Backlash against Indonesian clothing company intensifies after International Women’s Day
10 March 2015 | Bryce Gibson
Outrage was sparked by an Indonesian clothing company last week, when it created washing labels that suggested that the owners “Give this shirt to your woman. It’s her job”. The company have since had to unreservedly apologise for any offence that may have been taken as a result, especially in the aftermath of International Women’s Day (IWD) that was marked on Sunday, 8th March.
The company, Salvo Sports, had produced the shirts in question for the football team Pusamania Borneo, who take part in the Indonesian Super League, after being promoted in 2014 from the Liga Indonesia Premier Division as champions. When asked to explain why they had felt the need to create such potentially highly offensive labels in the first place, the company had initially attempted to suggest that it was a response to queries that had been made by several buyers of the clothing (presumably men), who were unsure how “to treat fine jerseys”.
That basic, somewhat glib reasoning was brought into question and became more of an issue on IWD at the weekend, forcing the representatives of the company to take to social media in an attempt to diffuse the situation. As a consequence, a number of somewhat apologetic communications were issued, including stating that the creation of the labels was “not meant to demean women. Instead, we’re trying to tell men to learn from women how to take care of clothes.” Their situation was hardly improved by another similar message that suggested: “Not all men know how to treat their clothes and women have more expertise,” which could quite clearly be viewed as some form of stereotyping of a woman’s role in Indonesian society. As one might imagine, the messages have done little to staunch the bad feeling and anger that has been directed towards the company.
Many complaints were made, with Benjamin Liston perhaps typifying the feeling regarding the company’s stance as he penned his thoughts with: “Dear Salvo Sports, no one wants justification. Start with contrition and empathy.”
The bad feeling towards the company was no doubt heightened by other events that were occurring at the weekend, with perhaps the most high profile one being a march that included around 600 women through the capital of Indonesia itself, Jakarta. The aim of the march was to push for a Bill to provide protection for domestic workers. A spokeswoman for the march, Nani Zulminarni explained that: “We feel that the House is not paying enough attention to [the deliberation of] the bill.”
There have been issues previously with gender inequality in Indonesia, as Human Rights Watch made it known last year that women wishing to become police recruits had to undergo “virginity tests”. The related literature that the police issued made it quite clear that the preference was that they be single when applying and should avoid marrying for several years after joining up.
Indonesian women seem to be trying to make their voice heard and presence felt in society at the moment in many ways, with Sunday also seeing the Asian Football Confederation launch its inaugural Women’s Football Day, as they seek to promote women’s football in the country. One wonders whether they will contact Salvo Sports for a quote for any new shirts that they might need….maybe not.