomy childhood, his father died and his mother brings her to an asylum. This sadness leads her tobe a lesbian and enjoyment of promiscuity. This makes her believe in love and happiness. Here, the sexual deviation is caused by the traumatic childhood. The result is more tremendous than what is expected, it is related to the psychological wound. Djenar would probably says that the psychological danger is bitter and uch more dangerous than the physical injury, particularly when it happens during the childhood.
Ana Maryam in Mata Matahari (Bentang, 2003) also raises the problem of free sex and lesbianism. Therry seemed to enjoy her intimacy with Destano, her lover. Lola, Therry’s friend also enjoys the changing sexual partnership. One day, Destano enjoy Lola, and Lola also takes pleasure in him, although she knows that the man is her friend lover. And,what happens when Terry fins out the affair? Firstly, she is mad at Lola, but leads to lesbianism after Destano, who use the two women to insatiate his lust, leave them both. In the end of the story, they decide to have one child respectively, while enjoying her lesbianism.
If in the above novels, the sexual relationship is implicitly presented, not in the Bukan Saya, tapi Mereka yang Gila (KataKita, 2004) by Stefani Hid, seks seemed to be deliberately presented in the whole story. In this novel, sex is positioned as the important part of the whole story. Here, sex is something that should exist. Therefore, throug the telephone, people could make sex and enjoy it through the phone, without having physical contact. The structure of the novel is closely similar to that of the blue film. Although there is a chilhood memory of Nian – a divorced mother who remarried, and a father, a medical doctor who suffers from mental deviation – like no sexual desire. Sex should exist as if the daily activities become incomplete by the absence of sex. Life is as if to fulfil such desire. Isn’t the sexual deviation is closely related with the individual past. In this case, sex is put as sensation in the artificial and vulgar description.
The use of sex as the weapon of ideological struggle – and not as a mere embroidery – is seen on the novel Ode untuk Leopold von Sacher—Masoch (2002) by Dinar Rahayu, Swastika (2004) by Maya Wulan – although both novel seem to build sensation — and Tabularasa (2004) by Ratih Kumala. In the novel by Dinar Rahayu, masochism and transexual is wrapped in mitology. The myth of virginity to incrase the power of God and it is believed to reach the particular purpose, actually it is a mean of masculin legitimacy treating woman as cuisine. Dinar Rahayu change the myth by putting male as cuisine, and women can fulfill their sexual desire with it. In the matter of sex, women actually are more powerful. So, with the power of sex, woman can dominate the man’s world. So, in this case, Dinar Rahayu seems to recreate a new mythology – particularly Greek and Scandinavia - which is particularly transhistorical. Isn’t the mytology is the pastness of event which cannot be historically taken into account?
In Swastika, Maya Wulan uses the sexual problem as the mean of killing her desire in commiting sexual deviation. The main character, Swastika, feel the symptom of lesbianism when she feels aroused sitting close to her friends of her own sex. Unfortunately, her friend Sila, always makes temptation. Under the shadow of fear, she can convince herself. On the opposite, she makes a sexual adventure from one man to another. Finally, she makes her mind to get married with Amrullah, a well-behaved man who studies in Kairo.
The the first night of her marriage,Amarullah who really loved Swastika was badly hurt. Although virginity is not the main point, Amarullah could not accept Swastika. What he thought is that Swastika is too honest and she is not anymore virgin. Is it her mistake to be a lesbian?
Hence, Maya Wulan use sex as the mean of struggel to return the sexual desire according to the gender. Although Wulan does not confirm her position, she gives the awareness that the sexual lst is not as simple as expected. It is constructed through the longt process of individual historical life. therefore, the stigma to the homosex, lesbian , bisexual, and heterosexual, should be put proportionally by the consideration of various background.
Ratih Kumala in Tabularasa, even see the problem of sexual intercourse as the universal human rights. He tries to raise her probulm through the spirit not to be dependent on one sex –male or female—. Althought the idea is not the most important, Ratih tend to put the man sexual instinct as nothing dependent on the sex, ethnic, race, cultural tradition or religion. He emphasizes on the equality in human interaction, including the choice of partnership. When man or woman decides hius or her partner, wether it is from different or similar sex, she has done her rights as human. So, why does man should marry with a man (homosexual), or a woman with her own sex (lesbianism) have to obtain social sanction? Isn’t it basically the same as that one who get married with the different sex? Isn’t the marriage not always related with the reproduction process? Everyone has his or her own rights to choose someone to be his or her partner of life, to have child or not. Isn’t the marriage with the same sex more responsible than that with different sex but abandon their children?
