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Monday, February 20, 2006

GENDER BIAS

When discussing kinds of jobs with my students some days ago, a question reminded me that bias gender is still very strong in the mind of youngsters of Indonesia, in this twenty first century, while in Princess Diary written by Meg Cabot, or Bluejean, a book full of articles written by female teenagers from other countries, I found out that feminism ideology (read  equality between men and women in all facets of life) is very familiar to teenagers in other countries, especially in America.The question is “Which job is done better by men than women, and vice versa?”My students’ answer was unfortunately still following the stereotyping of male and female. For example, my students came up with an idea that men will make a better chef than women. Their reasons varied, from “men are stronger than women so that it is okay for them to carry big pans.”, “men are more creative than women. As a chef, he/she must be creative to decorate food before serving it to the guests/diners.” “No female chef is famous, mostly men.”In another side, women will be better nurses coz women are more patient to take care of patients rather than men; women will be better fight attendant than men with the same reason; women will be better secretaries to “comfort” and “amuse” the boss, with the assumption that the boss here is a man.My being feminist really encouraged me to talk a lot about that unfair stereotyping. How much I wanted to lecture my students that those stereotyping things were just constructed by society, and not created by God. I didn’t have much time though to do that. I realize that I don’t have much time coz I have to catch up with the material provided, many lessons to cover, to follow the curriculum made by my workplace while I must not forget that my role is not to teach feminism but only to teach English as a foreign language.How much I detested to see my female students’ facial expression when hearing the boys said, “Men are created to be superior, Ma’am.” Or “Men are created to be stronger than women.” When I asked my male students, “What is the definition of being strong here? Being able to Lift big pans? How about if we change the definition of ‘strong’? Why did God decide to create women to be pregnant and deliver the baby and everybody must know that it needs a lot of energy to do that? Why not men who claim themselves as stronger?”When saying that, I saw my male students’ expression annoyed while my female students excited. I went on saying, “Have you ever heard that there are more women than men in this world? Do you know that it happens coz women are stronger to survive in this harsh world rather than men?”When my students said that men make a better pilot rather than women, they gave reason, “If women become pilot, they will go often, to fly planes. They will not be a good mother, then, coz they often leave their family.” It made me argue, “Well, if men become pilot, they will go often too, to leave their family. It means that they will not be a good father, right, coz leaving the family, and don’t spend much time with the children?”My students, especially the males ones, got numb, looked at me as if looking at a weird creature, while the female ones smiled wildly, and some nodded their head.Again, coz I didn’t have much time to elaborate more about this gender topic, I didn’t talk a lot. If I went on saying, I am afraid that my students wouldn’t have enough time to practice their speaking or writing English. I would be the sole speaker. Who the hell needs to practice, the students or the teacher? LOL.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

HAVING A BABY

A week ago, I met a good friend after we didn’t have time to talk together for almost a year. She told me very good news: she got Fullbright scholarship to take Master’s Degree to America. That’s quite an achievement! She will go to America next August 2006. I am happy for her, of course.

Some days after that, I told a workmate of mine about that happy news. Instead of hearing his happy remark, he commented, “Doesn’t she think of having a baby first rather than to pursue her study? She has got her Master’s Degree from Diponegoro University, hasn’t she?”

I was speechless to hear that comment. This male workmate got married in /August 2005, and about two weeks ago his wife just got miscarriage. My good friend has got married for more than six years, and until now she hasn’t got a baby yet. (Nature’s secret why some women easily get pregnant while some others do not. Who is to blame?)

I remember this good friend of mine was always restless to wait for the coming of a baby in her marriage. She always feels uncomfortable to attend her big family’s gathering coz she is always unhappy when her relatives ask about that. An axiom saying “you are a true woman only after you deliver a baby” has been haunting her. Her understanding husband doesn’t really help comfort her restlessness.

Last year she sent me messages saying that she would apply for a Fullbright scholarship. She said, “I want to show people that I have ‘something’ to be proud of though I don’t have a baby (yet).” My comment was, “Good, dear, go for it!”

Now that she has got it, in fact, she finds some (conventional) people besiege her with questions, such as, “Don’t you think that having a baby is more important than pursuing your study coz you are a woman?” or “Don’t you think that in fact your husband is not really willing to let you go coz he wants to have a baby from you? And not Master’s Degree from you? Who knows he said that it is okay for you to go to America only for his lips service and not coming from his heart?” or “Are you sure that your husband is willing to see that you give more priority to your career than to give him a baby?”

In our country, people still stick to three things that they think will make their life ‘complete’ and ‘happy’: having a job, being married, and having a baby. This is so strongly stuck on everybody’s mind that it really bothers their conscience if they don’t have these three things. In my good friend’s case, her having a good career and understanding husband do not really make her feel happy. She was continuously worried. It was difficult for her to think that “it is okay to live without a baby. People will still be happy not to have one of those three things. Why should they care much about other people’s comment? And why do some of us nosily talk about other people? Why don’t we just feel happy for other people?

