I’m A Woman, Hear Me Roar.

I met my high school friend this afternoon. We were talking about a lot of things. He said, I have changed, in a good way. Now I speak when I disagree with something.

Last couple of months we were having a very serious conversation. About his habit that he claimed to be a joke. But for me and my other friend, his jokes are sometimes too offensive. He was joking about my skin color back then. I’m a brown skin girl, and I’m proud of it. I think it’s pretty. But most of the time, people with their beauty standards make a joke about it. About how I made my skin darker to get foreign guy’s attention. At least that was what he said. 

I guess I didn’t have to tell him that I have parents with brown skin, and I’m an outdoor person. I swim at the beach, I climb mountains, I jog and do bushwalking. So yes I have brown skin and it’s not because I tried to get foreign guy’s attention nor that I tried to attract anyone’s attention. But if I do, should I apologise to him or to anyone, or should I be ashamed? Or should it be anyone’s business?

Then I asked him. Do you really think that every brown skin girl In this country who happens to live overseas made their skin darker in order to attract guy’s attention?

Wait, answer this instead, do you really think that whatever female’s do with their body’s to attract male’s attention? 

It was offensive for me because it happened a lot of times. As if it was funny to label me that way. 

So I stood up for myself. I told him I didn’t like what he said, I told him It didn’t sound like a joke, it sounded like body shaming. And like any other woman who stood up for themselves, I was told that I was too sensitive. But I wasn’t. I was just sooo sick to be OK with these treatments. 

But he apologized eventually, although there was a long conversation about it. He shouldn’t have said that to me because since I moved overseas, I see things differently now, I’m more aware about bullying and stuff so I got more sensitive about it. But he would still be able to joke about that to his other friends, his guy’s friend, who jokes the same way. To lighten up the mood, he said. So instead of accepting that his behavior was wrong, he agreed not to do that to me anymore, but will continue doing that with his other friends. And our discussion expanded into bullying, body shaming, and trauma. 

I told him about my friend’s daughter who was only 4 who refused to eat. Because someone said, eating makes you fat. If you’re fat, you won’t become a princess. Do you know how hard it is for her mom and me to tell her about how wrong that idea was?  How many times we should sit her down, talk about the other kind of princess that exists in this world. Princess who helps a lot of people because she has energy to do so. How did she get her power? From the nutrition from foods she consumes. That’s the kind of princess that she should look up for. 

See body shaming, it’s not a joke. In the long run, it will become a trauma. So you should not do that, whether to people who are sensitive or not. 

After a long conversation on a rainy afternoon, he understood.

Then these memories flash back to me when I used to live in this small town. My family used to live in a decent housing complex that has these neighbours who live close to each other. I grew up as a nerd girl who was obsessed with Avril Lavigne and loved nothing more than burying myself with comic books and Harry Potter books. Me and my brother did. I was a tomboy, I liked climbing trees, playing video games with my brother’s friends, and riding my bicycles around the block. 

Our family is a decent family. With a decent household income. My mom was a housewife. Dad was a policeman. They never taught us to value other people based on how much money they have, or the job they’re doing. But they taught us to value people based on their attitude towards somebody else. 

My hometown is not too big. There are only a few of my favorite schools. As a nerd who loves to study, me and my brother always made it to the most prestigious schools in our town. Because we always got good grades in our exams, enough to apply to these favorite schools. In junior high I went to the first and only immersion class in my town. There were only 48 people from that town. In this class we used English as the main language to learn about every subject. Some people made it there because they passed the test and got good grades, some others because they came from a wealthy family. Or could be both. (And yes corruptions did exist too) 

And as you could guess, some of my friend’s parents were so freaking wealthy. And because it was a small town, wealthy people as well as wealthy people and kids were famous. Everybody knows who they are. They were either the owner of some big businesses in my town, or the owner of the biggest hospital, or government officials. Or you know people with powers. 

My brother was an introvert, but I was so good at making friends back then. I never choose friends because of their financial status. I didn’t care who their fathers were. I never feel ashamed to invite them to my house, to play in my tiny room that dad built from our small garage because I refused to sleep in a bunk bed with my brother in his room again. My friend never sees me less because I didn’t have a big room like they do, or we had no maid like they did, or that I couldn’t afford things that they had. I never compare myself to them, nor want to be like them. It was as simple as an innocent kid playing with their friends. 

I dated a guy who was my close friend in junior high school. The one who sat next to me in my class room because he read the same comic as I did. We were very close back then as I agreed to be his girlfriend for 3 days. I broke up with him because I didn’t even want to have a relationship when I was in junior high. Wasn’t I supposed to just read as many comics as I could and not to think about relationships. That was what I thought back then. I had a very simple happiness. 

But my ex happened to be the son of a man that has a lot of big business in my town. He used to come and pick me up with his car. I didn’t care about it as I saw him as just my friend who would lend me his comic books. 

