April 16, 2012

Gender Equality, My Daughter and I

I was sitting in that silent room, beside a hospital bed where my daughter laid down suffering from typhoid fever. Holding her hand, once in a while I looked at the infusion device to make sure that it worked properly in delivering medicine into the little body of this angel of mine. My mind was drifting away. I was imagining the sound of her laughter, her baby-like voice when babbling about her days at school, her little performance when she showed me her favourite dance. 

The silence was abruptly interrupted by the ring tone from my mobile phone. It was my boss, asking me about some work matters. That’s the evil of technology. Even when I took some days off from the office to take care of my daughter, I just couldn’t run away from online connection. So I had to take my mind off my daughter for a while and immerse myself into the conversation about work. 

Ah, the predicament of being a working mom. There were too many occasions I felt like torn in between the two, when I had to weigh the importance of family and work matters. But in occasions like that, when my daughter was lying on hospital bed, her priority won by far. There was no place I wanted to be than beside her, even if that cost me my job performance. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer of gender equality, I believe that men and women have equal capability and should have equal right in important fields like education and employment. But what I firmly believe is also that men and women are psychologically different. When a woman has a child, for example, chances are she will have a stronger emotional attachment to her child than her husband will. A woman has mothering and nurturing intuition. It’s just psychological thing. It’s natural. 

However, I find that it is so unfair when these differences become the reason for companies to give less reward to female employees, even considering them as sub-employees and being discriminated against. In giving employee benefits, for example, companies commonly have regulation to give less benefits to woman by deducting the family benefits, simply because they are not considered to be the breadwinner in the family. That’s ridiculous. While women are required to contribute equal works for the company, they are not granted equal payment. It doesn’t matter if the woman is the head of the household or not. It’s about giving each and any employee equal right when they have equal obligation. 

Another case is the healthcare for employees. Commonly male employees are automatically granted a healthcare coverage for his family members. Female employees, on the other hand, usually have to provide a formal letter from local authority stating that the husband is unemployed or has no income, or letter from the husband’s workplace stating that the husband doesn’t have healthcare coverage for the children from the company. Some companies even have regulation to treat all female employees as single, even if they are married with children, so there is no chance at all for these female employees to have their children covered by healthcare scheme in the company. Silly. It doesn’t matter if the husband is unemployed or has a job, dirt poor or filthy rich. It’s about giving equal reward to all employees for equal work, regardless the gender. 

Seriously, if some people still consider all families in Indonesia are in “ideal” condition that consist of: one working husband, one stay at home (or less seriously a.k.a just for fun working) wife, and children, I beg them to come back to the stone age where there was a clear division between the job of men (hunting) and women (taking care of children, gathering seeds and berries). Oh, wait... even this theory about a distinctive job division based on gender in stone age has been rebutted. 

As I am writing this piece, my daughter has recovered and returned home. The sparkles in her eyes and adorable smiles have been put back on their places. Be strong, sweetheart. I’ll never be tired telling you that men and women are indeed different, but having their own competency and priority. The tasks might be different but of equivalent value. Both genders contribute equally, therefore deserve fair rewards accordingly. There are still a lot of injustice and discrimination in this world we have to fight against. I am hoping that when you’re grown up, my dear, there will be less discrimination of any kind, be it based on gender, race, religion, economic status, or whatever. 


  1. It's sad, but true; about one and a half century after the first feminist wave riddled the surface of male domination still real gender equality is far away. In the workplace and elsewhere.

    So I have to second your opinion. Those in charge should come to the 21st century at long last. And perhaps it's about time for a new, fourth, political movement for and by women to bring that about. "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf" - and feminism??

    One note though.

    While I enthusiastically repeat after the French saying "Vive la petite difference" (Long live the little difference) :), I, being a man and ( grand-)father, don't want to believe that women and men differ that much psychologically that we also differ when it comes to emotional ties with our offspring.

  2. There is still a wide gap between theory and reality when it comes to gender equality in Indonesia. To mention a few, violence toward female employees (mostly domestic workers), lower wages for women, lower benefits for women by hiring them as daily workers, the negligence of child support payment for single mothers, domestic abuse, are some cases that never show any significant improvement. It seems that feminists in Indonesia still have a lot of more substantial things to do than fighting for the right to wear mini skirt. And still far, far away to be scared of :)

    As for the emotional ties with the offspring, I am afraid a lot of men (incl my husband) will agree with you. Again, it's just what the society told us.