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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"This is Ibu Agus ..."

NOTE: In Bahasa Indonesia the word 'Ibu' is a label addressed to respected women regardless their marital status. It is followed women's first names. In my case, for example, it is very common for people to call me 'Ibu Nana'.

A few weeks ago, a female workmate of mine -- her name is Prima Siska -- got married. She took some days off after her wedding day. On the first day she came back to the office, a male workmate of mine greeted her, "Ibu Agus ... how are you today?" The female workmate of mine did not respond it because the other one is known as a playful guy.
Several days ago, I got an email from a good friend. Out of the blue she was wondering if -- as an acclaimed feminist -- I will let other people call me using my husband's name (for example 'Ibu Didi', well at the moment my boyfriend's name is Didi, but at other time it can be any other name LOL) when I get married again later.

I heard that the custom for Indonesian people to adopt the family name of the husband to be mentioned behind a woman's name after getting married was brought to Indonesia by the Dutch colonial government. The so-called 'real' culture of Indonesian people do not recognize the practice of 'annihilating' the existence of women only due to marriage. Even, one lecturer of mine said that in Javanese culture -- or perhaps only in Jogja culture since this lecturer of mine is from Jogja) several decades ago, a new married couple would leave their both maiden names and then they would choose one new name to be used by both of them.
That a colonized country adopts the culture of the colonizer is taken for granted. Even there is a tendence that the colonized country will consider everything from the colonizer better, more modern or more advanced. To adopt the husband's family name behind a woman's name after getting married is included. For those who live in areas where the people do not use family name -- like in Javanese culture -- married women will be called 'Ibu' plus the first name of the husband, such as 'Ibu Agus ..." My female workmate's husband's name is 'Agus Sulistiyo'. (NOTE: 'Sulistiyo' here is NOT a family name.)
I was amused by my mother's experience relating to this addressed name. In 1970s when my family lived in an area where the inhabitants were included into the low class society, neighbors called her own name -- Ida -- plus 'auntie' at the front. (NOTE: In Indonesia, mostly in Javanese culture, it is very common to call the married female neighbors 'auntie' while the married male neighbors 'uncle'.) My mom was popularly-known as 'auntie Ida' in that area. Meanwhile, when she got involved in any gathering held by my dad's office -- attended by the wives -- my mom was called 'Ibu Muien Podungge': my dad's name. Her own name -- Ida -- was not known.
When our family moved to another area in 1981, my mom was also called as 'Ibu Muien'. Then I recognized the 'trigger'. The inhabitants there could be included into the middle class society.
To conclude it, women who belong to the middle class society, they will get the annihilation of self existence after they get married.
This conclusion is supported by what happened in the low class society of American women in the nineteenth century. In her poem entitled "Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth complained the unfair treatment to low class women, moreover she was black. ((Click ) Besides, Mary Ann Fitch Wescott, the mother of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (one feminist author living in 1860-1935), the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper", chose to stay at home, instead of working outside, because she felt that she belonged to the middle class society, although her husband left her with her two kids, that meant she had to depend on her relatives to support her own life and the kids. In the nineteenth century, "the Cult of True Womanhood" -- one tenet was the domestication of women -- was only for middle class and upper class women.

Going back to the case 'Ibu Agus ...' or 'Ibu Didi ...', I work because I want to work, to actualize myself, as well as to share the knowledge I have with others, not merely because I am a feminist. Nowadays, women working outside the house do not exclusively belong to the low class women. While for nicknames, well, I agree with what Shakespeare said, 'what is in a name?' I respected women who proudly use their husband family name behind their name, and leave their maiden name, as long as it is their own choice. I believe they have their own ways to actualize themselves. Even if they are willing to annihilate their self actualization, I respect it. In other words, I also demand other people to respect my choice if I still want people to know me as 'MS NANA PODUNGGE' or just 'Ibu Nana' when I get married again later.

Nana Podungge
PBIS 14.34 02.02.10

Check my other posts about 'family name'


Riri~ said...

Well, IBU Nana (teehee), nice to read ur blog..

johnorford said...

i often thought about taking a future wife's name : ) instead of her taking mine... or perhaps we could swap : )