Friday, April 25, 2014

Tinker Bell and I: How the "feminist" label has constricted me more severely than a corset

Perusing the Disney Store at Downtown Disney, Anaheim, I could not understand why there were so many Tinker Bell items. Infamously known as a die-hard Disney fan, I have never sympathized with Tink. A hot-headed, green-eyed, dainty pixie, she represented all of the things I loved, however she was just so irritating and vile. My mother, like most Disney lovers, adored Tink. For the past week, "the making" and "behind-the-scenes" videos of various Disney classics have streamed through my YouTube playlist. After quite some time, I finally reached one on Peter Pan. 

Just a sidekick? I don't think so.

Instead of putting the spotlight on Peter, the movie focused on Tink, as this strong modern woman. Apparently, she forayed a new series of leading ladies, from curious Ariel and intelligent Belle. Living in Never-never Land, a realm without rules or social norms on how to be a woman, allowed Tink to flourish into a feminist symbol. She, herself, might just be a feminist. Despite her tiny figure and harmless exterior, Tink is an independent and outspoken character. Following the success of Peter Pan, she went on to become the "gatekeeper" of Disney's legacy and consequently, a mascot for all things magical.

As someone who has been classified as a feminist by her nearest and dearest, but has yet to officially taken on such identity, I wonder why I have never warmed up to Tink. Whilst watching the making of Pixar's Brave, I instantly fell in love with its protagonist, Merida. Unlike Tink, Merida struggled to express her feminism. She fought with her mother and even had to win her own hand in marriage. Tink, on the other hand, lived in a world where, perhaps, many feminists would dream of, a world without societal structures on gender performativity. 

If Merida won't oblige, Maleficent might do, as well

Maybe, everything has to do with the one emotion that Tink has never been able to hide: jealousy. I have been envious of Tink for her home is one that contrasts mine. Although, my surrounding isn't as bad as Merida's, it's still pretty constrictive. I have to fight for my rights, debate almost every lad I meet and bear with the conflicting label of "feminism", which my friends have taken the liberty to plaster me with. In the movie and the play, Tink was not prosecuted for her tendency to break social expectations of femininity. She is, in actuality, feminine in nature. Furthermore, her "mighty pretty" looks seems to conceal her feistiness. 

In contrast, Merida was compelled to change her looks and play the part of a woman. In Brave, she was caged in and forced to follow social rules. The wit that got her out of these social catastrophes might not help her find a husband or build a family that support her brazen nature. Thankfully, she does not seem to want a husband or children, at least not within the time frame of the film. 

As I end this article, one that was supposed to commemorate one year of, I feel rather morally puzzled. What makes a woman? Why am I so turned off by the word "feminism"? How has Disney and other parts of Pop culture shaped our ideas of gender? And how do we play a role in molding future characters and symbols? Your comment has never been more important than ever, please scroll down and leave a comment or two. 

P.S. Thank you for the support that you have provided for Without it this would just be a less meaningful scratch on the surface of the Internet. Terima kasih.

*All photos were supplied by the writer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Right to Know: Failure, concealment and reasoning

Failure. Isn't failure expected in life?

For the past two decades, the world has diminished the sugar that makes coffee sweet. Even worst, I have had coffee being intentionally poured on my lap or have had a fresh cup of brew explode right before me. Yes guys, guess what? As Judge Claud Frollo from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), which was inspired by Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, once sang, "The world is cruel, the world is wicked-". Maybe, Frollo was right, maybe he was the only person who could love Quasimodo. Although Frollo was every inch an abuser, horny, racist priest, his most fatal quality was his decision to conceal reality from Quasi, in the most obvious way, such as preventing Quasi from passing "a day, not above them, but part of them", as well as lying to him about how he had arrived at the church.

A: "Why don't you ever tell me why?"
B: "Because you never asked!"

Failure and concealment, at times, have been one of the most lethal combinations to my grit. In these situations, to know is better than to not know. A few weeks ago, after returning from an abysmal conference, where I got raved reviews, I received an email from my co-writer saying that our submission was rejected. After being peer-reviewed, a paper, which we proposed for publication, was deemed pertinent, yet methodologically flawed. The reviewers comments initially felt akin to a slap on the face, however slowly, as I read on, it calmed me in spirit and in my endeavors to become a published researcher. They laid out their reasons against accepting the proposal, unpacking salient details that would inspire the paper and study to grow.

By the end of the ordeal, I knew where we had gone wrong and understood how to amend my venture. Going from 100 to 0 might not have been as pleasant if it were not for the peer-reviewers transparency. Even though it was mandatory for them to provide some reasoning, I still appreciated it deeply.

