The feminist movement that focuses on the advancement of women in various fields has long been found in Indonesian literary works. Although not all book authors have the courage to openly claim to be feminists, their works have presented many issues and challenges faced by Indonesian women.
Indonesian women’s struggle for progress has been found in literary works as early as the 1800s.
Professor Aquarini Priyatna, Dean of the Faculty of Cultural Sciences, Padjadjaran University, Bandung, said that Raden Ayu Laksminingrat’s work is an example of an Indonesian female writer who seeks to educate the public through her writings.
“It was Raden Ayu Laksminingrat who had translated writings from Dutch children’s stories or Dutch writings into Sundanese, which he thought was a way to educate the Sundanese people around him because he was the son of the regent and later he became the wife of the regent. So it’s been around for a long time,” said Aquarini.
The existence of the feminism movement in literature is also recognized by Indonesian writer Leila Chudori, whose novel “Laut BerBerisah” won the SEA Write Award in 2020. However, she said, male writers dominated the presentation of women in the early days of Indonesian literature.
“If you look at literary works, unfortunately in the beginning, maybe until now Indonesian literature, in terms of the quantity of writers, there are more men, so writing about female characters who question equality is usually still voiced, written, from the thoughts of men,” explained Leila .
Leila Chudori gave an example of Sutan Takdir Alisyahbana’s work which created two types of women, Tuti and Maria in “Layar Terkembang.” Each character depicts a weak and independent figure.
In the modern era, especially in the 1990s, Indonesian female writers began to appear, although there were not as many as male writers.
Leila Chudori emphasized the issue and the depiction of women in literary works is still a lot of victims. He cited Titi Said’s work, “Fatima,” which was filmed by Syumanjaya. The novel highlights women as victims of the Japanese army’s cruelty.
According to Aquarini Priyatna, feminist issues raised in Indonesian literature are very diverse, depending on the scope in which they are located. Some people consider the issues brought up by women writers to be unimportant because they originate from household problems, but there are also women writers who base their work on research.
“Feminist Scholar it can capture traces of theory, in Intan Paramaditha’s writing and I think it’s interesting, because in Intan’s work there is a combination of scholar and fiction writer (fiction writer), things like that also exist in the works of Ayu Utami and Mba Leila because journalists and there are research skills which later became an important part of his creative process. So, when asked about issues, they are never specific, always evolving,” he explained.
Although the issue of feminism raised by female writers is widespread, Aquarini Priyatna and Leila Chudori admit that female writers still face many gender challenges. This can be found in works that describe sexuality.
“The treatment of readers, as well as some readers and some academics or the literary world itself towards women’s works that talk about the body, and freeing their bodies, body experiments always get a much more interesting spotlight, and uses disparaging terms,” said Leila Chudori.
Perspectives on sexual violence and sexual treatment have also been highlighted by feminist researchers in Indonesian literary works. Aquarini Priyatna recalls the traces of violence against women in a number of literary works made by well-known male authors, which are widely accepted. He is also worried about naturalization or acceptance of violence through works that are considered romantic. [my/ka]