My good friend needed to comfort herself not to have a baby yet by getting an academic achievement. How about other people? Especially those who cannot comfort themselves and keep thinking of what society says about them (for example not married yet or not having a baby yet).

Feeling happy and ‘complete’ in our lives must be determined by ourselves. And be confident with that.

SECOND PUBERTY

Friends,

Do you believe that second puberty exists? What the hell is second puberty actually?

About ten years ago, I had a private student, a woman, around mid thirties, a housewife whose husband was always busy with his business and she had a babysitter to take care of her children, and housemaids to take care of her household chores. She took English private lesson with me perhaps only to fill her abundant idle time.

At that time, she asked me whether I believed in second puberty. I didn't know what it was exactly. Then she said to me, "Nana, I think it happens to people after they come to the age of mid thirties for women, and forties for men. I believe in it coz now I am experiencing it. ..." Then she told me about a good-looking man around her neighborhood that she said was attracted to her. She concluded it from the way that guy looked at her, smiled at her. Again she said, "It's not about love, Nana. It's not about sex, either. Well ... just attraction. He really makes me feel happy every time we meet. Well, I don't date him, we just happen to meet coz he lives in the same neighborhood with me. Later, after you come to my age, you will undergo it yourself. I believe."

I made a conclusion at that time (with my naivete) that second puberty means that someone is attracted to another person apart from his/her spouse. Or, probably, the routine boredom comes to the couple, and they need a change. Or, did it happen to that private student of mine coz she didn't get enough attention and love and care from her busy businessman husband? So that she needed to get it from another guy?

Unfortunately, that lady didn't take a long time to take private English class with me so that I didn't know what happened after that with her and the guy she had a crush on.

In August 2005, I got another private student. She is in the beginning of her forties, a housewife too, whose husband is very rich so that I believe she never experiences how it feels when the price of gasoline soars crazily. Similar with my private student 10 years ago, she has some housemaids and babysitters that take care of her household chores and children so that she doesn't need to make herself busy at home. In addition, she is outstandingly pretty so that I believe she has many admirers for her physical beauty.

With this private student of mine, I spent some time to go sightseeing in malls, to have lunches at food court, go to cafes, etc. I observed that she loved wearing sexy clothes when she went with me (she said I made her feel comfortable to wear anything, though I didn't see any relationship with me, how could going around with me make her feel comfortable to wear sexy clothes? I myself mostly wear my 'uniform', long black dress and black blazer, not 'inviting' at all!) She also felt comfortable to show inviting body language to any 'macho' and good-looking guy we met in malls. (I was wondering how she made me feel as a 'scapegoat'? I am the one who made her feel comfortable to do those two conspicuous things--wearing sexy clothes and showing inviting body language.)

It made me suspicious if this pretty lady was 'suffering from' second puberty. She no longer feels confident with herself whether she is still pretty and attractive enough so that she needs to attract those guys' attention demonstratively. One time, while we were having lunch in one food court in Semarang, she said to me, "Nana ... I really enjoy looking at people around us." Coolly I asked, "And, after 'observing' those people around, what is your conclusion?" Proudly she said, "One similar thing, I always find that they are so amazed to see me; to see a pretty lady, ME." Her facial expression looked so childish at that time.

It made me draw a different conclusion about second puberty than my definition 10 years ago. Second puberty is a kind of 'mental illness' that happens to someone who no longer feels confident that he/she is still attractive. To compensate that inferiority, he/she needs to attract people's attention demonstratively. It is not merely about having a crush on somebody else who is not someone's spouse.

When does second puberty come to someone's life? Mid thirties? Early forties? Mid forties? Does it always come to anybody's life? Or does it happen only to people who don't get enough attention, love, and care from their spouse? Do people always need it for a 'change' to overcome boredom in their routine life?

This pretty private student of mine sometimes teased me, "Wait till you come to your forty years of age, Nana, and you will undergo 'second puberty' like me." Well, I think as a teacher, I already get a lot of attention from my students, both boys and girls. Sometimes some naughty male students of mine flirt me and, well, I don't mind with it, as long as they don't abuse me. I don't think I will need passers-by's attention to me when I go somewhere. I even often feel abused when I go somewhere and some greedy guys look at me impolitely. I don't enjoy their staring at me, different from that private student of mine who even feels adored. Frankly, when walking with her, or when I walk alone, I sometimes want to throw my high-heeled shoes to those guys with greedy eyes.

I am approaching my forty years of age now. Referring to what my private student said 10 years ago that people undergo second puberty in their mid thirties, well, it is high time for me to experience it, isn't it? LOL. But, no, I don't agree with my (present) private student of mine, that we will feel adored and admired when guys look at us whenever we go. I even feel disturbed with that. Only in the classroom I want full attention from my students, but not outside.

