Gemma Holliani Cahya, Jakarta – Instagram posts showing blurred photos of female members of a student executive body (BEM) in a state university in Jakarta have stirred debate on social media about gender equality among university students.
The controversial pictures were uploaded to the Instagram account of Jakarta State University's (UNJ) Engineering School BEM, @bemftunj, showing ghost-like photos of young female students smiling to the camera, their bodies were clearly visible, with bold and bright text showing their names and positions in the organization.
While photos of their male counterparts were unedited, a viewer would need to squint their eyes to make out the female members' faces.
The photos showed members of the BEM committee for its 2020 term. The posts had been removed from the Instagram account as of Wednesday.
The blurred pictures have raised concerns among netizens over the poor sense of gender equality among the BEM members.
The pictures went viral after Nadya Karima Melati, a cofounder of the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies, tweeted them on her Twitter account @nadyazura.
She wrote that the photos shocked her and raised concerns over the quality of higher education that prompted BEM members to blur the pictures of the female members. She went on to say that a similar thing also occurred in the UNJ's School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics' BEM, where photos of its female members were replaced with anime-style drawings.
"That's crazy as it eliminates the role and existence of women from the story," Nadya tweeted on Monday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the tweet had been liked more than 12,000 times.
Another Twitter user mentioned that similar practices had occurred in other departments of the university as well.
"There are more like this in [the university]. Why has gender-based discrimination become common culture on the campus?" Twitter user @novalauliady tweeted, while attaching several screenshots from other student bodies within the UNJ.
Responding to the brouhaha, UNJ Engineering School BEM chairman Ibrahim Katoni Baurekso denied that the body blurred the pictures of the female members. "We only decreased the pictures' clarity," he said on a letter signed on Monday, posted on the BEM's Instagram account.
He added that there were female members in the organization who did not want their pictures to be published. This led to a deal between the female members to reduce their pictures' clarity upon publishing.
"It is not true that there is feminism, patriarchy, sexism at UNJ Engineering School's BEM as mentioned by other people," Ibrahim went on to say.
As of Wednesday, no female BEM members had made any statement regarding the brouhaha.
Some Twitter users showed support for the student body, highlighting that people should respect what the female BEM members wanted.
Twitter user @Miptahparidi, who claimed to be one of UNJ Chemistry Education Department's BEM members, wrote that several female members believed publishing their pictures was equal to showing their aurat, or parts of the body that should not be exposed to sight.
"We have to be open minded, don't we? This means we respect other people's choices. We shouldn't feel like we have the most extensive insight and those who are not in line with our insight are wrong. [...] That is not open minded, but forcing your opinion," he said.
He added that the practice of blurring female members' pictures or replacing them with cartoon illustrations had been common practice for the past few years at UNJ.