When the Earth is Female and the Nation is Mother: Gender, the Armed Forces and Nationalism in Indonesia


Sunindyo, Saraswati. 1998. “When the Earth Is Female and the Nation Is Mother: Gender, the Armed Forces and Nationalism in Indonesia.” Feminist Review 58 (1): 1-21.

Author: Saraswati Sunindyo


This article examines how, through militarism, masculine imaginings of Indonesian nationalism construct a 'national feminine.' Whether through popular song, national war heroines, or the institutionalization of feminine roles in the military, the positioning of the 'national feminine' is always contradictory. On the one hand, it is gendered and domesticated, while, on the other, it is employed as confirmation that Indonesia has already achieved gender equality. In most instances, once the national crisis is over, and before a new crisis emerges, both the rhetoric of equality and the representation of the nation used to mobilize women's participation in the popular armed struggle are once again adjusted to fit the heterosexual familial model. However, in the Indonesian military, discursive constructions of the 'national feminine' are not enough; the military must further define the 'national feminine' through institutionalized practices.

Keywords: women, gender, Indonesia, state, nationalism, military

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarism, Nationalism Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Indonesia

Year: 1998

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