the day i became a woman

I chanced upon watching “Roozi ke zan shodam” (The Day I Became a Woman) after seeing it in the “Must See Iranian Films” list. Unfortunately, I have never seen it being advertised as one of the must-see feminist films. I personally feel this sweet, simple film powerful, where females are being brought to the limelight. Marzieh Meshkini dissected women’s lives from the three important phases of our lives; as a girl, as a woman, and as a wise woman who’s undergone the entire phase of being  a woman, under the broad daylight. Not only that, Meshkini also put the stories into context: a rich and complex life of contemporary Iran. Sadly, this meticulous effort suffered from being underrated, like many other female-directed films about females. Hence, I felt the moral imperative to write a review on this film.

This Iranian triptych starts its journey with a story about a little girl. That day is like every other day, except that Hava (Fatemeh Cherag Akhar) turns nine, and according to Iranian culture, she should be bestowed the lofty title: a woman. The little girl does not yet understand what the word “woman” means, the only thing she wants is go playing with her boy friend. Her mother and her grandmother resists, until she convinces them that she hasn’t turned nine before 12 p.m. yet. She then is granted the right to go play with her boy friend until 12 p.m., as long as she wears the hijab that her mother has sewn. The rest of the first story revolves around her maneuvering her designated role as a woman so she can enjoy her last seconds of being a little girl.

The second story is particularly unique since it conveys such a strong message from a simple scene: Ahoo (Shabnam Toloui) riding her bicycle. No, it’s more than that: Ahoo rides her bicycle despite her husband telling her not to. She used to ride her bicycle until her husband forbade her from doing so. Her husband then follows her on a horse, threatens to divorce her if she does not obey him. But Ahoo does not budge. She clearly feels exhausted from riding her bicycle, sometimes she looks back, like perhaps recalculating her decision. In the end, her entire male family members follow her and force her to get down from her bicycle. Ahoo is still determined to ride her bicycle as she wishes to ride on her own independence.

Meshkini spared the last story to be the humorous one. We here watch the overly-dramatic journey of Hoora (Azizeh Sedighi) who just mysteriously gets an inheritance. She declares that finally she can buy whatever she wants after spending her entire life being unable to do so. She decides to buy a bunch of kitchen appliances, utensils, and basically domestic-related furnitures, as she tells her story to the little boys she hires to help lift all the purchase. Having no settlement to put all the furnitures in, Hoora sets all of her purchase on the beach. The last scene of her and her newly-bought furnitures floating away on some fragile wooden kayaks and are carried by the sea waves is bizzare, legendary, and nearly comical.

The three women are linked by the sea; where Hava must step on some kayak and embrace the sea like her family, and where Hoora meets two of Ahoo’s competitors in the bicycle race and then invites them for some tea. Although this is a pretty common approach to wrap up the stories altogether, Meshkini surely does not give everything away. In the end, nearly everything remains a mystery. Where are Hava and her family going? Why do they need to go at the first place? Why does Ahoo indomitably resist her culture’s patriarchs? What is the last thing that Hoora wants to buy, yet she’s forgotten? All the mysteries end on the sea, along with Hoora and her furnitures whom the waves wash away.

Why, despite the opportunity, doesn’t Meshkini resolve and answer everything? I am led to believe that because it is not the intention of this movie. The movie envisioned to put its audience behind females’ spectacles; to familiarise us with the female gaze. In the first story, the shortened shadow of a stick that acts as a sundial never makes us root for a girl before. For females, time is always clocking, and a nine-years old who is still full with naivete is forced to face her fate for being a nine-years old ready to submit herself to womanhood in her cultural terms.  In Ahoo’s story, the arrid and barren mise en scène is also the world from Ahoo’s point of view. She has been embittered by the rules, and riding a bicycle has never been a  political statement like this before. She refuses to even talk to the patriarchs and is only focused to finish her race. Hoora’s segment may look comical, but why does she buy domestic furnitures and utensils? Yes, she has been inherited a lot of money, mysteriously, and claims that she is freed by the money. But is she? Being confined to her own definition of kitchen appliances as freedom, she bears a huge question mark of what we think freedom for women is.

Marzieh Meshkini is a great director, “Roozi ke zan shodam” is a great movie offering critical point of view towards Eastern patriarchal culture, and both of them deserve more appreciation. This is the kind of film that I would show to all important females in my life. It narrates about us, about our shared, unique experience, and why we ought not be ashamed to talk about it.

What happened today invites me to reflect on my own desire.

It all boils down to one simple question: What do you want, Nas?

The statistics shows that the chance of getting everything that you want is little to none.

Life is not interested in your dreams. The universe maintains billions of planets and stars and everything else that you can’t even imagine and you want them to care about your problem too?

Rethink that again, young lady.

You can feel chaotic but you have to see yourself from outsiders’ point of view: the universe doesn’t care. It has its own chaos to handle.

You are in no position to conclude that you deserve a socially-convened “good” things, because the statistics shows otherwise. It is a fact. It is not a sad fact, because this “sweet, candy-like” world refuses to admit that they, in fact, are chaotic, random, and nonsense. Everything, everyday is yet another lottery.

Good for you to internalise your problem. Compose yourself, young lady. Get yourself back together.

Recognise that you don’t deserve socially-convened good things.

Recognise that these feelings would last for only one week, after that, you will move on, more or less.

Recognise that desires change; and this fact is the most consistent fact of all.

Recognise that your problem right now is to choose between two things, WHICH IS A VERY GOOD THING. You are privileged and if anybody else saw you chaotic like this for problem like that, they would genuinely laugh on their asses.

Recognise that it is not the world’s job to congratulate and appreciate you if you manage to get yourself back together and eliminate all anxiety. Recognise that you must remain dutiful to stay sober, intact, and together.

I won’t say that everything is okay, because nothing is. I’m saying that… everything happens because everything has to. And as a human, you need to readjust yourself over and over again to each situation assigned to you.

You need to run. A long, long run. Hopefully it will clear your head up.


The first time I watched this movie was earlier this year, on February 2015. I remember liking it so much and wanting to review it but I eventually forgot because I was busy with thesis. So, when a friend informed me that Kapan Kawin? was going to be aired on a local television network last Saturday, I was excited. I then resuscitated the delayed will to review it.

Kapan Kawin? (literal translation: When Will You Get Married?) is a 2015 production, directed by Ody C. Harahap. The crew surely succeeded in reconciling two biggest young stars of contemporary Indonesian cinema onto the screen: Adinia Wirasti (Dinda) and Reza Rahadian (Satrio/Rio), as a couple. Some other big Indonesian stars also partook in the film, namely Feby Fabiola who plays Dinda’s elder sister named Nadya, Ivanka Suwandi as Nadya and Dinda’s mother, and Adi Kurdi who plays the part as their father.

The story begins with narrating Dinda’s daily life as a successful hotel manager who resides in Jakarta. She is beautiful, has a good career, and has good friends, too. However, it is not enough for Dinda’s parents, as Dinda has been in her 30s but she has not married yet. Her insatiable parents push her to get married as soon as possible. Being people pleaser that Dinda is, she does not want to disappoint her parents, and as a result, she hires Satrio–a street actor–to be her temporary fake boyfriend. She brings him to Jogjakarta to visit her parents and get them acquainted with Satrio as her “boyfriend.” Little does she know that everything will turn into a havoc as her parents start to like Satrio’s personality and Nadya’s family come to visit her parents as well.

Listed as “romcom”, Kapan Kawin? surely does not disappoint with the “com” part. It is freakishly funny, and the combination of good script writing and good acting contribute to that effect. When I watched Kapan Kawin? on the cinema, I remember being on the edge of my seat as a result of slouching after laughing too hard. Here, Reza Rahadian proves his name, as he is the funniest among all, to me. It was incredible, seeing that in his career he often plays serious characters, but apparently he is very good with a funny, irritating-yet-irresistible-guy part. Adinia Wirasti also does a good job by showing her annoyance but hopelessness. The two make an awkward couple, but the awkwardness feels natural and spontaneous. This results in chemistry between the two on screen, rather effortlessly, I’d say.

Story wise, it is also neat. The plots are sewn seamlessly to each other and the story does not leave any obvious plot hole. However, like a cliché in movies, some important plots are explained through the character narrating it to each other, and not subtly shown. There are two plots that I mean. Exhibit one, the plot of the past triangle love of Jerry – Dinda – Nadya. It is not acted out, and we only realise that Dinda used to be Jerry’s girlfriend through Dinda’s literal explanation to Satrio. Exhibit two, Dinda’s trait that she is selfless. It is also apparent after Satrio confronts her for being too selfless. I personally do not think that Dinda is that selfless, especially because her only obvious selflessness is her wanting to satisfy her parents’ dream of a son-in-law. Culturally, Indonesian women are expected to be more selfless and accommodating, so perhaps I subconsciously overlook this part that is rather obvious in the public picturisation of Indonesian women. Nevertheless, more examples of their literal explanation need to be acted out on screen.

