Social Media, Gender Equality, and Educative Education


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I have been stalking a Facebook profile of a teenage (clearly under-aged) girl, who posted a picture of her and her boyfriend in the bed. I am intentionally not putting the link and the picture here, since it’s not what I’m focusing on in this article.

The picture got her account visited by a lot of curious people. They commented on and shared it (when I was there, the picture had been shared 1497 times on Facebook). When I was reading through the comments, I found that all the comments were the negative ones. All comments were scorning, condemning, cursing, and even threatening, and almost all of them used religion or pity for her parents as justifications.

I noticed that the comments from females consist of the sympathetic ones and scolding ones, using words like “slut” and “cheap” and their synonyms [note: based on my observation, comments from females were ruder than comments from males], although in their profile pictures, these females seemed religious. Meanwhile, the comments from males were of threatening and condemning tone, from threats to find the young couple, threats to report them to their parents, and threats to report them to the police (for statutory rape). It is often some men would say, “We should take turns to (sexually) use this girl, since she’s already giving her body for free,” and similar comments, after previously giving some religious lectures in the beginning of their comments, although their profile pictures usually displayed a man carrying a child.

I was intrigued. If they thought that posting a picture of her and her boyfriend in a bed was a bad thing, then why would they want to “take turns to use her”? If they “took turns to use her”, wouldn’t that mean that they, too, do the bad thing? Regardless of whether we approve or disapprove her actions (or regardless whether the post was real or fake), it was very interesting to observe people’s reaction and response towards the picture. We condemned, we scorned, but we kept visiting her page, we left comments, we shared her picture. For what? Of course because we cared!

We absolutely cared about the young generation, that we took effort to search for all kinds of sensational articles and shared them so that everybody would know of them. We absolutely cared about these kids, that we scorned them on social media and reminded them of God, then shared their picture so that everybody would see, “Oh, so this was the girl who slept with her boyfriend,”. And of course we loved them so much, we wanted to lead them to the right path by calling her slut and “take turns to use her”. Therefore, everybody would know of them and what they had done so they would feel ashamed and repent. They deserved it.

No. If we truly cared, we wouldn’t gossip around or scorn or spread the picture to “raise awareness”. If we truly cared, we would contact the girl privately, because private things shouldn’t be put on the publicly-accessible Facebook page. Do not hide narcissism and nosiness behind care and altruism.

I was startled. It seemed like we tend to punish than to educate. We prefer to censor and block internet sites than to teach children how to access the internet safely. (A friend of mine joked, “In Indonesia, it is easy to find porn sites; we just have to look at the list of the sites blocked by the government and use VPN. We don’t have to find them ourselves.”) We tend to value someone based on the result instead of the effort/process. We’re glad if a student gets an A no matter how he/she managed to get the A, and we’re mad if a student gets bad grades even though he/she has been studying hard and didn’t cheat on the exam. We praise academic grades, university accreditation—we don’t give a crap about how, as long as the result is good on paper. So I was afraid when I thought about the “rehabilitation” methods the moralists wanted to design to “cure” the LGBTIQ.

This is why we are not ready for early sex education for the youngsters. We are more comfortable with frowning upon elementary students engaged in romantic relationship, we prefer to look down on couples who practice premarital sex, we choose to harass victims of sexual abuse. We are only good at judging others. If children are having romantic relationship, it means their parents are bad. If couples are practicing casual sex, it means they have bad morality. If a person experienced sexual harassment, it means he/she seduced the perpetrator first. Dichotomy and bigotry. Instead of providing early sex education or safe sex practice or how not to harass others, we blame those who we should’ve educated. In my opinion, we judge as a compensation for our incompetency to educate the young generation.

It is unfair to judge before educating, just like it is unfair to perform an exam before teaching. Hence, those who do not educate shouldn’t really judge.

We support virginity test, we criticize those who wear revealing clothes, we ban teenagers from having romantic relationship, we scorn couples who practice premarital sex, we make it taboo to talk about sex, we discriminate people with HIV and LGBTIQ people, we give negative stereotypes to victims of sexual violence, and so on. We hide behind the mask of morality and religion to justify our actions judging them, but if we are to be honest, what have we done to educate them regarding these things?

I disagree with virginity test. In my opinion, everyone has the right to choose his/her clothes and fashion style. I choose not to pry on anyone’s sexual matter. I urge to provide early sex education for children. I support universal human rights, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. I pity the over-censorship and the blockage of several internet sites. Unfortunately, in Indonesia, these automatically make me a non-virgin, a scanty dresser, a sex addict, a lesbian, and a porn enthusiast. Wow. Bigotry never dies.

[Next time someone use “nature” or “sex is merely for procreation, so it has to be between a male and a female” as a scientific argument to justify the anti-LGBTIQ movement, I’d tell the person, “So what’s the use for condoms (and the other contraception methods)?”]

