Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Single and Contemplating Plastic Surgery

During winter break I went back home to find most of my girl friends engaging in a steady, romantic relationship. Whether they are going to school in the U.S., Hong Kong, Australia or Indonesia, all of my girl friends are in relationships with Indonesian boys. As a single lady in search of anything close to a relationship, I asked my guy friends about the type of girls they are attracted to. Interestingly, the answers were borderline identical. For instance, most of my friends are attracted to petite girls, who appear vulnerable. Aggressive women and make up are considered turn-offs.

These tendencies are reflected in the Indonesian media. Indonesian Cosmopolitan magazine focuses on ways for a woman to attract men through "enhanced" vulnerability. Workout routines on TV are created to achieve lean, tiny bodies. Plastic surgery services such as breast enhancement surgery are rare, while double eye lid surgery to achieve doe-eyes are massively popular.

These features are influenced by other cultures such as the Korean and Japanese looks. In Indonesia, Korean make up brands are equally or much more popular than Western brands. The surgery methods adopted by Indonesian surgeons are often taken from other Asian countries such as Korea and Thailand. To achieve the “ideal” persona, Indonesian women flock to those foreign countries to get surgery and go to mannerism classes to learn the “proper” way to behave.

The phenomenon of conforming to a certain image may lead to both positive and negative social influences. Many young women in Indonesia have refrained from wearing revealing clothing or acting in inappropriate manners such as flashing in public. As a result of desiring the perfect body, women have placed more focus on maintaining and improving their health. On the other hand, most of my friends have chosen to be less aggressive at work in order to attract men at the office. The message of loving oneself, which is popular in the U.S., is not really preached in Indonesia. Instead, women are taught to embody and love a certain image, which is dictated by other societies and what men find attractive.

However, I can't help but wonder if this phenomenon has anything to do with the male preferences. Are women changing merely to adjust to what the men want? As silly as it sounds, I have been down that road. For instance, I primp and prime just because I knew that my crush would be at a meeting. As vain as it seems, women do follow the men in terms of appearance. Getting a "soul mate" isn't a given, once you realize that most dicks want a certain figure that you weren't born with. 

Finally, as harsh as it is to admit, women are doing a disservice to themselves by conforming to the idealized image. In the workplace, women are becoming less competitive. Influential positions, such as in the government, are dominated by men. In order to be equals, women in Indonesia need to see themselves in a new light. Women should lean into the conversations instead of backing out early just for having a vagina. Loving oneself for what it is, should be a message that women focus on. 

And now I can't help but wonder, what would Sheryl Sandberg do if she saw us, Indonesian women?

*Author owns the rights to the photo above

Monday, April 22, 2013

Globalized Science

Science. A pool of knowledge, that in general seems absolute, is in some ways a philosophy. Much like other principles of philosophy such as existentialism and structuralism, science has a group of followers and haters. During the first few years of education, most people learn the foundation of science. Primary school students learn about the structure of plants or various types of animals. With time these children come to understand deeper concepts of both plants and animals. Further education means tapping into further parts of the spiral of knowledge. In college, these students are asked to do their own research and observations.  Suddenly, science is not all that simple and factual. Results do not match hypotheses. Researchers find dead-ends and conflicts in their studies all of the time. 

Medicine is one of many branches of science. Described as the science and art of healing, medicine covers a variety of health care practices grew to maintain and revitalize health through prevention and treatment of disease in human beings. In some ways medicine is also a philosophy. A global tool to save human beings from pain, even death, medicine is present in various cultures. Some cultures include medicine in religion, whereby medical practices are done during religious rituals. The ancient Mayans had shamans who acted as mediums between physical world and spirit world. These shamans were the chosen few who were trusted to cure and treat medical problems. The Mayan also equated sickness with the captivity of one’s soul by supernatural beings. However, in modern countries such as America, England and Germany, medicine is fact-based in the sense that treatments are products of extensive research and clinical trials. Doctors have to go through a long and grueling process to become licensed medical practitioners. Sickness is a result of external and/or internal factors which have caused a part of the body to react abnormally. 