In this novel, we don’t find any sexual performance. Ratih Kumala seems not to express vulgar words related to the sexual organ. Hence, the expression of marriage meaning, of choosing partners, whatever the sex is , then become the focus of this novel. This novel really successful in explaining sexual ideology without exposing sexual relationship. Here, Ratih convincingly brings the sex into the realm of universal ideology. A novel which smartly raise the sexual philosophy. From there, the aesthetics of the novel come and tempt the thought of the reader as an ideological message.
The Oppressed Women
Various problem when in the New Order era are considered taboo, “dagerous for national stability” after reformation era becomes tries to be proposed, including the novels of women writers. In addition to the stories talking about the political victims and artifical sex, women tries to claim their rights on the equal position and the image of women according to the perspectife of tradition, culture, and religion.
Oka Rusmini in Tarian Bumi (2000) and Kenanga (2003), seems to rebel against custom and traditional culture (Bali), and religion (Hindu—Bali) which subordinate the women position. In Tarian Bumi, the main character Ida Ayu Telaga Pidada, noble women who because of getting married with a lower caste Wayan, lelaki dari kasta yang lebih rendah, is frequently accussed as the source of the family dissaster. At last, Telaga willingly put of her nobility and live as a low caste women . In Kenanga, the problem is more complicated. The main character has to face the forbidden love. Kencana, her sister, get married with Bhuana, the man who rape her. There, love should obey religous norm, the image of Brahmana caste, and amount of rules which ironically banned the freedom of women. Not to mention the scandal which should be kept secret in order to keep the caste positionl. The criticism toward the caste and nobility in Bali has also been put forward by Putu Wijaya in Bila Malam Bertambah Malam.
The main character in those two novel appear as if the mouthspeaker of the writer who try to represent the gender problem in his society. There, the position of women, from any caste, remain to be in the powerless condition, when any affair is related to tradition, culture, and religion. Novel Tarian Bumi and Kenanga become the important part of the Indonesian novel map, not onluy because of the local color power but also the Balinese cultural ethnicity containing the complicated gender problem full of manipulation.
The character of Ida Ayu Telaga Pidada in Tarian Bumi and Kenanga in Kenanga are the noble women- who because of their position- even could not enjoy their privileges as nobles. Financially, both live in affluent, but psychologically and his rights as human, there is a discriminative treatment which put them in a subordinate position. It is done on behalf of custom, culture and religion.
Novel Namaku Teweraut (2000) by Ani Sekarningsih strongly raise the gendr problem in its relationship with the ethnic culture. The winner of the award from the Yayasan Buku Utama in the year of 2000 convincingly present the social portray of the Asmat societies, Teweraut.in Papua. Teweraut, the main character in this novel, tells about her expectation, idealism, and the bitterness of a woman who was prisoned with her social norm and tradition. There, women is treated as “thing” by her owner. On the name of tradition, male becomes so powerful upon his “belonging”. Even when a wife get pregnant and want to deliver, she should be thrown from the society and placed in a small hut in the remote area. The woman who delivers a baby is considered dirty and bring the failure to her community.
Still with the spirit to free herself from various stigma cornering the woman position. Abidah el Khalieqy in Geni Jora (2004) related to the circle of Javanese tradition and islamic dormitory (Islam). Although the rebellion is implicitely proposed, she seems to put forward a kind of soulutin to answer the problem, that is whth a smart and beautiful muslim – at least she acts beautifully. Only in this way that man appreciate woman. And only in this way that man will respect woman, and it is possible that man will be the looser – who likely or dislikely put the woman in the proportional position. The description of the main character Kejora who was raised in an islamic traditional circle, islamic dormitory life, and her socialization with the islamic world, has incrase her awareness that tradition, culture, and (Islamic) religion is frequently abused and misstranslated to legitimate the male power over female. This view will only be rebelled if the women do not live in poverty and ignorance.
Several other woman novelist who try to put forward the ideal image of woman moslem, among others is Asma Nadia who has produced more than 25 novels, and other names who have not been noted.