However, as a feminist who thinks that we, women, have freedom to do anything we want, apart from the fact that we are married or not, that we are having relationship with someone or not. That (present) private student of mine absolutely has right to do so, to attract guys' attention. LOL. Only she can control herself, her life, not her hubby, her children, moreover society.

Comment, please? :-D

MARRIAGE vs PROSTITUTION

Marriage is an institution that robs a woman of her individuality and reduces her to the level of a prostitute (Dennison, 1914) Via Ussher’s Women’s Madness: Mysogyny or Mental Illness? , 1993:262
Some time ago, I got a message, a joke, from a friend,
Wife: “Give me some money, my darling. I want to buy something special to beautify myself, to make you happy.”
Husband: “I will give you some money, my dereast wife. But, dont forget to give me the best in bed.”
Look, doesn’t that joke strengthen that quoation above about the analogy between a housewife and a prostitute? A housewife “serves” her husband the best she can to survive (e.g. to get food, clothes, and shelter). A prostitute does exactly the same thing to her clients. In addition, when a woman is lucky to get a rich and generous husband, she will be ‘paid’ high. On the contrary, when a woman is not lucky to get such a husband, she still has to do her “obligation”—to serve her husband at home—bed, kitchen, and laundry—and in return, maybe she will just get “less than enough”. And in patriarchal culture where a wife is considered as the husband’s “property”, she no longer belongs to herself, she has to be submissive—to follow whatever the husband says, pure—only to pour her sexual desire to her husband, no matter whether the husband respects her rights as a free individual or not, domestic—only stay at home, go out only under her husband’s permission. No matter how little money she gets from her husband in return of her “service”, Many women still choose to be married coz they are more frightened by society’s judgment as “old spinster”. Besides they are also lullabied and lured by fairy tales such as Cinderella, as if marriage is the only gate to ultimate happiness in this life. After they get married and find the fact that is far from what they dream and expect before, they are besieged by people around them, “You are a woman, you are created as submissive creature, as “the second sex” So, accept it!” and for “religious” people, with addition, “You will go the heaven if you submit yourself to your husband. If not, you’ll go to hell.”
However, prostitutes dont get this discomfort. Their body and life still belong to them. They still have right to say “no” to a client coming to them when they dont feel comfortable to do that. They can charge high fees. More benefit, is, they can “enjoy” different “sizes”, different treatment, different atmosphere, different sensation so that they will not get bored easily. LOL. Well, i just imagine that different men have different sizes, give different treatment, sensation, and atmosphere. LOL.
Ciao.

PROFESSION IN INDONESIA

This afternoon I discussed "the most coveted job" and "the least coveted job" with my Intermediate 3 students who happen to be high school students, first and second grade. The most coveted job is still like the previous century; doctor. Engineer is not longer a favorite choice then.

Well, in the beginning of 1990s, in Indonesia there was a famous singer Ria Enes that made use of her doll named Susan. In one of her songs, Susan wanted to be either a doctor or an engineer, two most coveted profession in Indonesia. The main reason is of course coz these two professions promise to give the bearer much money. Since the beginning of 1993, the title "Insinyur" (the Indonesian word for 'engineer' was changed into "Sarjana Teknik". There was a joke, then, that Susan no longer wanted to be an engineer coz no more "insinyur". LOL.

Now going back to my high school students. None of them came up with 'engineer' as their career choice. Is that joke true? The title "Sarjana Teknik" doesnt sound cool. LOL. So, doctor now is the only favorite profession among children and teenagers.

I got shocked, though, when I found out that some students mentioned "writer" as the least wanted profession. I simply asked them, "Coz you dont have talent to be a writer?" The said yes. My comment was, "I dont think it very difficult to write. Try to do this. Later after you go home, start writing like this, "This afternoon, my classmates and I discussed the most and the least favorite profession in Indonesia. When I said that I didnt want to be a writer, Ms. Nana was shocked. bla bla bla ..."

I dont think that it is about money why some students of mine didnt want to be a writer. With the thriving business in publishing books--we can see the proof with more and more teen lit and chick lit novels. let's say, or with more publishing companies were established in Indonesia, or we can also see many young writers become celebrities (e.g. Djenar Maesa Ayu, Ayu Utami), to be a writer also promises people to get much money and fame.

Well, I think that in Indonesia, not many people find writing an interesting thing to do. In my experience as an English teacher, my students prefer having "speaking" class, to "writing" class. And during last century, 20th century, many publishing companies, or newspapers or magazine editors, didnt really appreciate new and young writers, so that they didnt consider their works good enough to be published. It could also become one reason why then people didnt find writer as an interesting job.

I have loved writing diary since I was in junior high school. Writing can really help to express ourselves, especially when we think that speaking is no longer enough. With the internet technology, and its blog world, people can express themselves more and more. Everybody needs to do that, right?

Monday, February 13, 2006

THE MOST WONDERFUL

Some months ago, a friend of mine said to me, “Nana, last weekend I had a wonderful sex with my hubby. Do you know what he said while we were doing it? He said, “Don’t you know my darling wife that your pussy is the most “delicious” one?” She went on saying, “ Men are always good in flirting, aren’t they?”

