Women and contemporary modern change

«Необязательно видеть весь путь.
Просто поверьте и сделайте первый шаг». Мартин Лютер Кинг

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The young women who were the focus of my research in 1999 and the first years of the next century were raised in a Java significantly different from that of their mothers (the generation of women described by Hull). Among other things, these young women have benefited from the educational policies of the New Order government, which succeeded in achieving near- universal primary education and in dramatically increasing women’s participation in secondary and tertiary education (Jones 1994; Oey-Gardiner 1991). These educational developments have been accompanied by a substantial movement of women into the civil service and professions. This new generation of women are also graduates of compulsory religious courses conducted in all Indonesian schools. Since 1967, two to three hours of religious education each week has been state-mandated in Indonesian schools (from grade school through college). For Muslim students, these courses have focused on teaching basic tenets of Islamic doctrine and practice while successfully undermining those aspects of Javanist tradition regarded as polytheistic (syrik) and thus incompatible with Islam (Hefner 1993; Liddle 1996). In the twenty-five years since Hull’s study, the Islamic resurgence has offered young Javanese women a powerful, if complex, alternative to both the neo-priyayi and earlier modernization models of gender. The phenomenon of veiling is indicative of this change. Rather than an icon of Islamic traditionalism or anti-modernization, veiling for most middle-class Muslims is a symbol of engagement in a modern, albeit deeply Islamic, world. Although its meanings are varied and contested, veiling for most Muslim women is an instrument for heightened public participation rather than for domestic insulation. Equally significant, Muslim women themselves often contrast this pattern of Muslim mobility to what they identify as traditional priyayi values, which they describe as confining, even “feudal”.

 

 

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