The Vespa Lifestyle

Feb 24th, 2007, in News, by

Female students at the University of Indonesia no longer ride around on Vespa scooters half naked.

The “Vespa Girls” at the UI of the roaring 70’s, who apparently once cruised about on Italian motor scooters between classes, sometimes wearing no underwear under their mini-skirts, are no longer with us. These exponents of the Vespa Lifestyle at the nation’s pre-eminent seat of learning have now been replaced by young women who attend Quranic education classes, pray five times daily, and keep their jewels under wraps, and keep away from Vespas if possible. So says Hannah Beech in an article in Time magazine which says Indonesia is undergoing an Islamic spiritual revolution.

Vespa Girls
The times ain’t what they used to be.

In “Why Indonesia Matters” (hmm), Beech makes a familiar list of recent changes in Indonesian political and social life, from the increasing tendency of women to put on the jilbab, or headscarf, regional Islamic laws such as those in Bulukumba, the spread of dour Salafi Islam from Saudi Arabia and the decline of the Hindu-Buddhist Islam of the masses, the Indonesia Ulema Council’s increasing conservatism and fatwa issuing, the occurrence of terrorist attacks, and so forth.

All the rage.

There is a battle, she says, over what constitutes true Islam, and the destiny of the country is at stake. The battle goes on, and the Islamists often suffer setbacks, but don’t expect a return of the Vespa Girls at UI anytime soon. Read on.

All the rage II.

101 Comments on “The Vespa Lifestyle”

  1. Dimp says:

    Hi MK,

    Anything that differentiates us in religion to me is a doubtfull practice.

    If only more people have this opinion, it is sad to see that people are fighting just because they come from different background (religion, ethnic etc).

    I do not believe in compulsion in religion nor appearance over substance.

    Again, unfortunately a lot of people still prefers to judge people by their “skin” rather than what is beneath the “skin”. You can see how Indonesian are competing to show how religious they are, yet Indonesia is one of the most corrupt country in the world. You can see how everyday we have people yelling about morality, yet we allow tourists to come to our country for “kawin siri” (this is even condoned by Jusuf Kalla).

  2. Hassan says:

    I wouldn’t call Indonesians as overtly religious, Dimp. I reckon only 20-30% max of Indonesians are practicing and devout Muslims/Christians/Hindu/Buddhist etc.

    The majority are people who wanted to look religious for the sake of appearance, as you mentioned.

    And Jusuf Kalla? He is hardly an authority on religious matters. The small man with a big mouth is hardly an authority on any matter in my book.

  3. Niamh Piperman says:

    Dimp Says:

    yet we allow tourists to come to our country for “kawin siri” (this is even condoned by Jusuf Kalla).

    So Dimp, are you sure it’s just ‘tourists’ who practice ‘kawin siri’? What’s that saying about the semut and the gajah? 😉


  4. Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri says:

    Oh my brother Mubarak,
    Please don’t tell me that this is real. Please show me a good, modern, generous, and contributing-to-humankind country or a society that requires all wowen wear those mystified jilbab. All I see there is the oppressive mentality to go back to a moral cocoon established in the 6th century Arab by an illiterate!

    Now you are adoring jilbab as the sign of virtue, which is your choice. But please remember that penicillin (saves millions of people), computer (you are using it), and TV (used a lot by those wearing jilbab), and even photography (that captures those jilbabers beautifully), are the product of non-jilbab mentality, e.g., the open minded, the curious, the adopting, the hard-thinkers, and the hard-workers.

    Many cultures have different values as to what is shameful, sexy, and what is adorable. In the old Chinese culture, the feet is the sexiest thing on earth. In the OLD middle east, all men get turn on by looking on the HAIR of women (can you believe it?!). Well, that was what prevailed those days, and that is not the monopoly of the Arabs. All people in the middle-east including the Greeks, the Jews, and the Assyrian share this value. The difference is that the rest of the folks develop their value system over time, but the Wahabbian Arabs.

    Now don’t preach this to me, because I am from an Arab descent and I am amused at the gullibility of non-Arabs (in the name of religion) in swallowing what educated Arab like me have shed many generations ago: the ancient Wahabbian doctrine. This doctrine is so ancient, has no place in the 21st century world, and defying development. The core of it is so racist (there is only two types of people: the Muslim and the Kafirs) and full of hatred againt outsiders. To me that does not make sense.

