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Taufik Ismail’s Anger against ¼ and ½ Indonesian Women Literary Works

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, July 13, 2008

by Dewi Candraningrum. The writer is a lecturer of the University of Muhammadiyah, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia. She is recipient of DAAD Stipendium, now taking post doctoral program (phd) in Universitat Munster, Germany.

January 9, 2007, senior poet and artist, Taufik Ismail (TI) deliver his culture oration in IPB, entitled Gerakan Syahwat Merdeka (The Free Sexual-Arousal Movement). Syahwat derived from an Arabic term which could be equated with English words "arousal". His words are decorated with ultra morality under the name of absolute fear against the global conspiracy. He spoke against a bunch of conspirators who propagated this lusty sexual arousal which were categorized into 13 lusty faces.

As if these 13 movements have been inspired by a satanic call to destroy the morality of the Indonesian. The most interesting face is number five, (5) “writers, publishers, sexual propagandist which are merely ¼ and ½ to be categorized as literary works. Those of Indonesian women’s writers who are only interested in talking about sexual arousal. They have no shame at all. It is a literary mazhab of s.m.s (sastra mazhab selangkang).” It is clearly a glance of anger. I was tempted to imagine who those women writers are, those who write not in his mores and those who write under the correct morality. What is correct and incorrect in morality? What kind of ideological cloak that decorated the absolute ideal morality he embraced? What kinds of cosmological construct that defines “what art is” Taufik is now believing?

I then retoured my rereading on the work of Helvy Tiana Rosa and Ayu Utami, two Indonesian women writers who have a different gender construction in relation with morality.

Hamka once wrote and shed his capture of peaceful mores under the abode of Kabah (Di Bawah Lindoengan Ka’bah). He propagated these way of life in his well-known Padang published Pedoman Masjarakat in the thirties. The quest for Islamic identity which was inertly searched by former Islamic writers was then transformed by Hamka into outwardly search.

This outward search is now also shared by women writers in Forum Lingkar Pena. The propagation shed its light on the mass Islamic pops magazine like Annida and Sabili whom one of its prominent Islamic women writers, Helvy Tiana Rosa (HTR), becomes the main actor. HTR is in firm search of Islamic identity. Her Cut Dini, Lizetta, and Hanan are shouldered with the roles of star of wars to defend and protect other Muslimah. If Hamka spoke against the Dutch, Helvy read against the global war on terror which have apparently cornered the Muslim. These works of literature are being read as well as being interpreted thousands of times. The Islamic identities that they uniquely represented through its characters have its legacy in every person who read it. The Islamic mores is usurped in the beauty of its brave major women characters. The untouchable beauty of her Muslim women is inaugurated to serve the Islamic morality a women of Islam are willing to participate. Helvy’s aesthetical works deserve a place in the rainbow of contemporary Indonesian women writers.

Writers can never live without critics. Critics affirm the legacy writers deserve to achieve. These very rights shall be guaranteed and protected by “the civilization of ratio” that we affirm.

The way Ayu Utami pick a woman character to speak against the patriarchal feudal construction of women’s bodies, represent her ability in giving back women women’s own voices. Voices that enable them to apprehend the meaning of sexuality in women’s own social cultural construct. She has returned the right the women have. She has interrogated the level of horizon which is casted upon the soul of the languages. Her words were often attacked that they sparkled with the glance of lust, which is immoral. The deep structure that was roamed by her words represents a different cosmological gender construction. The sound of existentialism, of the being, is obstructed to speak against the taboos feudal Indonesian. Ayu very mores shed further challenge to the so-called rigid-textual-scriptural interpretation. Like Helvy, Ayu’s aesthetical facts deserve a place in the rainbow of contemporary Indonesian women’s writers.

From the surface hermeneutical inquiry, it seems that Ayu’s and Helvy’s construction of women’s bodies are in conflict. It is indeed, but not necessarily paradoxical. The civilizations of “here and now” and “there and after” remain enriching the color of Indonesian women’s writers. They are the precious wealth, Indonesian have. Clerics may laud that the world of “there and after” is better and holier than the world of “lusty here and now”. A senior poet will surely assure and appreciate both of the works as equally valid. A senior poet will not easily angry just to stamp that the literary works of “here and now” is lusty, is immoral, is solely ¼ and ½ to be regarded as “literary”.

Taufik’s anger to one of both genres is an anger of an old man. An old man who is longing for the world of “holy-sacred there and after”. His anger could be interpreted as his own shock of his inability to see that “morality” shall become the responsibility of not only women but men as well. His morality is deeply ingrained in his interpretation that “women’s bodies as source of temptation”, that spectators of those temptations are freed from any responsibility of the so-called ultra-morality. Is this fair? Shall morality be shouldered merely to women’s bodies? How about the spectators who apparently shows their greedy patriarchal mores in the name of religion?

The different gender constructions that are perceived by Helvy and Ayu need not necessarily to be paradoxical. The different positions they outcast could be paradoxical that certainly enhance the source of creativity. They are the deposit of millions of interpretations which lubricated the hermeneutical cycle of work of arts. The beauty their words represented is the rainbow of contemporary Indonesian writers. Ayu together with other Indonesian writers establish a remarkable group of women who created a great deal of the fabric of modern Indonesian women writers, to retell the story of women from different social cultural background, to mediate the voices of women, to negotiate the resistances into the aesthetical transformation, which are indeed women’s own stories, which are belong to women, only.


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