We Should All Stop Being Feminists


This article was first published by Magdalene on 21 October 2016 and was included on their Top Posts for a few weeks. Click here to go to their site.


“You’re either for Hillary or you’re a misogynist,” a friend said once as I was trying to explain to her why I rooted for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic presidential candidacy a few months ago.

I was surprised, to say the least. Not because she called me a misogynist, which, by the way, I definitely am not, but because I didn’t expect her to be one of those self-proclaimed feminists who believe that it shouldn’t matter whether a woman is capable or not as long as women get their voices heard.

But it’s not entirely wrong. I think during the early time of feminist movement; when women were not even allowed to go out of their homes without male companions – let alone run for a political office – that was certainly the case, but certainly not now.

Women no longer have to just accept whatever they are given. I think it is just as demeaning to say that a political figure should get elected based on the sheer fact that she is a woman as to say that a woman isn’t capable of assuming leadership positions at all.

There are so many things going in my head right now, but I’m trying not to bore everyone who is reading this and consequently fail at conveying what I’m trying to convey, so I will cut to the chase: I believe there’s something wrong with today’s feminist movement.

I only have anecdotal occurrence and findings instead of statistics, to support this assertion, but I’m seeing a lot of people claiming to be feminists, working to change things for the better and all, but beneath all these things they’re doing, their purpose is not to solve the problems, but  to preserve them.

Feminism, for some people, is nothing but a good business stunt. Women can work but of course with less salary for equal work. Women can access education, but of course their opinions don’t matter as much as men’s do. Women can run for political offices, but of course they’re never meant to actually win. If they do, we’re all screwed up.

Most of the time, I shy away from describing myself as a feminist. Not because I don’t think I am, but because I think being a feminist isn’t something you just suddenly get to be as soon as you called Trump out for his sexist comments against Megyn Kelly or as soon as you quote a line from Wollstonecraft – which you did not even bother to actually read, by the way – and post it as your Instagram caption. Being a feminist, ideally, is a life-long commitment which should, unquestionably, be the universal norms everyone conforms to. And everybody should be one.

I imagine that one day; civilization would progress to the point when we get to call people out for not being a feminist instead of singling out those who are – as is arguably the case today. This is why I believe that the end goal should be to stop being a feminist. Not because being a feminist is a bad thing, not at all, but because as long as we “have” to be a feminist, it means that the world remains the same: full of misogynistic and sexist views, gender biases, discrimination against people of different sexual orientation and gender identities, restrictions against gender expressions, and all those outrageous things that appall us. I figure the moment we get to stop explaining to everyone else why and how we’re a feminist, we may finally get to ask people why they are not one for a change.

Now I’m pretty sure that many are dismissing me as an unrealistic delusional self-proclaimed feminist who knows nothing. And you’re probably not wrong. But isn’t it exhausting having to constantly defend yourself against people who think that you aren’t normal because your views go against their narrow set of norms and indoctrinated beliefs? Or having to ceaselessly criticize the media and individuals for writing or saying something ignorant against people who don’t fall into their zone of conformity? Or having to explain to your parents, friends, and strangers that just because you don’t find discussing about sexuality and gender or standing up against demeaning patriarchal norms to be taboo or even forbidden, doesn’t mean you’re an immoral hypersexual liberal pervert who is obsessed with sex.

For me, at least, it is exhausting.

And as much as I cherish the opportunities to talk about these things, I want it to be more of a casual thing to do. Not something that is “too intellectual” that some people are allergic to or something that chases people out of the room before the discussion even begins, because they feel uncomfortable talking about penises and vaginas and breasts and everything else that goes beyond the physical dimension of it.

That actually brings us to another problem. It isn’t a secret that a considerable number of feminists feel as if being a feminist granted them the rights to label those who disagree with them degrading adjectives. They mean well, but that’s the thing: everybody means well. The difference is that some people are gracious about it, taking their time trying to inform non-feminists why they should be one while some others can be super obnoxious about it. Instead of informing people, they help cementing this idea that feminists are merely a bunch of millennials who look down on everyone else because they’re so full of themselves.