    Please don’t idolize jilbab, you will make it so mystified close to worship this ancient Arabic culture.

  5. orgindo says:

    I am speechless. One of the best comment IMHO!
    Well said. Doesn’t mean I agree entirely, but it is a very thoughtful opinion.

  6. Dragonwall says:

    So Dimp, are you sure it’s just ‘tourists’ who practice ‘kawin siri’? What’s that saying about the semut and the gajah?

    They are simply a world apart.

    But I could see some very interesting and some very evasive comments exchanging between MK and NP where the former seemed to know more about Christianity and the latter more abourt Islam of which both of them I suppose are the opposite in race to their own religion.

    May I know if the two of you to be Religious Anthropologist?

    Here I also find MK’s reasonings to be more reasonable than NP’s elaborative questioning which are rather argumentative.

  7. Dani says:
    what if letters forming words and sentence are erased?
    what if only empty space exist in our daily life?
    holiday wirh my vespa…

  8. It is bloody marvelous that an article about scooters can give birth to a complicated religious debate involving the Quraniyyun-ism, Nicene creeds, and more. Very nice, but I do not think it will come to an end— at least in a positive way. 😆

    For me, personally, if those lasses want to don those hijabs then go ahead. If these ikhwans want to worship them for it then go ahead. I do not mind! But please, please, please, remember one thing. Please, remember, this is but a short sentence; please believe me when I say that women that do not wear these veilings are not trash.

    I have nothing against the akhwats, plenty of my close colleagues wear this bedouin fashion textile. Even my mother. But one thing that always rub me the wrong way is that I saw too many of these hijab-loving communities looking down to the ones that are, to use their trade-marked false dichotomy, scantily clad.

    Stop generalize women that do not wear hijab as shameless, or inherently bad, mengikuti hawa nafsu, Setengah telanjang, blah, blah, blah. You know, even if you do think so, do me a favor, brother, keep it to yourself. No need to declare it out loud.

    Personally, I’m not fond of the veiling myself. For me it’s backward. It limits its wearer’s mobility, curbs fashion sense, implies exclusivism, potentially divisive, and more. If you disagree, well, worry not. It’s just my mere opinion. And who the hell am I anyways? Perhaps I’ll burn in hell. That, I fear not.

  9. ali5196 says:

    My problem with the jilbab is that it honours a religion and a prophet which have nothing to do with standards of morality. IT is like wearing a NAZI insignia.

    How can a 53 year old man—who consumed a marriage with a 9 year old, had 12 wives, 12 mistresses & countless sex slaves, caught with his pants down romping with his wife’s maid, raped 3 prisoners of war on the same night their husbands/family were massacred, murdered innocent Quraiza Jews, ALL with the blessings of Allah— be considered a prophet ??

    If Muhamad were to live today, he wld be convicted as a paedophile & massmurderer, making Pol Pot look like his lapdog.

    LOL ! Read ! It made many a jilbabed girl throw their
    headscarves away. PLUS, it gives them dandruff …

  10. kinch says:

    A few years ago, I knew a female student from Banjarmasin who was studying at UI – like many a university student from out of town, she was quite happily enjoying the freedom of being away from family and all the usual Kost Kapers.

    But she wore a jilbab because it was the best protection from harassment from ojeks, and other undesirables around Depok (such as fellow male UI students).

    Doubtless the social pressure from salafist nutjobs is ever-increasing and perhaps there might be a rising tide of religiosity among female students… but seemed a good deal of the personal motivation in her case was simply because not wearing a jilbab was taken to read “go ahead, harass me” by guys in her daily life.

  11. Mojopahitian says:

    Actually, if anyone’s to blame for the decline of “Hindu-Buddhist Islam”, it’s the Vespa generation.

    The Vespa girls rebelled against Old Indonesia with its kebayas and kerudungs. Their pop culture viewed Wayang and Gamelan with embarrassment.

    As their daughters (the 1990s-2000s generation) grew up, there was little left of the Old Indonesia… So the youngsters were left with this mish-mash of orthodox Islam and Western pop culture.

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