Then I entered senior high school, again I got into the best school in my town. And again I had a lot of friends from different backgrounds. Some came from the same junior high school, some new friends from other favorite schools. In these new schools there were more people from a very wealthy family, and their home is no longer twice bigger than my home, it was like the whole complex of my home. Was I jealous and felt like I didn’t belong because my parents were not wealthy? Not at all.

And because I didn’t have my own car and they do. They like to come pick me up to go to class when it is raining. And because my mom was a very good baker, they like to come and hang out in my home eating her cake. 

Then I dated this guy, who became my very good friend now. I didn’t even know who his dad was until I heard mom tell me the neighbours were talking about me and him. 

The neighbour that has two daughters that always says stuff about me. The neighbour that has daughters who never made it into favorite schools in our town nor made a lot of friends. So her mom talked about me. Quite often and quite a lot. 

I was told that people called me a material girl because they were different fancy cars everyday to come pick me up. When they knew that my friends were the son of the most powerful man in our town or even that I dated one, they were very sure that I was a gold digger at a very young age. Maybe they thought that I was friends with them or dated them because they bought me some stuff. They said I was a biatch for having too many boys on my porch every Saturday night. Mom told me that. But she didn’t really care about what people called me, as she knew me better than they are, and she knew my friends, all of them. Most of the time Mom got these attack from the neighbours, but as she walking by she just said “They only do that because they’re jealous of you”

I was then getting into University. This time I got into University of Indonesia, my dream University. My major was Dutch Literature, which was assumed to be the easiest major to get into University Indonesia. My neighbour, as it were expected from people like them said this “You know the stupidest student in my daughter’s classroom could get into that University if it was just for Literature”. Because her daughters couldn’t make it into my Univ. They got into one of the best Univ in Surakarta with an accounting major. And I didn’t know why her mom still needs to bring me down just to prove her daughter was better than me. 

Oke now, I was called a material girl cause my friends were wealthy, and I was called a bitch because my ex boyfriend’s father was the most powerful man in my town, and they called me the stupidest girl because I got into the best University but won’t apply for the prestigious major like people expected. 

WHAT ELSE? What else did I do wrong as a girl that hurt your pride?

I didn’t say anything as they labelled me with every hurtful thing they called me. I didn’t because I didn’t think it was important. I wasn’t scared, I just thought that I didn’t have energy for that. 

But as I silenced the labels people in my small town gave me kept getting worse. They said hurtful things about me that weren’t even true. Just because I wasn’t like any girls in my housing complex, and I knew I was a different girl that wanted different things. I was told that I pushed myself too much to go abroad, burdened my family by spending their money that they didn’t even have. Now that I choose to be single people assumed it was because no man would fall for me cause I acted like I was too strong or independent. Or because now I earned more than them. That I should be scared that no man would want me in the future because I said I have this dream to go abroad to get my master degree.

And recently a man said crappy things about me because I rejected him. Because I knew he was an asshole who just wanted to screw people, a misogynist that when a woman doesn’t reply to his message he could just go ahead calling her a bitch and saying mean things. Wow. Really it made me laugh so hard. Good luck getting a woman with that attitude, your majesty. 

(P.S: Girls stay away from men that don’t know how to treat you right, or don’t know to handle your power, including your power to say no)

Isn’t it funny that I was called a bitch for falling in love with my best friend who happened to have a powerful dad, and after a while they are still calling me a bitch for being single and earning all those powers for myself?

If I were a man, would you still label me with all these crazy things you said about me? Or questioning me how much of this did I deserve?

NOPE OKE. I refused to be labelled or accepting these craps again. Or be silenced again. 

And note this, your bitterness and mean words won’t make me stop being me and apologise for being who I am

No woman should apologize for doing and getting more than what society expected them to be. No woman should feel like they should be less than they’re capable of. No woman should be dictated who they should be or who they should be friends with. 

Would someday people in my small town or everywhere in this world give women with power nicer labels. Like it would be nice if my neighbour back then just called me an ambitious little girl who has a lot of friends. A determined girl who dared to make all of her dreams come true. A brave girl who dared to choose what’s best for her. An independent girl who won’t settle for less than what she deserved. 

Would it be nice if I didn’t always need to explain that I deserved equal and fair treatments? Or to explain that I worked really hard for all the things I have now, and I still do. That I never held my hand out and asked for something free. 

If people around you feel threatened by the way you shine or question whether you deserved all of the things you got from your own sweat and blood, leave them alone. With their bitterness. Don’t let them step on your gown, at least not anymore.  

If writing this and saying what I feel makes people mad because I’m a woman, I should be silent and just accept this crap. You can go ahead and call me sensitive. Because I refused to be silent anymore. 

If you choose to be upset than to be proud when girls like me from decent families accomplish something. Then I pity you, and your low self esteem. Because you could choose to rise with us and shine. Either than busy pulling us down from down below. 

Because me and other women will no longer accept your crappy treatments and labels. And we will stop lowering yourself down just to make you feel better about yourself. 

After all It’s not our job to make you feel worthy, or feel like a man.

Because I’m a Woman. And I won’t be silent, not anymore. And from now on, you should hear me roar.

Published by Angky Ridayana

A sun seeker and a story teller.

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