I smiled to hear that. I thought, when someone used “superlative” here, he must have tried more than one thing, right? However, I was being nice not to say to her, “Don’t you realize that by saying that, your hubby has done with many other women? That he has tried many other pussies?” LOL.

Some weeks ago, another friend told me about her spending New Year’s Eve in Singapore with her hubby. Orchard Road was full of sexy and pretty girls with minimalist clothes. LOL. My friend said to her hubby, “Honey, look at those girls. Don’t you think that they are very sexy?” Her hubby’s comment was curt, “They taste the same as yours, darling.”

Jokingly, I commented, “Well, if your hubby said so, it means that he has tried theirs so that he could say that theirs is just the same as yours.” LOL.

My friend got dumbfounded to hear that. But then she laughed and said, “Well, mbak, later, I will talk to my hubby about that. Mbak Nana said, “if you know that theirs tastes the same as mine, it means that you have tasted them.” LOL.

I was in Yogya at that time, and she lived in the same boarding house with mine. She is from Sumatra. Now I am back to my hometown, Semarang. I don’t keep in touch with her any longer coz her mobile phone was just stolen before I moved back to Semarang. I don’t know whether she has “reported” to her hubby about my comment. LOL.

MARRIAGE

Wise men say that life is full of mystery. Three main things that people say as mysterious: who will be our spouse, what kind of occupation we will get (Indonesian people call it as rejeki, and the last one is how old someone will drift away from this mortal world.

This morning, I got a chance to interview my students again about getting married. Two students came up with two new responses. The first student, a boy, aged in his early twenties, said, “I am not really concerned about getting married or not, Ma’am. My religion teacher at school said that if we do not get married in this world, God has provided us a ‘match’ or ‘partner’ in heaven later.”

Jokingly I asked him, “How sure are you that you will go to heaven? How about if you go to hell?”
Convincingly, he replied, “I will go to heaven, Ma’am. I am sure of it.”

I responded, “Wow … that’s good. To be confident that you will go to heaven is good. It means that you will take care of your attitude and behavior in this life.”

The second student, a girl, also in her early twenties, said, “Getting married is our destination in this life, Ma’am.”

Being not clear what she meant with ‘destination’, I asked her to elaborate it. She said, “In Al-Quran, God stated that we were all created in pairs. So was I. I have my own pair, I believe.”

I asked her back, “Are you sure about that? Don’t you see many people around us still live single until they get old? And many of them have passed away before getting married? Frankly speaking, I’d prefer your classmate’s response that, if we don’t have our pair in this world, believe in yourself that we will have one in later life. It will not make you feel uncomfortable or restless if you will not find one until “dangerous” age.”

What I meant with “dangerous age” is above thirty—especially for women (in Indonesia!). Many women who do not feel confident that there is nothing wrong to be single will grab any guy to marry, only coz they feel restless, inferior, and uncomfortable when people around them besiege them with questions, “When will you get married? Now that you are successful with your career, don’t you think about getting settled by having a family?” Living in a marriage-oriented society like in Indonesia makes people—especially women, coz they get much more pressure from their parents, relatives, neighbors, friends than men—feel something wrong with them if they keep being single. Consequently, it can engender women to choose to be the second wife, let’s say. It is supported by selfish men who believe that they were created to be polygamous, while in fact, they are just greedy and cannot control their egotism.

If only those women were not besieged with such questions, if only they didn’t feel restless to live single, this grabbing any guy wouldn’t happen. They would feel more confident to go on living single.

The answer of that second student reminded me of a friend, a guy, divorced, and his only daughter lives with his ex wife. A year ago, he said, “Nana, living in this world, we have to struggle to get what we want. I am sure one day I will find someone again. I got very hurt with my divorce, yes, but it doesn’t mean that I have to stop trying to find someone. I believe that God created all human beings in pairs.”

I commented, “You know, Prophet Isa left this world in his very young age, only about thirty three years, and he was still single at that time.”

He went on, “Nana, the most important thing is that we have to struggle. And who said that our pair can only be found in this mortal world? If we don’t get one in this world, well, God has created one in later life for us.”

If only all people think that way—if we don’t have pair in this world, we will have one in later life--, I am quite certain that this world will be a bit more peaceful. No one will get forced to get married soon, at least. No one will complain that someone has “stolen” his/her spouse. LOL.

The following question I asked my student was “How old is an ideal age to get married?”

One student, a boy, straightly said, “29. It is related to the fact that men as the breadwinner, he must prepare everything before getting married.”

I commented, “Well, you know, nowadays, many people complain about the soaring prices for everything. Don’t you think that you will let your wife work to help you?”

He answered, “Well, I still want to be the main breadwinner. If my wife wants to work, it is okay as long as she doesn’t forget her main responsibility as a wife.”

I asked back, “What do you mean with wife’s responsibilities?”

He replied, “Well, such as taking care of our children.”

