Breaking from Patriarchal Ideals
Behind the Veil

We interviewed Andina Dwifatma, a Ph.D. candidate and author, and Editor Professor Ang Peng Hwa, to get their insights on the perceptions and nuances of Islam specifically on the women in Indonesia.

Andina published her article, ‘Cadar Garis Lucu’ and the mediated political subjectivity of Muslim women in Indonesia in February 2024. Her work spotlights on Cadar Gadis Lucu (CGL) – a feminist niqabi community and focuses on reframing the perceptions of Muslim women in Indonesia.

We chat with Andina to discover the inspiration behind her research. We also speak with the Editor of Asian Journal of Communication, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, to learn more about his thoughts on Andina’s article, the process behind deciding what articles are featured in the journal and what a day in the life of an editor is like.

Andina published her article Open Acess (OA) making it free to read for all. She was able to do this through the CAUL agreement, between Taylor & Francis and Australia & New Zealand institutions, which you can read more about here.

Andina Dwifatma

    Can you introduce yourself, give us a brief description about who you are, and where you are based in the world. 

    My name is Andina Dwifatma, and I am a Ph.D. candidate at School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Monash University. I am also a scholar at the Herb Feith Centre, Australia, and a research fellow at the Atma Jaya Institute of Public Policy (AJIPP), Indonesia.

    My research interests include gender, media studies, and digital Islam. I have written essays on media, democracy, and urban social commentary for The Jakarta Post, Tirto, The Conversation, and Kumparan Plus, among other Indonesian publications. In addition to academics, I enjoy creative writing. My most recent novel, Lebih Senyap dari Bisikan (“Quieter than a Whisper”), was chosen as a “Buku Sastra Pilihan Tempo 2021 Kategori Prosa” and translated into English for Asymptote Journal publication. I am currently a lecturer at the School of Communication, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Indonesia.  

    Can you share the story that led you to write an article about Cadar Gadis Lucu (CGL) – a feminist niqabi community in Indonesia?

    My interest in Cadar Garis Lucu (CGL) began on X (formerly known as Twitter). I am active on the platform, and noticed there are several unofficial religious organization accounts that use humour in their posts. They mostly use “Garis Lucu” (the Funny Ones) as opposed to “Garis Keras” (the Radical Ones) in their account names. Their content was humorous, occasionally satirical, with the aim of relieving tension and encouraging people to be more relaxed in their religious lives. 

    This phenomenon is not unique to Islam, also occurring in other faiths. There are Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Garis Lucu, Muhammadiyah Garis Lucu, as well as Katolik and Hindu Garis Lucu. CGL piqued my interest since it is an account first of its kind that is specifically about women wearing the niqab (face-veil) yet are self-proclaimed feminists. As we know, niqab is frequently associated with extremism, violence, radicalization, and even terrorism, particularly in the West, yet CGL demonstrates that despite these symbolic traits, they are progressive. 

    CGL frequently discuss gender equality, religious tolerance, and challenging the notion of oppressed, silenced Muslim women. I remember scrolling through their content on X and Instagram, and was interested in learning more about their journey and approach for managing the challenges they face. I also believe we need more scholarly studies that provide fresh perspectives on Muslim women. I do not want to perpetuate the assumption that Muslim women are helpless victims of patriarchy, and that wearing a niqab implies being oppressed. I wish to show that Muslim women in Indonesia have agency, regardless of their appearance. 

    Did you face any particular challenges in researching CGL’s online presence? 

    Yes, I did. Due to the post-Covid circumstances, I was unable to travel to meet with the CGL founders and members in person as most of them live in different cities and even islands in Indonesia. My co-author, Annisa Beta, and I handled the situation by combining content analysis of CGL’s Instagram postings and conducting phone and Zoom interviews with members.  

    How do you see CGL’s online activism impacting broader conversations about Muslim women, religion, and social media? Are there any areas you see potential for future research on similar communities? 

    I believe CGL’s actions are significant because they challenge the binary position of women’s activism in Indonesia. There is currently a perception that if you support feminism, you are liberal or not a good Muslim, and vice versa–if you are a good Muslim, you would oppose feminism because it contradicts Islamic beliefs. CGL proves that to be incorrect. They can position themselves as a progressive organization by developing an effective social media content strategy. 

    I hope that in the future, there will be more research on Islam that depicts the nuance of the people rather than perpetuating existing prejudices. I believe it is critical for society to recognize that progressive and humanistic values such as women’s empowerment and religious tolerance should be on the agenda of all individuals, rather than a few. 

    What conclusions and interesting observations did you make in your article? What do you hope readers take away from it? 

    What I found most crucial was CGL’s strong attempt to break from patriarchal ideals and adopt a “can-do girl” mentality. I especially like the quote from one of CGL’s members who staunchly opposes early marriage despite receiving occasional criticism for it. I admire how CGL as a community encourages young Muslim women to educate, work, travel, and discover themselves rather than being forced into marriage so young. 

    They urged their followers to reject the idea that Muslim women should hide their lives’ ambitions (“do not leave the house, or you will be put in hell”) and forego simple pleasures (“do not smile, men will think you want to seduce them”; “do not upload your selfie, or you will be put in hell”).  They encourage young Muslim women to discover their positions in the world beyond being spouses and mothers, and to do so while feeling good about themselves. I believe it is a strong and necessary message, particularly for Muslim women, in the face of a global conservative turn that frequently isolates women to domestic domains.

    What would you say to a researcher considering publishing open access in an agreement such as this one with CAUL? How has this agreement supported you? 

    I would encourage publishing open access wherever possible. It is quite costly, but I was fortunate that Monash University granted funding to publish under open access. The agreement with CAUL also ensures that my colleague and I retain the intellectual property rights for the article. I shared my CGL piece on X, Instagram, and Facebook, allowing my colleagues to read it for free. I think it sparked more comments and discussions than when I published without open access.  

    Professor Ang Peng Hwa

    Insights from the Editor

    Find out what Professor Ang Peng Hua had to say about Andina’s article. What made it worthy of a place in Asian Journal of Communication?

    About the Journal