I couldn’t help but think, does social media have a role in inducing our judgmental behavior? We hide behind computer screen and smartphone and can easily call someone a slut just by looking at her picture. The question is, would we still have the courage to mock and scold people who we don’t know (or people who we do know) in real life? Social media is a communication method which enables us to interact with a bunch of people without having to actually meet them. This condition makes us feel safe and free to express our feeling and thoughts and opinions, because we see the internet as something that “isn’t really real”. Therefore, on social media, we tend to be ruder, meaner than what we let people see in real life. This is why I am very interested in observing one’s behavior through his/her social media posts, because on the internet, one tends to remove his/her “social mask” and I am able to study his/her real character and personality better. Realizing this, I also use social media to control my own behavior—so far I avoid using fake identity so that I do not do bad things on the internet. I train myself to have some integrity and responsibility.

.

Indonesia is a patriarchal country, resulting in women being victims of social bullying more than men. In this case, out of all the comments people put on the picture, there was no—I repeat, there was not even one—negative comment directed at the boyfriend. All of the comments were directed at the girl, but perhaps this was because the Facebook account was the girl’s.

The patriarchal culture in Indonesia tends to be misogynistic, and it places women inferior to men, using religion or other made-up justifications. The society demands women to be the only party with the obligation to “guard themselves”, using the argument that women are the finer, more fragile creatures of God, thus women should be “protected”—and it is such an irony because as the result, a woman is given the responsibility for her own actions AND the responsibility for any actions towards her, hence women will always be the one to blame if anything happens, both by men and by her fellow women.

There is an interesting statement about gender equality:

A man can be very much a feminist and a woman can be very much patriarchal.
—Aquarini Priyatna Prabasmoro.

The statement opened my eyes that feminism isn’t necessarily identical with females, and patriarchy isn’t necessarily identical with males. We cannot deny that there are still lots of females take pleasure in judging and condemning their fellow women. There are lots of females who still think that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I, too, used to think that a woman’s dignity and pride were on her virginity. There were times when I viewed women who already had premarital sex as “damaged goods” (it was about ten years ago), and I’m not proud of it.

It is good that now I have a lot of open-minded friends, many of them are more feminist than I am—and they’re all males! It is sad that a lot of my female friends are even more misogynistic than my male friends. It is sad to see how patriarchy has succeeded in making women think that misogyny ensures their safety and security, and are grateful to be the more inferior gender.

We should not educate using only reward and punishment, moreover if we use heaven and hell as the reward and punishment. That’s lazy. That’s ignorant. Time goes on, and change is certain, as Charles Sidney Burwell, a former Dean of Harvard Medical School, once said, “Half of what we are going to teach you is wrong, and half of it is right. Our problem is that we don’t know which half is which.” If we only teach our children “what” instead of “why” and “how”, then the knowledge will be limited to “what” we had taught them, and they won’t be able to keep up with the change, because they were never taught “how” to find the knowledge on their own.

Margaret Mead once said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Thus I think it is time to focus on providing early sex education for children, because another friend of mine said, “Everyone reaches puberty at different age.” Everyone, on his/her time, is going to know about sex and how to do sex—they’re going to know it either we taught them or not. What we need to do are stop labeling sex as taboo or immoral, and teach the youngsters about why, when, and with whom one should engage in sex, safe sex practice to avoid STDs, and educate them about sexual orientation and preferences. Another important thing is to have a proper scientific sexual knowledge so that your kids know that they can ask you anything and you can provide answers with scientific evidences.

Being a parent isn’t only about reproducing and procreating; it is a responsibility to teach and educate the children so that they have the knowledge and skills to live independently. A parent’s responsibility towards his/her child is more than a child’s responsibility towards his/her parent, because no child has ever asked to be born, and no child is able to choose his/her parent(s).

It is time to open our mind and stop pretending that sex is immoral but secretly enjoys dirty jokes or sees “taking turns f*cking someone” as an effort to improve one’s morality. We, the hypocrite, horny misogynists who claimed to be religious and high in morality.

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Some articles that have opened my mind:
The Black and White Perception of Sexual Violence in Indonesia
I’m Not Tainted: Losing Virginity
The Virginity Issue and Indonesia’s Sexual Contradiction
No Excuse for Abuse: Body Autonomy and Power Relations in Rape Prevention

Teach Your Kids Not To Rape, Not How To Dress
Confused Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault? Ask Ke$ha.
Cinderella 2.0 and ‘The Clooney Effect’
Higher Education Or Husbands? A Tough Choice for Indonesian Women


PS. As I finished writing this, I went and checked the girl’s Facebook profile and found that she has deleted all her posts due to the bullying from the netizens. People can be so mean most of the time, especially if they think they’re better than you.

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