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Beautiful Body and Femininity in Five British and Indonesian Chick Lit
Jenny Mochtar Petra Christian University jennymd@peter.petra.ac.id Abstract In 2003, several British chick lit were translated into Indonesian and since then, some titles like Bridget Joness Diary and Shopaholic have been reprinted several times. The success of British chick lit among the Indonesian readers, inspires some female Indonesian writers to also write in this genre. Alberthiene Endah and Icha Rahmanti are two writers who specifically label their popular novels as Indonesian chick lit and each of them have written five and two chick lit in the span of two years. In this paper I will compare Bridget Joness Diary and Confessions of a Shopaholic to Jodoh Monica (Monicas Soul Mate), Cewek Matre (Materialistic Girl) and Cintapuccino (Love and Cappuccino) to read how beauty and femininity are constructed in the female body in the context of consumer culture. The female body that I mean is not a biological body but a social one, which is invested with cultural meanings . . . imagined and experienced through the eyes and minds of our culture, and hence inseparable from the meanings and values with which it is endowed (Crisp, 2000, p. 48). I will explore the ways the body are treated in the five chick lit using a feminist perspective in reading the gender ideology that operates in the construction of beautiful body and femininity. I will show that the female body is a site of ideological contestations that reflect social and cultural values shaping the British and Indonesian chick lit. Even though the Indonesian writers profess to write in the same genre, they are engaged in the dissimilar gender ideology compared to those of their British counterpart and thus the question whether these Indonesian chick lit can also be called chick lit. Chick literature or chick lit is a popular literary genre that features books written by women and focusing on young, quirky, female protagonists (Wordspy.com) that gained its popularity in 1997 with the publication of Helen Fieldings Bridget Joness Diary. In Indonesia, the popularity of chick lit starts with the translated version of British chick lit for the Indonesian readers. The accessibility of these translated versions and the price of the novels which are relatively within the buying power of the readers, allow a wider range of circulation. The positive response of the market on the potential readership of chick lit encourages Indonesian female writers to write Indonesian chick lit, using a similar formula, but substitutes the settings and characters with the local colors. Alberthiene Endah and Icha Rahmanti are two writers who specifically label their popular novels as Indonesian chick lit and each of them have written five and two chick lit in the span of two years. Their early novels, Jodoh Monica (Monicas Soul Mate), Cewek Matre (Materialistic Girl) and Cintapuccino (Love and Cappuccino), published in 2004, are commonly considered to be the first Indonesian chick lit. Both writers acknowledge that it is the popularity of the British chick lit that causes them to write their version and interpretation of what constitutes an Indonesian chick lit and explicitly admit the influence of Bridget Joness Diary and Confessions of a Shopaholic as the model of their writings. One significant aspect of chick

2 lit is its celebration of the consumer culture by the main female character who is a cosmopolitan single in her late twenties or beginning thirties. She is fashion conscious and fully participates in the kind of lifestyles defined by the contemporary consumer culture. Her financial independence and singleness make it possible for her to spend all her money and time in the celebration of consumer culture. This portrayal of chick lit woman has drawn some criticism as she is considered to be superficial instantly forgettable . . . helpless girls, drunken, worrying about their weight and so on (Ezard, 2001). Stacy Gillis, a lecturer in gender studies from Exeter University criticizes that chick lit is not feminist, but backlash. It serves to reinforce traditional categories of sex and gender divisions while appearing to do the opposite (quoted in Thomas, 2002). But Imelda Whelehan (2004), a prominent feminist writer, argues that chick lit is the product of third wave feminism that distance itself from the values of the second wave. In line with Whelehans defense of chick lit, Norah Vincent (quoted in Marsh 2004) considers Bridget as the product of feminism because she grows up in the spirit of feminism that believes every woman should have it all1. The contradictory views on chick lit reflect the different stand points taken by most feminist regarding which values can be categorized as feminist or not. In the earlier feminist studies, women are seen in their position as passive consumers, as objects who are duped by whatever products offered to them by the industry. Recent studies consider women as having active role in choosing from the array of products in the market and this ability to choose show that they have the awareness to construct their agency through what they consume. The issue on consumption brings us to the topic of the body. In a consumer culture, the body has an important role, as it is through the body that identity is constructed by what it consumes. In the last two decades, there are prominent interests in the studies on the body. Various studies in social sciences have proven that the body in its social context is not just a biological body untouched by social and cultural construction; as it has become a site of ideological contestation. The success of the modern feminist movement has brought about new interests in the study of the womens bodies, especially in re-examining and questioning the established theories that isolate the womens bodies in their biological determination. The traditional theories ignore the cultural aspects that shape the ways we think of the male and female bodies and regard that masculinity and femininity are inherent in the bodies of men and women because of their different sex. The body is not just a neutral frame over which we drape the clothes, but invested with cultural meanings . . . . The body we are aware of, as human subjects, is an imaginary body imagined and experienced through the eyes and minds of our culture, and hence inseparable from the meanings and values with which it is endowed (Crisp, 2000, p. 48). In this
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A term taken from Helen Gurley Browns self-help manual (1982) for single women. She encourages single women to embrace their singleness and enjoy their independency until they get married.

