Thursday, June 08, 2006

Indonesian history shows us that patriarchy can be contagious

I learned a lot of history from the women I met in Indonesia, and from the books they recommended. Before Indonesia was colonized, women were considered equal to men in the home in most social classes. Only in the noble families were women not allowed to work or study.

Lower and middle class women worked hard and held important roles. They had to work on the farm, especially planting rice, which is considered a woman’s role in many of Indonesia’s 300 cultural groups. They processed the food and sometimes they also sold it in the market. They made clothing and often handled domestic finances. All of these roles meant they had respect from their husbands, and they had equal input into decision-making. They were allowed to participate fully in politics. Sometimes noblewomen ruled territories.

After about 300 years of trade and sporadic settlement in Indonesia, the Dutch finally made their move and took over the country in the late 1800s. They took over the politics and ran the country. They converted old small-scale local agriculture systems into cash crop operations to feed Holland.

With this colonization, Dutch ideology, and the introduction of large-scale agriculture, things changed. Men were given jobs in business, selling crops to the Dutch and sometimes running plantations. At home the women were left to do twice as much work because their husbands no longer helped on the farm. Women had trouble getting jobs in the new economy. The Dutch believed they, like European women, belonged in the home. They were not allowed to attend school to learn the skills needed in the new economy. Ninety-eight percent of women were illiterate.

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
YIKES!! You know the ONE time I don't preview!

Sorry, I was doing two things at once here, and goofed. Can you get rid of the last part?
anon, more to come on this topic in a future post, so i'll wait to then to address your question.

i don't know how to delete your comment though - usually the author can delete his own comments but that may require a blogger account. sorry.
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