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another try

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Women, film, and social critics

Being assistant and one among few Asians in the university awards me with opportunities to have thoughtful, challenging, cultural, discussion with some professors. One professor who has curious nature from time to time would knock at my door and gave me a print out news, report, or document about Indonesia. Ranging from historial account of East Timor, Indonesian military violence in West Papua, the 1965 massacre, the deforestation in Borneo, competition between Indonesian restaurers in New York, to the increasingly highlighted debate on polygamy in Indonesia.

That afternoon, he came with a copy of english speaking media on Berbagi Suami, a new movie from Nia Dinata. The movie is special not because it wins some awards, but mostly because of its theme, polygamy reality in Indonesian society!

Dear oh dear, I complained silently. Should I go to that shameful discussion again about Islam and men's justification on polygamy?

(I have to endure this kind of discussion at least once per year with another professor (Mr.) who cannot accept the idea as civilised nor just. At that very moment, I always found it hard to be proud of my religion. We always ended the discussion with a declaration that I do not and will not accept polygamy for whatever reason and that my husband knows that perfectly. A declaration that invited a nod from him.)

To go back to the article, I then read it quickly as my professor gave me few minutes to read while looking at me with a look saying "what do you think?"

"So, what do you think?" he asked

"It's very interesting. I didn't know about this movie before. Thank you, sir."

It was indeed interesting, as the article explained how the movie was taken as critic that was hard to swallow by important men supporting actively, meaning doing it, polygamy.

The movie is a critic as it shows a 'side' of the polygamy that has been swept under the carpet of religous right or, dear God, duty. Mark you, I have not yet watched the movie. But if the movie is really about the polygamy life seeing through the eyes of women who have had to agree on the practice due to the social, economic, or ideologial pressure, no wonder those polygamists were reacting like their house was on fire!

The later discussion with the professor reminded me of another discussion I had long time ago with my fellow high school friends. A discussion in which I claimed that a willingness to accept polygamy can be a no-choice type of willingness. When a housewife with three little children without source of income knows perfectly that she will have to raise her children by herself if she refused to have her husband re-marry again and then accepts the husband's decision, can we really say that she is willingly and unconditionally accept (rela in Indonesian) her husband decision?

Thus, I argue, one way for woman to shield herself from polygamy is to avoid dependent-on-man societal trap. To love and appreciate a man does not mean that a woman has to be dependent on him and cannot, literally, cannot live without him. Being able to stand on her own feet, a woman CAN refuse to receive the 'first wife' title instead of accepting it for the sake of the children's stomach and education. An independent woman can also escape from the persuasion of marry-him-to-help-your-family or marry-him-to-have-a-better-life despite of his already-married status.

In the article, Nia Dinata also implies that in Indonesia some women have to endure polygamy because it is better than getting a divorce.

It is perceived that a family with complete parents (no matter how many the mothers are) is better for the children than single parent. Who cares if one of the mother cries inside, the most important thing is that the children will be brought up well, suppossedly, and that none will have to gain the (perceived) worst title a woman can have: widow.

If the fear of being widow makes a woman accept another woman in the household, can we regard this acceptance as an unconditional acceptance?

It is about time a society open its eyes and see how its custom, norms, and structure have prisoned and condemned women. It is, thus, not surprising to have women, who have been wronged, to voice and lift the normality veil.

Speaking about widow, another woman from completely different society has raised her voice and challenged a Hindu old traditional practice that assigned widow to live in penitence and casted away from the society. Deepa Mehta and her movie, Water.

Water depicts an old reality in India that regarded woman, especially widow, as a burden. Widows were then punished for being widows and had to live the rest of their life contemplating for their sin.

The movie shows the harsh reality of old tradition and challenges the logic behind the long-life torture of widow. Living their wasted life in poor residence, without money, food, support, and means to support themselves, the widows' faith helps them to accept their destiny. They beg forgiveness for their sin in their non-stop pray, but yet sacrifice one among them to prostitute herself to feed the whole house.

The picture is colorful, the play is superb, the dialogue is simple yet deep and rich, and most of all the story is striking. It is about strong and painful faith, self-sacrifice, societal injustice, religious and class manipulation, and embedded women degradation.

To see women thrown away to live a living hell and still able to praise those who sacrificed them, made me shiver. The hypocracy of those who arbitrarily interpret religion and faith for their own advantage, a reality can still be found in daily life, filled me with anger. A bitter pray from Shakuntala for her dead friend, "Let her be re-born as a man," stroke me.

I was breathless when Shakuntala, the devout widow, asked her priest, "when one's heart contradicts one's faith, what should one do?" It was not answered.

A question that, I think, our world still cannot answer.


  • for me the battle to answer what do you do when your reason is in conflict with your heart? is still on going.

    *nyambung ngga sih*


    By Anonymous nananias, at October 03, 2006 2:21 AM  

  • "Should I go to that shameful discussion again about Islam and men's justification on polygamy?"

    Pit, maksud kata 'shameful' diatas tu apa? 'memalukan'? kalau ya, yang memalukan itu apanya?

    By Blogger anulucu, at November 11, 2006 5:09 PM  

  • Samsul, iya maksudnya memalukan. Yang memalukan, bagi saya seorang perempuan, adalah justifikasi agama untuk poligami yang sering digunakan oleh lelaki Islam yang mendukung dan menganut paham poligami.