“Will you get rid of yourself from taking care of your children? Don’t you think that raising children is the responsibility of both parents? Well, it reminds me of the movie The Stepford Wives where in one scene a man refused to help his wife to cook by saying, “I have a penis. I am not supposed to do kitchen chores.” A woman doesn’t need her breasts nor her vagina nor womb in doing household chores. How could a man say such a thing to refuse to do household chores?

By the way, that conversation with my student reminded me of two cases of two ex male workmates of mine. Around 10 years ago, a male workmate of mine—with initial B--married his fiancée after he graduated from his college. As a new English teacher, of course, he didn’t earn much to support a life of a wife; moreover with a baby that would come. This was what another male workmate of mine—with initial H—thought, so he criticized B. Wisely, B said, “If you always wait for the time when you feel “ready”, how sure are you that you will feel ready financially? People tend to have greedy character, never feel enough.

A year after getting married, B got another job which was more suitable with his educational background. Now he lives prosperously with his wife and two children.

Some years ago, H became a furniture businessman. He married a beautiful girl who happened to be a daughter of a rich man. He quit from the workplace. Unfortunately, with the changing business world atmosphere in Indonesia, he couldn’t go on with his business. He had to live together with his wife’s family. And the last info I got was they already got divorced.

Life is really mystery, isn’t it?

Parents-children relationship

The following short conversation happened between an old friend, a guy, and me some years ago. We used to be very close during two and a half years at high school.

W: Some time ago, I visited a sick friend in a hospital. Two sick people in the same room with my friend attracted my attention. One patient was surrounded by his children. He looked so happy although he was sick coz his children were there, to give him full attention. The other patient was lying on his bed all alone. No children visited him. Poor him. It made me imagine if I don’t have any kid, I will end up lonely in my old age. I don’t want such a sad thing to happen to me. That’s my main reason why I adopted a child. Although he is only my adopted child, I believe if I raise him well, take care of him well, he will pay me back later.

N (with my cynical nature, but honest): Don’t you realize how selfish you sounded to me? You adopted that kid, not mainly to help a poor family that cannot raise him well, give him good food, clothes, and education, but mostly to satisfy your own egotism, to make people admire your good-hearted character, and then, to make that kid feel indebted to you so that later he will pay you back all the money you give him, by taking care of you in your old age? Maybe also by giving you some pension money after you retire or you don’t feel strong anymore to make your ends meet? What if later on he doesn’t grow up just like what you expect? Will you regret it? And then you will feel hurt consequently?

My friend was speechless to hear me saying something he didn’t expect to come out of my mouth. Not meeting each other for some years obviously has made us view things from different, or even, contradictory point of view.

In our culture in Indonesia, one most asked question to newly wedded couple was, “Have you conceived?” or “When will you have a baby?” Many people take it for granted that it seems the main reason for people to get married is for breeding. People then believe that without a baby a family is not happy, not “normal”. Neighbors, friends, relatives keep asking the couple about the coming of a baby without realizing that such a question really bothers some people who unfortunately are “destined” by God difficult to “produce” a baby.
To conform to the norm constructed by society about the “happiness” of a family (read à to have a baby), many couples do the best they can to have a baby. Some have to spend much money for that.

Don’t we then realize that having a baby is for our own egotism? For our selfish nature to make people consider us as “normal” and “happy” people? (Why do people not feel confident with themselves that they are just “normal” and “happy” so that they need other people’s recognition that they are really normal and happy? Don’t we realize that feeling happy comes from our deep heart, and not from other people’s judgment? Why should we care for what other people talk about us?)

When we realize that having a baby is for our egotism, we are supposed to give the best for our children, right? Our responsibility as parents is to give them the best, without expecting that one day our children must pay back what we have given them. We have “made use of” our children to make people around us call us as happy and normal couple. I think it is too much then if we ask our children to give us what we ask them as “tribute”. It can be in the form of obedience, admiration, respect, until money after our children grow up and work.

One good friend of mine comes from a family with seven children. Her parents are not lucky to have big income for the seven children. Therefore, since in her undergraduate study, she has worked to help her parents’ finance. I see her as a very responsible child for her parents, though I still say that it is not supposed to be her responsibility to take care of everything only coz she is the only one from the seven children who continued her study to college.

If we all can choose, I believe we want to be born in a family without any financial problem, or any other problem. We have come to this world, not coz we want to be in this mortal world, but coz our parents want to have children, to make them considered “happy” and “normal” by their friends, relatives, etc. Then, we are indoctrinated to be obedient to our parents, respect our parents, and in many cases also to be submissive to them to do what they want us to do, sometimes without any other choice, as if we don’t have our own way of thinking as a free person, if we want to go to heaven in later life. Consequently, we will do the same thing to our children. It means, this unfavorable condition will happen again and again? When will we be fair to our children so that later on they will be fair to their children?

