A Take on Feminism

I think I’m gonna write this since it has been on my mind for quite some time but i never really want to seriously address the issue until I realize that lately, i have encountered so many experience that are upsetting but did not really know how to start a discussion. (Disclaimer maybe this sounds like ranting but anyway this is my personal blog)

If we’re talking about disappointment, then, it is intuitively came from expectations we’ve had initially towards something. My expectation began at spring 2015, where it was my early months of moving to Japan, at a dinner with an Indonesian family i knew from Indonesian Students Association at Kyoto. The father, the husband, was pursuing a master degree back then. This small Indonesian family actually have been living in Japan for some years, they lived in other city before moving in to Kyoto. Little did I knew, they move to Kyoto after the mother, the wife, finished her PhD at that other city in Japan. At that time, my 18-year-old self, thought (and I still am, actually) that it was very cool for the family to decided on that. As a girl who’s been told by a lot of people that most men are not willing to marry a woman who has higher academic degree than him, or that a woman should not settle with a man with lower academic degree than her, the story that I heard during this family dinner enlighten me that after all not all men feel insecure or intimidated by the higher status of his partner. I came in to this new community of Indonesian living in here, and I found it amazing because it turned out it was not only this family with this condition. I witnessed other families with same condition too. I saw young couples who moved here because the wife has to pursue her academic here. I saw dads take care of their babies while moms go to school. Of course, they each have different contexts and conditions, but still, I think that this small community of Indonesian, especially the men, have a very progressive view on gender role in family, and on feminism. Unfortunately the reality does not cater to my expectation. Recently I encountered more and more evidence through what they called it as “jokes” (which are not funny but instead, uncomfortable for women), or small talks, discussion about relationship between man and woman.

Before I came to a new realization that I am actually a feminist, I did not want to be one. It was because I had this stereotype about feminist that they were always grumpy, they hated men, and they did not like to dress up– which is one of my very favorite things to do. So then it never occurred to me I wanted to declare myself as one. But then, I always find a conflicting perspective with most men, that are actually my friend and are around me, about women’s right or equality or about gender roles. And I find that my perspective are actually in line with feminism idea, and I want to stand for that and to speak about that. I have been trying and I am still trying to educate myself about it, How not to be a (quoting the internet) “fake woke feminists”. Especially when I found some critics that came from self declared feminists about principles in my believe. For example, why women have to be behind men when praying together in Islam. That kind of critics honestly frighten me and made me more reluctant to like feminism. It gets very confusing sometimes, but as an advice from Saoirse Ronan after listening to her podcast with Scarlett Curtis (Feminists don’t Wear Pink podcast), it is okay to not figure it all out. Let’s learn and learn and learn. Besides, I do think we, women, have more important issues to talk about such as equal pay, equal opportunity, gender role, or how women should value ourselves.

I remember that one Friday morning in autumn semester where I had a class in the 4th floor of engineering building, I just realized it was so hard to look for a female toilet on that floor, or on the 3rd floor. In fact, there was none. It is obvious when you come in into civil engineering meeting room, theres not so many representation from female students. There was also this time when we had to choose company for our internship, some of the company mentioned they “prefer” boys. Representation on each different field of expertise is important. Because, who will recognize theres problem women faced when it is not ourself who put it on the table. In this case, at STEM field, I don’t think we women have enough representation. And we need more role models on this field. To encourage more young girls that we actually can, that we are allowed and able to contribute to this field, without having to break a glass ceiling.

I also remember vividly, what happened when I see my big family after a year or so. The very first comment I received when I see them was about my body, why didn’t i get slimmer. Honestly, I get that older people (in Indonesia) likes to joke about that and I sincerely appreciate if they are really concerned about my health (i mean, i know my body isn’t in the healthiest condition) but what really upsets me is that how they commented that i would not get a man because of that. Big facepalm. I consider myself lucky for growing up in a big family which most females are working; they are lawyers, accountant, businesswoman, doctors, lecturers, government officials. Growing up, I got a lot of inspiration from women in my big family. My mom, my aunts, and my cousins were my role models. I thought people in my family would naturally value girls in this family more than physical appearance. Why does women have to attract men only with their physique when (fortunately) I know I am more than that. Well, in Indonesia, people around me would tell I should not take that personally (when geez, which part of it that is not personal) and tell me that i should try to apprehend those kinds of comment or behavior coming from elders. Until when will we tolerate it? is this a part of our culture?

I have been bothered with such issues for a long time, but never thought that there will be changes made so I never talk about it. I mean, I thought it was there and will always be there. Because it is the ‘culture’. And we women have to accept to struggle with that, but then I think… why do we have to?

I found that maybe I will like feminism idea and agenda because I, as a woman, have the same interest and will benefit from it but I found some feminists talk which made me feel left out. When girls talk about valuing ourself more than physical appearance, does that mean we have to hate the idea that society accept as beauty. Is it okay to wear make up? Is it okay to appear feminine? Am I allowed to enjoy my appearance?

It was just recently I stumbled upon Scarlett Curtis’ book and podcast; Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies, that really opens a whole new view about feminism to me. It is so interesting because each series came from different people that are also experiencing evolving views about feminism. I learned that being a feminists; you don’t hate men, it is not about venting our anger towards men, it is okay to wear make up, and enjoy our appearance (though it should not be our entire top ten).

The more I learn about feminism the more I realize that we have to involve men in this. That it is okay for men to ask, if it is appropriate, if it is okay, and that it is okay not to know something. It is important to change the idea that feminism is not a race against men, and that in the end it is not about feminism– it is about humanism.

Heres a ted talk that I really like from Miss Adichie, why we all have to be a feminists, who also wrote a book about it. https://youtu.be/hg3umXU_qWc

One very remarkable quote that I can take from her talk is the optimism on this new wave of feminism that “culture doesn’t make people, people make culture”.

Reading and listening to stories about the struggle that women have to go through because of gender, i think each women have our own story of struggle. Let us be reminded that we are not alone, and find strength to speak it up– not to let things bottle up. Letting other women know what we experience, in a way, i think it makes us feel encouraged and empowered. Let us feel good about ourself, and be good to ourself.

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A Take on Feminism

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