In general, the existent of women novelist in the map of contemporary Indonesian novel shows the changing of attitude in placing the woman and the woman position in the life of their societies, that is the tendency not to be prisoned in a domestic circle. The changing of this society is expressed fromt he theme related to the five stigmas such as: (1) political victims, (2) social tradition and culture, (3) sexual problems, (4) religious interpretation as the mean of legitimation, and (5) domestic problem. Domestic problem, here is not merely related to the life of a family, but the various problem which put the woman in a marginality, inferior, oppressed, and powerlessness. Dadaisme (2004) by Dewi Sartika, for example, describes that marriage on the name of tradition and social status becomes the source of deviant behavior. So, there is an attempt to develop the domestic into public affair.
Among the women writers, particular note should be taken to Nukila Amal. In her novel Cala Ibi (Pena Gaia Klasik, 2003) , Nukila Amal does not only use the technique and stile of narration which is quite complex and rich of interpreation which fully depend on the reader, but also try to return to the essence of story telling. Therefore, she tells everything, anything, and whoever. Nukila Amal, with her experimentation, tends to emphasize the aspect of narration rather than the theme of the story with the gender aspect.
From the novel above, the woman character look stronger when facing the religious problem as seen in the ovel Geni Jora by Abidah el Khalieqy and novel Tarian Bumi and Kenanga by Oka Rusmini. In their rebellion , Kejora has to face the tradition of the family in the islamic dormitory (pesantren) environment who put the woman only to stay at home. Since a long time ago, the framily tradition puts the woman in three “S” – Sex, Soup and Sew. Then, she also should face the social culture which stigmatize the woman. There, also exist the religious doctrine which is interpreted according to the male interst. Meanwhile, the mother position herself as the one who believe in the concept of :”following the husband” swarga katut, neraka nunut –. Under the siege of myth and stigma, the main character, Kejora, struggles to release herself. And from there, the awarenss that woman only get its freedom if she is not cuffed by ignorance and poverty.
Woman position in Tarian Bumi and Kenanga actually is more complicated. The caste rules not only has its influence to the worldly life but also the concept of nirvana. The caste rules is a part of religious doctrin which has to be believed as the decission of God, Hyang Widhi. Therefore, anybody should be able to life according to the rules. Anybody disobidient to the rules will lead an hard life both in the world and later could not enter the nirvana. However, there is still other complicated problem. A sequence of manipulation of the religious doctrine was deliberately committed, merely to keep the respect and the social status of the family., and to legitimize the male power on behalf of the religious sanctity.
Religion as a mean of legitimation and manipulation of the decree as an attempt to eternalize of man power also popular in the novel of other countries. Let’s see Pohon Tanpa Akar by Syed Waliullah (Bangladesh), Sutan Baginda by Shahnon Ahmad (Malaysia), or Istri untuk Putraku by Ali Ghalem (Aljazair). The male writers see how the religion can be used as the mean to cheat, manipulate power, and to legitimate male superiority.
Observng the social status of the women characters (by the woman writers) in Indonesian novel since Balai Pustaka until now, we can say that most of them – except Namaku Teweraut— are the educated woman from the upper clases. So what is the meaning of social status embeded to the woman character? If literature is viewed as the social portray to express the spirit of age, it can be said that the description of the woman character in the Indonesian novel tend to represent the portary of the upper class Indonesian women. Let’s see the portray of Yah (Rohayah) in Belenggu by Armijn Pane. Although Yah is a prostitue, she is a high-class prostitute, who has mixed with a high officials. Yah becomes the prostitute not because of financial problem. The unfair and discriminative treatment in the Indonesian contemporary novel only occurs in the middle class women, educated, or noble, and they do not represent to what happen to the lower class. This portray does not entirely represent the whole Indonesian women. Let see,the character of Rasmani (Kalau tak Untung), Hamidah (Kehilangan Mestika), Rani (Di Atas Puing-Puing), Sri (Pada Sebuah Kapal), Mimi and Cyntia (Selembut Bunga) until the character in in Saman or in the subsequent novel. All of them are educated, middle class, and event from the elite class. Then, the woman whose status will be struggled for is the status of the upper class women. Then, how about the portray of a middle class women related to the spirit of the age? Studying several novels by women writers since Balai Pustaka until novel Saman Saman by Ayu Utami, it will be clearly sen that the main problem is the domestic and family problem. The husband scandal is considered to be the source of family problems. Saman open the other perspective. It questions the demand of the male toward the virginity myth. IN addition, Ayu Utami also tries to show her courage to destroy the myth of sex which is put under the private sector, not to be discussed in the public area. The other problem in Saman is the scandal problem. If male freely commit affairs and change partners, why not women? But the woman in in Saman is the elite women, educated and has no obligation to think about material condition, and the demand on the human rights are mostly related to the sex problem: freedom of making affair and changing sex partners.