Any comment, friends?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

SULA

The following short conversation is taken from SULA (1973:124-125) written by Toni Morrison

Nel: “But what about me? What about me? Why didn’t you think about me? Didn’t I count? I never hurt you. What did you take him for if you didn’t love him and why didn’t you think about me? I was good to you, Sula, why don’t that matter?”

Sula: “It matters, Nel, but only to you. Not to anybody else. Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don’t get nothing for it.”

Nel and Sula are two main characters in the novel. They had been good friends since they were kids coz both of them were neighbors. After graduating from high school, Nel married her prince charming, while Sula went out of town to continue her study. 10 years later, Sula went back to her hometown. Nel was happily married and Sula kept single coz she thought that all men would leave their wives for another woman or for any other reason.

Nel found Sula extraordinary with that kind of thinking. She tried to turn all kinds of opinions upside down. When black people thought that they got jealous toward white people coz of privileges they got only by being born as white (in America, the traces of slavery done by the white toward their fellow black citizens were still hanging over strongly during the twentieth century despite the fact that Lincoln abolished the practice of slavery in 1863.) Sula turned it upside down. She said that even those white people got jealous of the black coz the black male were popularly known as to have bigger and longer penises than the white male. Therefore, the white spread belief that “White is more beautiful than black.”

It is not something astonishing, then, if that statement said by Sula attracted Jude, to fuck her. One day it did happen. Nel saw it. Consequently, Jude left Nel and their only daughter without saying anything, or explaining anything why that happened. Sula proved to Nel that “men were created to leave women.” Meanwhile, the friendship between Nel and Sula was broken.

The conversation between Nel and Sula above happened one day after many years passed, when Sula was seriously ill.

My contemplation is …

Why should people always expect something in return when they do something (they think) good to others? It means that they do that not wholeheartedly, coz they secretly wish something back. Is it that difficult nowadays to find people who are willing to do “good” things to other people without expecting something back?

What is “good” anyway? What is “bad”? Who has right to say that something is good or bad? Why must there be values like that? In reality, something “good” if viewed from one perspective, it can be “bad” if viewed from another perspective. Pangeran Diponegoro is a hero, for Indonesian people (we learned like that in our historical book/lesson, didn’t we?); while for Dutch, Diponegoro was just a rebel.

Why should we feel hurt when we think we have done something good to someone (let’s say a good friend), and then in the future we only find him/her do something on the contrary to what we expect and then it even hurts us?

Why should I feel hurt when one good friend of mine did something which I think that she was not supposed to do to me? It is my own mistake, right, to expect that she will always understand me coz one time she told me that I am her soul mate?

I felt like I was in Nel’s position that expected Sula to understand her. While before this, I always thought that Sula’s opinion—though difficult to be understood—was the best thing to prevent ourselves from heartache, from feeling disappointed.

Well, just like what wise people say, “it’s easier to say, and it is difficult to do.”

Cheer up, Nana. :)

Saturday, February 04, 2006


My picture, taken on January 10, 2006 , pretending to be daydreaming ... :)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pornography?

Dear friends,

What makes people think about pornography?

On my journey from Yogya to Semarang on September 24, 2005, I took a Nusantara bus. I usually selfishly occupied two seats for myself (so that I could put my luggage on the seat next to me) because the bus was usually not full. Since the bus was almost full of passangers on that day, I chose to sit at the very back seat on the right corner. The seat next to me was empty so that I could comfortably put my backpack on it. When the bus almost left Jombor terminal, a middle-aged man came and sat on the seat next to the seat where I put my backpack.

Mostly there are two things I do on my journey from Yogya to Semarang, or on the way around; reading a book or sleeping. (luckily, I am a kind of person who can fall asleep easily everywhere). At that time, I had a book with me. The book is Jurnal Perempuan (my favorite journal) no 41 with the main topic ‘Seksualitas’.

When the bus left Jombor, I started to read an article entitled “Seksualitas Lesbian”. It talks about how a lesbian couple can satisfy each other. You know, living in this patriarchal society with phallus centris—people believe that to get sexual satisfaction, both sex partners need penis—often makes people wonder how a lesbian couple can get orgasm, as if they forget that other kinds of sex also exists. Let’s say, people also can get orgasm from doing oral sex. When a heterosexual man does it to his partner, he can make his partner get orgasm without using his penis, can’t he?

