March 17, 2010
by Putri Fitria
Lately, I find women who call themselves feminists are a little bit over sensitive and easily provoked. They express harsh protest toward a statement that they think attacks women without regard to the context. It’s no different from the blind fanaticism of a religious zealot, defending their faith while committing terrible acts in the name of God.
I’ve come to this conclusion by following the twitter status of prominent Indonesian media personality Mario Teguh. He’s drawn much criticism for posting comments about women on Twitter, resulting in the closure of his account. At first, it seems like trivial news, a storm in a teacup, “Another twitter entry has become a social matter,” I said to myself. Are there journalists out there whose sole job description is to keep an eye on social networking sites? There are much more newsworthy matters to report on in our world. However, I think this matter deserves discussion because of the many misunderstandings and prejudice surrounding this man.
Mario Teguh is a motivator and therapist, aside from having his own program on Metro Television, he hosts an online consultation forum, dispensing sagely advice on business, career, family and many other important facets of our lives. He ignited controversy by “tweeting” on his Twitter account, “Women who like going to parties, clubbing, staying up all night, snobby chit chatting, smoking and sometimes getting drunk are not a good choice for marriage”. It was like a red rag to a bull. His female Twitter readers were indignant, immediately accusing Mario of gender bias. I even read an article interviewing Rahma Azhari in which she called him a racist. Hilarious. I had no idea women were from another race.
Well, I’m a woman, and I agree with Mario on this one. He’s giving the same advice that any parent would give to their sons regarding the choice of a partner for life. He’s not being sexist because his statement did not generalize all women. He didn’t say that ALL women like to go clubbing, smoke and get drunk. He only points to a small portion of women who like to act this way. We should first understand the definition of gender bias. “Gender bias is the prejudice in action or treatment against a person on the basis of their sex, for example, the inequality between men and women’s salaries.” Mario Teguh clearly doesn’t judge all women as drinkers, smokers, and clubbers just because they are female, only the ones who choose to do so. There was no gender bias whatsoever in his statement.
Can anybody accuse Mario of being sexist based on his opinion of the types of women that are ideal brides? How hypocritical. I am certain that everybody has their own opinion on what type of person is an ideal future partner. There’s little possibility that a man and woman who are respectively for and against Mario Teguh could possibly be interested in one another. Regardless, Mario’s job is to give common sense advice and he’s unlikely to trumpet the virtues of drinking, smoking or nightclubbing.
Another hilarious argument comes from a gender study researcher in LIPI, Jaleswari Pramodhawardani. This researcher said that Mario’s statement was based on a patriarchal construction; that what is good bad is defined by men. As a man Mario Teguh is entitled to write about women in the same way as women may write about men. In his Twitter post, the sexes could easily be reversed. Parental advice to a girl would no doubt include avoiding suitors who smoke, drink, and stay up late in bars and clubs. These are the normal opinions of the moral majority. The perception of gender bias comes from Mario’s exclusion in his post of men who exhibit the same behaviour as the women he refers to.
I believe that much of the criticism levelled at Mario is a convenient excuse for people to deny responsibility for their bad behaviour and unhealthy habits. When someone points out an uncomfortable or inconvenient truth, it’s too easy to deflect criticism with counter accusations of sexism or racism. However, maybe what sounds sexist from Mario’s opinion is that he seems to support the traditional notion of “good, obedient women”. It’s a conservative viewpoint that’s espoused and certainly agreed on by most of our society but it’s clear Mario Teguh will not be winning any feminist awards in the near future.
*this is my writing before edited by Jakarta Globe. if you want to see the published version, this is the link: