My curve is the first curve you felt when you were still a baby. The first curve you touched with your mouth looking for breastmilk. The first curve you smelled and you have been calling it ‘mother’ to remember it forever.
As you grew, you learnt about every shape of my curve whenever you saw me in front of your eyes, naked or fully dressed. That was the beginning of how you praise me from all the women and at the same time you got scared too because you heard that my beauty will not last.
Little did you know, that, my outer beauty is just a shell covering my deepest inner beauty. But you do not want to go deep into myself to explore me.
Then, everytime you saw me showing my beauty through my boldness, outspoken, persevereness,resilience, fierce,wise, charm or calm, you mocked me with your cowardness to turn me down with your power of patriarchy.
I first time watched Tomb Raider when I was in my teenage year and studied in grade 8th of junior high school back in 2002. I watched it in a format of CD that was bought randomly by my father along with other movie CDs from local market in Lospalos, one the post administrative city in Lautem municipality in Timor-Leste. My father does not speak nor understand English at all but he loves to watch Hollywood action movies along with Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Indonesian action movies that he thinks interesting.
As I pick the CD to play, the cover captured me as it displayed how gorgeous Angelina Jolie is as Lara Croft. Growing up as 90s generation, most Hollywood action movies or series I have watched from TVs starred male as hero and I was only familiar with one TV action serial starred women as hero character named Xena.
Then I play the CD and watched the movie of Tomb Raider for the first time in my leisure time as a retreat session. The opening scene going on, I was amazed with how Lara Croft did the fighting exercise with robots and her fighting was as fierce as male hero in any action movie I have watched. As the movie going on, I noticed that she is also a rich daughter of inherited a big mansion from her father Lord Richard Croft, a well known scientist and rich man in England. Then it is revealed that Lara’s father is a member of secret society named Trinity and he has kept all the secrets to her daughter to find out one day. The secret is the heart of pyramid which has been split and hidden in two secretive location and Lara has to find them before the Trinity find them.
Lara Croft depicted by Angelina Jolie featured an elegant, rich, gorgeous and adventurous woman with multi-talent skills on physical and intellectual skills exercise. This appeared to me as a teenage girl that time that an ideal woman should be like Lara Croft having a gorgeous with a perfect body, rich, elegant, intelligent and skillful. I started to dream being an beautiful, skillful and rich woman when I grow up. After watching that movie, I started to check myself in the mirror more often to check if I am beautiful enough. I was disappointed. I don’t have face feature of Lara Croft, her perfectly postured and curvy body, her sensual voice, her elegant style nor her lavish rich as an heiress. I am just a simple teenage girl with brown skin, medium height and a little bit chubby face. I did not realize that having a perfect combination of Lara Croft near to perfection beauty is indeed just an illusion.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholders. I wish I grasp this thought that time. I wish I have many people told me that I am beautiful as I am. Growing in society where one is determined by his/her outer appearance and that a women with fairest skin is more beautiful than brown skin and that tall slender women is more sexy than curvy and short women made me felt awful with how I look at myself. However, I continue to admire Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft but at the same I keep telling myself that wishing to be like Angelina Jolie is delusional.
Then after many years, growing up as adolescent, learning about feminism and self acceptance I started to realize that beauty is indeed a relative concept. Beauty is indeed not depends on how others see you but how you feel that concept on yourself and this is the challenge that many people today are still striving for as the concept of beauty is still dominated by the society’s judgement and only few people who are brave enough to stand against the normative prejudice and shine their beauty according to their beliefs.
Later, this year, after watching the new remake of Tomb Raider movie and the character of Lara Croft portrayed by Alicia Vikander, I was stunned. This time, the new version of Lara Croft is different although she still has that beauty, skills in sport and boxing and being an heiress of the Croft. The new Tomb Raider portrayed Lara Croft in a more realistic way where she is a rebellious girl with loving heart for her father, she is also not that invincible in fighting and easily defeated but she has a big courage for a dangerous adventure that she won at last after facing many evils. This is where I found that a woman’s beauty should be portrayed not only in her physical appearance but to show her intellectual, inner strength and her compassion when facing difficult situation. This is what I would like people to see in me as a woman.
However, once again, it’s OK to dream or not to dream being a Lara Croft however it is important to understand that beauty is something that is not limited to physical appearance but to look to deep to the inner strength being a woman. This is the core message we need to convey to the girls to empower their self esteem and self acceptance.
I live in Dili (Timor-Leste). I love reading, writing, watching movie, listen to music and do photography for fun.
A day before celebration of international women day March 8, I joined an on-air literary radio program with my Timorese poet friend Abe Barreto at Radio Liberdade Dili which aired on every Wednesday evening started at 6.15 pm at local time. A week before we came to this program, we had to have an advance planning and preparation on the theme we will present, how should we present and do a mini research for supporting materials for the discussion.