Life is rarely as kind.

Break ups, social rejection and even, academic competitions are not as transparent. In some social dynamics, such as the first two I mentioned above, the relinquishing of data, in the form of reasoning, runs parallel to relinquishing power. By providing some clarity to one's social decision, he/she loses the power nestled in ambiguity, the power of "I know and you don't". Additionally, I have been in scientific competitions where the judges refrain from affording much-needed feedback. Even though, I do not intend to distill it as far as I have with the former two, I deem such behavior highly unprofessional, especially when it occurs in an academic setting.

Clarity in failure is imperative. Data precludes us from falling into the exact, same hole twice. Data much-needed information on our tendencies, our studies, and our future. Data inspires us to grow or prevents us from falling off a cliff. Basically, it allows us to weigh the benefits and risks of going further.

Yet, who has the right to release these data sets? Who has the liberty to explain a decision as commonplace as a break up or as perilous as a university acceptance letter? In general, the person who knows and are in the know have the prerogative to decide whether to disseminate or lock up the data. Even though these decisions might be deemed unethical in some fields, such as a reviewer withholding information on why he/she disapproved a paper, I fully accept it. Not all data sets should see the light of day and as human beings, as flawed as we might be, we have the right to decide.

You might be thinking that this liberal-know-it-all has lost her jewels, if you know what I mean. But, wait a sec, because I've got more to say. Yes, people have the liberty to lock away or provide reasoning. In some cases it is their responsibility to conduct either actions. However, on the other hand, those on the other side of the line have the right to ask.

For instance, in high school, I lost an English essay writing competition at Atma Jaya School of Medicine, a Catholic medical school in North Jakarta. Losing is fine by me, as long as it was justified. Usually, I'd fight back, but that day I was particularly lazy and exhausted to go further. A week later, the head of the English department trudged her way to Atma Jaya to demand some explanation for my failure. The committee, who were made of medical students (oh, the irony!), provided a copy of my essay and its edited version. Reviewing the manuscripts, the teacher went ballistic and I wondered why. After looking through it, my slight disappointment turned into a smile then a huge, bellowing laugh. I had no business attending such a competition, where my grammatically correct sentence were butchered by an amateur.

Some Cultures
Some cultures are more likely to ask and even demand an answer than others. As a child, I used to blush whenever I handed in a past exam paper that has been commented by my mother to the teachers. Many of the notes contained questions on why certain things were corrected and others weren't, or what were the reasons behind this score and that. Through the years, I have learned from certain people in my life that we have the right to demand an explanation, be it in academia, social situations, or the office.

However, I would say that experience has been the ultimate inspiration. Realizing that I have the right and even the gusto to fight, propelled me to become an inquisitive and critical person when it comes to feedback. Perhaps, that's why I prefer a school that gives out evaluations, in addition to grades. Perhaps, that's why it is imperative for me to create strong relationships with my boss and possible mentors. Perhaps, that's why I am guilty of writing lengthy articles or emails or facebook comments.

Believe me, a simple explanation can pave an entire yellow brick-road towards success.

*All the photos are provided by the author

Friday, April 11, 2014

Advansss Bee-o 2.0. - Guess Who You Are!

This is the second installment of Advansss Bee-o, a novel inspired by the advanced biology class I took in high school. Mind you, this was also written before I even began studying in the U.S., so pardon any grammatical mistakes. 

Advansss Bee-o 2.0


Why am I taking this class again?

Let me remind myself again,
(Looks to the right)
It’s because he’s here!
Damn it!

If only he would succumb to
my dark eyes,
busty decolletage,
and killer curves.

The Manual

If only he’d notice
my new perfume,
my new hair do,
and my new brain.

If only he knew
I had a heart that beats faster
and a pair of legs that wobble
each time he moves near.

If only he:
feels the same way.
would give us a try.
loves me from head to toe.

If only I were Wendy the Witch
in Casper and Wendy.
Then it would all be tolerable!


What the hell is Mrs. Cursor talking about?
I mean I get mitosis, meiosis and all that junk.
But I can’t wait to get to all the fun stuff!
I have persevered much too long, woman!

I could have learnt more about human reproduction
from a porn site
than from listening to your
hourly banter on dividing cells and genetics.

I don’t really care about all these abnormalities,
I don’t want to become a doctor nor a vet.
So let’s just get on with it!

I have so many questions,
none of which have anything to do with epistasis or hypostasis,
but most of which deals with vital things such as
positioning for optimum pleasure.

I could already feel heat running all over my extremities.
I guess, the good thing about studying genetics
is that I won’t explode in the middle of it.