    By Blogger Pipit, at November 11, 2006 5:28 PM  

  • Sejatinya, saya pribadi tidak anti poligami mengingat saya sendiri pernah berangan-angan punya tiga orang istri :p
    Tapi, saya pribadi juga prihatin dengan fenomena poligami yang saya temui baik secara langsung mau pun yang saya lihat di layar kaca. Mulai dari cerita para istri yang saling labrak hingga saling bunuh atau nelangsa seorang wanita tatkala suami yang didamba hangat pelukannya sedang ada jadwal 'piket' dengan istri yang lain.

    Mengenai justifikasi agama untuk poligami yang sering digunakan oleh lelaki Islam, menurut saya, masalah ini berakar dari orang-orang yang hanya mengutip sebagian kalimat dalam Al-Qur'an dan menutupi sebagian yang lain serta penafsiran yang dangkal dari suatu ayat Al-Qur'an demi kepentingan pribadinya. Hal ini tidaklah berbeda dengan persoalan gender dalam Islam yang kerap dipermasalahkan.

    Di wilayah-wilayah arab, poligami sudah membudaya jauh sebelum Islam berkembang. Dan Islam mengatur ---bukan menghapuskan, mengingat fenomena poligami bisa terjadi di manapun di muka bumi ini--- perihal poligami sedemikian rupa agar tidak sembarangan orang bisa melakukan poligami.

    Dari beberapa postinganmu, menyiratkan bahwa kamu memang hobi membaca, dan saya rasa kamu juga membaca Al-Qur'an, tapi bila kamu jarang membacanya maka bacalah lebih komprehensif, sebab akan membantumu lebih mengenal Islam dan kamu akan lebih percaya diri untuk berbincang apa saja mengenai Islam.

    By Blogger anulucu, at November 12, 2006 4:40 PM  

  • Oh iya, tambahan Pit.
    Saya tidak bermaksud mengajak kamu untuk menyetujui poligami, sama sekali tidak. Saya hanya mencoba mengajakmu memahami mengapa di dalam Al-Qur'an juga dicantumkan perihal poligami. Karena poligami adalah permasalahan manusia yang sejak jaman baheula sampe kelak anak cucu kita lahir akan tetap ada.

    Dan sah-sah saja buat kamu untuk sulit merasa bangga pada agamamu, mengingat bagaimana sepak terjang kaum muslim di Indonesia terkadang tidak sesuai dengan apa yang dituntunkan dalam Al-Qur'an dan Hadist. Tidak ada yang salah dengan Islam, tak perlu malu dengan Islam karena yang salah dan yang bikin malu adalah umatnya.

    By Blogger anulucu, at November 12, 2006 7:04 PM  

  • Poligami atas nama agama. Padahal jelas sekali poligami merendahkan derajat wanita. Membunuh juga atas nama agama. Kekerasan atas nama agama. Kenapa menjadi begini?

    Waktu jaman Majapahit, orang Jawa (Gajah Mada, dll) membuat nusantara makmur dan jaya. Orang jawa berkebudayaan tinggi, kreatif dan toleran.
    Setelah Islam masuk di Jawa, negara kita hancur korban dari penajahan
    Belanda, Jepang, dsb. Korban dari korupsi, kekerasan/teror, malapetaka. Dan korban dari imperialisme Arab (Indonesia adalah negara pemasok jemaah haji yang terbesar di dunia). Orang-orang Arab ini memang hebat sekali karena telah berhasil menemukan cara untuk memasukkan devisa. Imperialisme Arab ini memang sangat kejam. Turun-temurun sampai anak-cuku. Nusantara harus membayar "pajak" kepada Imperialisme Arab ini dengan alasan: menjalankan rukun Islam.
    Bagaimana caranya supaya orang Jawa kembali bisa memakmurkan negara kita yang tercinta ini?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 12, 2007 5:38 AM  

  • Pertanyaan: Apakah Islam agama teroris?
    Jawaban: Tidak ada agama yang mengajarkan umatnya untuk menjadi teroris.

    Tetapi, di dalam Al-Qur'an, ada banyak sekali ayat-ayat yang menggiring umat untuk melakukan hal-hal yang tidak manusiawi, seperti: kekerasan, anarki, poligami dengan 4 istri, anggapan selain muslim adalah orang kafir, dsb. Sikap-sikap tersebut tidak sesuai lagi dengan norma-norma kehidupan masyarakat modern.

    Al-Qur'an dulu diracik waktu jaman tribal, sehingga banyak ayat-ayat yang tidak bisa dimengerti lagi seperti seorang suami diperbolehkan mempunyai istri 4. Dimana mendapatkan angka 4? Kenapa tidak 10, 25 atau bahkan 1000? Dalam hal ini, wanita tidak lagi dianggap sebagai manusia, tapi sebagai benda terhitung dalam satuan, bijian, 2, 3, 4 atau berapa saja. Terus bagaimana sakit hatinya istri yang dimadu (yang selalu lebih tua dan kurang cantik)? Banyak lagi hal-hal yang nonsense seperti ini di Al-Qur'an. Karena semua yang di Al-Qur'an dianggap sebagai kebenaran mutlak (wahyu Tuhan), maka umat muslim hanya menurutinya saja tanpa menggunakan nalar.

    Banyak pengemuka muslim yang berusaha menafsirkan ayat-ayat Al-Qur'an supaya menjadi lebih manusiawi. Tapi usaha ini sia-sia saja karena ayat-ayat Al-Qur'an itu semuanya sudah explisit sekali. Sehingga tidak bisa ditawar lagi. Disamping itu, pemuka muslim atau siapa saja yang coba-coba memberi tafsiran yang lebih manusiawi tentang Al-Qur'an pasti mendapatkan ancaman terhadap keselamatan fisiknya.

    Jadi umat muslim terjebak.

    By Anonymous B. Ali, at August 24, 2007 3:35 PM  

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