When discussed on choosing the theme, it came to our mind that in the first week of month, Timor-Leste celebrated a national veteran day on March 3 and on March 8 will celebrate international women day. Then, we got the idea to combine the two celebration into one theme ‘Women as Veteran’. For this theme Abe then invited Mena Reis, one of a Timorese senior woman activist, ex-resistance member and a poet to join us on the discussion and she participated.
The discussion started with describing the link of the two celebration on veteran day and women day, how we perceive women’s role and significance as veteran and what literary action can be done to help maintain the precious values as a veteran and as a women. That evening, at Radio Liberdade studio, we presented our discussion along with some intermezzos of musics and poetry recitals from Mena Reis with her own poem title Feto Timor-Lorosae (Women of East Timor), Abe with his poem about Mother and myself reciting poems by Rupi Kaur and Yacinta Kurniasih (an indonesian feminist writer) with feminism themefor which we called ‘literary salad’.
Throughout the discussion among three of us, I grabbed some important point for my reflection as following:
The word ‘veteran’ is not only about a title given to the ex-resistence individual/group for their military contribution as we may generally perceive but is indeed referring to the capacity, ability or skills they master for a long period. In the context of Timor-Leste’s resistance history on seizing independence, this capacity is about being able to survive physically and mentally amidst the invasion of merciless destroying bombs , poverty, terror, threat, humiliation, violence, abuse, lost of family member and one’s own life, grieve, and other miseries during the occupation time. Apart of surviving, is to learn to fight back and this required a through process of learning in an individually or collectively process on how to organize and succeeded with the guerilla.
In Timor-Leste, when talking about veteran, most of the attention goes to men veteran rather than women veteran as media tends to expose more of men veteran’s stories and thoughts rather than women veterans which suppose to also received equal praise and recognizement as men veteran. Not only that, even many women veterans until now still live in difficult life and not receiving any support. Furthermore, many women veterans have not received any follow up notice on the lost of the family members during the occupation time which leave their grief remain.
Another saddening issue is that women veteran tend to be seen by society as less intellectual and less capable. This is not good because society should understand more about the women veteran’s struggle internally and externally. Despite of receiving less praise and credit, some women veterans continue to show their serious effort on contributing to development of the country with all their capability (even if it is limited) in the area if education and other sectors in their community. One of great example today is Ms. Maria ‘Kasian’ who opened a kindergarten school with her money received from veteran subsidy. This is example of the important value that women veteran want to share to the society and to the new generation as an example that commitment for contributing to development should started from our self first.
However, women’s role and battle as ‘veteran’ (not only the military veteran in literal meaning) are not yet over but instead came up with a new context of role and battle according to the latest life fashion issues. Women’s veteran role is nowadays becomes more challenging in all aspects of life that requires women’s ability to cope with, such as in the social, politic economic, health, education area, etc. Until today, many women in Timor-Leste still facing injustice, gender inequity, discrimination, violation which mostly tends to be approved by the society and lack of system support when they need it the most. Thus, being a veteran for women to master and cope with all the life pattern struggle is an eternal role and perhaps a lifetime battle.
On the literary resources about women veteran’s contribution in Timor-Leste is still seen as lacking because again most of the stories tends to focus on male role and influence and speak little about women. However, nowadays, the chance to have these stories exposed is even greater and young generation should be encouraged to gather, write, read and share those stories so they can reflect and understand better the core value of Timorese struggle for independence.
Another issue highlighted on promoting literary work in Timor-Leste is the absence of copyright law to guarantee the protection of author’s work when producing literary work on women issues. This is indeed a challenge and request for government to consider as well since it is necessary to safeguard Timor-Leste’s stories to the current and future generation as references.
To conclude, I would say that today, every woman is a veteran and being a woman veteran is a lifetime role, a lifetime battle. To carry out this role is not solely women’s responsibility as support from all the relevant sectors like government, civil society and grassroots level collaboration from all parties, all genders and generation is extremely needed.
Happy Timor-Leste veteran day and Happy International Women’s day.
That morning, I came to work as usual and realized that it was March 8th, the date celebrated as the international women’s day. When I entered the office, one of my office colleague, a public health doctorate from Srilanka, was coming after me and then I greeted her saying “Happy International Women’s day, doctor’.
She gave me a brief laugh and then she replied me “thank you so much, but for me, every day is women’s day’. She said so with a sweet smile carved on her face, a figure that already entered the age of sixty yet she remains energetic as a fifteen years old teenager.
After that, we parted to do our daily office duty, but I kept thinking about her last soft sarcastic words ‘For me, every day is women’s day.’ That simple phrase has hit my perception towards the celebration of international women’s day, which celebrated worldwide in various ways.