3 sense, the body also becomes the bearer of cultural practices which Bordo (2003, p. 16) depicts as the politics of the body, it is the material body as a site of political struggle . . . focusing on the direct grip that culture has on our bodies, through the practices and bodily habits of everyday life. This direct grip of culture on the body causes the body to immerse in cultural meanings and practices that regulate and limit the body with a series of dos and donts; therefore, the body has come to be recognized as a contested terrain on which struggles over control and resistance are fought out in contemporary societies (Hancock et al., 2000, p.1). Synnott (2003) describes how the body is given meaning in religious, social and cultural norms and values that change through times. Different period and area of life have their own ideologies that decide on the way the body is given meaning; therefore, the meaning of the body is never stable. In the context of consumer culture, the body becomes the site of ideological contestation because various ideologies like consumerism, capitalism, patriarchy and others are in confrontation for domination, negotiation or resistance. The body is proclaimed as a vehicle of pleasure and self expression. Images of the body beautiful, openly sexual and associated with hedonism, leisure and display, emphasizes the importance of appearance and the look. . . . [for] more marketable self (Featherstone, 1982, p. 170-1). A person is valued from her appearance, her ability to reflect the images that are valued in a consumer culture. Turner (1996) describes that ones status in the society will depend more on her ability to present herself in the society rather than on her breeding. Self and the presentation of self become dependent on style and fashion rather than on fixed symbols of class or hierarchal status. Urban space becomes a competitive arena for presentational conflicts based on commercialized fashions and lifestyles. There is a sense in which the self becomes a commodity with an appropriate package, because we no longer define ourselves exclusively in terms of blood or breeding (p. 122). How a person consume the commodities offered by the industry like how she chooses to decorate her body with fashionable clothing and its accessories like branded shoes and bags, are more important compared to her social class. Urban spaces then, become arenas for competition and display where everyone can see and be seen to be appreciated like other commodities that have exchange values. Jagger (2000, p. 51-2) explains that anyone can be anyone-as long as they have the means to participate in consumption and they can choose and construct their identities based on what they consume. Slater (1997) explains that consumption in a consumer culture is an insatiable consumption for commodities that bespeak of the social position and identity of the consumer in their exercise of power. We become what we consume because in consuming we do not ever simply reproduce our physical existence but also reproduce (sustain,

4 evolve, defend, contest, imagine, reject) culturally specific, meaningful ways of life. . . . we construct social identities and relation out of social resources with which we engage as skilled social agents (p. 4). Consumption in this sense becomes more than just consuming goods for its function or use-value, because attached to the goods is the cultural value or sign-value. The consumer, then, has the power to construct the identity she wants to assume utilizing the wide range of commodities that are loaded with this sign-value. So, basically what is consumed is more of the sign-value of a commodity rather than its use-value. In the act of consuming, the consumer is not just passive dupe buying whatever is offered in the market, because there is the process of active choosing of goods that is best suited to the consumer. She is also an active agent as she has the power to choose which identity she would like to assume and on how she will construct her identity through her consumption. In this paper, I will compare the gender ideologies in the five British (Bridget Joness Diary and Shopaholic) and Indonesian (Jodoh Monica, Cewek Matre and Cintapuccino) chick lit by focusing on the construction of beautiful body and femininity. As I have mentioned in the first paragraph, the main female characters in chick lit are modern single career women who spend most of their leisure time in malls, cafes and pubs with their friends. They are very fashionable because they love to shop and are expert in identifying branded and stylish products. They actively consume products that would raise their values through their lifestyles and commodities that might beautify their body to keep up with the demanded values in a consumer culture. The body is seen as the vehicle for self expression, because what is seen, like attitudes, body shapes and everything that decorates the body, will reflect the persons identity and social status (Featherstone, 1982). In Bridget Joness Diary, Bridget is portrayed to be deeply concerned with her weight. In Confessions of a Shopaholic, Becky is obsessed with shopping and worried about how others might perceive her from her appearance. In the Indonesian chick lit, Monica in Jodoh Monica, Lola in Cewek Matre, and Rahmi in Cintapuccino generally consider their looks and body shapes as the basis of their pride and confidence. In all, these five female characters are very anxious about their appearance and body demeanor. Tall and thin body together with a youthful image, like those of the cover girls and Hollywood film stars are considered to be ideal beauties. To achieve this ideal beauty, there is the belief that a woman should always take care of herself meticulously from head to toe; she should go on a diet to shed the unwanted body fat and to cover any wrinkles that bear the sign of her age. Natural process that comes with age should be hampered or even stopped and covered as they would reflect the qualities of the owner of the body. The condition of the body that does not meet the social standard of beauty would say that the owner has neglected the caring for her body or that she has failed in self-discipline. Neglect and failure are considered to be negative aspects, thus, it can be concluded that a body

