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Feminism and Islam



Female Activists

Sri Marpinjun

By Sri Marpinjun (Women’s Activist in Yogyakarta)

Feminism is often considered to contradict with Islam because it is thought that women will take dominance over men. Various arguments about the harms of feminism are becoming more intense. Starting from the Western feminism movement, that it is not appropriate with Islam, that feminism is against the law of God, that sexual harassment occurs because women are dressed modestly, up to the view that someone Muslim will become invalid as a Muslim if they support feminism.

There are numerous videos studying Islam uploaded to youtube that have views that contradict with the principles of feminism. Whereas really, feminism and Islam have the same mission. The struggle of the Messenger of Allah when preaching was oriented to fight for and defend a weak group.

In the writer’s view, the principles of feminism are as follows: First, to respect the rights of women as equal with men before Allah, as well as the laws of the world. Second, treat women with worth and without discrimination. Third, giving women the chance to participate in the development of science and technology and the usage of it in real life.

Are there people that do not agree with the three principles above? Most people agree on this matter. Then feminism is one thing that is inside many people because of each person’s aspiration for justice. In the teachings of Islam, the (3) principles above also are taught, both in the Holy Book Al-Quran and in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

If there are feminists who are not in accordance with our wishes, then don’t disparage them. Islam also teaches to not be prejudiced against others. As such we shouldn’t be prejudiced against prostitutes. Who knows if they will enter heaven before us. We always think correctly so we never introspect.

Feminism is not a religion but a movement that demands emancipation or similar and just rights between women and men. Don’t be worried and concerned that feminism might replace religion because it will not become that. Feminism is the perspective that reminds us to be more fair relating to gender and sex.

Keep in mind, technological progress in various fields of life exists because of the role of women that sacrificed themselves to look different from many women.



Are American and Indonesian Women Really So Different?



by Jacqueline Lydon – Volunteer internship Program Mitra Wacana

After growing up in the U.S., now living in Indonesia for about five months and interning at Mitra Wacana for three, I’ve been surprised at the similarities between conditions for women in the two countries.

On the surface level, women in the U.S. and Indonesia may seem like polar opposites. 

When comparing the two, people tend to focus on the behaviors and appearances of women. Women are judged for how they dress, how they act, and how independent they are, for example. 

Americans might judge Indonesian women for dressing conservatively, staying in the domestic sphere, and being seemingly submissive to their husbands. Meanwhile, Indonesians might judge American women for not covering their bodies, being too sexual, not focusing on domestic roles, or being too loud and demanding.

What I’ve noticed since being here is first, that these differences are less noticeable than I had thought, and second, that they seem to stem from differences in cultures and societal norms. There are different ways of understanding gender and gender roles, yet women in both America and Indonesia want safety, respect, and to have a voice.

There are many similarities between women’s behaviors and struggles in the two countries.

  • 51.9% of Indonesian women are in the workforce, compared to 57.1% of U.S. women
  • 17.4% of the Indonesian parliament is female, compared to 23.9% of the U.S. legislature
  • The first Indonesian woman was elected president in 2001, while a woman has never yet been president in the U.S.
  • The first female supreme court justice in Indonesia, Sri Widoyati Wiratmo Soekito, was inaugurated in 1968, while the first woman to join the U.S. supreme court was Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, about 15 years later.

There are many issues – from sexual harassment to rape – that have a widespread impact on women in both countries, but it’s hard to have accurate statistics because many women do not or can not report these incidents.  But based on what is reported, it’s clear that these are major issues in both countries. 

  • 3 out of 5 Indonesian woman and 81% of American women have experienced sexual harassment
  • 15% of Indonesian women and more than 1 in 3 American women report being a victim of sexual violence 
  • 16% of Indonesan women and about 25% of women in the U.S. have reported being a victim of intimate partner violence (physical, sexual, or psychological violence from a partner or spouse)

With two countries in which women’s attitudes and behaviors seem so different, it’s surprising how similar women’s successes and struggles are. 

 Just last year, a poll in the U.S. found that only 29% of American women identify as feminists. (Feminist: someone who believes men and women should have equal rights.) In both countries, there are both feminist movements and anti-feminist movements (In the U.S., “meninism”; in Indonesia, “Indonesia tanpa feminisme”). In both, women’s voices are suppressed; women who advocate for themselves are often seen as too demanding, and their problems are ignored.

Why is there so much judgement for women’s choices in both countries?

Part of this is based on stereotypes, which are continually built up about women who act differently. Women in each country are taught that their culture’s roles, behaviors, and values are the better choice, and if only they stick to that, they will avoid the problems faced by women in different cultures. For example, women in the U.S. are taught that being more assertive will help them achieve more political representation, and women in Indonesia are taught that behaving modestly will help them avoid sexual violence or harassment. Yet the similarities in statistics prove that it is not the behaviors of women that cause these problems, and neither culture’s prescriptions for women will solve the issues.

Of course, there is not one simple answer for these systemic issues.  But, the main culprit of sexism around the globe is the patriarchy – the system that has been constructed to empower men and subjugate women. It is this system that has created this notion of victim blaming – to judge and blame women for their own oppression instead of the overarching system.  

Instead of looking at the choices of women or judging them, we should look at the system of patriarchy that is prevalent in both countries. 

I think we need to stop focusing on the behavior of women and instead focus on the way that society judges and oppresses all women, and then build solidarity to break down those systems. The ideal of how a woman should be and should act may be different in both cultures, but it is universal that women should be free from violence and treated with dignity and respect.

Editor: Arif Sugeng W



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