A few musings of a woman in a Muslim country in southeast Asia…
So far, being a woman in Indonesia feels a little like going back to middle school where you thought you had friends only to discover they were backbiting, malicious and trying to get the boy you thought was cute.
Women in Indonesia are often ignored as children with the understanding that they will grow up to become gossips and submissive housewives and mothers. They will marry a man who can have more then one wife and who will probably cheat on both of these wives with at least one mistress if not more.
One of the best outcomes for an Indonesian woman would be to marry a rich buli (white) man and get delivered from life as they know it. As a woman married to a rich, white man (Peter may not seem rich by U.S. standards, but here he’s very wealthy.), I have a strange status among the women of this country. Many women stop and tell him how handsome he is – on the side of the street, in the grocery store, at school, etc. They flirt with him right in front of me. It’s an interesting territorial feeling to know women are determined to meet my husband and see where they can go with him.
In my aerobics class, I am often pushed to the front of the class where they can watch the strange, tall, white woman with hips as she tries to follow an instructor she can’t understand. When I miss a step, they laugh and say things I can’t figure out. Aerobics is different here – the instructors show you the steps once and then expect you to keep going while they stand on the side of the room and watch. I don’t think Judy (of Jazzercise fame) would approve of the laziness of these instructors.
When I am not with Peter, I get a lot of strange comments as a solitary, white woman. For some reason, white women are thought to be prostitutes – I’m not sure where they got the impression that all white women do this for a living. In fact, the only other white women I know seem to be lesbians… Last Friday, I had 5 men on motorcycles pass me, make a u-turn and come back to wait for me. They watched as I passed and waited to see if I would say anything to them.
At least 3 times a week, I’m followed through the streets as I walk home from work. Earlier this week, I yelled at a man who had followed me for some distance and wouldn’t leave. This evening, two fat men on a motorcycle rode along beside me for more than 2 blocks. These men say many things I can’t understand, and I am thankful for the language barrier that keeps me in the dark as to the comments they are actually making.