5 which is not beautiful by the social standard, refer to the qualities of the person in the body and has an effect on the persons image of herself, her social identity and status. A beautiful body, thin and youthful, is regarded as feminine and has a high value; therefore, it is considered that it is this kind of body that every woman should strive for. Even though all the five female characters seem to accept this dictum without questions, as can be seen in their concern for their appearances, it is interesting to read the different or same gender ideologies that operate in the British and Indonesian chick lit. Bridget Joness Diary Bridgets obsession to her weight can be seen in her devotion to record her daily weight in the entries of her diary. As a British woman in her early thirties, Bridgets size 12 and weight are actually below the national average, so she is not as fat as she believes herself to be; except by the standard of the fashion industry (Whelehan, 2002 ; Umminger, 2006). Her size and weight are not ideal for a model or Hollywood star, but they are normal for a woman in her age with a healthy eating appetite. Below are some examples in the entries of Bridgets diary with her comments on her weight and the calories she has consumed. Tuesday 3 January 9st 4 (terrifying slide into obesity why? why?), alcohol units 6 (excellent), cigarettes 23 (v.g.), calories 2472 (p. 17). Wednesday 4 January 9st 5 (state of emergency now as if fat has been stored in capsules form over Christmas and is being slowly released under skin), alcohol units 5 (better), cigarettes 20, calories 700 (v.g.) (p. 19). Monday 25 December 9st 5 (oh God, have turned into Santa Claus, Christmas pudding or similar), alcohol units 2 (total triumph), cigarettes 3 (ditto), calories 2657 (almost entirely gravy) (p. 300). At a glance, these entries show her worry that she will experience obesity and her comments demonstrate her desire to reduce her weight together with her alcohol and cigarettes consumption. Her records also show that she falls short in self-discipline. She fails in her diet and exercise to get an ideal body shape, and she also fails to consume healthy food. She has no control over her craving to consume unhealthy food, alcohol and cigarettes which she realizes are not good for her. If we examine her laments over her failures deeper, we will find that Bridgets comments over her weight reveal her guilt over her inability to meet the social expectations that dictate a woman to have self-control and self-discipline as reflected in her beautiful and healthy body. She covers this guilty feeling with a series of self-righteous

6 explanations which she considers might lighten her guilt. She never blames herself as the one who is responsible for the ups and downs of her weight and look for the cause in the mysterious, unidentifiable forces in the universe (Marsh, 2004). Marsh explains further that Bridgets entries are more like religious confessions over her sins rather than her resolutions to transform herself. Besides her concern over her body, Bridget is also worried that she already has wrinkles in her early thirties, so that she scrutinizes her face daily. Find self constantly scanning face in mirrors for wrinkles and frantically reading Hello! Checking out everyones ages in desperate search for role models (Jane Seymour is forty-two!) . . . Try to concentrate hard on Joanna Lumley and Susan Saradon (Bridget Joness Diary, p. 78). Feel need to do something to stop ageing process, but what? Cannot afford face-lift . . . Why do I look old? Why? . . . Decided needed to spend more time on appearance like Hollywood stars and have therefore spent ages putting concealer under eyes, blusher on cheeks and defining fading features. Good God, said Tom when I arrived. What? I said. What? Your Face. You look like Barbara Cartland.2 (ibid., p. 148) Bridgets idea of a beautiful face is a face without wrinkles, so it needs to have constant treatment to slow down or stop, if possible, the ageing process. Her references to Jane Seymour, Joanna Lumley and Susan Saradon, are her effort to convince herself that ageing process can be slowed down with the right treatment, as seen in these three successful Hollywood stars who are slim and beautiful in their forties. Age does not seem to affect their careers or beautiful face and body. Yet, this fact does not calm Bridgets panic that she actually sees wrinkles on her face. Toms comment on her make-up tells us that Bridgets fear is only in her imagination and at the same time it shows us that the natural ageing process is undesirable. To age does not conform to the values deemed valuable in a consumer culture that puts high esteem on the body that permeates the image of youth (Featherstone, 1982). Bridget also confesses that her concept on her body is heavily influenced by the culture she grows up with when she says I am a child of Cosmopolitan culture, have been traumatized by supermodels and too many quizzes and know neither my personality nor my body is up to it if left to its own devices (p. 59). Because of this belief, she works on her body constantly to achieve the desirable image and she describes the body maintenance to be a hard work.
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Barbara Cartland is a well-known writer for popular historical romance novels. Her pictures can be found at the back of most of her novels. In all of those pictures she wore very heavy make-up even though she was more than 6o years old. The effect is that she looks like as if she is wearing a mask.