Despite such weakness, my verdict stands still: Kapan Kawin? is the best Indonesian romcom movie I have ever seen (well, to be fair, I have not seen much yet). We need to judge a movie accordingly to what it promises. Kapan Kawin? never promises social justice, deep messages through its production. It wishes to entertain the audience by light story, great romantic chemistry, and hilarity. When we are about to write a laundry list about good qualities of a romcom movie, Kapan Kawin? ticks all in the box, fulfilling its promise and expectation when one wants to watch a good romcom movie.


Title: What is Feminism? An Introduction to Feminist Theory

Author: Chris Beasley

Year: 1999

Publisher: SAGE Publications

In this era where feminism has become a new catchphrase, it is hard to determine what people mean when they talk about feminism. The word “feminism” is spurred here and there, but what feminism? Common knowledge suggests that there are at least three waves of feminism. So, Chris Beasley tries to alleviate our confusion a little bit by authoring a 171 pages book trying to answer the question: “Really, what is feminism?”

Among all branches of feminism that Beasley explains, I am most well-acquainted with radical feminism idea. While reading about radical feminism, I admire the effort that Beasley does by making correlation of every branch of feminism so the readers might highlight what differentiates one feminism from another. Here, she explains that radical feminism and Marxist-feminism share a similar view; that capitalism is the bedrock of patriarchy that oppresses women. The difference lies on what oppression predates what; Marxist-feminism is adamant that capitalism predates patriarchy, while radical feminism argues otherwise. The way Beasley explains it makes it pretty much easy on readers to digest.

On the other side, I am worried that Beasley leaves out a lot of important information. In radical feminism alone, there are several keywords that need to be highlighted and are consistent in every radical feminism writing I’ve ever read but Beasley leaves them out. These are women’s liberation, abolition of gender, prostitution, pornography, and surrogacy. It’s also evident that Beasley focuses way too much on comparing radical feminism with other second-wave feminisms such as Marxist-feminism and socialist feminism, instead of liberal feminism with which radical feminism clashes for over years. I then ponder if the lack of explanation in radical feminism analysis alone hints the lack of explanation of other feminisms that I was trying to know.

The consequence of the attempt to simplify such a broad concept of theory is the readers might confuse the lack of explanation of the writer with the lack of the theory itself. Outside of second-wave, third-wave, postmodernism, poststructuralism, and identity politics that most readers who have interest in feminism may have known of, Beasley interestingly discusses the psychoanalytic approach to feminism. This is novel to me. She explains Lacan and Freud methods to feminism in a distinguished section, however, as a person who’s completely alienated from French thoughts, her explanation does not suffice what I need to know from basic. Beasley’s theoretical explanation is really good, but it lacks the elucidation of the feminism’s contribution to the overall feminist theory. Consequentially, the contribution unbeknowst to the readers results in readers failing to weigh the necessity and importance of said feminisms. However, the author may not be at fault, especially if the said theory lacks itself as aforementioned.

The analysis on Freudian and Lacanian feminisms also highlights that contradictory to its general purpose, the book is not for newbie. It felt like we as readers are expected to be familiar with Freud and Lacan’s thoughts prior to reading the book. Being so good at patiently introducing why feminism needs a definition at the beginning, sadly Beasley does not touch this particular explanation. Interestingly, in the subsequent chapter, she patiently delineates Foucault’s thoughts at depth, so the readers understand what part of Foucault’s ideas exactly that she talks about. Still, readers need to understand a bit about Derrida, Foucault, and other classic thinkers before reading this book lest they get lost.

To summarise, What is Feminism? is an admirable endeavour to popularise feminist theory in a simple manner for en masse. Chris Beasley does a generally amazing job there. However, we need to consider that as much as she wants to simplify feminist theory, the feminism itself is complicated and evolving over decades. What is Feminism? is good as a starter, but rigorous reading towards feminist theory is at request if one desires to understand what it actually is.

