A few weeks ago, I asked a close senior of mine to introduce me to his friend, who happens to have a degree from a university I am planning to apply for. This guy sent me a screenshot of his chat with his friend in which the friend asks, “SJW bukan bro? (Is she an SJW?).”
I told him to tell his friend that I am.
It has come to my attention that some of the people I’m in good terms with (or look up to) are publicly announcing themselves to be anti-feminist. They undermine the movement, make fun of the campaigns and refer to feminists as the supposedly pejorative
“social justice warriors” or SJW.
I don’t dislike them personally and, in fact, I enjoy their company, especially when issues that trigger the SJWs in me are not brought up. These aspirations they have are mostly voiced in social media – where the “philosophical debate” are often carried out.
These people happen to be males who grew up in some of the biggest cities in Indonesia. They were schooled in the best institutions and have, from early on, easy access to any means of development. I can kind of guess where their thinking comes from.
I myself am a female who was raised in a city with more limited access to development. Now, when I say “limited”, I don’t mean that the internet didn’t come to my city until the year 2010. It’s just that with the living standard of most families in my hometown back then, the internet did not deeply penetrate the area until much later.
I was also, like most families in my hometown, raised in a culture where the division of work between man and woman are clearly marked. For instance, in family gatherings, the demarcation line is the living room. The men’s territory starts from the front porch, where they mostly sit around to discuss local politics, social issues or cars, up to the living room. The women’s territory, on the other hand, starts from the living room to the deeper area of the house (i.e. kitchen, dishwashing room, and laundry room), from where the food and drinks in the front porch are supplied. Kids follow the same line, with daughters most of the time following their mothers, and sons the dads.
In that setting, I was kind of an exception. I have always had the luxury to pass the “kitchen chores” and follow the discussion the males are having outside because I am very much my dad’s girl (I was not raised with a mother). But, when the girls are having fun braiding each other’s hair, I can always follow my sister.
With that arrangement as a kid, I have always been aware of the marking line, but indifferent with the privileges that come with this line. I take this marking line for granted: it is how it’s supposed to be.
Until I have access to feminist literature and listen to feminist campaigns.
My first encounter with feminist literature was in high school where I often represented my school in debate competitions. These competition I later realized was a very good exercise for high school kids to understand social issues. We often debate with motions like, “This house believes that Congress should provide quota for women,” or “This house should legalize prostitution,” and they forced me to read articles that contain feminism idea and campaigns.
The more I was exposed to these literature and campaigns, the easier it was for me to pick up signs of male privileges. And the more I am aware of these privileges, the more I want to break the patterns. I could say that feminism has always given me the strength to hustle in life: from having the courage to do an exchange program in a faraway land for 11 months at the age of 17 years old, enroll in a university that is relatively far from home, to having the confidence in pursuing ambitions other than getting wedded off to a rich man.
But I can kind of guess where my dear anti-feminist friends’ hate of feminism comes from. They have not been so much advantaged by this movement as the girls like me have. In fact, when they see their version of the world, they see feminism as a waste of time because, in their version of the world, the dividing line is not as clear as it is in the less developed cities like my hometown.
Their mom and aunts probably have degrees from universities and hold important positions at work or do great at business. At school, their female friends probably won more science competitions than the males. They probably have women bosses. Hence the thinking “stop with the equality bullshit, the system is working fine for women.”
But for me and many other girls, feminist literature and campaigns can be such eye-opening and leave great impacts. On a more microscopic level, they give little girls the courage to speak, to have ambitions or to pursue something they are told as “not for women.” On a wider scale, campaigns like #metoo have put many molesters in jail, trigger big companies to review their sexual harassment policies, and quota law has helped produce more policies that work for all.
In the end, before these marking lines are wiped off in all corners of the world, feminism will always be relevant. We should all be cheering for the “SJW movement” and all types of feminist ideologies, which I think work differently in different cultures and geographical features.
Additionally, for us feminists, instead of starting a social media war against anti-SJW people, it should be our homework to make our movement more inclusive or advantageous to women, men and people of all genders.
Nesita Anggraini is an ordinary employee in a national company where she can use her (limited) knowledge in corporate law to make ends meet. For more intimate discussion, send her an email at [email protected].