7 Being a woman is worse than being a farmer there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole things to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin. . . . flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence? (p. 30) The view that the body needs to be constantly taken care of by consuming various commodities is closely related to the concept of femininity as constructed by the consumer culture. A woman who takes care of her body attentively with assorted beauty products is rewarded with the promise that she can possess a beautiful body. The ideology of consumerism states that continuous consumption is desirable for every woman to maintain her feminine image. Her realization that she has to work very hard to get the desirable image of beauty and femininity, does not make her stop believing in or doing what is expected of her as a woman. Bridget is aware of a construction, but as a Cosmopolitan generation, she cannot envision other image of beauty and femininity other than the Cosmopolitans construction of beauty as represented by its cover girls. This dominant discourse of beauty and femininity becomes the only version that is recognized, so that Bridget and most women have no other choice than referring to this same version. The reference for the single version will make it possible for the women who share the same standard and conviction of beauty and femininity to come to a universal agreement about which characteristics are called beautiful and which are not. Her year long entries show us that she is the same Bridget from the start to the end of the year. We will not find any transformation in Bridget, despite her desire to change. Marsh describes this as Bridgets resistance to the myths that the self can be remade and be perfected. Bridgets attitude reflects that the myths have repressed women in the demand for uniformity, so that most women might always feel that there is something wrong with her when she does not meet the expected universal concept of beauty and femininity. Bridget herself is never free from this feeling of lack because her individuality is not accommodated by the existed universal concept, but she never lets it affect her enjoyable life. In the end, the myths are just norms and conventions that have been stripped of power.

Jodoh Monica

8 This kind of body care is also done by Monica. Monica is very particular in taking care of her body that she visits only exclusive beauty centers that promise her the best results. Her salary as a creative director for an advertising agency, makes it possible for her to afford the price of the services. [M]embiayai kebutuhan penampilanku, plus upaya ekstra dalam rangka meningkatkan daya tarik diri. . . Aku masih menyimpan bon-bon perawatan tradisional yang eksklusif di salon Puri Ayu. Aku juga menghabiskan banyak uang untuk membeli beraneka produk pemutih keluaran Kanebo. . . Tiap akhir pekan aku menghabiskan waktu di salon untuk menjalani perawatan yang lengkap dari ujung kuku ke ujung rambut, dan berharap keluar dari situ kecantikanku akan bertambah 200% (Jodoh Monica, p. 12). This quotation shows Monicas dependency on beauty parlors that promise her a total transformation of her appearance by consuming beauty products and body care services. She totally believes that the result she gets worth the time and money she spends to preserve her youthful image. Her use for variety of whitening products points to her belief in becoming white as the criteria of beauty. Ironically, the efforts and time she spends to beautify herself do not boost her self-confidence as she always feels a lack in herself. Aku meneliti tubuhku seperti anjing pelacak mengendus jejak. Apakah lemak di sekitar pinggang sudah menyusut? Apakah perut sudah tak lagi berdraperi? Apakah akhir-akhir ini wajahku cukup segar atau mengering dan kuyu? Apakah aku perlu membenahi potongan rambutku? Apakah bahuku sudah cukup mulus untuk mengenakan gaun pesta berlengan setali? Bila jawabannya serba negatif, itu artinya aku harus menggenjot upaya untuk memperbaiki keadaan fisik (ibid., p. 16-7). If Bridget compares herself to a farmer, Monica compares herself to a hound that fastidiously track down all parts of her body that might escape her attention and do not meet the criteria for a beautiful body. This feeling of lack tells us that there is a demand that a woman needs to always look her best in whatever situation and watchfully tone her body to meet the universal criteria for beauty. Her failure to do so will cause her not only a feeling of embarrassment, but also of guilt that she has neglected her duty as a woman. Her femininity is exactly measured by her success in preserving her youthful and immaculate image. In Monicas case, she has no choice but to preserve this desirable image because of her assumption that men are only attracted to womens physical appearance. Her failure to do so, will legitimate this assumption that she deserves it when men do not find her attractive and desirable. Even though she cannot prove that her assumption to be correct, as she has never even once has a date in her 34 years of age; she never

9 stops believing in this idea and clings to the hope that her efforts might pay off when one day a man might be attracted to her and desires her. Her assumption that men are only attracted to young and beautiful women is difficult to be wiped out from her system when she finds all the evidences around her, especially when her young colleagues, like Angelica, are the ones who attract most men. Angelica beruntung. Darah Menado dan Belanda yang mengalir di tubuhnya dengan luwes membentuk garis wajah yang sempurna. Hidung Bangir, dagu belah, tulang pipi tinggi, dan kulit yang putih kemerahan. Belum lagi postur indonya yang menjulang. Dada Angelica membusung. Kuduga ukurannya 36B. . . .Kurang cerdas, bahkan cenderung tong kosong berbunyi super nyaring. . . . Ya, cerdas memang seksi. Tapi bila di samping wanita cerdas berdiri seorang wanita yang seksi betulan, ya tergeser juga (Jodoh Monica, p. 22-3). For Monica, beauty means youthfulness, big breasts, and a mixture of eastern-western facial features of a high nose, cleft chin, high cheek bones and rosy fair skin. She feels she is a very unlucky woman compared to Angelica, because she does not have all these characteristics which are considered to have high value. Her intelligence, her career as a creative director in an advertising agency, her high salary and her luxurious apartment are nothing compared to the physical qualities Angelica has. Angelicas marriage convinces her more that whatever she has cannot compete with a young sexy body. She is 34 years old and by the common standard she is already in the category of old maid and this position forces her to compete with other young women to catch mens attention. Her fear to age makes her counts kerut di pinggir mata, di garis senyum . . . [dan] memoleskan krim antikerut tebal-tebal sebelum membubuhkan foundation, dan berharap sebutan tua tak pernah mampir (p.7-8). She never misses a day not counting the wrinkles on her face and every morning applies anti-aging cream lavishly under her make-up, hoping that the word old would never describe her. Monicas fear for the signs of aging is similar to that of Bridgets and they frantically try to stop the natural process with the commodities offered by the beauty industry. What differs between them is that Monica has a very low opinion on men, as she thinks that men are only interested in the physical qualities of a woman. It is for that reason hat she works very hard to take care of her appearance for an opportunity to be chosen by men. Confessions of a Shopaholic In Confessions of a Shopaholic, a beautiful body is never described out of the context of the commodities that are used to beautify the body. The criteria of womens beautiful bodies are always depicted in term of fashionable and branded clothing and other accessories that adorn the