So, yes, I am deadly serious when I say that we should all stop being feminists who have to explain why we are what we are. Instead, we should hold those who are not feminists accountable. Being a feminist should be the new normal, despite my reservations about anything that starts with the word “norm.” Some people seek higher power to find comfort in life, but people like me aim to actually empower ourselves, and ideally others, without having to deal with the limitations that are there just because they have always been there; not because they are there.

How to Excel at Being Basic


Imagine a working situation in which you are expected to deliver results and you employ everything at your disposal to achieve those results. Regardless of how well you manage, however, there’s always going to be that one person who seems to have nothing but criticism against you. Not that ‘constructive criticism’ myth, but the ill-intended ones. And you can’t help it that it ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

I’ve been working on a thing with several other people on something rather specific. I didn’t find the bunch to be a set of people I thought I was going to get along with—but I did eventually. I even stepped up to assume a leadership role which gives me certain responsibilities to oversee everything.

And I like to think that I’ve been doing it rather well. Obviously there are aspects I wish I could’ve done better, but given the circumstances, I don’t think anybody else in the group could’ve done a better job than I did. And I really have been trying to evaluate myself in a very honest, raw, and sometimes harsh way. I hold a high bar to myself.

But some people are just so blind to their own shortcomings.

I don’t appreciate being taken for granted and so it applies to my work as well. I despise anyone who takes anything for granted—especially a work. The way I see it, if you don’t appreciate a work or you think that it’s pointless, then don’t do it. Let other people who do appreciate and commit to it do it.

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My head is a time bomb.

But that’s where it gets tricky. Some people mistake commitment with mere ambition. How can you call yourself committed to anything when you can’t even seem to make any time to tend to it? That goes for work too. You can’t claim to be committed to something and not make time to attend a meeting about it all the time. Of course nobody expects you to be 100% available all the time, but the point is that if you give a damn about it, act like you give a damn about it. Say you have a boyfriend and everytime you arrange a date, your boyfriend bails out or simply is never available. Would you say that he’s committed to your relationship?

I don’t think so. And so it really tips me to the edge that every damn time I point out how it’s not okay that some people are never present for anything, I receive defensive responses. Ones that constantly sound like a series of justification to tolerate people who commit, perform, and contribute less than even minimal. That somehow I’m the one who’s wrong because I expect people to be committed to something they voluntarily committed themselves to, to expect people to deliver what they’re responsible to deliver in the first place, and to contribute in a fair manner as everybody else.

If expecting these things make me wrong, then you bet I’m damn wrong.

And then there’s this other thing that frustrates me to a tipping point. I’m simply writing about this as a therapeutic means for me to let out the frustration I’m harboring, not to smear or offend anyone, so I’m just going to keep making up suggestive hypothetical instances.

Say you’re supposed to plan a program as a group of 10 people. You set up a meeting to prepare for the program and out of these 10 people, only 4 were actually present in the meeting. Knowing you are responsible to organize the program regardless of the disadvantages and that you don’t have the luxury to postpone your preparation because you’re responsible to the people funding your program, you and the other 3 people decided to start preparation without waiting for the missing six.

Is it ideal? No. But do you have other options? Well, we can argue that there are multiple ways I could’ve dealt with the situation better, but trust me I wouldn’t have just resorted to an executive decision to decide things on a whoever-present-gets-to-decide basis if I had any other option that was viable and wouldn’t jeopardize the delivery of the program.

Now fast forward to when the program is underway, imagine my frustration at the fact that the 6 other people who were mostly absent throughout the preparation process—if not entirely—had the audacity to play the blame game. Halfway they start shifting blames to me—saying that I did things wrong.

“You overwhelm people, you bring a bad vibe, the words you’re using are too sophisticated they can’t follow you, you this, you that.” And these are legit criticisms. I genuinely appreciate it, but I do find it problematic when the criticism goes in a direction that somehow puts me in a position of receiving all the blame. They weren’t present during preparation and now they’re saying how they would’ve done things differently. I’m not saying that I definitely did all things right—I definitely did not, that’s not something I’m shy to admit—but, you know what, in a life that can’t be farther from ideal, your excellent ideas don’t mean shit if you’re never present to deliver and manifest them into actions.