The sun has never been this glorious. As I take a seat on the grainy sand, I could feel them crawling into my shorts! This is getting quite uncomfortable, however I am still enjoying it. I can’t believe I get to go to the beach at this time of year. As I’ve said before, the sun is at its prime, the waves are mild but wild and the breeze is just perfect. Just before I could lay down and get a tan, I remember to put on my SPF50. Another thing, I set my alarm for an hour to make sure that I will get my complexion at just the perfect shade. Wouldn’t want to get sunburnt, now do we?
            Sliding my body on top of the beach towel my mother gave me, I open the novella that I’ve brought along onto the last chapter that I read. You see, I have to reread the last chapter that I read to refresh my memory! Now, where were we? Ah! Yes, the heroine is being dragged into the woods by a chivalrous vampire. They jump through the lush forests only to find a field. This is so getting good!


            I wish I were a character in a novella. Wouldn’t it be lovely if I were the protagonist in a forbidden love story? Actually, I don’t even need to be the main character, a supporting character will do. I’d be a friend to whom the heroine could lean on or the cool older brother to whom the hero looks up to for advice. There should be like a device where people could play out their favorite characters on film. Wait! Actually, I guess Comic-Con does let you dress up and be who ever you wanna be. What am I going to wear to Comic-Con this year?
            5 more minutes!

“Elmo! Hey...” Rosario whispers, nudging him as she does so.
            “Five more minutes...” he groans.
            “Mr. Enid! Mr. Enid!” Mrs. Cursor shouts at her student only to be replied by a yawn. Now she’s had enough, “ELMO ENID!”.
            “Yes... yeah...?” he awakes to an a bomb filled with estrogen and other lady hormones. “Oh man, I’m sorry Mrs. Cursor! Totally sorry!”.
            “Go wash your face young man!” she instructs, if he hadn’t gotten good grades all through last semester he would have been kicked out by now.
            Elmo scurries to the men’s room.
            “All right class, let us go back to the board... so,” Mrs. Cursor continues with the subject.


Ba... ba... black sheep...
You don’t need to start counting sheep to fall asleep in this class.
To be honest, it’s not boring at all but you have to understand, anything other than the subject dictates that this laboratory is the perfect site to rest.
No, not to rest for eternity, I’m afraid that they’ll discover my body and decide to either open it up to see what’s inside or to preserve it for later use. And I do not want to spend the rest of eternity in the biology laboratory of a Catholic school, thank you very much!
This laboratory is perfect for a midnight hideaway or a midday nap.
I think they can’t steal the happiness that is exuded from this very special room, not as long as the AC keeps blowing air at 16 °C and the mice are still alive.

21 seconds later

I’m not usually this nosy but what the hell is Summer writing on her notebook?
She knows better than doodle in Mrs. Cursor’s class especially after Elmo’s sleep talking incident two minutes ago.
Poor Elmo! If only he had Bert to remind him not to sleep in class.

A minute later

Hmm... hearts!
Hearts, that’s what she’s doodling on the recycled line paper that I just lent her.
There once was a study conducted by a university on drawing hearts. They had large groups of teenage girls sit in classrooms for hours and determined that the ones who excessively drew hearts were in fact pregnant. If memory serves me right, it has something to do with the hormone levels being off.
But I highly doubt that Summer is pregnant. I mean who would knock her up? The janitor?
Since the great incident of Junior Ball, where she was rumored to have gotten so drunk that she gave the whole male student body a striptease, no boy has really been brave enough to take her out on a proper date.
There are no words to express how interesting it would be if Summer had managed to bear a child without a species of the opposite sex to supply her with sperm.
On the other hand, my hypothesis could be completely flawed, the hearts could mean a desire for love or l’amour to enter her life. Just like the majority female population of her age, she has a tendency to flirt with boys i.e. flip her hair, bat her eyelashes and smack her lips together to accentuate its plumpness.
            You cannot imagine how foolish girls get in front of eligible men. I, in contrast, tend to get a stronger pull towards those who are taken. I am aware that it does not conform to social norms, but who said I am the kind of person who fits the box that is labeled NORMAL?
            For example,
1.                              I wear some sort of head piece every Thursday just because it only suits me that day, even it means a metal bowl originally bought for my dog Roofie
2.                             I listen to old music on this old neon pink cassette player
3.                             I always go barefoot whenever I can
4.                             I obsess over fascinating social norms such as flirting, dumping and nose picking
5.                              I bring night vision goggles only when the sun is shining
(I am aware that these attributes can’t necessarily be categorized as social norms but it can explain why my mother call me “her special little who-knows-what”)