10 body. The concept of beauty is never isolated from the exclusive commodities consumed. Becky, the main character, appraises ones beauty only from what and how one adorns herself with the most fashionable and branded commodities, and not from ones body shape or facial features. She transfers the price and the exclusivity of the commodities on to the body, so that the body has no value in itself, except through the commodities that drape the body. I have to have this scarf. I have to have it. It makes my eyes look bigger, it makes my haircut look more expensive, it makes me look like a different person. Ill be able to wear it with everything. People will refer to me as the Girl in the Denny and George Scarf (Shopaholic, p. 16) A blond girl in a pale trouser suit is suddenly in front of me. Nice suit, I think. Very nice suit. . . . I surreptitiously run my gaze to Amys trouser suit againand find my eyes landing on an Emporio Armani label (ibid., p.162) Beckys yearning for the expensive scarf is not for its use-value, but for its sign-value. She does not feel herself to be beautiful, but it is the scarf that makes her beautiful. People will not remember her for herself, but in relation to the branded scarf. She also relates Amy to the brand and price of the trouser suit she wears. Becky has the opinion that the value of a body depends on the value of the commodities that adorn the body; therefore, beautiful commodities are identical to beautiful bodies. She can be anyone she wants by identifying herself to the products she consumes, that her beauty depends on how she use the sign-value of the products to construct her beauty. Mostly Becky cannot afford the designer fashions that mark a persons stature in her circles and she feels marginalizes by the power of the other women who have the ability to afford these stuffs. It causes her to be in low self-esteem and to envy and admire these other women. Theyre all the same, the girls at Brandon C, as they call it. They are well dressed, well spoken, are married to bankers, and have zero sense of humor. Alicia falls into the identikit pattern exactly, with her baby-blue suit, silk Hermes scarf, and matching babyblue shoes, which Ive seen in Russell and Bromley, and they cost an absolute fortune. (I bet shes got the bag as well.) Shes also got a suntan, which must mean shes just come back from Mauritius or somewhere, and suddenly I feel a bit pale and weedy in comparison (Shopaholic, p.19). The feeling that is evoked is very upsetting when facing other woman whose body is adorned with exactly the things Becky cannot afford. Reminded of her lack, Becky has mixed feelings toward Alicia. There is admiration for Alicias success in her career and her ability to afford the designer clothing, but at the same time, Becky is also envious of Alicia. To sooth this feeling of inadequacy, Becky sought to take a belittling attitude toward Alicia and all the other women who

11 are like her. Beckys judgment of Alicia is based on the high value commodities on her body and she is the one who bestows Alicia the power over herself. This means that the play of power as seen in this incident is done by consent by both who has the means and the one who does not, based on a certain shared criteria. Without the presence of one who is considered to be more powerful, the feeling of inadequacy is absent. Just before she meets Alicia, Becky is perfectly satisfied with herself and is confident about her appearance. I dont look bad, I think. Im wearing my black skirt from French Connection, and a plain white T-shirt from Knickerbox, and a little angora Cardigan which I got from M&S but looks like it might be Agnes b. and my new square-toed shoes from Hobbs. Even better, although no one can see them, I know that underneath Im wearing my gorgeous new matching knickers and bra with embroidered yellow rosebuds. Theyre the best bit of my entire outfit. In fact, I almost wish I could be run over so that the world would see them (ibid., p. 14). The brand names of Beckys outfit are quite expensive, but not as exclusive as Alicias Hermes scarf or Russell and Bromleys shoes. In a consumer culture, these commodities are also placed in a social hierarchy that put high price and exclusivity in the highest position. The prestige of these commodities will be transferred to whoever can afford them and with this prestige comes the power. When she has no competitors around, Becky is quite satisfied with what she wears and even wants the world to see her, including her underwear, if she can. But when there is a competitor and she is compared to another woman who has more exclusive stuffs, Becky is suddenly robbed of her self-worth and power. In these expensive and exclusive stuffs sit power for self-confidence and respect. Cewek Matre and Cintapuccino Both her male and female friends repeatedly describe Lola in Cewek Matre as a beautiful girl by the Indonesian standard. She has a fascinating figure and the pretty face of Nadya Hutagalung (well-known Indonesian model) and Ratna Sari Dewi. Her awareness of her beauty makes her very proud of herself. Saya punya paras Indo yang lumayan (Cewek Matre, p. 32). Pujian bahwa saya punya seraut wajah yang nggak kalah dengan Nadya Hutagalung memang sering muncul. Untuk itu saya harus berterima kasih Tuhan menciptakan saya melalui sepasang orangtua yang memiliki struktur wajah menarik. Papa saya, yang berdarah Solo-Belanda mewariskan hidung mancung, dagu belah, dan tulang pipi yang tinggi untuk saya. Ibu saya yang asli Bandung mewariskan kulit yang kuning bersih dan