Get back to me when you’ve earned the rights to say anything. Until then, probably just shut the fuck up.

To Love on Your Own Terms


Modern dating is exhausting. There are so many rules you somehow are supposed to just obey, no questions asked, even if you don’t really see why you should. Basically, it’s just a series of stereotypes and shallow conventions that the general population seem to have established based on repetitive movie cliché and some pretentious minds.

  1. Let them read your mind. Don’t be the first to express your feelings, even if you feel strongly about a person. Why would you? If they like you back, they would come around anyway. Because, obviously, that’s how things work. People read minds. You don’t have to say “Hey, I like you. Would you like to go out on a date with me?” Instead just let them read your mind and wait. Wait until they ask you first. Yeah. That always works.
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    I Will Love You Forever (Image Source)
  2. Always wait a few minutes before responding to their text messages. Even if your multitasking skill is off the chart and therefore it simply isn’t as hard as everybody seems to think it is for you to be working a full time job, multiple side projects, while still being 24/7 available for your partner, hold yourself back. Don’t let them see through your abundant love and affection for them. Of course you can live without them. Nobody says we should be one of those folks who choose to be miserable because of someone they can’t have. It’s just that if you have someone in your life that makes you appreciate life multiple times better, why not let them know that? Wouldn’t you want to know how much your lover appreciates you? No?
  3. Never trust any words that come out of their mouth. When they tell you that they cannot talk at the moment because they’re in a meeting, don’t trust them. They must be cheating with someone else. When they ask you to rain check on a date, go crazy on them. They must have a date planned with someone else. Because that’s what you do when you love someone. You have to be suspicious all the time. After all, you’re only with them in the first place so that their world revolves around you, right? But not your world. You deserve privacy, tranquility, and your personal space.
  4. Don’t change a thing about yourself for them. Yeah, because you should always put yourself first. Even if something about you really makes your partner uncomfortable and you actually agree with them, you should stay just the way you are. Because you are perfect. There’s nothing wrong with your messy room. Also not with your irregular diet. Of course not with your stinky leftover pizza that has been in your fridge for almost a month now. That’s healthy. If they can’t deal with your bad attributes, they don’t deserve you. Is that how it is now, huh? Who needs a lover who is always genuinely concerned about your well-being? Nobody, I guess.

Well, I’m tired. I have someone now and I love this someone in a way I never thought I was capable of before. Now tell me: what is the big deal of being so sure about love after a month? Who died and made you Einstein so that you get to decide someone should only say “I love you” to their partner after a few months or a few years? If I love someone and I want to tell them I love them after a week of dating, it’s my business. So what if I’m naïve? So what if I’m gullible? You don’t have to pity me. I am not in need of anyone’s pity. I am perfectly capable of taking care and looking out for myself.

This is what I mean when I said modern dating is exhausting. Exhausting because you are constantly berated by these comments and ignorant ideas of how you’re supposed to date and love. Let us young lovers be. And me―I think I’ve had my fair share of love frenzies and heartbreaks. I know sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and dream of all these wonderful things inside our heads about what we will do with our lovers when, in fact, more often than not, feelings change and flowers stopped blooming as the autumn replaces the spring.

But just because these things happen in our heads, why does it have to mean that they were not real? The happiness is real. I can at least testify to that.

And be honest with yourselves: if you get into a relationship worrying about how you’ll recover when it all ends, you most likely aren’t with someone you genuinely love. So leave. Like I did. And when you’re certain you’ve found the person that makes you feel in ways nobody else has ever made you feel, stay and give your all for them. Like I am doing.

So screw all of these conventions.

I love you and I want to make you happy for the rest of your life. I refuse to believe that I somehow have to be ashamed of loving someone as much as I love you.

Regulating Sex


The place where someone was born in is a biological/geographical accident. It just so happens that the person my parents conceived turned out to be me. The rest is a series of events that I designed for myself. Can I possibly be someone completely in contrast to who I am today? Yes, but that would be highly uncomfortable. Not because I’m not supposed to be anything else, but because I don’t want to.