How about the attempt of the woman writer to portray the life of the poor pheasant woman which is more oppressed by poverty and ignorance? How about the destiny of woman migran workers, servants and the prostitue who live under the poverty line? Up to now, only Namaku Teweraut showing the woman character who struggle over her poverty and ignorance. Teweraut is a sort of Papuan women who wants to make progress, and makes her mind to be independent and help her sisters to free themselves from poverty and ignorance. But, she is sieged by the male superiority who underestimate her, her culture postion women merely as to raise children, take care of the house, and in her belief system, women are frequently accused as the source of dissaster. Although Teweraut can go to school, because she is the daughter of the tribe-chief, when a priest offer her a new religion (Protestant) she is still inferior under the custom. All said by the tribe-chief is the word of God, including the matter of marriage. Teweraut should obey the decision of the tribe-chief, nDiwi, her own father, who marry her with Akatpits, the Village chief, although the village chief has got five wives. Look at the following quotation: “Kamu Cuma perempuan,” suara nDiwi terdengar menggelegar sekarang… “Tidak perlu banyak rencana. Sejak awal leluhur kita telah menggariskan, pekerjaan perempuan itu cukup untuk mengayomi keluarga, melahirkan anak, merawat and mengasuhnya, and mencari makanan yang bagus…”nDiwi tak dapat digoyahkan. Ia merasa tidak perlu menanggapi keberatanku. Keputusannya berlaku sebagai aturan yang tetap. Sebagaimana kebiasaan yang telah berlaku lama, kata-katanya adalah sabda yang paling benar and harus dipatuhi. (hlm. 64) “You are just a woman,” said nDiwi loudly. “You need no many plan. Since the begining, our ancesstors have made decision that the works of women is to keep the family, give birth, take care, and look for good food....” nDiwi cannot be tempted. It is not necessary to accept my reluctance. His decission is fixed. As the custom, his word is the most righteous word to be obeyed. Finally, Teweraut becomes the sevent wife and should obey the husband. Luckily, she has the dancing skill. She later joins the cultrual mission to America, but under the control of her husband. After the death of her husband, the power is then replaced by his brother. Hence, Teweraut appears as the representation of the Papuan women, who lead the life helplessly. Namaku Teweraut may represent the condition of village women in Indonesia . The image of woman as Teweraut is not seen in Syumul (1999) by Azmah Nordin (Malaysia). This novel, in general, looks like the Indonesian novel written by women, that is to show the life of educated, elite,and modern woman.
Novel Syumul tells about the telecommunication business competition facing by Hytech Communication (HC) and Syumul Teknologi Tinggi (STT). The competition reach its peak on the Seminar Commonwealth Te-lecommunication Council (CTC), until the launcing of Malsat A-1 satelite. Actually, the competition is caused the private competition of their officials. The working dissmissal , unhelathy competitions among its workers make the company worse. Even the sense of threat to a particular person, led him kick others using various means such as by sabotage and attempt of murcer. This become the central theme of this novel
The theme of competition actually the mean of the writer to evoke various traits of the characters. Greed, ambition, arogance, cheat, hypocricy, egotism, inferiority, smartness, solidarity and other human traits appear with its respective background and foreground. Because of the unhealthy competition, every staff find misscommunication. Among the problem, there is a scandal between them, which is generally the male discourse, now becomes the female discourse. Man, instead of women, become the sex object.
The problems get complicated, when the past trauma, the sequence of fear, anxiety, and stress become the problem of the characters. The problems have no space and time limit, so the thought can appear anytime, in a fragmetary form, which create the sequence of the story. As a result, event to event, and sometimes appear simultaneously to create a mozaic of a story. The thought description and the chaos of psychological condition of a particular character can have no relation to what is seen at that time. It is possible to jump from from the past to the future. The fragmentary event dominates the sequence of events in Syumul.
