Why the Women's March in Jakarta is an important step forward for the Indonesian society.
Perempuan bersatu? Tak bisa dikalahkan!
Perempuan bergerak? Tak bisa dihentikan!
I've always felt disconnected from the country I grew up in. More often than not, my country's cultural background caused me to feel like an outsider. With my so-called 'Westernised' views and values, it was rare to find people who truly shared my opinions and had the same excitement/need to discuss the social issues I found important. The typical sexist sayings implemented in the raising of children, the normalisation of any kind of harassment/abuse towards women, the alienation of queer people, and the insane treatment of lower-class girls and women (unequal opportunities, rape, child-marriage, etc). To be real, I don't even feel comfortable walking out in shorts even though Indonesia has insane 35°C weather.
All these issues were and are happening on a daily basis. Yet, I always felt like almost no adults discussed it. Sure, people weren't completely silent, but I always felt like it was never enough. Not enough parents teaching their girls to be whatever they want to be, not enough people validating the fluidity of gender and the existence of more than two genders, not enough acceptance towards the LGBT+ community, not enough accessibility for disabled and lower-class people, not enough people talking about social issues on social media.
The Women's March shifted the way I felt about my society significantly, about my fellow Indonesian citizens. It allowed me to learn of existing communities, groups, and organisations that stand up for intersectional women's issues and human rights. I learned about activists, from leaders of NGO's to teenagers just like me, who actively discuss these issues on social media platforms. My ignorant self, and other Indonesians, thought that it just "isn't in us" to march and protest. I was so shocked, empowered, and inspired to see that I wasn't alone. There are people here, my very neighbours, who believe in the same things that I do, who wan't to discuss and protest and march and fight just as much as I do.
(more of my favourite pictures that I took during the march are below)
I think that for a lot of us, or at least for me, the Women's March was a monumental event because it's the first time a huge group of feminists united and unapologetically took the public with the very real facts that women all over Indonesia have to deal with. It wasn't hush-hush, it wasn't a conversation that reached followers of a social media account, it wasn't a separate group and community discussing within themselves. We stood together, tightly wounded on the side of the street, bound by our shared suffering and need for social justice, shouting at the tops of our lungs for human rights.
We were all raising our voices, heard and very much seen in our ocean of pink and purple. Us; the women raised to be seen and not heard by our culture, the (gender)queer community who would be stared at if they publicly displayed affection with who they wanted and for themselves in this heteronormative society, the disabled people who are excluded from society and its activities, the people who have been taught to cower in shame because of their experience with harassment and abuse. We created a safe space for these people to fight for their rights, for their lives. It was the first time I was whole-heartedly proud to call myself an Indonesian, politically and socially.
To the people who chose to turn away, to sneer, to patronise, to scoff and say "this isn't an Indonesian movement, we are being brainwashed by Western views", let me remind you that Indonesian women have always been strong fighters. Feminism has always existed amongst Indonesian people, trans people have always existed, and people have always loved who they wanted. It is just that our rising generation now has social media as a means to reach beyond our small communities and publicise our powerful and intelligent thoughts.
My favourite pictures that I took that day:
Here's a list of people to start your feminist feed:
Things I've learned during a march in Jakarta's tropical weather:
What's next for us local feminists? Stay alert and active. Follow groups and organisations on social media. Keep discussion active amongst your peers. Teach as many people as you can. Continue to educate yourself on all-inclusive feminism, and create safe spaces with your privilege for those who are more threatened.
© Selena Soemakno. All rights served unless stated otherwise.