Dec 11, 2011

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination has been around since the beginning of human existence. However, it seems that women have seems that women have just become aware of the problem not so long ago. For may years, women didn’t play an important role in the material development of the world. The world was dominated by men.

As recently as the late 19th century, in the USA, women didn't play important public roles. Though some of them were educated, they could not break the authority of patriarchal culture. Then they revolted. They demanded their rights as citizens. One of the rights they asked for was the right to vote.

Since then, the women's movement has become more obvious. It's happening everywhere, including in Indonesia. We can say that the women's movement in Indonesia started in late 19th century, However, unlike in America, in Indonesia the movement happened sporadically. Most pioneers of this movement, such as RA Kartini, Dewi Sartika and Rohana Koeddoes, were more concerned about educating women than fighting for their political rights as citizens. This can be understood because at the time Indonesia was still occupied by the Dutch.

Now the condition for women is much better than it was in the 19th century. Women can vote and be elected for a particular position. Legally, they have the same rights as men. Does it mean that there's no gender discrimination anymore? I'm afraid to say that gender discrimination still happens.

Equality
Gender equality is something easy to talk about but difficult to apply. Perhaps its true to say that nowadays girls are given "more space" to develop themselves. However people's perspectives of gender equality vary from person to person. Some men are very open-minded with a new paradigm of women being equal to men, They have no problem with gender equality and don't feel threatened by it. So, they don’t mind competing with women to be the best in a particular field. Other men's attitudes are average moderate. These can accept equality, but they set adown limits, though sometimes the limits are still arguable. A very strict male attitude is not tolerating whatscever with equality. Supporters of this view think that each gender has its own duties and the duties are clear. They cannot be changed.

Being Leaders
Perhaps one of the things that cannot be changed for certain people is having a woman leader. It's true that we have Megawati Soekarno putri as our president. However, this doesn't mean that everybody agrees with her being president. During the last presidential election some voters in MPR clearly stated their objections to having a woman as president. Their objections varied, but mostly they opposed the idea because their principle was that a woman cannot be an effective leader. On a smaller scale such things still happen.
When a girl comes up to an election, sometimes people tend to wonder whether she could do the job well or not. Even if the candidate herself has clearly stated that she is capable, people still doubt her. The doubts usually are not based on competence but more on gender.
Ironically, the doubts are sometimes also stated by women. Some women would prefer to have a male leader rather than a female leader. The reasons? Varied, I guess. 

Women’s Roles
People's opinions on women's roles are diverse. In some cultures, women are valued by their capability to perform domestic chores, such as cooking, taking care of the house and caring for the children. They are not encouraged to work outside of home. And when they are not good at domestic chores (although good at some other things), people tend to look down on them.
What about working women? Nowadays, more and more women are joining the workforce. In big cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, people are getting used to this phenomenon. However, those women are expected to perform their double roles as career women and housewives. They might have a career outside the house, but they should not ignore their domestic chores.

Perhaps the most moderate school of thought is best illustrated by the following view on women. Women may have a career but at the same time they should not forget domestic duties. However, they may share the responsibility of doing the domestic chores with their spouses. But of course, this can only happen if there's an understanding between the two parties.

Perception
It seems that many girls prefer to be appreciated based en their physical appearance rather than their intellectual skills. This statement may sound: exaggerated, but if we take a look at the commercials in the media, we may see some truth in it. Another proof is the beauty contest. It is true that participants of a beauty contest should be intelligent and smart. But a smart-intelligent-but-not-so-pretty girl won't stand a chance in such competitions. This means that beauty comes first.

Girls' preference to be valued for their outer beauty might be the reason why we tend not to trust females to be leaders. Perhaps we think that when a girl prefers to be valued for her outer beauty, she will care more about her appearance and doesn't really care about other things. Is that true? I guess it would be stereotyping if we judge every girl that way. But like it or not, this is what some of us think.

In theory, women and men have the same rights and responsibilities according to law. In practice, however, the discrimination still occurs. Why does it still happen and how does it happen?

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