The peak of all chaos finally terminated when the murder attempt is commited by two official of HC. As the result of this event, the elite of the company then aware that something wrong happen in the company. Therefore, each party shouldimprove themselves and keep the harmonious communication, eother with the family or with their working partners. Happy ending!
The strength of this novel is actually lies on its experimentation. Although written by women, there is an attempt of Azmah Nurdin to propose gender problem. As af as I know, this is the first malaysian novel who propose the gender transparantly. Inthis case, there is a powerlessness of the male character facing the women characters. Marius Taipun, Jeremy Kay Kay Kiew, Syed Hakim, Hadzim, in HC, for example, are underthe domination of Juwairiah. The affair of Erika Bacia Bahrin placing men as her sexual object shows the scandal discourse – as seen in the novel – does not only beling to the male. In this case, female which was previously the object of sex, no the other way around. Look at the following quotation:
Erika Bacia Bahrin yang telah enam kali berkahwin and bercerai dengan lelaki-lelaki tempatan juga lelaki-lelaki dari negara Eropah, sebelum menjadi janda sekarang. Cuma perkahwinan-perkahwinannya itu agak sukar berkekalan; tempoh satu-satu perkahwinan antara dua minggu hingga enam bulan, sebelum Erika kembali ke minat asalnya, Hadzim. Ternyata, tidak satu pun perkahwinannya menghasilkan anak, and Leonei akui, barangkali inilah yang merupakan suatu hakikat sejarah yang memilukan bagi setiap wanita. And Kemudian, sudah .... - Bagaimana dengan perhubungan antaramu and anakmu and Farid? Apakah cukup membahagiakan? “Kebahagiaan hidup bagi seorang wanita, tidak semestinya terletak kepada orang lelaki ataupun anak yang lahir dari rahimnya saja - sebaliknya dari in diri sendiri. Percayalah, kebahagiaan, keberanian, semangat, ketabahan - sebenarnya tidak membezakan jenis jantina.” Dia teringat Juwairiah pernah berkata begitu.
... beberapa kali pula Erika ditahan sama ada di tanah air mahupun di Eropah - akibat memandu ketika mabuk, sebelum ini. Memandu ketika bersama-sama salah seorang kekasih-kekasih sambilannya yang disewanya secara tunai itu. (hlm. 145--146).
(Erica Bacia Bahrin has married six times and got divorce both with the local and the European, before being a widow now. The marriage did not take long, only two weeks until six month, before Erica turn to her original lust, hiring gigolo. Actually, none of her marriage produces children, and Leonei confessed that this is the tragic historical event to the life of women. And then ...
- How about your relation and Farid? Is it happy?”Woman happiness should neither rely on the man nor the baby comes out of her womb – it is on herself. Trust me that happiness, courage, spirit, does not rely only on the male or female.”She still remember that Juwariah said so.
- .....several times Erica was arrested when she was having affair, here or in Europe, when she was drunk, and having affair with her gigolo in cash (page 145-146).
The citation above shows that how Erica Bacia can “play” the men as she like. She can hire the the gigolo, to express his position as a subject, and the male as the object.
The role of women superiority and the men inferiority, is seen at the characterization of Juwairiah who replace the position of Farid, her husband, and in the family life, Juwairiah also confirm her position. Hence, Juwairiyah show the real position of a woman which is equal to man. Look at the dialogue of Juwairiah with Wardah talking about Farid as follows:
“Wardah, bagiku, masalah seperti itu - jika ia benar-benar suatu kenyataan - hanya masalah remeh-temeh ... barangkali,” ujar Juwairiah, lembut. Air mukanya sayu pilu. “Lagipun, aku tak punya kekuatan untuk memulakan hidup baru. Kerana seluruh kekuatan yang ada padaku, aku curahkan untuk menaikkan tarafku di matanya - dengan membina kerjaya yang lebih meyakinkan.” “Biarpun lelaki itu memanandg rendah terhadap kerjayamu?” “Hah, bukankah itu namanya ‘lelaki’? Ah, aku tak hairan lagi. Aku tak kisah pun. Kebanyakan lelaki sama saja.” “Kecuali Syed Hakim?” soal Wardah, mengusik.
