Written by Johanes Koraag
For International Women’s Day, UIN Sunan Kalijaga, ICRS and CRCS UGM invited a female comedian to perform and speak as part of the academic discussion. The guest speaker that day was Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, a woman of Arab descent from the batik city of Pekalongan. Diyah, as she is familiarly called, is the first female solo comedian to wear a hijab in Indonesia. At the beginning of the event themed “Our Voice Comedy for Change”, Diyah conveyed the situation of the comedy world in Indonesia which is still full of patriarchal values. When she became a participant in a stand-up comedy competition, out of hundreds of participants who registered, there were only seven women including herself. Diyah consistently raises issues of women, Islam, and extremism in Indonesia. Born into a family of Hadrami-Arab descent, she was raised in a society that cared deeply about her identity as an Arab descendant who felt she had a view of the “truest and purest teachings of Islam” compared to other ethnicities.
Regarding her family, she says her parents were “very conservative” in their upbringing and education. She was raised with the hope that she would grow up to be a model Muslim girl who would continue to preserve her religious and ethnic identity. Her decision to enter and pursue comedy was a form of “resistance” to her parents’ plans. At the beginning of her career, Diyah hid her career as a comedian from her parents, only later opening up to them.
In this event Diyah was accompanied by two of her students in the Comedy for Equality community, namely Vania Sharleen, a female lecturer at UKDW and Gloria Excelsis Muhammad, a civil servant at the Office of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (PPA) of Lamongan Regency, East Java. They were both given the opportunity to showcase their ability to observe and analyze the situation in Indonesia and present it in a comedic package from the unique perspective of their respective professions.
In her performance, Diyah highlighted the role of women, especially Muslim women in an environment that is still thick with patriarchal values like Indonesia. The challenges she faced at the beginning of her career as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman were enormous. Some people still look down on women who become comedians, especially from a Muslim wearing a hijab. Diyah became a “triple minority” in the comedy scene in Indonesia, because she was a woman, a Muslim, and a hijab wearer. However, Diyah’s struggle through the male-dominated comedy wilderness has begun to bear fruit as female comedians are now starting to emerge who dare to voice their concerns through this path. Diyah was like a “martyr” when she decided to pursue a career as a comedian. She sacrificed her academic career, which actually promised her a bright future, as she was already a research assistant at ICRS UGM.
Diyah was able to prove that her decision in the past was the right one, because through comedy, she was able to deliver social criticism, expressing her anxiety in many ways to the public without making those who heard it feel offended, because it was delivered through jokes. Criticizing without making the criticized party feel offended is a form of communication art that can only be delivered by a stand-up comedian, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf has proven it!