12 bibir semanis mojang Priangan untuk saya. Perpaduan yang layak bagi saya untuk mengadu nasib di ajang putri kecantikan (ibid., p. 55-6) From her Solo-Dutch father, Lola inherits her high nose, cleft chin and high cheek bones and from her mother, who is of Bandung born, a clear skin complexion and sweet looking lips. These qualities of beauty, a mixture of eastern-western characteristics (Indo), are considered to be desirable by the Indonesian. Lolas and her friends concept of beauty is the same as Monicas. Her pride on herself shows her awareness that the physical characteristics she has are the characteristics deemed valuable in the Indonesian society. In comparison to Lolas beauty is Silvias and Palupis(Lolas best friends) ugliness. Silvia is described as a girl with bibir mengarah ke bawah . . . jeber . . . makhluk ET berwujud manusia (thick and wide lower lip, an ET in the form of a human being) (p. 38) and Palupi is described as kurus, berwajah tirus, bermata cekung dan garis muka yang bikin kasihan (a thin figure, a tapering face, sunken eyes with pitiful look) (p. 43). In this case, a body is called beautiful only if there is a comparison and this will strengthened the conventions of what is beautiful and what is not. Automatically, a person who fulfills the criteria of beauty will feel very proud of herself compared to those who are outside the criteria. Without a comparison, there would not be the concept of beauty and in Cewek Matre, there is a rigid line that divides the criteria of being beautiful and ugly. The beautiful women and those who are not are put in a binary opposition where the beautiful ones are given power to look down on those who are not, like how Lola describes her two friends. Silvia and Palupi, who are hegemonized by this specific concept of beauty, admire Lola and unconsciously put themselves in a position to be looked down on. So, the binary opposition works only by the consent of the two parties and one exists only by depending of the other. In Cintapuccino, Rahmis physical and facial features are not clearly described, but the absence of this description can be read from how she compares herself to Susan (Rahmis highschool friend). Susan yang rambutnya sebahu itu berkulit sangat putih . . . dia sudah punya banyak penggemar dan jadi cukup populer . . . zaman-zaman SMP dan SMA-ku adalah tempat yang sangat ramah dan menyenangkan buat cewek berkulit super putih dan ramah seperti Susan. What counts the most adalah kulit putih, titik. Duduk di sebelah Susan membuatku invisible. Menyebalkan (Cintapuccino, p. 21-3). From her tone, we are made aware that she is jealous of Susan because she does not have what Susan has, very fair skin. Even though she confesses that Susan is also a very friendly person, she is convinced that Susans popularity is more because of her beauty (read: her skin color) rather than her friendliness. As in Cewek Matre, a method of comparison is used to reinforce the convention of beauty. Rahmi willingly gives Susan the power over her by belittling herself,

13 believing that she deserves the position because of the color of her skin. But in doing this, she also ridicules Susan in the sense that Susan is a nobody under her fair skin; that stripped from it, she would also be as unpopular as Rahmi. In both Cewek Matre dan Cintapuccino, body care is not given high priority and is regarded as an occasion for relaxation and indulgence. Saya sedang melakukan facial oksigen di salon mahal di Kemang, ketika handphone saya berbunyi.....(Cewek Matre, p. 283) Beautician agaknya membaca apa yang saya pikirkan. Ia tidak berlama-lama melakukan perawatan. Setelah membayar ongkos facial Rp 350.000, saya segera berbenah diri (ibid., p. 285). Aku dan Alin berjalan-jalan, menikmati kehidupan metropolitan dengan godaan konsumerismenya itu. Setiap hari kami lewati dengan nongkrong di mal dan berbelanja, atau ngafe, atau merawat diri di spa. Ah...la vita e bella, life is beautiful! (Cintapuccino, p. 127). The body care in these two quotations differs from the ones we find in Bridget Joness Diary and Jodoh Monica in term of the purpose of the body care itself. There is a necessity for Bridget and Monica to always take care of their appearance because they feel they fall short from the criteria of beauty and also because of their age in the early thirties. Thirty is considered to be the age when women start to lose their youthfulness, whereas youthful image is the desirable image, the image that has high value in a consumer society. For Lola and Rahmi, the body care is regarded as an occasion when they can pamper themselves. It might be because of their young age that they have not yet feel threatened by the ageing process. Lola dan Rahmi believes that body care is an occasion to spoil themselves when they need relaxation and to feel beautiful. Winship and Mc.Robbie (as quoted in Jagger, 2000) show that in this practice of body care through the consumption of various beauty products, women actively create their own femininity, based on the idea that beauty is not naturally given but achievable by all through correct application of diverse products, women are encouraged to work on their bodies, laboring to perfect an everincreasing number of zones. Mouth, hair, legs, eyes, teeth and other bodily parts must all be subject of scrutiny in order to achieve their ideal feminine self. . . women become active agents of their own self-fashioning (p. 55-6). Conclusion In the act of body care, we can conclude that the idealized women bodies are the feminine bodies which radiate the image of youth: hairless, soft and smooth, spotless and firm. Bodies that do not have these qualities are considered to be unfeminine as an opposite of masculine. The gender ideology which is at play constructs the meanings of feminine and masculine by using