“Ya, kecuali dia. Tapi sebahagian besar lelaki yang lain - ego melebih segala-galanya; tak mahu mengaku kalah, biarpun sudah kecundang,” tingkah Juwairiah, penuh emosi. (hlm. 43--44).
(Wardah, for me, if the problem is that – and if it is a reality – it is only a trivial matters...maybe,” said Juwairiah, softly, her face looks sad “Anyway, I don’t have any power to start a new life. Beause the whole power of me, was given to increase my status in front of his eyes.. by working harder.
“Although if male underestimate to what you have done?”
“Is that what man does? I am not surprised. I don’t say nothing. All men are similar.”
“Except Syed Hakim?” asked Wardah, curiously.
“Sure. Except him. But most of others ... egotism is more than enything.. He doesn’t want to confess his lost, although he is a loser,” said Juwariah emotionally.)
In the other pages of the novel, the dominaton problem of male is frequently turned upside down. Women inferiority is replaced with superiority. The role of manin business, in the social life, and in the family life is marginalised, and replaced with the woman roles, as seen in the following quotation :
“Aku bebas, bebas ... bebaaas ...!” jeritku, tanpa sedar. Entah mengapa, tiba-tiba terasa tubuhku meruap panas, dadaku dikobarkan oleh nafsu berahi, seolah-olah emosiku sedang dilanda badai asmara yang membara berpanjangan; emosi yang terpenjara akibat sikap ketidakadilan ‘dia’ and mereka yang sejenis dengan ‘dia’; emosi yang kini bangkit kembali dengan kematian’dia’. (hlm. 125)
(I am free, free...free!” I screamed, unconsciously. I don’t know why, it seemd that my body get warmer, my chest was burn with passion, as if my emotion which is flooded with long awaited esire; emotion which is trapped as the result of injustice of “her: and who was in the same sex of :her’, emotion which now arrouses with her death)
Although the writer, through her female characters, tend to give the message related with the gender, it seems that Azmah Nordin still put them as the Malayan women. Juwairiyah still makes a compromy, and sometimes she obyeh the husband,which seems that the writer is still tolerant to the proportional position of a woman. Juwairiah character which still respect her husband as a husband, and tend to put family as priority rather than profession, shows the representation of the wirter attitude as the Malayan woman in keeping the custom, tradition, and culture in harmony.
The description of marginalized woman as a result of custom,culture, and religion, seems to be more severe in the novel Madu in Saringan (Nectar in a Sieve) by Kamala Markandaya. It is a portray of Indian tragic life among the poverty and ignorance. Rusmani, Nathan’s wife, is the typical Indian woman who become the outcast – because of the marriage with Nathan, the outcast man. However, the awareness as the wife of a poor and honest farmer establishes her as the tough personality. All hopes should be grown. She tries not to be hopeless, she doesn’t want to surrender. Then, when Rukmani has not deliver a male baby, she should be pation praying to have a male baby With all her patience, between the poverty and famine, Rukmane keep taking care of her family. She should be smartly spend the money for the future. Rukmany appear as the wife who can complete all her husband deficiency. . “Tempat seorang isteri mestilah di sisi suaminya,” (hlm. 168), (The place of a wife is on the side of her husband), the the principle and the view of Rukmani. Therefore, she appear as the completion, the motiator, and also as the defender of her husband. Rukmani is like an iron lady, the castle of the family, the protector of the children. With Nathan, Rukmini life in a sequence of agony. Nathan, finelly died when the couple life homelessly in the city. Rukmany return to her own home bringing an adopted child.
Although, at last Rukmani doesn’t fall as a looser, we still see that the social norm (male domination), religion, and culture are established in such a way that it put the woman as the oppressed creature Beyond the severe description of the woman condition- as seen in the Namaku Teweraut and Madu in Saringan— there is an implicit affirmation that women in anyway is more flexible, more patient, tougher, and more mature when facing the critical problem of life.
With this description, the reader indirectly gets the awareness, that woman oppression occurs everywhere on behalf of family status, social norm, cultural dignity, religious purity, and even on behalf of God. There are so many manipulation to be used as the mask to cover the women oppression.
