How Hard is It to Be A Feminist in Indonesia?
The answer is not easy! I live in a country where everyone (both men and women) still believe that men should be the leader, or men deserve to make decisions, whether it is in government, company, or family. The women here are willing to give their authority to the man they trust. The truth, however, is problematic.
Men do not become a leader because they have the in-built trait to be one. They become a leader because of their gender. A notion, that is accepted and adopted in many countries. Especially the countries that have a high number of religious people. Patriarchy is the result of religious practices.
I consider myself a feminist. I believe that everyone deserves the same rights for everything. I also think that everyone is capable of doing anything in this world as long as they want to do it. Unfortunately, the world out there is slightly different. Some companies think there is a golden age for women to work because someday, they will bear kids and take care of their children. A dent in the profitability of a firm, I think. Isn’t it better than to hire men and avoid women’s hypothetical split focus or extra day-offs?
I am aware that I am a woman, and I have a womb. It means I can get pregnant. With the company issue mentioned above, I choose not to have children at all (and in any other circumstances that I believe it is morally wrong to have children). I see my decision as a feminist decision. It allows me to have control over my body, my future, and my entire life. I feel so much power to own that decision. Unfortunately, society judges me as selfish. It is against god’s will, they say. Having a womb as a woman is an act of god. But, using it is a choice. Just because I have a womb does not mean I want to have children.
Another issue that I would want to talk about as a feminist is the romanticizing of marriages. Religious people see marriage as a mandatory thing. Even worse, they romanticize it to women only. Religious people see single women as deceptive because everything they see in women can make guys turn on. And it is the fault of the woman. If women marry sooner, they will get protection from the marriage that no man can bother them anymore since they are married. Not only that, a price tag gets attached to women with a depreciating return. Meaning, the older they get, the cheaper they are. To be honest, if they were only concerned about a women’s reproductive health, I get it. But most of the time it’s just the social construct! Seen as a pride symbol. Often said, “how beautiful and successful you are as a woman to be taken sooner”. As a feminist, I see this phenomenon as an insult to the institution of marriage and women in general. For me, marriage is a choice and not what I have to do. Marry if you want to, and you love each other, not because the family or the society tells you to.
Let us return to my ordeals of working in a company as a feminist. To begin with, It is an enormous burden. People at my company always ask me about the reason behind my decision. It seems like I need to justify every move that I am going to make. Sometimes, the reason is not enough. They suggest I think twice or have a more methodological way of thinking. However, they do not bother themselves to ask the same question every time they want to do something or make a decision. It seems like the burden is only on me because I am different. Being a feminist sometimes costs me to feel alienated because I need to watch every decision I make. If I make a wrong decision, people will take it as a feminist fault, not my fault. So, sometimes I should withdraw myself from the crowds to prevent any mistake because I feel the burden of being judged as a feminist. It does not have to be like that. People do mistake whether they are feminists or not. If I make a mistake, I am still a legit feminist woman.
The hardest thing about being a feminist in my country is living with rampant inequality in every sphere of our lives with those who are complicit in the ongoing catastrophe of women. Women like me want to do a lot of things, but we cannot do it alone. We do not get support from fellow women around us because they are brainwashed into believing that this is how it should be. Women are supposed to tend to household work, let men take all the decisions as they continue to be mute spectators.
So, I think, it is time for us (feminists) to unite, not to poke each other’s side and claim it as the best feminist movement. We cannot change this world alone.
Written by Intan T. Ilaiha
An independent woman who lives by herself in Indonesia. She has a background in journalism and she is interested in the issue of Politics, International Relations, and Feminism.