14 certain signifiers that segregate the two by using a rigid line. The feminine bodies are bodies that should be able to stop or hamper the natural process of ageing. Hairless, soft and smooth, spotless and firm bodies are the bodies of children rather than grown women. Hammer (2005) calls this as an infantilization not only of the womens bodies, but also on the womens minds. Femininity is not only identified with physical weakness, but also with the weakness of the mind; therefore, she is in a position as an object that needs guidance and protection from the stronger sex. The ideology of patriarchy will become dominant if there is no awareness of the social and cultural construct that regulate the feminine bodies. In these five chick lit, we can see that the concept of a beautiful and feminine body is a social construct. Bordo (2003, p. 35) explains that our concept about our body is mediated by constructs, associations, images of a cultural nature. In Bridget Joness Diary, Bridget is very much influenced by the cultural expectation, yet, she proves herself to be an independent woman who does not let her weight to affect her career, friendships, relationships and sexual life. Her laments over her weight has never becomes the source of her lack of confidence or problems. Her weight and her life are set as two separate issues. Bridget confesses that her desires to lose weight and to care for her body are caused by her inability to detach herself from the universal discourse of beauty and femininity and it is to please herself rather than to please other people. In Shopaholic, the absence of the descriptions of physical beauty demonstrates that a beautiful body is a social construction that has no uniformity. In a consumer culture, it depends on an individuals expertise to adorn herself with exclusive commodities. Physical beauty is believed to be an irrelevant issue because every woman can make herself to be beautiful if she abides the conventions of a consumer culture. In consuming, she can construct herself to be whatever she wants to be. In these two chick lit, Bridget and Becky realize that the concept of beauty and femininity is the product of social and cultural constructions, but both of them do not show any desire to free themselves from these constructions. What they do is to use these constructions for their gain. This attitude shows us that the awareness of a construction does not necessarily transform a person or cause a person to break free from the construction, but she can take agency by constructing meanings using exactly the legitimate rules of the game. In Jodoh Monica, Cewek Matre and Cintapuccino, a beautiful and feminine body is the most important thing in a womans life and it is the source of all the problems she has. Self-confidence and pride come from the feeling whether a woman believes herself to be beautiful or not. From the quotations in the three chick lit, there is a universal criteria of a beautiful body, those are tall and slim figure, smooth fair skin and high nose. Indo features are considered to be more desirable and valuable than the local features. Obsession to these features show us the tendency to regard foreign qualities as having higher value. In her research on soap advertisement in

15 Indonesia, Aquarini P. Prabasmoro (2006) finds that being beautiful is to have white and smooth skin. This concept of beauty is set in a colonial discourse that regards whiteness as natural, pure and civilized, whereas colored skin as dirty, wicked and uncivilized. This discourse is deeprooted as media collaborates and develops the discourse to become a global one. It eventually naturalizes this global discourse that acknowledges certain features to have higher value than the others. In Indonesia, the trend is no longer the whiteness or paleness of the European, but more on the whiteness in an East Asian context of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In the Indonesian chick lit, the idealized beauty is the mixtures of Asian-European descend and features. The Asian features of beauty are the silky and rosy fair skin and long straight hair; whereas the European feature is the tall slim figure. Therefore, it can be concluded that the concept of beauty in the three Indonesian chick lit is the mixture of what are considered to be the best features of the Asian and European. The common Indonesian features of colored skin, short nose and small short figure are not considered to reflect beauty. Generally, foreign features dominate the concept of Indonesian beauty. In the context of power, women who possess the foreign features are acknowledged as having more power than those who do not. The absence and presence of self-confidence and pride in the self are gained from whether the women believe in her physical beauty or not. The confidence and pride emerge because of the conviction that their beautiful features are God given; therefore, it means that they are born to be lucky people as God is on their sides. But for those women, who consider themselves not beautiful because of the absence of certain features, are jealous to the beautiful ones; they feel very unlucky as if God does not care for them. These kinds of attitude reflect the belief that physical beauty is not a social and cultural construct, but a gift from God. The women in the three Indonesian chick lit do not seem to be aware of a construction that regulate the concept of beautiful and feminine bodies. At a glance, all the women in five British and Indonesian chick lit look similar in that they are obsessed in possessing beautiful bodies by consuming various beauty products; yet, they differ radically in the aspect of awareness in a construction. The presence of awareness is significant in a sense that it affects their agency and the possession of power to negotiate or resist the dominant ideologies that control their lives. Put in the historical context, British chick lit is the product of the third wave feminist movement that embraces differences because [f]eminism wants you to be whoever you are but with a political consciousness. And vice versa: you want to be a feminist because you want to be exactly who you are (Baumgardner & Richards, 2000, p. 56-7). Bridget and Becky are the third wave feminists who enjoy make up, fashion magazines, high heels and says using them isnt short hand for we have been duped. Using makeup isnt a sign of our sway to the marketplace and the male gaze; it can be sexy, campy, ironic, or simply

