Society and Religion vs. Female Freedom (Post C)

For young women in Indonesian society, the journey through adolescence to adulthood is a time of conflict between personal desires, religious expectations and social beliefs (Pampel 2006). When looked at closely, the shared beliefs and desires in Indonesia propose opposing views, creating internal battles, particularly for young women, as they grow into their independence and thus are faced with more decisions. These conflicts can be broken down by individually understanding the nation wide Muslim beliefs, the societal expectations, the public advertising, particularly that related to tobacco, and the individual desires of young women, represented through the thoughts and feelings expressed by interviewee, Alya Nadira.

112037_gettyimages527595467.jpg(Indonesia woman smoking – Ozy, 2017)

When speaking to 21 year old ITS student, Alya, she shared the conflicts she has faced in what she claims to be a “sexist” and “judgemental culture” (2018). Although she believes in her Muslim religion and admits to praying, the young woman says she doesn’t wear the vale and participates in haram acts such as drinking and occasionally smoking. When asked why, she states “I am a young person I just want to live freely, but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in god” (2018). The act of a young Indonesian woman smoking is viewed as taboo and those that choose to are judged and seen in the public eye as a “bad girl”. However this judgement does not exist for male smokers, with approximately 76% of the male Indonesian population smoking (The World Bank 2016).


(Malbaro campaign advertisement, Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016)

Tobacco companies in Indonesia promote an aspirational lifestyle, using images of outdoors adventures and adrenalin sports to share with the public that being a part of the smoking culture will bring freedom and adventure, targeting teenagers and young adults (Quit Big Tobacoo, 2016). This message saturates most physical and digital spaces in Indonesia, telling the public that they can obtain this life of freedom, and yet this idea of freedom seems unattainable for women, for if they do choose to smoke and follow the path of “freedom”, they are judged for it. Although the advertisements are a tactic to fuel consumerism, the fact that public advertising and the shared belief that smoking allows for an adventurous and free life, conflicts with society’s expectations of women, suggesting this goal is unavailable for them.


Within the Indonesian culture, there appears to be a double standard whereby smoking is admitted to be haram for young women, yet is completely acceptable for young men. When asked about her person desires, Alya expressed a want to “be free” from the “oppressive Indonesian culture and religion” (2018). When speaking of her future, the young woman said she would rather enjoy her years as a young adult, exercise her freedom and as an independent person even if that means sacrificing parts of her religion. “I want to act for myself” she stated, but “I need to get a place in heaven… I might change when I get older” (2018).


Fred C. Pampel 2006, Gobal Patterns and Determinants of Sex Differences in Smoking, viewed 19 December 2018, <>

The World Bank 2017, Smoking prevalence males (%of adults), viewed 19 December 2018,

Quit Big Tobaco 2016, Big advertising, viewed 19 December 2018,<;

Interviewee: Alya Nadira, 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-12-24 at 11.03.49 pm.png




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