Friday, August 14, 2020

Indonesia’s unique partnership with Netflix for online education

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Person watching Netflix on TV | Source: Freestocks via Unsplash

As a novel way to promote “Learning from Home” for the students during the COVID-19 enforces school lockdown, Indonesian government has recently announced collaboration with Netflix- an American production company.

The Indonesian broadcaster, TVRI will air Netflix documentaries like Our Planet, Street Food: Asia, Night on Earth, and many other titles which are aimed to enhance students’ knowledge of science. This is for the first time that Netflix Original documentaries are being broadcasted on terrestrial television.

Nadiem Makarim, the Indonesian Education and Culture Minister | Source: World Economic Forum via Flickr

Nadiem Anwar Makarim, the Indonesian Education and Culture Minister said that the initiative was adopted in the wake of the need for imparting quality education amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Makarim also stated that Netflix has invested USD 1 million towards the program which includes events like scriptwriting workshops, a short film competition with the nation’s ideology Pancasila as the theme, an online safety training program, and agile governance workshops.

There are also plans for a short film competition with Pancasila, the nation’s ideology as the theme. The scriptwriting workshops were to take place in Jakarta as well as Los Angeles’ Hollywood.

The initiative has however drawn criticism from opposition parties who said that the collaboration, although did not violate any regulations but was unethical as the education ministry should instead be collaborating with “other state-owned enterprises”.

Syafiul Huda, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission X said, “We think there are a lot of youths in the country that could create more creative documentaries, short movies or guidelines for students during this period of learning from home. I wonder why the education ministry as the home for education [in the country] chose to collaborate with a foreign streaming platform just for its documentaries.” As reported by kompas.com.

Even minister Nadiem Makarim acknowledged that local content still dominated the programs being aired at TVRI, while adding that the program was also implemented for the sake of global diversity.

Netflix however had contrasting views. "Around the world, teachers and educational organizations have asked if we can make some of our documentaries available during the crisis and we’re happy to help without any cost," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement obtained by The Jakarta Post.

This seems to be a win-win deal for the Indonesian government and Netflix as it is expected to help students in distance learning during the pandemic without any cost to them or the government. Netflix on the other hand will gain a good foothold in the country through terrestrial TV, which may help it to drive the subscription of its online platform.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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