With globalization, cultures are clashing and blending together as one. An American could seek medical care domestically or internationally. Nowadays, it is common for a patient to travel for hours on a plane in order to receive the treatment. For instance, my grandfather flew to Japan and Germany to consult with doctors and researchers there. In the end, he decided to receive treatment in Germany. Alongside the rapid growth in international health treatment, it is important to fill in the gaps between cultural perception of science, medicine and sickness. Medical professionals and researchers should explore the possibility of learning more than one principal of medicine. Interdisciplinary knowledge is important in treating patients of various cultural backgrounds. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Regrets Aren't Made at Sarah Lawrence

In Fall 2011, I arrived at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY my home for the next four years, without any inkling of where the cafeteria is located or what type of clothes to pack in order to fit in. Two years before, I began searching, visiting and obsessing over college. My parents and I stepped foot on seven out of eleven colleges that I applied to. I wanted, actually no, I needed to go to Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. After I submitted the application, I dreamt of reading under the reflection of the beautiful stained glass in the library or walking through the beautiful campus on a chilly day. I watched video after video of the commencement speeches, including one made by Lisa Kudrow, Phoebe from Friends.

When the fateful day arrived, I felt my heart ache as I read the rejection letter from my dream school. My picturesque life at Vassar was shattered into pieces. Yet, today, I could not be in a better state. Now, I go to SLC, a liberal arts college, known for its line of alums and unique curriculum. Unlike most of the colleges in the list, I did not take a campus tour or spoke to an admissions officer. The school only came into my attention, after my mother pointed out that I would be able to simultaneously study psychology and theatre.

From the first day of class, I never regretted my choice to enroll. I love my don and the ability to explore diverse subjects. I enjoy taking class with twelve other students and writing in-depth conference papers on subjects that interest me, such as the Nanjing Massacre, traditional Indonesian medicine, and the Bugis tribe’s recognition of gender. As complicated and stressful as it is, I look forward the interview periods, where students go around campus in a mad panic to meet one-on-one with professors to learn more about a course. I enjoy making friends with grads, undergrads and the faculty. I relish in the rare opportunity to determine my own concentration and mold my own personal curriculum.

How could you not fall in love with this view?

Maybe, I have one confession to make: the only thing I regret is spending the time, energy and money on three rounds of the SATs. SLC, unlike most colleges in the U.S., is well known for its lack of regard towards standardized testing. However, I realize that everything worked out for the best, when I find myself smiling at the end of a long and tough semester at SLC. I may have been rejected by my dream school, I may have missed out on what I perceived to be my dream college experience, but I am thoroughly glad that I did. As I write this article on the North Lawn and listen to the colorful conversations of SLC, I realize that this is the dream college experience especially tailored for me. 

iGeneration: Reinventing Millenials

What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Before even deciding to wake up I grab my phone and shift through new BBMs, e-mails, and Facebook notifications. Once I succeed, I walk over to my computer and answer my e-mails. Some studies have suggested that this generation, the iGeneration, is one of the hardest working generations since we are constantly available to connect and respond. Our limbs have extended themselves with smartphones and tablets, while our ears have grown cuffs with ear buds and earphones, sooner or later our eyes will be shielded by glasses that determine an idealized virtual reality.

Let’s admit it, we rely on technology to connect. Yahoo and Hotmail are adults, who’ve grown too old to be first-generation adapters. Google is that geeky friend who is no longer considered a geek because he knows information other than sciences. Facebook is the popular girl who introduces her friends to her new friends, over-likes everything she sees, as well as posts funny and regretful photos, without forgetting to leave a backstabbing comment in public. While, Twitter is a community of chatterboxes who assumes that everyone wants to know her activities by the hour. They are labels, but just as or more often as we communicate with our friends, we access these sites every day, even multiple times in a single day.

Technology has made life much easier. Today, academic and professional assignments are submitted through the net; plane, concert and even parking tickets could be redeemed online; music and movies are either streamed or downloaded from the net; and your life stories are available for the entire virtual population to access. But, at what cost? Ironically the more we connect, the more disconnected we become with the people around us. Yes, living on the other side of the world has become much easier with Skype. But at dinnertime at home, instead of eating and sharing stories, everyone is staring at their phones. Moreover, the stages of a romantic relationship have been altered, instead of exchanging rich hand-written letters, we send a quick sentence to the guy across the room. My friends have often given up on a potential girl/guy just because he/she only read and did not respond to the text immediately.

Ultimately, technology, whether it is your smart phone, the Internet, your laptop, or iPad, consumes our lives, both positively and negatively. It has reinvented our lifestyles and perception of the world. To me, new universal layers have emerged with sites such as Facebook and twitter. My father often asks me what it is I am doing, especially when I have my phone in one hand, the TV on in front of me, my laptop beside me for hours and not completing one single assignment. Technology is a gift and a curse, much like superpowers. Now it’s up to you to enable it for good or evil.

*Originally written for Speak! Magazine, Indonesia