Dual lives: double standards in feminine Indonesia

May 19, 2017 | Amanda Maringka

The Issue at Hand

Nowadays we see many campaigns on our social networks that empower women to spread their wings. What we see today in the global media channel is a variety of campaigns that encourage women to be strong, and to not let their femininity to confine what they wish to pursue. This is an ongoing theme that has been ever present on global media channels. As inspiring as it can be becoming an ‘empowered’ women, it is another story for countries like Indonesia.

There is a double standard expected of women here. We are expected to fulfil our feminine roles while at the same time we are expected to broaden our horizons. The utopian idea of women’s empowerment is indeed very moving, but to actually live by it is not a walk in a park.

Reality is…

Today, Indonesian women are expected to be forward-thinking while maintaining a good career and income. At the same time, their family and society still expect them to anchor their progressiveness in traditional feminine roles. These expectations include getting married by their mid-twenties, having their first child before they hit 30, and dimming their presence and intellect so they don’t outshine the roles men play in the society.

I come from a modern family, and I’m so lucky to have been raised to pursue my passions. I have been told to follow my heart and not live under the dogma of others. I’ve had this mindset ever since I was a little girl, but I never thought how it made me different from most women in my own community until I reached my mid-twenties.

Many Indonesian women are insecure about themselves just because they are still single at the age of 23. Ideally they “have to” be married by the age of 25. In order to meet that deadline,  they will need to have a stable boyfriend in their early twenties to provide enough time to introduce their boyfriends to the family. It’s not that these women are not doing well in their lives, they actually are!

These are modern women who are excelling in their careers as women entrepreneurs, influencers, and corporate workers. Despite the passions, perseverance and fascinating talents that make them who they are today, their relationship status makes them feel that they are behind their peers. It makes them forget about their true passion and how hard they have worked to pursue it.

It’s also common to see parents who, although they equally love and care for their sons and daughters, advise their daughters to hit the brakes when it comes to pursuing their education (or even career) so they don’t intimidate men. Some parents would dedicate funds for their sons’ higher education or business venture while they instead dedicate funds so their daughters can look admirable or attractive for men as well as for their ‘big wedding’.

As I mentioned above, we have seen campaigns and movements that empower women today. However, we don’t have enough examples be it in the media that inspire us to cultivate our true identity and our true selves as a diverse women community. We have to admit that being rooted to our traditional role is a part of the Indonesian culture. Therefore, celebrating it is a beautiful thing, but beauty should not be defined by one thing only.

If we want to build women’s confidence, they need to be given the opportunity to define what they stand up for, their true identity. If we are able to achieve that, they will understand the right way to reach their goals in combination with truly embracing their traditional roles. This is a cultural clash where brands should take into account helping women involves proposing role models that will be traditionally accepted before becoming true inspirations for women in Indonesia.


As marketers and brands, we should take a moment to place ourselves in these women’s shoes. We should try to feel the dilemmas, pressures, and aspirations that stem from living in a double standard society. If we can do that, brands will not only help women in countries like Indonesia to stay true to themselves and find out what they can be in life. Brands will also become something meaningful and relevant for these women.

All in all, brands that want to stay relevant should focus on enabling everyone’s dreams – women included – to live and pursue their passions while treasuring the traditional roots and cultural values of Indonesia.

Normally brands leverage two strategies: conforming to the dominant culture, as it is, or challenging it, proposing disruptive models. In countries like Indonesia, we need a more sustained effort which takes the third road: that which harmoniously accompanies both cultural changes and norms. This can only be accomplished by deeply understanding the culture rather than exporting a model not ready to be received.

Beyond The Powergirl
Innate Motion has developed a tool called Beyond The Powergirl to help in the building of brand communication and to resonate with the women the brand serves. The tool is meant to improve and broaden our description and understanding of women, by acknowledging more ingredients of femininity and womanhood.

We believe that every brand should be meaningful. Therefore we want to help build brands learn the different and broader ways we have to address and describe women. Beyond the Powergirl uncovers the possibilities of femininity. It enhances the perspective where every successful or modern woman, no matter their life choices, can empower themselves. This concept uncovers the spectrum of true female identities that women should be proud of, and brands should propagate their future communications.



Posted By Amanda Maringka

Amanda sees the world through a variety of lenses; she loves people and believes in the idea that from each individual’s unique attribute we can, together, generate something great. She was born and raised in Indonesia, and living in a country full of possibilities is what opened up the world for her. Amanda graduated from Bentley University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Amanda joined Innate Motion in 2015, and so far enjoying the diversity of the community. Amanda enjoys the beach, playing the piano, and singing.

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