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Fate, Desire, and Shame: Janda in Indonesian Pop Culture

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posted on 2024-04-16, 04:25 authored by Monika WinarnitaMonika Winarnita, Petra Mahy, Nicholas HerrimanNicholas Herriman

Research on images of femininityin Indonesia has largely focused on either the image of femininity produced by the state or, relatively, high-brow cultural forms of femininity. However, popular culture produces images of females that often stand in contrast to such symbolism. This article contends that the janda, the divorcee or widow, one of the foremost images of femininity in popular music, drama, and literature, has been, for the most part, overlooked. Seen as sexually available and lascivious, the janda represents the “fallen woman”; an object of both fascination and pity. This article analyses the janda image as one of the foremost symbols in Indonesian popular culture. It is argued that the janda image must be analysed in relation to maiden and mother images. Furthermore, culturally specific ideas of desire, fate, and shame contextualise the janda image. As will become apparent, Indonesian popular culture is patriarchal, and a heterosexual male perspective frames much of the symbolism. This means that actual women live with the very real stigma of being a divorcee or a widowin Indonesia. In this study, we focus on the janda image and include discussion of how its representation has evolved to include a cosmopolitan ideal.


Publication Date


Book Title

Gender, Islam and Sexuality in Contemporary Indonesia


Arnez M Budianta M


Springer Nature

Place of publication



Engaging Indonesia


125 - 143



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© 2024 The Author(s) This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

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