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Jakarta Post

Between women, the dictionary and society

  • Wulandari Pratiwi


Jakarta   /   Sat, March 6 2021   /  01:10 am
Call to action: Globally, pervasive gender inequality, patriarchy and discrimination undermine progress in the HIV response, with young women and adolescent girls facing a heightened vulnerability to HIV infection.(Courtesy of Shutterstock/StunningArt)

Posts on social media about the word perempuan (woman) drove me mad last month. The subentries of this word in the Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language (KBBI) include perempuan geladak (prostitute), perempuan jalang (bitch), perempuan nakal (bad girl) and perempuan simpanan (mistress), which are all derogatory and may stigmatize women Many protesters have accused the dictionary’s drafting team of being blatantly misogynists. They assume the team has the authority to choose only positive phrases to be listed in the subentries. The Language Development and Fostering Agency, the composer and publisher of the dictionary, was held responsible. I almost joined the chorus of criticism, until I related it to my own experience in conducting linguistics research. As a researcher who gathers data from what is produced by speakers of a language in society, I have to make sure...