My body, my journey

I would like to share my insight to be part of this organization, a living innovation that you have helped build.

Healing within

As you probably know, when I joined this organization in 2008, it was one year after I finished my graduate education. My education in gender studies as part of my healing process. The readings and reflection during my education have helped me a lot in building positive self-concept and convinced myself that sexual violence is notmy body’s fault. I learn to taught myself that my female body doesn’t equate itself as a token to be harassed. It was an awareness that sunk in slowly asI need to un-educated myself from previous values and stigma I had about female body.And the more formaleducation I had, the more I understand the importance of nonformal education to facilitate this kind of awareness.

This organization, and later other organization, had accompanied meto love myself. This“coming in”processallow me to love others and able to embrace the intimate relationships. I used to think “coming in”, as self-acceptance practice, was reserved only for LGBTprocess to be at peace with themselves. Well, I used to the thought that I am a lesbian because I HATE men. Because of that feeling, I feel like I am the perfect feminist. I mean, in my early 20s, I thought that was one of the essences of feminism.Maybe I am a lesbianor bisexual, it’s no longer something I am afraid of or worry. I learn that my self-hatred coming fromrage, guilty, disappointment, fear, anger, deep-sadness,self-blaming, pain, and heartache that spinning around inside me. Iwasa living tornado; a living volcano that could explode anytime, hurting anyone around me.

I used to hurt my boyfriends in my elementary and middle school. I slapped, kicked and scratched their bodies if they ever want to get closer to me. I tried to protect my body, my feeling because in that early years I learn that my body is vulnerable to attack and harassment. The harassmentwas happened at school. So when today, femalestudentsin Indonesiawere protesting and demanding better rights and protection for women from sexual violence, I am more than happyand send my support for them.
The experienceof sexual violenceand unequal relationship in my family became not only knowledge learn about power,but also values and prejudice. I hate men, I detest marriage, I don’t want a family. It was like the first phaseof my feminism, if there is such a thing.

Careful with Feminism!

I joined the Koran learning group in college as I looked for an alternative way to explain my rage. After almost 8 years, I was tired to be angry at men and my own body without knowing why. I spent more than 6 years in that learning group and gained very little. My teacher said I should be careful with feminism; you can learn it but should not be own by it. Yeah, sure.
I started wearing a hijab in the second semester because I thought it is an alternative way to gain respect and protect my body. It didn’t completely work because I still got harassed in public transportation. Like, really? What else should I do to protect my body from violence? I still think it was my body that needs to be “caged” in order to be safe. It was tiring. I am sure you knew the feeling; been there, done that, what next?

Then came this organization in Indonesia. Leadership training, capacity building, organizing, young women were the words throwing at me during the interview with Nani and Dina. I just let myself in, as I did with Koran
learning group and feminism class. The whole process in PESADA was
shocking and Dina did a great work to make sure I was involved in fieldwork, discussion, seminar, and evaluation because that is the only way I will learn about community organizing. At that time, it didn’t feel like work and more like training.

Then came the time where I joined a workshop and there it was, power, as the concept. In Indonesia, there are two words to translate it: kekuasaan and kekuatan. The first word has negative and gender bias meaning and the
second one is more positive because it also means strength. “Kekuasaan” has the taste of domination and power over. Somehow, I also feel the same way about the word “leadership”. It was challenging to translate power as
“kekuasaan”. But that is what we do, we challenge the narrative of power.
The AWID Forum in 2008 was insightful and confusing at the same time. I
think I need a few months to digest the conversations, the emotions, the
collective anger and despair, and the spirit I felt during the event. I felt very small and at times questioned myself if I really want to be activist and
feminist. Can I handle all these meanings to my personal values?

After AWID Forum, I reconnect with my friend from the previous workplace. It was a long distance relationship and I felt safe. It was a revelation to know that an equal and healthy relationship can be a safe and learning space. I think this is what my organization is working on. It was more surprising because of I didn’t fear this man, he has different masculinity values (it’s possible!), I can negotiate with him about my concept of marriage, I can argue with him, I was not afraid to initiate sex with him, I asked him to marry me and he accepted it, and we even talked about the possibility of having “healthy” divorce, in case the marriage doesn’t work. The process from hating men, fear of intimate relationship, and marriage to be able challenge my own values is amazing. It still amazes me. Without a good understanding and ability to personalize (or internalize) the power concept, I won’t be able to go this far. I probably still be busy with my rage, blaming myself, blaming others, and not taking any actions, no matter small.

I wrote this as a thank you note for making the whole transformation process possible. Also last month is my 10th healthy relationship anniversary with a man. It was a personal achievement among other things. I am sorry for the long letter, but I express my feeling better this way than talking through video.

February 2020

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