This article will not talk about that kind of thing. If you are interested, just buy one copy of that edition. Okay?
In fact, without my knowing, the middle-aged man sitting next to me was attracted to me. Well, I am not sure though whether he was attracted to me or to the book I was reading. Some time later, he asked me, “Don’t you feel dizzy coz reading on a bus, mbak?” frankly speaking, I was not a kind of person who liked to be friendly to people (moreover a guy!) sitting next to me. However, at that time, I tried to be friendly by responding to that question, “Oh No, I am not dizzy coz I am accustomed to doing it.”
That man continued, “You seem so occupied with your reading. May I have a look of that book of yours?” Actually I felt uncomfortable to lend the book to that stranger (frankly speaking, it was caused by the main topic of the journal was ‘Seksualitas’. Most people reduce term ‘sexuality’ with only sexual intercourse. That was what I thought.) However, I still gave the book to that man.
I saw him look at the front cover, then flipped the pages at a glance. I noticed that he didnt read the table of contents, he didnt read some headlines printed on the back cover either. I believed he was only interested in the topic ‘Seksualitas’ unconspicuously printed on the front cover. Some minutes later, he gave the book back to me, saying, “A good book.” I looked into his eyes while he said so. I saw lust there. Shit. I felt abused. What the hell did he think about me at that time? I felt like I wanted to throw my thick-heeled shoes to his eyes.
I was wondering if he was thinking that the journal was full of articles similar to those esek-esek magazines or newspapers abundantly found in this country.
After reading another article entitled “Tidak hanya gender, seks juga konstruksi sosial ... (kritik terhadap heteroseksualitas)” I felt my eyes started to be sleepy. I put the book on my lap while I closed my eyes. Seeing me not reading anymore, that man borrowed my book again. I gave it to him. This time, I saw him reading the table of contents and then reading the same article I read before, “Seksualitas Lesbian”. After that I continued closing my eyes again.
Some time later, I opened my eyes. That man disappeared. He just put the book on my backpack without saying anything to me, yeah ... such as thanking me coz I let him read my book. I thought he had got off the bus somewhere.
However, when arriving at Banyumanik terminal, I saw that man in the middle of passangers who were going to get off, including me. It means he didnt get off somewhere before. He just moved to one seat at the front. He pretended not to see me though. I knew he tried to avoid looking at the direction where I was standing.
On the bus to my workplace, I was trying to interpret what that man thought. When the first time he flipped the pages of the book, also read the front cover, his eyes were suddenly full of lust when returning the book to me. Was he thinking that the book was full or vulgar stories, just like in some esek-esek newspapers? The lust in his eyes made me think if he thought that I was a kind of an “easy” girl coz I consumed such stories. J . When he borrowed the book again, he expected to find similar stories in the journal? After he didnt find what he expected, he was disappointed? What made him avoid looking at me? I remember he read “Seksualitas Lesbian.” Here, read the last paragraph of that article:
Pada akhirnya relasi seksual lesbian yang sehat, dimana melibatkan kasih sayang dan kepedulian, jauh dari kekerasan baik fisik maupun verbal, akan menghasilkan kenyamanan dan kenikmatan yang tidak semu. Ada baiknya kaum heteroseksual banyak belajar dari relasi seksual lesbian, supaya tidak ada lagi perempuan hetero yang harus mengalami fake orgasm dan tidak ada lagi laki-laki hetero yang merasa paling hebat dalam melakukan hubungan seksual dan berpikiran jika dia sudah mengalami kepuasan seksual berarti pasangannya juga begitu. (JP 41 hal. 78)
(lastly, a healthy lesbian sexual relationship that involves love, care, and excludes physical and verbal abuse, will result in real comfort, enjoyment, and pleasure. It is a good thing for the heterosexual to learn from lesbian sexuality so that no more heterosexual females have to undergo fake orgasm, and no more heterosexual males feel the greatest in having sex and then think that when they get orgams, their partners will automatically get it too.)
Some possibilities I thought were: First, he thought I was a lesbian. Probably he saw me reading that article too. Since homosexual is still considered abnormal or social disease, he considered me abnormal or socially diseased. As a socially diseased person, I must be isolated. That’s why he moved to another seat, away from me. Second, he was included into a group of men mentioned in that last paragraph. He thought when he got sexually satisfied, automatically, his sex partner would get that too. When he knew from the article that sometimes heterosexual women pretend to get (fake) orgasm to make her sex partner feel ‘manly’ or ‘great’, he felt offended. Third, he thought that homosexual is disease, sinful. As a heterosexual man (a ‘normal’ one, meaning ‘healthy’ not diseased), why should he learn from lesbian sexual relationship?
I stil feel bothered until now. What made his eyes full os lust when looking at me only by seeing my book with the title ‘Seksualitas’ on the cover? I didnt wear clothes that I thought would make me look sexually tempting. I didnt show any body language that would make people around me think that I needed their sexual attraction to me.
The main point is: Pornography is in our mind. Not at the object we are looking at.
How strong are you to control yourself? Free from social, cultural and religous norms?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

