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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Angie versus Mia

Angie means my Lovely Star—Dzikrina Angie Pitaloka; while Mia is the nickname of Mia Thermopolis, the narrator of teen-lit novel entitled Princess Diaries written by Meg Cabot.

I bought the first serial of Princess Diaries in 2003, four years ago, when Angie was twelve years ago. In the first book, Mia was fourteen years old. As far as I remember Princess Diaries is the first teen-lit novel Angie read. At first, she complained why I bought here such a book, “Mia is fourteen while I am only twelve,” she said.

“Well honey, only two years difference, that’s not a big deal of course. I do hope you can get a good lesson from this novel.” I reasoned four years ago.

And my guess was right: Angie loved it. And sometimes she even was so absorbed that she saw herself as a “princess to be”. LOL. I assume she mixed it with Cinderella story (with its Cinderella complex!!!) (Un)luckily, in the first serial, Meg Cabot didn’t illustrate Mia as a feminist, only her mother: as a feminist who often did weird things with her weird feminist friends. It was similar to Angie and me: Angie didn’t know much about feminism, and perhaps she also saw me as weirdo: a feminist who was much different from her friends’ mothers, or our female neighbors who seemed to enjoy being full housewives. Unfortunately, in the first series of Princess Diaries, the relationship between Mia and her mother was not as open as my relationship with Angie since Mia seemed not to like her mother’s “weird” things many feminists (probably) do: such as not marrying Mia’s father, although she already got a baby from the man: Mia. One thing I remember (though I don’t remember in which serial Cabot wrote about it): when Mia’s mother offered her to talk about sexuality openly by coming to Mia’s room and encouraging her to talk about it heart to heart: instead of having a lively and comfortable talk with her feminist mother, Mia rejected it, saying to herself: “Sex? Oh no, my mom must be insane thinking that I am already interested in sex.” Well, I don’t remember how old Mia was when Cabot narrated that part. (FYI, I have the complete serials of Princess Diaries, only Angie doesn’t collect them in one bookshelf. Perhaps some books are borrowed by her friends. 

Realizing that as a teenager, Angie is still undergoing unstable mental progress, frankly speaking I often feel worried that Angie will blatantly follow her “role models” in some teen-lit novels she reads, including Princess Diaries. (The era when I bought her some religious collection short stories has been over! It is because in those stories the narration is clearly only between black and white, good and bad, no character is in grey area. In the reality, life is not just black and white like that, oftentimes we are surrounded by “grey things”, moreover I raise Angie as a secular, which in my opinion is often related to grey area.) Mostly after reading some teen-lit novels or watching movies/soap operas on television about teenagers, I wait for Angie to ask me about what she has read/watched, and discuss it together. She seldom does that, though.

In the last serial of Princess Diaries (the title is “Princess in the Brink” if I am not mistaken), Mia was narrated to be thinking of doing lovemaking for the first time with Michael. I assumed, no matter what, Cabot wouldn’t let it happen. (Honestly, as a feminist living in Indonesia, an area called “the Eastern” part of the globe, thinking of Angie will do it before getting married—moreover in a very young age, just like Mia who was still sixteen years old, the same age as Angie at the moment—really scared me, although I DO REALIZE that doing sex is everybody’s right.)

I must admit that there was a relief feeling in me when coming to the part that Mia didn’t do that with Michael. (silly of me! LOL.) Surprisingly, Cabot then wrote the “intimate scene” between Mia and her mother, because Mia needed to confide in someone, and she chose her mother as the first person to release her disappointment knowing that in fact Michael was no longer virgin. 

After reading that, I noticed that recently, Angie loved to be intimate with me on the bed before both of us fell asleep: one thing she used to love doing as a kid, but she seldom did that after she reached teenage.
Two nights ago, while lying on the bed in the dark, Angie was very close to me, kissing my right ears, and whispered, “You smell nice Mama. Will I still smell good like you after I become a mother?” LOL.

As what always happens to anybody else, kids will always be kid, won’t they? Anyway, I still love when Angie does things like what she used to do to me when she was a small kid.  A mother will always be a mother? LOL. LOL.

PT56 15.30 151207

Ayu Utami

Ayu Utami, one feminist writer in Indonesia, is not a supporter of Roland Barthes’ theory of “the death of the author”. She said that when she was invited by the committee of KAMPOENG WEDANGAN, one event to encourage business people in Semarang to improve entrepeneurship. The same occasion was also made use to promote local cultures to public.

What made Ayu Utami negate Barthe’s theory? She said that when her first novel SAMAN was translated to a foreign language—let’s say French—she was usually invited to come to that country, to explain the public there what SAMAN was all about. It clearly showed that Ayu was not considered dead after she had her novel published. Proudly, Ayu said that her novel SAMAN had been translated to six foreign languages. Besides French, SAMAN has been translated into English, Dutch, Czech, French, Russian, and I forgot the other one. 