Is it really necessary to talk about Elmo’s problems?
I mean you’ve got your own problem, I’ve got mine and he’s got his.
God only knows how many hours a person spends upon thinking about others.
I don’t worry about this, about that, I worry about where I’m at academic-wise, social-wise and health-wise.
Can we all just resume back to genetics, I really can’t concentrate if they’re all talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I never wanted to be allergic to loudness. Believe it or not, I was born this way. Yes, a child with a strange but intolerable defect. Basically I can’t stand loud sounds whether it is music, conversations, or atmospheric sounds such as subways or car honks. I hate them, I am susceptible to them, I can’t tolerate them. And that is why I struggle to find classes that would be “safe” for me to be in, such as this one. However, now and then we do get screams and hysterical laughter mostly from Jelly. But I surely can survive. You are a survivor! Come on!
         My main issue with loudness and extreme volume is how distracting it could be. I hate loud cheers especially whenever I’m dribbling the ball, ready to jump and shoot. Ironically, I always score whenever I shoot while the crowds are being loud. I guess what I hate about it is that I can’t really concentrate and be in the zone when loudness surrounds me. Am I in deep trouble?

As you can probably see, ninety minutes could have never gone faster for some and slower for others that today’s Advanced Bio class. As usual, everyone was on check for their sanity. Even though most of them were literally sharing the oxygen in the laboratory they knew all too well, most of them had mentally ventured off to a foreign land, a land where they only had themselves to talk to. Basically, a land where they (Casper) could explode without worry or a space where Elmo could lay in the sun thinking about nothing but the sun.
         Unfortunately or fortunately, life isn’t that static. There’s always a grain of sand to climb, and another spoon full of sugar to swallow.

*All photos were supplied by the author

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Indonesian Girl's Battle with Senioritis

At the end of March, my tenth post for Indonesia Mengglobal was published. Unlike most of the articles on IM, this one serves students who are already in college, be it abroad or within the Indonesian region. 'Senioritis', I believe, is a general experience that can be simultaneously depressing and comedic. As promised, I have translated the piece into English for all to see. Since it is a rather fresh notion amongst Indonesian adults, the original post contained more explanations that the one below, which can be seen as more of an opinion piece.

Again, senioritis is heterogenous in nature and I would appreciate to hear YOUR experiences with it.

Senioritis: An epidemic amongst college seniors

An empty desk stands solitarily in my apartment. Reminders of time subtly present itself on my closed laptop and calendar. Stacks of reading materials sit calmly atop a multi-purpose picnic table, where I write, eat and watch movies. Almost three years have passed since I graduated from Santa Laurensia, my second home for fourteen years of my life. Almost three years have passed since I left Jakarta to pursue a higher education.
OMG, Say What?
Nearing the end of my freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College, the faces of my graduating friends grew pale as they nervously twitched at the thought of leaving college. That year, fall had swiftly turned to spring, stealing time out of their hands. “Oh my gosh, we’re graduating in less than a hundred days!” one of them screamed at her smart phone. “Calm down,” a statistics professor promptly began class that morning, afraid that any positive reinforcement would delay his agenda.

As a freshman, I could not wrap my head around the commotion that felt so palpable and real to many of my friends. If graduation was a happy event, why are all these seniors so panicky?”

Still puzzled and amazed, I asked my don (faculty advisor) for some clarification. He laughed rather hyperbolically and said, “First of all, your very first question to me ever was – how do I graduate as fast as possible, true?” I nod. “Even before you even completely stepped into the door, you were prepared to get out,” he continued, “and second, it’s called ‘Senioritis’”.

A colloquial word that conveys the anxiety triggered by thoughts of the inevitable future, ‘senioritis’ is most apparent amongst students who are about to graduate. Even though high school seniors also display its symptoms, senioritis is more prevalent amongst those in college. I have observed that the issue is more frequent in the U.S.

Perhaps, one reason behind senioritis is the sudden loss or decrease of financial support experienced by many college graduates in America. Additionally, the notion of diving into the “real world” can be debilitating, especially in the aftermath of a financial crisis. After 2008, the U.S., U.K. and even Australia saw an increase in unemployment rate. Companies laid off numerous workers and implemented much more stringent application procedures. As a result, a new culture of twentysomethings has emerged. In contrast to prior years, more and more young adults are moving back to their parents’ house. Moreover, many volunteer or intern, due to a lack of job opportunities.

Falling Onto The Pavements of The Real World

Nevertheless, many international students experience seniorities. In the U.S., most foreign students enroll in the Optional Practical Training program, which allows them to work for a year without a working visa. Individuals who do not attain a visa sponsorship from their employers often continue on to graduate school or other forms of education, or leave the country.