MONALISA SMILE

“Monalisa Smile” is one favorite movie of mine. Well, related to my being feminist, it is easy to guess why I love this movie. It is coz this movie talks about women’s lives.
The setting time of this movie is 1953-1954 America. From Betty Friedan’s book entitled The Feminine Mystique, I know in that decade, American women believed that they were the happiest women in the world. The Cult of True Womanhood norm emerging in the middle of the nineteenth century America must have still lingered till the middle of the twentieth century America. People believe that women were created to be housewives. As one of advanced countries in the world, to be housewives in America was the most coveted things coz they were provided with many luxurious things by their rich husband; e.g. house completed with modern appliances (e.g. refrigerator, microwave, washing machine, etc), car. In other countries, women as housewives couldn’t get those yet.
Katherine Watson, the main character of this movie apparently didn’t agree with this principle; that women were created to be housewives. She believed that women, as men, were also born to be future leaders. Women’s destiny to be housewives was not gifted by God, it was constructed by society instead. Watson believed that women also had another choice—to pursue their career outside of home. American women were as intelligent as American men. This was one thing Watson brought with her when she came to Wellesley University, her new workplace—to encourage her female students that to be housewife was not the only ultimate goal for women in this world.
This movie clearly illustrated how those girls continued their study to college not to satisfy their hunger for knowledge, and then later on applied it in their professional life (work), although at the beginning of the movie, one character named Joan Brandwyn stated, “I am every woman going to college to awaken my spirit through hard work and dedicate my life to knowledge.” In the following story, it depicted how Joan, Betty, and the other girls at Wellesley University still believed that to get married and to be a housewife were the only choice to make them happy. They went to college to look for a “better” guy to marry, to spend time while waiting for Mr. Right came to them. Consequently, to live single is a disaster coz they would feel that they were unwanted, unloved.
It is not easy to make difference. It is not easy to change people’s way of thinking that has been shaped for ages. Watson’s struggle to really awaken her female students that they also could lead a professional life outside home was not clearly described as successful by the end of the movie. However, she succeeded in introducing a new principle of life to her students, living single was not like living in hell coz of feeling unwanted and unloved. Many other things people (read à women) could do to make their lives useful and beneficial for other people. Living in a marriage can also mean hellish life when your spouse doesn't marry you for love, just like the example of Betty Warren in the movie.
According to history, we know that struggle of women like Katherine Watson resulted in the second wave of feminism in America in the beginning of 1960s. Many other women in later years continue their struggle to realize equality between men and women in all facets in life.
And I am proud to say that I am in their path. J

EQUALITY

Some days ago, I went online and had a chat with a well-educated Jakarta twenty-nine-year-old guy who is already married. When I told him that I am a feminist and right now I am shaping my teenage daughter to be a feminist too, he commented, “Men don’t like feminists.”

“Well, I know many men consider feminists as enemies.”

“Not really as enemies, though.”

“Yeah … maybe that’s too much. The word “threat” may be more suitable. But I believe broad-minded, open-minded, independent, intelligent, and confident men will not think that way. They will not consider feminists as threat.”

Jokingly, I added, “Well, if all women in the world become radical feminists—many radical feminists are lesbians—those men will be jobless.” LOL.

That’s why straight men don’t like feminists. Their existence as superior creature over women is threatened. They will no longer be needed.

That short chat reminded me of a movie entitled The Stepford Wives where men feel threatened by their wives who are more intelligent, more successful, more powerful. So, to “make” their wives submissive and domestic, they put a certain chip in their wives’ brain, and voila … those women become robots, very submissive to their husbands, do what women “are supposed to do”, e.g. taking care of husband and children, serving their husbands in bed anytime they are wanted, taking care of their appearance (slim, pretty, tidy), behavior (dependent, weak, sensual, emotional, illogical) and do all household chores flawlessly. By the end of the movie, Walter Eberhart shows his confidence by rebelling that women-created-to-be-robot “tradition” in Stepford. He believes that communicating with his successful wife is a better choice to make their marriage work well and live together happily rather than making his wife—Joanna Eberhart—become a “robot”.

Men who are indoctrinated to be superior, more powerful, more successful, more intelligent than women will be inferior to find out the fact that they are even the weaker, less successful and less intelligent than women. In the past, before women went to school to get knowledge, they accepted their “destiny” as the second sex for granted. Men enjoyed their “golden” years as the superior. When women got their right to get knowledge and then actualize themselves in public sphere, inferior men found it as a threat. To silence those intelligent, creative, and active women, men are supposed to work harder, they are supposed to be happier because their life partner are more reliable. They are supposed to feel challenged to show their guts.

Read the following two stanzas of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s poem entitled “Reassurance”:

Can you imagine nothing better, brother,
Than that which you have always had before?
Have you been so content with “wife and mother,”
You dare hope nothing more?

Peace then! Fear not the coming woman, brother.
Owning herself, she giveth all the more.
She shall be better woman, wife, and mother,
Than man hath known before.

When feminists just want to reduce men’s burden, why should men even consider feminists as enemies? Why should they feel threatened and frightened? Why should they want to go on the status quo? It shows their inferiority, doesn’t it? It even shows they are the weaker sex, right?

That’s why as I mentioned above, broad-minded, open-minded, confident, and intelligent men will not feel inferior in front of feminists (read  women who are aware that they have exactly equal right with men in all facets in life, women who realize that they are as good as men in public sphere, and consequently, men are also as good as women in domestic sphere). Equal relationship is much better than superior-submissive relationship, isn’t it?