I am reading a book entitled KAJIAN BUDAYA FEMINIS (Feminist Cultural Studies) written by Aquarini Priyatna, one feminist writer in Indonesia. This book contains the collection of her papers having been published before in some journals or presented in some seminars.
The way she writes in those papers is like the way someone writes autobiography; it is similar to my way of writing articles in my blogs. That’s why I easily like reading it. And I agree with her that this way wil make the readers—especially women—feel like the “I” in the papers is themselves with their daily experiences dealing with patriarchal soceity.
One thing that I want to write here is her complaint on the local language used mostly in Central Java,East Jave, and DIY, three provinces located in Java island. Javanese language—so it is called, just like the ethnic group is also called Javanese—applies three different hierarchies. The highest is called Kromo Inggil, the middle is Kromo Madyo while the lowest is Ngoko.
People speak Ngoko to other people who are about the same level (social class including age). They speak Kromo Madyo to people they are not really close to although they are about the same level. They speak Kromo Inggil to people they respect. On the contrary, people who are respected can speak Ngoko to people who come from lower level.
Husbands speak Ngoko to their wives while wives speak Kromo Inggil. It shows that men have a higher level than the wives so that they must show their respect by using Kromo Inggil when speaking to the husbands.
Aquarini who is married to a Javanese man didn’t know this. When one day she used Ngoko language to the husband, the husband’s family members didn’t like it and consider Aquarini an impolite woman. As a feminist, It directly left a bad taste in her mouth coz using Javanese language made her less important than her husband. Then she asked her husband to speak the national language—Bahasa Indonesia—that doesn’t have such a hierarchy. She is lucky, I suppose, coz her husband didn’t complain and agreed with her.
In a way, it is a dilemma. When more and more people think like this, it will make Javanese language vanish. However, I agree with Aquarini that the application of three different hierarchies in this local language will make women feel inferior, as someone less important.
It reminded me of my own bitter experience in my first marriage. I didn’t use Kromo Inggil to speak to him in the past. However, I used to call Angie’s dad “Mas”, one term mostly used by Javanese people to show respect to men. He just called me my name. After we got divorced, I no longer call him “Mas”. It left a bad taste in my mouth! It really made me forced to be the less important party only coz I was born female; and he the respected one only coz he was born male!
Perhaps for many people it is just a trivial thing. But to me—also to Aquarini—and perhaps also to some other feminists—this is a principle thing in life.
It reminds me of questions asked by many people to me, “Why do you feminists bother those things taken for granted for centuries and try to deconstruct them? Why don’t you just live in peace by accepting everything just the way it is? (Read => to accept that men are the better sex, the superior, the smarter, the stronger, etc.)
We just want to have equality. It sounds easy but difficult to make it real.
PT56 11.26 100706