Reconfiguring Masculinity: Reel ‘New Man’ and Gender Politics in Indonesia

Evi Eliyanah

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Monday 18 September 2017


Basham Room, Baldessin Precinct Building


Evi Eliyanah, PhD Candidate


Evi Eliyanah

My thesis examines the struggle of Indonesian filmmakers in reconfiguring hegemonic masculinity through cinematic representations in a period marked by gender order crisis. During this period, 2000-2014, different interest groups mobilised resources in defence and in challenge to the hegemony of Bapakism–the most culturally exalted masculinity in Indonesia, defined in in men’s authority over women and other men of subordinate positions, heteronormativity and breadwinning–like never before. To do so, I scrutinise the filmmakers’ struggle to legitimise ‘New Man’ masculinity as a replacement of Bapakism, through their works in commercial cinema. New Man promotes men’s gentleness; willingness to give up breadwinning role; willingness to share in the domestic work and child rearing; emotional sensitivity and expressiveness; and egalitarian dealings with women.

Through the filmmakers’ endeavour to replace Bapakism with New Man, I demonstrate that the political struggle for hegemonic masculinity in Indonesia at this given time revolved around the crisis tendencies of the established structures of gender relations of labour, power and emotion. In the case of filmmakers, the struggle was through conflict over strategies of legitimation and through men’s different responses to gender equality. The gender order crisis led some men to mobilise resources in defense of Bapakism, yet it guided others to support the ascendancy of masculinity which was more supportive of gender equality, albeit of varying level of support. Furthermore, through the struggle to legitimise New Man as an alternative ideal through cinematic representations I reveal that the gender relations of labour have become more fluid and have accommodated men’s compromise of the breadwinning role for rational and/or ethical reasons. Yet, the relations of power and emotion are less fluid. Consequently, the tensions around these structures of gender relations were likely to limit the public politics in reconfiguring hegemonic masculinity in commercial cinema at this given time.

My thesis treats cinema as a crucial arena of public gender politics in reconfiguring the hegemonic masculinity. In doing so, it departs from the existing literature on gender politics in Indonesia, which is disproportionately focused on women, femininities, and marginalised groups of genders and sexualities. Furthermore, by exploring the political struggle around the production and distribution of ideal images of masculinities in cinema, my thesis also provides new insights into the struggle for hegemonic masculinity in non-conventional political arenas. I collected data from close reading of selected film texts, field research, personal interviews with filmmakers and activists, and interface ethnography. This data has enabled examination and explanation of the tensions behind the struggle for hegemonic masculinity in Indonesia, showing how commercial cinema is central to the current debates of gender politics.

Evi is a final year PhD candidate with Department of Gender Media and Cultural Studies, Australian National University. Her recent publications can be accessed from Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, and Social Sciences journal.

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