The faith that everybody kept on telling me I was born with is a, quoting Santayana, “historical accident”. It just so happens that some random Arabic/Indian merchants—as history suggests—sailed to locations that centuries later comprise the Indonesia we know now. Had it been the Jews that came over and persuaded locals to subscribe to their faith, I—and many more of us—would’ve been ‘born’ a Jew—so to speak. Had it been the Romans, I would’ve been born a Catholic. We can argue for 40 days and nights and some of you self-righteous Muslims will probably insist that this is not the case; that your God intended things to be as they are now and I’ll try to understand your reasoning but that’s where you fail to provide any merits to your assertion: reason is absence from your dictionary.

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So when I found out that a group of people calling themselves defenders of family values (Aliansi Cinta Keluarga; AILA) are attempting to make a case at the Constitutional Court of outlawing sex outside of marriage as well as to have the law classifies being an LGBTQIA+ person as criminal offense, I felt extremely appalled; at the fact that these people actually think it is acceptable to force everyone to subscribe and live by a certain set of rules derived from the words of their supposed god. They call it salvation—rescuing others to salvage themselves; which is fucked up because even the kindest thing they mean to do is motivated by the most selfish drive possible.

For those of you who concur that it should be a thing for the state to be regulating whatever the fuck anyone does by consent and responsibly with their penises and vaginas and everything else, then fuck you too. I cannot possibly be loyal to a country that constantly denies and violates my fundamental rights.

Fuck no.

The Improbable Mastery of Life


“Everyone’s afraid of the future,” you claimed once. But that’s just too presumptuous of you.

You see, it’s just like that time when that girl didn’t want to go to the top of the Eiffel. She wasn’t afraid of the heights; she was afraid of the possibility of falling into solid ground because she’s not known for keeping her calm under pressure—and because nobody’s offering hands to catch if she actually lost ground. If she was really afraid of heights, she wouldn’t feel safe living in skyscrapers. But she does; all because in skyscrapers she’s disillusioned by the concrete floors she steps on.

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Falling from or Staying atop the Eiffel? (Image Source)

And that one time, too, when the boy cried to his dad, “I can’t come home because there’s a dog in front of our house and dogs scare me.” Just like the girl—whose fear of falling was misunderstood as fear of heights, the boy isn’t really afraid of dogs. He’s projecting this incident he remembered from when he was only a toddler; of a frantic dog who started barking and bit him for some unknown reasons—unprovoked. He cried for hours that day. He actually loves dogs but can’t shake past the fear of being attacked.

So… No. Everyone isn’t afraid of the future. Everyone is afraid of uncertainty—the thought of not knowing what will happen in life and, hence, making it impossible to expect the unexpected—for better or for worse.

Every once in a while, someone attempts to master the wheel of life, and somehow you’re the only one who’s still not getting the point: life simply isn’t for anyone to master.

Life is,

The master.

Unmasked


“You’ve changed.”

“What happened to you?”

“You’re a different person now.”

No. A lot. And hell no. I haven’t changed, a lot has happened to me, and I’m not a different person. It is the way I conduct myself that has changed. I used to still hold back and have reservations about being polite even to people who do not deserve politeness, respectful even to people who are spiteful, and courteous even to people whose life mission seems to be revolved around taking me down. But not anymore.

When I attained my Bachelor’s degree, I decided that I wasn’t just graduating from school but rather graduating from all the childish fears and dramas. Doing so required me to make peace with what little annoyance and/or grudges I had on others.

The struggle is real, however, as that decision was a personal one. Nobody entangled in my web of life agreed or consented to cease fire because I did not ask anyone to do so. I was simply hoping to achieve this sense of inner peace that I myself wasn’t even completely sure about–for all I know inner peace might actually just be another lies some groups of intellectual minds made up so that they can write self-help books about it and be wealthy from exploiting the vulnerable souls trapped amidst their self-made confusion.

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And then came these ‘friends’ from previous phases of my life thinking I was lost; drifting with no direction. They thought I needed help to see the one certain way everyone’s gotta live life. Too bad from where I’m standing, the road was never straight ahead; there are infinite intersections after intersections after intersections.

