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Saturday, April 01, 2006

What is normal?

Almost two years ago, a friend introduced me to a girl (her initial was A), around 21 years old at that time, who admitted to me that she is a lesbian. She lived in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, located around one hour by plane from my hometown, Semarang. I didn’t get a lot of information though why she BECAME a lesbian. She had a boyfriend at that time, enjoyed her sexual life with him, but once she tried to have sex with the same sex, a girl, she enjoyed it more. That was the only thing she told me.

Some months before that, I had a chat with a twenty-four-year old girl (her initial was R) who said to me that she was also a lesbian. She lived quite far from my hometown, a town called Gorontalo, a much smaller town than Semarang, located in Sulawesi, one big island in Indonesia. She told me that she disliked men coz most men she knew were betrayer, they did violence toward her, and also girls around her that made her sick of men. She said, “Girls are more gentle, loyal, loving, and caring. That’s why I love to be with girls more than with boys.” I told her that I am not a lesbian, but I agreed with her that we, women, can survive without men, live single and be happy.

Now, let’s go back to my twenty-one-year-old friend. When A asked me whether I was also a lesbian, I told her, “I am a heterosexual. Well, until now I am a hetero, dunno later. Everything changes in this world, right? Though I am a hetero, I never think that other people who happen to be a bisexual or a homosexual is abnormal.”

Talking about normal and abnormal, I remembered one day in 2003, in a classroom, when the guest lecturer from New York in my college asked us, “So, how are you today?” A classmate answered, “Everything is normal, sir.” He seemed astonished with that answer. “Normal?” he asked. “Normal from whose perspective?” he continued asking.

His question suddenly made me think how subjective was in fact the word “normal”. From whose perspective? Is there anything that is really from someone or a group of people’s perspective? I also realized how so far people always follow what majority says as a “normal” thing. I started to question that coz as a woman, in that year, I started to get to know feminism, and how I hated to admit that as a woman, someone must be feminine, womanly, motherly, loving, caring, weak, fragile, dependent, bla bla bla, and some other adjectives to follow society’s stereotypes of “good” women, including hetero, if she wants to be considered “normal”. Society forcefully insists women to follow those stereotypes. And in Indonesia, there is one thing to add, a “true” woman is a woman who can be pregnant and has babies. If not? YOU ARE NOT A WOMAN. And this strong influence in society really makes inferior women feel something wrong with them when they “cannot give babies” to their husbands.

After being feminist, I realized how cruel people are that determine what is normal and what is not and then force other people to believe in them.

What is normal?

When a classmate found me reading Michel Foucault’s book entitled The History of Sexuality, he said, “Ah, you are reading Foucault’s book? He is a homo, of course in his book you will find his justification that being a homo is NORMAL.” Is he, then, wrong only coz he doesn’t follow the majority so that he cannot describe himself as someone normal?

Indeed, I agree when people say that we are what we read.

And the majority, who has been indoctrinated for centuries that the only normal sexuality is heterosexual, then has right to judge people who are not hetero as abnormal people? Who gives the majority right to determine that something is normal and abnormal?

Among religious people, they will believe that the only normal is being religious. Those who are non-believer are not normal

Among atheist, they will believe that those religious people are just foolish, meaning, not normal.

Before being a feminist, coz I came from a very strict religious family, I used to think such a thing too; that normal is to be a believer; that normal is to be a hetero, that normal is for women to be feminine, motherly, womanly, submissive, bla bla bla …; that normal is someone must get married to live happy in this life, and many other things that have been indoctrinated to me by my teachers, parents, neighbors, society.

We are what we have been indoctrinated, aren’t we?

And then, where is our common sense? Can’t we use it to think again and again when we see new phenomena?

I love Emerson’s wise saying, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Where is our empathy, then, when we don’t want to understand people who have different way of thinking from ours? Only coz they don’t seem normal in our eyes; not normal from the way we have been indoctrinated?

I remember one time in 2003 when reading a book Memberi Suara pada yang Bisu (Give voice to those who are dumb) written by Dede Oetomo, the first man in Indonesia who daringly had the word GAY written in his identity card under column “sex”. He wrote about his own struggle to avoid his own natural call as a gay, only coz gay was considered as a disease, abnormal, sin. He really felt inferior with his being “abnormal” when he was teenager. When, at last, he realized that his being gay was also something gifted by God, he gave in. He no longer forced himself to be “normal” by being attracted to women. if he understands that being a hetero is normal for other people (how he couldn’t understand either why his teenaged male friends were more attracted to girls while he himself was more attracted to boys.) Are we empathetic enough to say that Dede doesn’t have right to judge other people as abnormal coz they are attracted to opposite sex only coz we belong to the majority? If that is so, we have become tyrant, don’t we?

Reading Dede’s book, that coincidently happened together when I was gathering information about feminism, and my claiming myself as a feminist, made me open my eyes, that being a gay can be something gifted too, and we must not easily judge people who happen to be gay as abnormal.
(How I also hate to think that people consider me as abnormal only coz I think that women are not always supposed to be feminine, motherly, womanly, weak, hetero, dependent, fragile, submissive, bla bla bla …)

When reading a book entitled Transseksualisme, about a woman who felt trapped in a wrong body coz inside her heart she didn’t think that she is a woman, but a man, and how she also hated to be looked at by people strangely, I realized more that the majority society has done a crime to those people who feel that they were born as gay, as transgender, coz easily judge them as people who don’t want to accept the destiny (that they were born as male or female so that their sexual orientation is supposed to be to their opposite sex, and not to the same sex; that they were born as male or female and why the hell they want to do sexual operation so that they do not feel trapped in a wrong body any longer, etc.)

I am lucky enough to be born having female body and feeling that I am really a woman. I am a straight person (it refers to the fact that until now most people still think that to be straight is the only normal sexuality). I have one daughter (it refers to cruel Indonesian belief that a true woman is a woman who can be pregnant and deliver a baby). However, I’m not that lucky coz of my belief that a woman is an individual too so that I can claim that my body and my mind belong to me (it refers to majority belief that a woman belongs to her husband so that her body and her mind belong to her husband too, let her husband decide what is good or bad for her.) I am not that lucky coz I don’t really believe that marriage is the only ultimate goal to reach happiness (it refers to Indonesian marriage-oriented society where many people believe that happiness only can be reached by marrying someone. How in Indonesia many women sacrifice their lives and happiness to live in a loveless marriage and having an emotional husband who often does violence or probably willing to be the second, third, or nth wife only because they want to be considered normal and happy by getting married.)

Any comment friends? You are mostly welcome.


Anonymous said...

Normalcy is overrated

Anonymous said...

Sy baca blog anda n sy sangat tertarik sma isinya. Sebagai perempuan sy merasakan kebenaran hal2 yg anda tuliskan. Especially the part that man owns a woman once they're married, terbukti dari diwajibkannya seorang istri melayani suaminya kapanpun ia mau. Bisakah seorang istri menolak "sentuhan" suaminya pada TUBUHNYA SENDIRI? Bahkan ketika ia tidak menginginkannya?
I almost believe that ketika menikah, seorang perempuan akan kehilangan identitasnya sebagai seorang individu.

A Feminist Blog said...

Hello Anonymous ...
I love to read this comment of yours. Memang begitulah adanya dunia yang patriarkalnya masih sangat kuat. :( Kita kaum perempuan harus aktif melindungi diri sendiri.