Historically, the celebration of international women’s day begun in 1909, when the United Nations observed the first National Women’s day on February 28th in America. That time, the Socialist Party in America decided to celebrate the day in order to honor the women garment workers strike in 1908 for their act of protest against the working conditions provided to them.
Later, in 1910, a meeting of International Socialists in Copenhagen established the International Women’s day to honor the women rights movement and to build the support for women’s suffrage. The proposal gained unanimous approval from nearly 100 women members from 17 countries at the conference but the fixed date was therefore not determined.
In 1911, as the result of initiative in Copenhagen, the international women’s day was marked for the first time on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, which celebrated with a rally participated by almost one million people of men and women. The rally insisted for the right to vote, hold public office position, right to work, to have vocational training and to end the discrimination at the workplace.
However, in 1913-1914, the international women’s day also becomes a means to protest against the First World War and other wars, while in 1917, in protest against the war, the women in Russian held a protest and conduct a strike for the Bread and Peace act thus made the Russian Czar, who soon approve the women’s rights to vote. In 1975, the United Nations started celebrating the International Women’s Day on March 8 which later followed by various agencies and cooperation body continues supporting the celebration with various objectives and goals.
Back to the day, the celebration of International Women’s Day throughout Timor-Leste is generally identical with ceremonial acts lead by the government institutions, civil societies, and the international cooperating bodies. The ceremonial act would be filled with official discourse, which later ended with various festivity means. Meanwhile, the TV news, newspaper, and social media or the internet displayed the beautiful messages and quotes about women as well as in the social media timelines, TV screens and on the billboards and banners all around the city.
On Friday 9 March, there was an interesting event held at Timor-Plaza called #HeforShe, which organized the cooking competition participated by men representatives from agencies and government institution. The competition demonstrated cooking the meal as an advocacy to the Timorese men that cooking task is indeed not only the women’s domestic task but also can be men’s task since men can also cook. The concept for this event indeed has become an anti-thesis to the patriarchal system in Timor-Leste, which emphasizes that cooking is only women’s task. In participating this event, I had a conversation with an activist male friend from Indonesia. He described that normally during the event of international women’s day, the women movement in some countries would organize a strike on that day or held a march to insist the rights they felt the government has not provided them yet.
Comparing to the events in Timor-Leste that mostly celebrated in ceremonial ways, a question then rose in my mind. Do the women felt the true meaning of this celebration? On the other hand, perhaps the celebration is only an event with cliché significance while in Timor-Leste the issues on women continue to increase. These includes issues such as the domestic violence issues, sexual harassment, and abuse both psychological and physical, lack of security for women when going out at night from school, offices or homes and lack of access to education and information for women to develop their capacity and so on. However, the campaign to eradicate and improve these issues may continue going on but if we meet these women directly or read the news from the newspaper, we would continue to hear the laments on these issues.
From these issues, the involvement of men (and as well as the women) as perpetrators is high thus there should be a question to the men on how do they feel the importance of the international women day? Generally, when we walk along the street, we will continue to find out how the boys like to disturb girls, abuse and tease them when these girls walk along the street, instead of talking to these girls with respect. Some girls have to drop out from school due to early pregnancy because of lack of information on sexual education that still becomes a taboo material or because of unsafe sex practice. The women, who become victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence in the family or society, have not obtained the proper treatment. Some women have to stop working when there is no enough support to take care of the children, whereas some other women, also have to trade off their time to work and leave their children at home in order to support the husband or family to earn money to meet the family’s economical needs since nowadays in Dili, life become more expensive and prices of commodities continue to rise.
These problems may seem superficial while the more deep issues may still lie underneath and are undiscovered yet. The slogan ‘Strong Women Strong Nation’ may need to be reviewed and reflected deeply whether the Timorese women so far has been that strong. How can the government, society and the individuals contribute to empower and strengthen the women?
Thinking about my Indonesian activist friend’s story, I realized that on March 8 I supposed to take a whole day leave and staying at home but instead I continue went to work at the office. I was thinking that on that day, supposedly the Timorese women who work at the office should be allowed to leave for the whole day. However, in the context of Timor-Leste, I have a sense that even if the government does allow the women employees to take leave, these women will still continue to work at home doing the household chores and run other family and social responsibilities tasks. Since Timorese women hereby have a crucial role in the family and society, regardless of their engagement at office work, at the end of the day, they would never be separated from their role and will continue to undertake the domestic responsibilities, which are higher compared to men. Consequently, perhaps as according to my Srilankan colleague has said maybe it is true, ‘Every day is women day!’
Finally, yet importantly, I would like to extend my congratulation for all the women fellows all around the world and I hope that you continue to be strong!