16 decorating ourselves without the loaded issues (ibid., p. 136). They enjoy being who they are despite their laments and complaints of the social expectations that they cannot meet, yet they never try to meet those expectations. They enjoy being beautiful without the single goal to catch a man, other than enjoying the activity for its own sake and to be whatever they want to be. Unlike the British chick lit, the Indonesian chick lit is produced for the trend and demand of the local market with no reference for any historical or cultural contexts that give birth to it. With the modernization and growth of big cities in Indonesia, the global phenomena also swept the country that allows the Indonesian women as the British, to watch the same films, listen to the same music, read the same magazines, eat the same foods, adopt the same lifestyles and consume the same products. Yet, ideologically, the Indonesian women in the chick lit are exactly the product of the Indonesian gender ideology of kodrat which are deeply rooted in the society. They still believe in their kodrat (inherent nature) as a woman to marry and to have children, therefore their efforts to beautify themselves are for the sole purpose to catch a man to fulfill their kodrat. Even though they are financially independent, they rely on men for their value. Both the British and Indonesian chick lit should be read in their cultural, social and historical contexts for a more comprehensive picture of their difference. References: Baumgardner, J., & Richards, A. (2000). Manifesta. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Bordo, S. (2003). Unbearable weight: feminism, western culture, and the body. 10th Anniversary Edition. California: University of California Press. Crisp, J. (2000). Fashioning gendered identities. In J. Crisp, K. Ferres and G. Swanson (Eds.), (pp.42-52). Deciphering culture. London: Routledge. Endah, A. (2004). Jodoh Monica. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama ---. (2004). Cewek matre. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama Ezard, J. (2001). Bainbridge tilts at chick lit cult. The Guardian, August 24, 2001. Retrieved March 9, 2005, from http://books.guardian.co.uk/ Featherstone, M. (1982). The body in consumer culture. In M. Featherstone, M. Hepworth, & B.S. Turner (Eds.). (pp. 170-196). The body: social process and cultural theory. London: Sage. Fielding, H. 1996. Bridget Joness Diary. London: Picador. Hammer, M. L. (2005). Cautionary tales of liberation and female professionalism: the case against Ally McBeal. Western Journal of Communication. April 2005, Vol. 69, Issue2; 167, 16pgs. Retrieved February 2006 from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb Hancock, P., Hughes, B., Jagger, E., Kevin, P., Russell, R., Eulle-Winton, E., Tyler, M.

17 (2000). The body, culture and society: an introduction. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press. Jagger, E. (2000). Consumer bodies. In The body, culture and society: an introduction (pp. 4563). Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press. Kinsella, S. (2003). Confessions of a Shopaholic. New York: Dell Marsh, Kelly A. (2004). Contextualizing Bridget Jones . College Literature. Winter 2004, vol.31, issue 1, p. 52. Retrived February 18, 2005 from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb Prabasmoro, A. P. (2006). Putih, feminitas dan seksualitas perempuan dalam iklan kita. In Kajian Budaya Feminis: Tubuh, Sastra dan Budaya Pop (pp. 320-330). Yogyakarta: Jalasutra. Rachmanti, I. (2004). Cintapuccino. Jakarta: GagasMedia. Slater, D. (1997). Consumer culture and modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Synnott, A. (2003). Tubuh sosial: simbolisme, diri, dan masyrakat. Yoyakarta: Jalasutra. Thomas, S. (2002). The great chick lit racket. Retrieved April 20, 2004 from http://www.bookgirl.org/chick.htm Turner, B. S. (1996). The body and society: explorations in social theory. 2nd. edn. London: Sage Umminger, A. (2006). Supersizing Bridget Jones: whats really eating the women in chick lit. In F. Suzanne & Y. Mallory (Eds.). Chick lit: the new womans fiction (pp. 239-252). New York and London: Routledge. Whelehan, I.(2002). Helen Fieldings Bridget Joness Diary: a readers guide. New York and London: Continuum. Whelehan, I. (2004). Having it all (again?). Seminar Paper on New Feminities at the LSE, 19 November 2004. Retrieved February 23, 2005 from http://www.lse.ac.uk/