If this forum- as seen on theme of this seminar p is an attempt of making new approach – it is suggested to consider new aproaches which enable to evoke the cultural richness hidden beyond the texts, as the ideological message proposed by the writer and the root of the problems which put the woman in the oppressed position. Structuralism –which is also called intrinsic approach- which has so far dominated the literary approach in several educational institution, proved to be failure in evoking the cultural wealth beyond the texts, because text is considered to be autonomous structure, remoted from the problems outside the text.
For the structuralist, what happen in the literary word is trated something an sich without any relationship with the context. Therefore it is separated from the writer. The researcher or critics is only admited to communicate with the text, because the text is convinced to have its own completeness. As soon as the literature published, it becomes public property, it has no more relationship with the writer. Therefore, it has to be treated as the complete structure. Text becomes anything. It has no relationship with the creative process of the writers. It has no more relationship with the culture which deliver the text, nor the relationship with the context. The peak of the structuralist belief is on the statement of Roland Barthes through his idea of: “the death of the author.”
The result is that the cultural richness of the text is gone. Structure only talk about the relationship between elements and its functionality in establishing the textual discourse. It does not talk about the spirit of culture and the anxiety and the ideology of the writer. Doesn’t literature exist, although it is the product of imagination, apear as the cultural tension and anxiety? Even the language of the text itself is the cultural product. The social existence of the society is also completd with language, and the society itself who complete the culture. And when it is manifested in the literary form, it actually brings the socio-cultural realities.
Although masterpieces can also be analysed from various approaches, the richness of cultural and ideological meaning outside of the text will also be hidden in the text. Therefore, if structuralism will also be maintained, it is only in the position as the gate to the laboratory when people try to expose the cultural richenss of the test. Without it, text will be exiled and remoted from the cultrure who give it birth. Therefore, the most important thing is that the writer can raise the cultural meaning beyond the text. In this way, learning literature means learning the socio-culrual life surrounding the writers.
Novel Namaku Teweraut, Syumul, and Madu in Saringan show how the gender problem is actually originated from a culture and social norm which is deliberately established to legitimised the power of men. There, a lot of religious interpretation and belief system supporting the legitimation. Therefore, through the approach wich is not only originated from text, we try to reveal the abuse of religion. Islam, for example, support the position women equal with men but there are too many religious leares who change the dignity of women into the women oppression. There must be something wrong, or something misleading. So the awareness movement should start from revealing the manipulation of social norm, tradition, culture, and religion. The stigma of women should be terminated. And literature can be used as the gate of the activities. Here,t he socio-cultural or cultural studies become one choice to reveal the cultural richness of the text.
In the end of this paper, I would like to say: Adios Strukturalism!
Manuscript of novel Belenggu at the beginning was offered to Balai Pustaka, but it was turned down because it was considered not to be appropriate to the policy of Balai Pustaka. Rinkes Note (1910) explicitly mentions three categories in selecting the published texts. They are (1) has no anti-colonial government content (2) does not offend feeling and ethic of particular community (3) does not offend particular religion. In the Nota Rinkes policy, it is natural that Balai Pustaka novels tend to show the caricature characters and the black and white problems surrounding marriage and home life. Belenggu was considered incompatible with the requirement of Balai Pustaka. This novel tells about the scandal between Sukartono (Tono) with Rohayah (Yah),a whore and the description of Kartini (Tini) –Tono’s wife, who are active in a various women movement. The similar destiny happened also to the novel of Suwarsih Djojopuspito, entitled Manusia Bebas (Jakarta: Djambatan, 1975). This novel was actually written in 1937 in the Sundanese language. After translated to Bahasa Indonesia, then sent to Balai Pustaka, but it was also refused because the content talked about nationalism. Not until 1940, the novel was then published in Utrecht, Netherland, with the introduction by E. D. Perron, entitled Buiten het Gareel (Di Luar Garis). Related to the description of the women character in Belenggu and Manusia Bebas, the Dutch colonial government deliberately seemed to make a systematic discrimination for women in public. The workds for women only teacher, housemaid, plantation workers, and concubine. The dutch attitude in legitimating the concubine is the other form of women harazement. After Dutch women came from Europe, the concubine life still existed but not allowed to be registered in the Civil Office. Only after the Ethic Policy was applied, then the women school started to be opened, only native women with a certain status were admitted. After graduation, the women were only allowed to be a teacher, and not as the beaurocrat in the government.