Feminism according to Hannah Al Rashid

By Hannah Al Rashid


Feminism. For a word so similar to the seemingly unthreatening ‘feminine’, boy does the word scare people here in Indonesia! It comes with a lot of misconceptions of course. A lot of people confuse feminism with femininity; they imagine a petite demure innocent looking girl, and then proceed to be pissed and shake their head in disapproval when she opens her mouth and reveals a billowing voice full of passion and fire in the name of feminism. How do they respond? “That’s not very feminine” face-palm

When I talk about feminism on social media, and get these kind of responses from people, it makes me want to laugh out loud, and cry in frustration all at once. And then there’s the people who disapprove of my feminist cause because “it’s a western concept that has no place amongst Indonesia’s eastern values” I’ve literally gotten those comments that say “shame on you! Do you want Indonesian women to walk around bare-breasted in protest like women in the west?!” The sarcastic smart-ass in me wants to reply to these social media trolls with an “erm….Indonesian women have been walking around bare-breasted for centuries…they didn’t need bule to teach them that!”…but then that wouldn’t help would it? sigh

So how do I explain feminism to the skeptics I meet? As simply as this; Feminism means equality. And then like clockwork, the trolls come in again, “But God made us differently, so we’re not equal anyway” And then again like clock-work from me, I sigh and face-palm


Feminism seems to be so taboo here, so misunderstood, that people seem to bring in any excuse to disavow it, to discourage it, to shut us down. That’s why I stick to my “Feminism means equality” stance, and then I elaborate;

We may have been made biologically different by God, but we damn well all deserve to have an equal standing in life. We deserve a right to the same opportunities as men, to better our lives and the lives of those around us. We deserve the same access to education, justice, healthcare, the job market, we should be paid the same if we’re doing the same job, we should be able to vote, and be leaders and have the choice to determine our own future, without being judged by what we wear, or how we speak, or whether we are single or married, or with kids or without.

It’s as simple as this, whatever your beliefs or how it actually happened, we (every human being in this earth) are all in equal measure, we are all needed to create human life, yet why once a child is born, do we begin to value such life differently? At what point did we decide that being born with a penis warrants a better shot at life than being born with a vagina? And why are we still uncomfortable talking about this kind of stuff? Why are we still ignoring the very serious issues at hand; That women, are disproportionately at a disadvantage in most aspects of life than their male counterparts. And most absurdly, why on earth are we trying to “debunk” feminism in the name of “good eastern Indonesian values”?

Indonesian history is full of brilliant women who embody the ideals of feminism, Cut Nyak Dhien led an Acehnese guerilla army against the Dutch for 25 years, Kartini is seen as one of the pioneers of women’s rights and education, Martha Christina Tiahahu was a female freedom fighter from Maluku. All these women come from very different areas and cultures within Indonesia, and even different religions, but they spent their lives trying to fight injustice and fight on an equal platform for the greater good. Is that not the very essence of the feminist movement? And why should we celebrate these women as Indonesian National Heroes, yet not attach feminism to the soul of their cause? Why? Because feminism, for many is a “dirty” word. It’s even regarded in disdain by women; the women who laughed and scorned and rolled their eyes at us when we marched earlier this month, the women who sit back amongst their own privilege of being educated and able to vote and able to work, forgetting that all of that is possible due to the struggles of generations of feminists before them.

Feminism at its core, for me, is the fundamental right to be given a chance in life; a chance to better yourself, and to better the lives of others around you, irrespective of where you come from, what religion you are, what your economic status is, but particularly, irrespective of delving into the very private and personal area between your legs. Be it pussy or penis, I fight as an equal, for equality. I fight as a “dirty” feminist, and I will continue to fight despite your knock-backs, because I owe it to the generations of feminists before me to carry on their struggle, for without them, I wouldn’t have found my voice, or my fire. And that feminist fire burns brightest, baby!