"The Bad Luck" of Being A Young Woman

Niken Lestari
Posted July 23, 2014 from Indonesia
ODOV Cirebon 2013
ODOV Cirebon 2013
ODOV Cirebon 2013 (1/1)

It never occured to me that writing my personal stories and share them in my blog can be part of activism. I always thought activism is something big, heroic, direct, brave, and masculine. Yes, masculine because I don't think marching to the public space, yelling, cursing, demanding are representing feminine values. It's masculine because I often frightened to be near the protesters, feel their anger through their expressions; their fists, their voices, their eyes, which remind me of my father when he's angry.

I like writing. I used to like writing poem. It was powerful and indirect. I was afraid of talking directly of something. With poem, I can used metaphores, playing with multiple meanings, and drawing my anger using words. I found it resourceful, powerful, entertaining, and feel relieved. However, I keep them personal and private. My poems are like diaries. I was very afraid if someone read them and I will be exposed. What would people think about me? What do they have to say about me? A fragile, unstable young woman with dark and sinful thoughts? No, I don't want to be found out and labelled. I was perfectly fine in my hiding space.

I knew all along about internet, e-mail and homepage. It's incredible to read so many stories available in internet about people's private lives. Of course many were anonymous but still they were brave enough to make it public and open for judgement.

Then there was a moment in my life where a poem no longer enough to contain my anger, dissappointment, sadness, and humiliation. In certain periods of my life, I experienced verbal and physical sexual harassment. I keep it hidden, personal, and casual. It's like a bad luck that could happen to everyone. Until I see the pattern and everyone become mostly young women. That is a bad luck.

Like many women I knew, I started to search and list of what is wrong with me and my body. I don't think I am very pretty, so I should be safe. My logic at that time was “it's normal to harass pretty girl”. I didn't question the standard for pretty face or who make the standard. I wasn't sexy either. I used to think certain men harass women because the women are attractive. I was a pale and skinny young woman. Or maybe those are qualities women should have to become sexy? So imagine the puzzle I had to solve because I didn't find myself attractive.

I have to channeled and expressed my anger. I feel deeply powerless. It disturb me to the point I don't feel worth enough. I resigned from my job only to find that my parents think harassment was no big deal and having a stable job was more important than being treated as a human. I need space to screeeeaaaaamm!!!!

I was writing like mad and using geocities homepage to display them. I was so fed up that I no longer afraid someone, anyone or no one would read them. I was concern with my sanity. It was bad enough that I thought all men are absolute jerks and promised myself not to marry any of them. I was a man-hater. I was a relic of the day when feminist seen as a man-hater. Yes, I was a feminist because I hate men VERY MUCH.

I attended women's studies in my almamater because I still think something was wrong and it wasn't me. People may think being a young woman is the greatest moment in life but that was not what I experienced. As a young woman, I feel targeted and seen as an easy prey. I feel vulnerable. The study proved to change my understanding of the system and my situation. It also renewed my feminist thinking and attitude toward men.

Through the process of writing and listening, I get much more insights and unraveled the power dynamic around me. There was a time when I closed down my blog due to complaint from a man. Some women also asked whether I feel ashamed to tell my stories in public. “What if your parents or your friends read about it?”. Some people are bit skeptical. “Is it your true story or do you dramatize it to make more people visit your blog?” Or something like, "Which part of your stories are fiction and which parts are non-fiction?".

I used to afraid of judgement and labeling but not anymore. Blogging gives me space to reflect and analyze. The form of blogging may be change but the essence of story telling remain the same. I also don't see social activism as masculine anymore. Men, women, children have the rights to feel angry about something and express them without physically harm others.

I think writing and blogging are part of activism for their ability to voice out and empower both the writers and the readers. They are able to touch at the personal level and motivate people. In my experience, writing and blogging are big, heroic, indirect, brave and unisex. It's part of being who I am.

Malang, 23 July 2014

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Comments 7

Log in or register to post comments
  • Terry Mullins
    Jul 30, 2014
    Jul 30, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing your story of personal growth and empowerment as you took to the internet with your blog. It takes courage to tell your story, but as you said "still they were brave enough to make it public and open for judgement" and so you, too, were brave enough! Do not silence your voice..please continue to blog, to share, to reflect, to analyze. Every human being has the right to be heard!

    In love and peace, Terry

  • Niken Lestari
    Jul 30, 2014
    Jul 30, 2014

    Thank you for the support. We will continue to inspire other young women.


  • Tamarack Verrall
    Jul 31, 2014
    Jul 31, 2014

    Dear Sister,

    You re such a powerful, beautiful writer. Reading this took me on such a journey of memories, of how many layers of self doubt and social barriers so many of us face in our own ways, to emerge with determination that we are here to create the changes that we know from both personal experience and examination of the current state of the world, must be changed. Your description is truly that of a poet, and a celebration, as the steps you have taken to finding your strong, beautiful, wise voice emerge to your finale - such encouragement for us all to continue to write, to be in touch with each other, to find like minded sisters, to spend time together. I agree whole heartedly - writing courageously as you have done here, is political action in its essence. Your piece holds such beauty, strength, growth and inspiration. My spirit is lifted just knowing that you and your famm sisters are there. The photo is great. I am inspired also to look into the blogging world. So beautifully written. Thank you.

    With Love in Sisterhood,


  • sabapetit
    Aug 01, 2014
    Aug 01, 2014

    Dear sister

    Thank you for sharing your inspirational and brave story. Writing indeed is a therapeutical way of healing ourselves. I am glad that you have found peace in your heart and now you are trying to do your best in helping others by writing your blog.

    Thank you again for sharing your insights, your feelings and your life with us. Love,

  • Fiona McKenzie
    Aug 06, 2014
    Aug 06, 2014

    Hi Niken,

    You've clearly made quite a journey - and through embracing digital technology to communicate your experiences, the journey will continue. I have explored some of the projects you're involved in ie. FAMM Indonesia via the FB page and your contributions to the JASS site, and I'm impressed.

    There is so much to do still - your experience of sexual harassment and the cultural attitudes towards being a woman are, sadly, universal - even in a so-called advanced country like the UK. What you are doing by sharing your experiences is so important and without the net, it wouldn't be possible. Even the fact that sitting here in France I can read your words that are tapped into a computer in Indonesia seems miraculous - if we stop for a moment and think about how it was before.

    I wish you the best with your activism and hope that you see real changes.

    Best wishes,


  • Pushpa Achanta
    Aug 09, 2014
    Aug 09, 2014

    Bravo dear sister. Continue your powerful expression. Awaiting your next.

    Love, Pushpa

  • Jumi
    Aug 12, 2014
    Aug 12, 2014

    Dear Famm:

    Yes, writing is a form of activism. It's good that you find this a good channel for experience your views and adding your voice to global discussions about diverse issues. Good on you.