Women and Men in the Media: Both Are Susceptible to Sexism

Several weeks ago, I came across a headline from Indonesia’s leading English language newspaper that I had the wonderful opportunity of interning in as a Features reporter. That opinion piece talks of a recently registered candidate for DKI Jakarta’s gubernatorial election coming up in February 2017, Agus Yudhoyono. The son of our former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and a retired army major.

Okay, I am not a native Jakartan, at least on my ID anyway. Yes, I technically don’t acquire the legalities to vote, and why should I care? But that’s missing the point. Despite of it being an opinion piece, I once again am baffled by a careless subjugation of women in the media which agitates me to think that said newspaper could have run that headline by the editors one more time. Just one more time.

Take this, “Can Agus bring women voters to their knees?” Not criticizing the man nor his capabilities, but why do some people think it’s okay to drag women into some kind of ridiculous justification to vote for him and questioning our rationality? Now as I went through the comments, others mentioned that “it is simple realism” of Indonesians, as seekers of sensation. That at the knowledge of traits such as “handsome, tall, good-looking”, followed an extensive education portfolio and a military position he’s left behind to pursue a career in politics brings intrigue and a surge of votes. “This marketing gimmick may be effective at luring female voters instinctively enamored to such ideal male features…” However, if we want to discuss women’s physical preferences of men, then we should perhaps save this angle for some dating website.

I could see the point that commenters were making but I pity the writer’s interpretation or angle of his piece. I still can’t understand the generalization of the headline; that women are somehow incapable in terms of distinguishing looks to actual or concrete reasons of voting for him. On the other side, fine, countless of research states that people do rely on looks and good manners in regards to making choices. So, will those two factors make a significant difference? I think alternate headlines for the piece could be based on that idea.

This goes to show that women are still misinterpreted in the media. The perception that women are labeled as “emotional” or far less rational than men drags us down even further. Plus, what does that say for Agus himself because then the writer isn’t making things better for him. Highlights on his dreaminess might not be to Agus’ favor, as I’m sure he also desires of being taken seriously regardless of his questioned political credentials for the governor position. I think we need to remind ourselves that gender equality also includes freeing men and women from any type of discrimination. And with that headline alone, that aspect of equality is thrown out the window. By expecting us falling down on our knees at the sight of Agus for votes is literally placing a woman’s integrity below a man’s, whereas a movie-star depiction of Agus does nothing for his integrity and those of men all over Indonesia. Will good looks be the sole guarantee of your success in lifeĀ andĀ love?