Reading Aquarini Priyatna’s book entitled Kajian Budaya Feminis (published by Jalasutra in 2006, I bought it July 6, 2006) really suprised me many times, how I found similar experiences as a woman who happened to find awakening in feminism ideology. I must say that I agreed with Aquarini that a woman doesn’t need to be a feminist to realize their rights they deserve to get in this patriarchal society. Yet, Aquarini believed that she needed to be a “declared feminist” –and I am on her side absolutely—to emphasize that she doesn’t follow the path of a bulk of women in Indonesia that just follow the status quo.
My own experience having a blog at A Feminist Blog and interacting with my blog readers from (mostly) western countries made me realize that many western women have understood that they have equal position with men, deserve to enjoy their own life—without always being involved with men who “are supposed to possess them”; making their own choice in their life—without always asking for their men to make the choice for them. Some female readers of my blog said, “Nana, I already understand that women are independent creature, not always need to be related to men all the time. And to do that, I don’t need to be a feminist. I agreed with all those rights for women (e.g. to choose any profession they want, to choose whether they want to get married or stay single, to choose whether they want to have a baby or not, etc) without declaring myself as a feminist.”
I can see the difference between the awareness of women in western countries and in Indonesia about their own rights. Therefore, I commented that in Indonesia, I need to declare myself as a feminist, to show my identity.
This article was inspired by Aquarini’s article entitled “Menulis Saya—Perjalanan menuju Diri yang Baru” (I write—a journey to my new Self).
Women need to love themselves by sparing some precious time to do anyhing they like without being involved to their husbands/children. One culture I observe in Indonesia—especially in Javanese culture where I was brought up—is that women are not supposed to enjoy themselves once they get married. They must dedicate all their life to the husbands and then children. A woman will have time for herself after her husband goes to work and children go to school. However, after the beloved husband and the children go home, she must prepare herself to do anything these loved ones want her to do. No complaint. Even, when those loved ones are away from home, it doesn’t always mean that a woman can really enjoy her spare time for her own hobbies (suppose the woman is a full housewife); she has to finish doing the household chores and prepare meals for the husband and children. If she still has spare time after that, perhaps she can go shopping for pleasure, or hang around with her friends, with one BIG note: if the husband lets her do that. If not, she must stay home.
This consensus for many decades (centuries perhaps) will make women feel guilty if they don’t do this. Society (especially other women) consequently will easily call a woman as a bad one if she doesn’t follow it. And to be called as a bad woman is something undesirable by women so they are willing to sacrifice their own happiness to be called as a “good” woman.
Aquarini almost rejected a very valuable scholarship to study in Britain only because she didnt want to leave her husband and babies. She was worried to be considered as a bad woman who was not responsible toward her beloved family?
I almost thought of leaving the scholarship I got to study in one local university in Indonesia (but different city from my hometown) in 2002 because I didn’t want to leave my daughter and her dad at that time; because I was still a conventional woman who followed the status quo of patriarchal culture.
The same as Aquarini that thought of feminism ideology as her awakening to love herself—to appreciate her own rights more highly than before—I always think that my Master’s study as the awakening where I got to know feminism ideology, where I love myself more, I appreciate my rights more, and at the same time, I “killed” my role as the “angel of the house”, also as a mother who has to be worshipped by my daughter because I am just a human being and Angie is also a human being, just as stated by Henrik Ibsen below.
HELMER: Before all else, you are a wife and a mother.NORA: I don’t believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being.A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, (1999:68)
When a woman is willing to be trapped in a pedestal position as a wife and a mother, she mostly then forgets that she is just a human being, just like her husband and children. When she forgets, she will easily shape herself to follow society’s norm of a good woman, that unfortunately sometimes makes her unhappy.
One example of my workmate. She got married in 2002, and she wanted to follow my step to get a scholarship to study in the same program with me the following year. Unfortunately her spoilt husband didn’t let her go. “Who will take care of me if you continue your study there?” Perhaps she idolized the role of a woman to be a wife and a mother and forgot that in fact she has full right to do anything she wanted—including to pursue her study—so that she chose to stay. I know until now sometimes she still regrets that ‘accident’, but she always says, “Well, for my husband’s happiness.” When will she think of her own happiness?
Wish I could make my folk—women in Indonesia—realize their rights that they deserve to do things they want to do without feeling worried to be considered as bad women. Wish to see men in Indonesia more confident to see women pursue career and study so that those men no longer “imprison” their wives in “good women” confinement.
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