“The Bad Luck” of Being A Young Woman

By Niken Lestari

It never occured to me that writing my personal stories and share them in my blog can be part of activism. I always thought odov_cirebonactivism is something big, heroic, direct, brave, and masculine. Yes, masculine because I don’t think marching to the public space, yelling, cursing, demanding are representing feminine values. It’s masculine because I often frightened to be near the protesters, feel their anger through their expressions; their fists, their voices, their eyes, which remind me of my father when he’s angry.

I like writing. I used to like writing poem. It was powerful and indirect. I was afraid of talking directly of something. With poem, I can used metaphores, playing with multiple meanings, and drawing my anger using words. I found it resourceful, powerful, entertaining, and feel relieved. However, I keep them personal and private. My poems are like diaries. I was very afraid if someone read them and I will be exposed. What would people think about me? What do they have to say about me? A fragile, unstable young woman with dark and sinful thoughts? No, I don’t want to be found out and labelled. I was perfectly fine in my hiding space.

I knew all along about internet, e-mail and homepage. It’s incredible to read so many stories available in internet about people’s private lives. Of course many were anonymous but still they were brave enough to make it public and open for judgement.

Then there was a moment in my life where a poem no longer enough to contain my anger, dissappointment, sadness, and humiliation. In certain periods of my life, I experienced verbal and physical sexual harassment. I keep it hidden, personal, and casual. It’s like a bad luck that could happen to everyone. Until I see the pattern and everyone become mostly young women. That is a bad luck.

Like many women I knew, I started to search and list of what is wrong with me and my body. I don’t think I am very pretty, so I should be safe. My logic at that time was “it’s normal to harass pretty girl”. I didn’t question the standard for pretty face or who make the standard. I wasn’t sexy either. I used to think certain men harass women because the women are attractive. I was a pale and skinny young woman. Or maybe those are qualities women should have to become sexy? So imagine the puzzle I had to solve because I didn’t find myself attractive.

I have to channeled and expressed my anger. I feel deeply powerless. It disturb me to the point I don’t feel worth enough. I resigned from my job only to find that my parents think harassment was no big deal and having a stable job was more important than being treated as a human. I need space to screeeeaaaaamm!!!!

I was writing like mad and using geocities homepage to display them. I was so fed up that I no longer afraid someone, anyone or no one would read them. I was concern with my sanity. It was bad enough that I thought all men are absolute jerks and promised myself not to marry any of them. I was a man-hater. I was a relic of the day when feminist seen as a man-hater. Yes, I was a feminist because I hate men VERY MUCH.

I attended women’s studies in my almamater because I still think something was wrong and it wasn’t me. People may think being a young woman is the greatest moment in life but that was not what I experienced. As a young woman, I feel targeted and seen as an easy prey. I feel vulnerable. The study proved to change my understanding of the system and my situation. It also renewed my feminist thinking and attitude toward men.

Through the process of writing and listening, I get much more insights and unraveled the power dynamic around me. There was a time when I closed down my blog due to complaint from a man. Some women also asked whether I feel ashamed to tell my stories in public. “What if your parents or your friends read about it?”. Some people are bit skeptical. “Is it your true story or do you dramatize it to make more people visit your blog?” Or something like, “Which part of your stories are fiction and which parts are non-fiction?”.

I used to afraid of judgement and labeling but not anymore. Blogging gives me space to reflect and analyze. The form of blogging may be change but the essence of story telling remain the same. I also don’t see social activism as masculine anymore. Men, women, children have the rights to feel angry about something and express them without physically harm others.

I think writing and blogging are part of activism for their ability to voice out and empower both the writers and the readers. They are able to touch at the personal level and motivate people. In my experience, writing and blogging are big, heroic, indirect, brave and unisex. It’s part of being who I am.

Malang, 23 July 2014

Published at http://worldpulse.com/node/91477