I am Woman, I am Strong — a Take on International Women’s Day
sumber gambar: Selvina, Komnas Perempuan
From the beginning of time, women have faced all sorts of injustice. For centuries, women have marched toward a better future—they pick up microphones so they can be heard yet they are still voiceless. The fight against patriarchy doesn’t happen overnight, not even over years. The courage these women have to gather in order to speak up is astounding. As a reminder of this fight, International Women’s Day is marked as a date where women from all backgrounds all over the world unite for a better tomorrow.
Dating all the way back to the early 1900s, Women’s Day actually started in the United States. On this day, over 15.000 women swarmed the streets of New York with demands of higher pay and shorter work hours. These pioneers were henceforth known as the “first wave feminists”. Over the years, there have been four waves of feminism: the first, as we have established beforehand, happened in late 19th century and early 20th century. The second wave happened after World War II from the 60s through the 80s and was particularly focused on workplace, sexuality, family and reproductive rights. During the third wave, from the 1990s to early 2000s, the main issues were to continuously vanquish the disparities in male and female pay, the reproductive rights of women and also to end violence against women in the US as well as abroad. The fourth and most recent wave began from around 2012 and lasts up to this day. This period of time is where we try to focus our attention on the issues women still have to face day-to-day. Fourth-wave feminists advocate for greater representation of women in politics and business, and argue that society will be more equitable if policies and practices incorporate the perspectives of all people.
Even after four waves of feminism and decades of Women’s Day celebrated, the world still has more in store for women to fight for. We could spend days, talking back and forth about the history of women’s struggle according to Women’s Day history. Focusing on the present time, the question remains: what are the struggles women still have to face as per Women’s Day 2019?
Living in a contemporary society, mankind would like to believe that everybody is equal—that women have just as much “safe space” as men do nowadays. So many people fail to see that up until today women still don’t have the same privilege as men. The issue of inequality still rings in the ears of so many women. As a marginalized group, women wear targets on their backs for people to easily prey on them. In this game of cat-and-mouse between women and society, many people have been caught between the crossfire. Victims aren’t properly protected, aggressor aren’t properly prosecuted, and society is stuck on the same ground without an inch of growth. Whenever someone attempts to defended the victims, they will be labeled as a “typical feminist” or the mockery of feminist, “feminazi”. The irony is that people can still spin the stigma of the label “feminist” as a cruel term to define women. Feminists are considered as some “crazy girls” wanting to be superior than men when in fact they are just fighting for a just cause. In this twisted terminology amongst society, women wanting equal treatment is somehow the same as invading Poland.
Movements regarding women’s rights started by men such as #HeforShe were highly praised, but when women support each other it is quickly dismissed and turned into a bitter, cynical “men-hating” movement. The interpretation of the term “feminist” has taken a turn and is instead, used against women. The uncomfortable tone of “feminist” in society has made so many women, especially in Indonesia, afraid to become one. A consequence to this hatred toward feminists, is that many women become afraid to speak up against their oppressors. This terrifying label of “feminazi” has won again and again, wounding more than necessary victims and hence, makes Indonesia take a step back in its feminism movement. The “feminazi”-calling phase is only a fraction of the fight women have to face every single day.
Mentioning the strength of women, there was apparently an unwritten rule—a rule that commands women to be strong and be put together for every single day. Women are expected to be brave and fearless all the time—if not, then they were considered frail and will not be taken into account. In society, to be a feminist apparently means you have to be a “cold hearted and bitch-boss type victim”. But just because someone proclaim themselves as a feminist, doesn’t mean they can’t cry their hearts out when they’ve just gotten out of relationships. Just because a woman weeps doesn’t mean she needs constant protection. In this reality, however, women need to be “ruthless” to have a voice. They have to try to down-play their feeling as if they are not allowed to be vulnerable, tough and strong at the same time. Women try to invalidate their own feelings to align themselves to this “modern-women” stereotype. Society strives to pit women against each other to their advantages since the beginning of time. This is a new form of oppression, the one which disguises itself as society’s negative idea of “feminism”.
The fight as women is far from over, even when we have achieved baby steps along the way—there are a lot of rooting problems that patriarchy causes for women’s inequality. No matter how many Women’s Day a nation can celebrate in its lifespan, if there is no real movement it will be all for nothing. The constant fight against fear is what women have to face in daily basis. They fight for more protection not only for themselves, but for their daughters, granddaughters and generations ahead. The fight women have today might not be the same fight their ancestors before them had. Nevertheless, it is still a fight and not less important than the others. Since the stone age, women were considered the weakest link of society—there only to bear children to make sure the bloodlines of our husband don’t go extinct. Women raise warriors yet are treated as if they are in the bottom of the “food chain”.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, it is crucial for us as society to take a hard glance at ourselves and reevaluate our ways of life. ‘Are women really the weakest link we made them to be?’ is one of the questions should we continuously ask to ourselves. The constant war that women have to battle every different region of earth might be vastly different from one another. These dames have their own fair share of struggle, and one might be harder than the other but that doesn’t discredit the battle each one has. People like to think that women are damsels in distress, princesses needy of saving. These particular people keep on neglecting the fact that women have been fighting all their lives just to have what men already do. Women have to climb a staircase whilst men get to ride the escalator to success. The battle, for some, may include a lifetime of struggle while it takes others just a breeze. It goes without saying that they are still battling in a war worth fighting for. Let us remember that on this day, International Women’s Day, what so many keep on overlooking—women are not the victims, alas they are survivors in a war society created for them to distract them from taking over the world.