Personally, I have journeyed through my last year of college with little feelings of senioritis. Of course, some symptoms, such as nostalgia, has crept up on me, but the only pang of realization came when I received a similar email to one my friends had read aloud during my first year. Counting down days made graduation even more real. Even so, with a good plan ahead, the email also reminded me how fortunate I am. Although going to grad school may not be the best choice, it is the one I am making now, the one that will get me through the last weeks of senior year without nervously breaking down.

Senioritis to me, at this moment in time, feels much more abstract. Ever so often, it haunts me and follow me around school. I see missed opportunities and wonder what would become of me if I were to follow the conventional four-year path, instead of accelerating. Nonetheless, I take it as a reminder to enjoy my last days at Sarah Lawrence, New York, and the larger U.S. Maybe it might even be a good idea to place an analog clock with a ticking hand, to provide a constant reminder of how fast time flies. 

*The photos were supplied by the author

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Key: The rule book of reading this blog, seriously, not!

By this time last year, I had a bit of letter sending going on with two friends of mine, one who had built an entire history with me for years and another whom I just known a few months. Both were peculiarly interested in perception and writing, whatever it may be. Yes, it was peculiar, but as someone who loves strange forms of connectivity, I obliged. However, as an armor and swords sort of girl, I wrote an entire letter full of rules. Did I hope for it to be interesting? Yes. Or poetic? Kind of. Or intrusive? Hmm... that's a hard one.

In retrospect, I could have been more casual about it. I could have been all cool like some guys look after quoting Chekov or Shakespeare. I might have been able to get away with it if it was directly self-depricative. Nevertheless, somethings just beg to see the light of day. And, on second thought, this might as well apply to you all, too.

Dear you (who asked to see, read, understand),
I write because I have a series of thoughts, chunked into sentences, flowing through my trachea to my larynx, piling up in my throat. The words clog up my throat, it doesn’t hurt, but it is still uncomfortable. That is why I write. To minimize the discomfort, my mind redirects the words to my fingertips. Past my nails and onto the keyboard. The relieve has felt like ecstasy. No, I have not experimented with any drugs, only alcohol and half a cigarette. I find myself snickering, silently with no expression, at this. Why do I have to constantly explain myself?

This is my writing, I shall be honest. If I can’t be honest with my own writing, could I be honest with the you? I am honest in my head, I curse, I complain, I pine over a boy, I love, and I think of lies. But I don’t think I have ever lied in my own mind. I have certainly tried to convince myself that something is not the way it is, but at the end of the day my mind knows that it is all a deception.

My writing shall be a carbon copy of my mind. It shall be honest. It is for those who want to understand, those who will fight to reserve their prejudice and judgments for fights, those who will offer feedback, both good and bad.

I love feedbacks. It is both my strength and kryptonite. It is the fertilizer that prompts me to grow, to become tall trees that will be cut down to make paper for these words to be printed on. Feedback allows me to understand you, the reader, you, who asked for this introduction, you, the curious.

Yes, this is an introduction, a door that will reveal other compartments of my thoughts. Beware, this Pandora’s box is home to blinding sunshine and charcoal black. I don’t expect you to continue this journey. On the contrary, please refrain yourself from touching the handle if you doubt your readiness.
Communicate your hesitation. I will give you a key that will either shield you from or plunge you into the darkness. Tell me and I will give you what I think is best. I am the writer, I cut out words and paste them together. If you are curious enough, I am certain that you will trust me when I say that I will give you the right key.

Be careful where this fork would land

My writing is private. Your feedback is a privilege to me, and the password that I give you is a privilege to you have asked to see these words. I look forward to see you on the other side, I can’t wait to hear that door click and see you walking in, touching the words on the walls. I am well aware that you may pick on those words and create arguments that may leave me with bruises and fractures. Yet, I am as convinced that you will kiss these secrets and embrace it until they become butterflies gilding around you and I.

Last thing, sometimes I find myself lacking inspiration. Feel free to send me themes that you would like me to write about, be it as extreme as bungee jumping or as mild as a cup of tea. Request a story or a thought piece on topics that may or may not be personal to you. I won’t shy away from a gladiator fight. New work will help me grow as an artist. If I am too lazy to write something original, I will shift through my inventory and find one that may suit you. If it doesn’t don’t forget to scream at me or kick my leg under the table. We’ll just agree that it was a simple “Oops”!

I just want to know you, but I understand that in order to do that, you need to know me.
Tap your fingers twice, send me a letter, tell me your desire and doubts, and open your palm. Here’s your

*All photos were supplied by the author