Wherever I chose to make a turn sometime in the past, I made it only after I was convinced it came from within me. Look at me I’m smiling so big I bite my tongue. So if you think airing my dirty laundry for everyone to see would drag me way way down, no it hella won’t. You’re in a game with your own bitterness and you’re not even winning.

I used to wear a mask to keep some things about me hidden from the plain sight, but I’ve taken it off. I’ve made peace with myself and I will live as I see fit for me. And I have decided that I have no rooms for hate and ignorance in my life. You can still hate me. I just won’t give you the satisfaction of a mindful response. I hope you make peace too.

With your sorrow soul.

Transjakarta and an Angry Mob


Last Saturday , I was taking the Transjakarta bus to go home after finishing an errand in Senayan area. There was an unusually crowded queue at the Harmoni central station, but I thought it was to be expected. After all, it was a Saturday and with the MRT construction in the picture, I figured it was normal for the buses to be late.

Almost an hour passed and I was still waiting for a bus to take me to Pusat Grosir Cililitan (PGC). All of the sudden, an older man started shouting words I would rather not repeat in writing. I was standing right behind him so I heard it loud and clear. It was rude and tactless. Turned out, the queue had already waited for almost another hour before I joined them earlier, so I could totally see where the anger came from.

It was only the old man at first. However, more people started joining him. And so it began. An angry mob of Transjakarta dissatisfied customers directing their anger at the station officers who seemed to be unprepared to handle such situation. I felt a little bit uneasy because I thought the mob went a little bit too far with their choices of words so I tried to step aside just so I would not be implicated should things go out of control.

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Image Source

This was, of course, not really an uncommon scene to witness in Jakarta; among the busiest cities in the world with one of the worst traffic management. While I thought the mob was being a little bit unfair to the station officers, I also thought that the mob shouted some good arguments, such as “what are you guys doing sitting there doing nothing?” or “can’t you at least inform us of the reason for the tardiness?”

The bigger problem at hand was actually because while there had been no PGC-routed bus for almost two hours, I could estimate that there had been at least 10 Blok M-routed buses passing the station.

The entire thing got more interesting to observe when the shouting turned from random angry words to some sorts of accusations about discriminations in public services. “Of course the Blok M buses are perfectly on schedule. It is for the elites to use. We, lowly commoners, the users of PGC buses, are always treated like this,” shouted another old man whom I assumed is a regular Transjakarta customer.

“That’s right. The Blok M buses are also very convenient. The air conditioner works just fine, the buses are well-maintained, and they are service is good. Nothing like the PGC buses we use,” said a lady far ahead in the front line responding the old man. Two other men added gasoline to the fire by irresponsibly ‘informing’ the crowd that the buses were late because the drivers were taking a longer lunch break than they were supposed to; just like how it is every other day, they said. It obviously enraged the already angry mob and for a second there, I thought there was going to be a riot. The mob then started to shout in agreement.

It seemed like quite many people in this mob were regular Transjakarta customers and they had some real nasty things to say. I realized that these people felt like there was some sort of discrimination in Transjakarta service toward customers based on their destinations. It might sound like a stretch, but as someone who is a moral psychology enthusiast, I beg to differ. Once I saw a TV science program discussing mob mentality. It explained that what individuals do as a group that shares a certain mutual concern tends to be determined by what someone does or says to provoke them to begin with. In other words, the old man who shouted first created the entire situation in which the mob might have felt it was justified for them to say those indecent words in public because they were, in a way, the victims.

I might have over-analyzed the whole thing, but I can attest that living in Jakarta does tend to put people to the brink of frustration on a day-to-day basis. Jakarta’s uneven distribution of wealth and welfare might even become a root of conflicts if left unresolved. It is probably the same in any major cities in developing countries, in which a small group of people gets to enjoy the high life while the remaining majority lives hand to mouth. As more people come to Jakarta annually, let’s hope that what the government is trying to do in order to mend Jakarta’s messed-up traffic is not just another lick and a promise.