This paper discusses one of the covert methods Indonesian President Soeharto (1966-1998) employed to buttress and justify his grip to power and subsequent decades-long authoritarian rule. After the Indonesian Army staged a Coup on 30 September 1965, killing six generals and one lieutenant, it put the blame for the atrocities on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The PKI-affiliated Indonesian Women’s Movement (Gerwani) was specifically targeted. With the concoction and nationwide dispersal of a misogynistic hoax, the Army had given itself the legitimization to not only torture, imprison, and irreversibly stigmatize Gerwani-women but also to impose an anti-Gerwani – hence anti-Communist – State gender ideology. This State gender ideology could not exist in the absence of the Gerwani hoax. Even more crucial, Soeharto’s New Order was founded on this hoax, and for his regime’s existence, it perpetuated gendered, anti-Communist fearmongering in direct and indirect ways, including film. Not only were all Soeharto era films stringently subjected to censorship, but film narratives were also interconnected with State narratives – and hence anti-Communist gender propaganda. This paper scrutinizes the narrative of the Gerwani hoax and its references to Indonesian folkloric female monstrosities. It argues that horror films produced during the New Order regime which include a ‘monstrous-feminine’ function as psychological warfare tools to perpetuate the Gerwani hoax in order to legitimize Soeharto’s hold on power.


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