Referring to the literary polemic that happened some time ago in the internet, I asked her opinion that for some critics in Indonesia—especially those who come from opposite group of Komnitas Utan Kayu—her novel SAMAN was just rubbish, because it contained many vulgar sexual words. Instead of understanding what Ayu wanted to convey to public, they “killed” Ayu. Even when the polemic was very “hot” in the internet, Ayu did not comment anything. She said that she did not mean to close her mind from any criticism. She also welcomed any criticism when she considered the criticism was “on the right path”. When I mentioned name Katrin Bandel who had a book published to criticize Ayu’s ideas on women’s rights to be not virgin (Ayu said it was the main idea of SAMAN), Ayu did not comment anything. Instead she said:

“So far, there have been two criticisms on SAMAN that I consider eligible to pay attention. One of them is from a feminist from Australia. She said that no matter what, SAMAN still talked about men’s superiority on women. Among some leading characters in SAMAN, the most conspicuous one is SAMAN, a male character. Saman is the hero for the villagers in one plantation in Sumatra; he belongs to public creature. On the contrary, the female characters (Laila, Yasmin, Cok, and Sakuntala) are just decorations in the story.”

By the way, the main reason why the committee of KAMPOENG WEDANGAN invited Ayu Utami was to share her experience in writing novels; how to be an entrepeneur by being a writer. She said that one step someone must undergo before being an author is being a writer.

LL 15.35 221207

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Religious ...

When reading one article in Jurnal Perempuan number 54, I remember one friction I had with a very good friend of mine. It was not about gender equality though; it was more on religious pluralism.

I was born in a very strict religious Muslim family, raised by religious parents who happen to have conventional beliefs (such as only Muslim will go to heaven, believe strongly that heaven was created by God only for Muslim, and hell was created for human beings who don’t get ‘enlightenment’ by adhering in Islam.), parents who undergo different spiritual journey from me, either because they intentionally let themselves “closed” from any other possibility (let’s say that God is not a SEVERE CREATOR THAT WILL BLOODY PUNISH GOD’S CREATURES IN A PLACE CALLED HELL AFTER THE JUDGMENT DAY, or God did plan that human beings live adhering different religions/beliefs, God indeed LETS it happen), or because my parents live in a “limited sphere” so that they never come to the ‘enlightenment’ I got.

My spiritual journey eventually made me “convert” to be a secular Muslim. However, my background—used to be in those rigidly conventional Muslim’s shoes—made me easy to understand why those people think that way. I also understand if those people need to do something “important” (according to their way of thinking) in order to “save” me from secularism. And since I am the minority in my family, my struggle is really not easy, is it? (To convince them that I don’t need to be ‘saved’ in their way.)

My good friend said that he would never understand those people—that he said like “frogs in a coconut shell”—who are strongly convinced that only Islam is their ticket to enter heaven. “They let themselves blinded by their strong belief in their religion that they worship as they worship God.” He argued. It is just like he did not understand why I relented to an “imbecile” (quoting one term used by Laksmi in her article “Addicted to Religion” somewhere at to call a religion addict) that happens to be my very own sister.

My good friend does not have the same background as me. Is that why he would never understand why I relented?

Oh, how I often feel painful and broken hearted when talking about religiosity versus secularism.

PT56 22.05 091207

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Celebrating Women's Diversity

Celebrating Women's Diversity” is the main topic of Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal) number 54. Diversity is indeed something certain that we cannot avoid in our lives. To force a plural society to be homogeneous must be out of question.

What ‘diversity’ is meant in this journal?

The fact that the idea of feminism—that refers to the equality between men and women in all aspects of life—was proposed by the white women is undeniable. However, to say that what has been struggled by the white women can be applied to all kinds of women in the world—that means colored women are considered to have similar problems as well as solutions with the white—is something needs negating. Therefore, then some other kinds of feminisms appear, such as multicultural feminism that is considered more appropriate for colored women.

In Indonesia with its many kinds of ethnic group—with Javanese (read  have dark/light brown complexion, almond-shaped eyes, straight/wavy hair) as the majority—we still cannot categorize all women’s problems to reach equality with their fellow human beings (read  men) into one classification. Women In Java island themselves can be categorized into rural and urban women, metropolitan or small town women. They can have different way of thinking to view equality. Women in other islands—such as those who have dark complexion with kinky hair—perhaps need to struggle something else. Different culture in one ethnic group values different things from others.

I will take one easy example of women who come from low social class. They have to work hard to survive, not just to get self-esteem or reach self-actualization, as what women from high social class pursue in their life. These women probably will not understand why women from high social class have to work if their husbands can provide them everything they need. They even probably want to enjoy lingering at home, without worrying what to eat today. On the contrary, women from high social class who can “enjoy” working to pursue their self-actualization is not guaranteed free from patriarchal society’s oppression.

Therefore it is necessary to accept the diversity.

Several weeks ago, I read an article stating a group of women had a demonstration to refuse women activist’s struggle to reach equality (check this site – in Bahasa though
/DEMO_MENOLAK_KESETARAAN?replies_read=26) Since the article didn’t mention clear names for the exact places where those women did the demo, including the exact dates, I was of opinion that it was just a misleading writing by someone who did not like the idea of gender equality. However, if it did happen, I think we had better respect each other’s values. We—women activists—appreciate those women who choose to be full housewives, dedicate their whole lives for their husband and children, as well as make themselves subservient before their husbands—the breadwinner. On the other hand, they respect women activists who keep struggling for gender equality. As I wrote somewhere in this blog, feminism also means giving women full choices what to do in their life, whether they want to be a full housewife, or to work in public sphere, either for self-esteem or self-actualization or work to make their ends meet.

God, the Omnipotent, did not create just one race because I believe God also thinks that differences create beauty.

PT56 21.30 091207