So, what is feminism? Well, even if I don’t know what it is, I surely enjoy being a feminist.

Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters.

Gabriel Garcia Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)

I was in the page 325 of the book quoted above when words started to be blurry and I spaced out. For the last twenty pages I had been losing concentration, and I felt a personal achievement when I managed to remember the characters’ names of said book. That was not the first time it happened. I have been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude for months in an empty hope to finish it as soon as possible. Cafe hopping was not the problem; I have been trying to find the most comfortable place to read ever, but all I got was backache, headache, and an unfinished book.

Don’t get me started on my towering collection of unread books. It is piling on my desk. I left Anna Karenina on page two-hundred-something out of the unbelievable eight hundred pages it has after years attempting to get my interest on it. I often lament on the idea that I used to be a prodigy that has been reading since age three and my mom was so proud of me for it. I read a lot, I was an exceptionally passionate reader when I was in junior high who devoured a book in one day.

I have to accept a bitter truth that I am no longer able to read fiction passionately.

Coincidentally, this waning ability to read entails to my decaying ability to communicate in general; be it verbal or written. I used to be able to write eloquently back then – up until I was junior high, I wrote fiction that I still keep and I enjoy until today. I have so much ideas for fiction and poems that never manifest into words. In high school I completely stopped writing and joined public speaking, until I realised that it was not for me because in real life I stutter a lot and am often lost in finding the right words to say.

Then I sought confidence in communication back to writing; I never find it back. I made this blog. I authored an undergrad thesis. But I still look back at the blog entries I posted here and regret for ever writing them all. I go to various blogs written by people my age and beat myself up for being a bad writer compared to them all.

I came to an uncomfortable conclusion that my inability to communicate well is because language diminishes my experience… and words are reductionist at best. I do not feel the comfort of sharing my thoughts; language is social construct that is shared by millions of people, meanwhile my experience is unique and I stumble in finding words that describe the colorful moods that I am in. I am appalled by the idea of sharing the very personal part of you with the rest of the world. In the end, not communicating it risks no misinterpretation. The best I can do is borrowing ideas here and there despite the fact that there must be some disparity between the authors’ genuine intention and my interpretation of it. This is what we have been doing for millions of years. This is why writing a piece out of your most honest and wildest imagination, a universe of your own–such as fiction–is so damn hard.

The dark side of attempting to communicate is not a new phenomenon. John Durham Peter in his writing describes ‘Communication’ as “…a registry of modern longings.” He elucidates that the desire to communicate oneself is out of loneliness, that one wants to share one’s world with the outer part. This is especially important in a modern era where people feel ostracised from each other’s thoughts thanks to the rise of individualism. However, communication is a double-edged sword; it may build bridge between thoughts, or widen the gap altogether. Language and word are very convenient tools to convey our thoughts, for instance, but the meanings that we entrench to every word are different. Like everything else, meanings are constructed. It is not simply transmitted as it is (this is the critique of Shannon-Weaver communication model; that it is too technical and does not accrue meanings to the realm of communication).

Words, for me, is a simplified way to convey how we experience the world. We conflate “belief of the existence of God, be it in metaphysical or personal conceptions of God” and thousands of other similar ideas to one word: “theism.” Even the word “belief”, “existence”, “God” in themselves have definition and meaning that every individual anchors differently. I would like to borrow Derrida’s statement that best delineates this situation: meanings are slippery. This very post, however specific I design this to be, will be perceived differently by every each of you with your own unique experience of life. Perhaps this is why I find it hard to try to understand fiction again; my experience of the world for the past seven years have been so different from what I experienced when I was twelve. I indulge myself more in real life and stressing over academic life that I have lost the power of imagination. What Leo Tolstoy or Gabriel Garcia Márquez (try to) convey in their books is now barred from difference of background and level of appreciation towards fictitious, alternate realities. The second possibility that I embrace is that I may feel subconsciously uncomfortable with fiction authors and the fact that they endeavour to be “naked” for us all, but we can’t turn our head away. Or perhaps, the problem lies in my anxiety upon understanding that I may not understand them and that something must be left out. For the sake of consistency, my anxiety purports (convinces?) to show that nobody would completely understand what I mean anyway, in return.

Whatever the reason is, as pessimistic as this may sound, I conclude that there are parts of us that will never be filtered out through society’s telescope and remain ours forever. However desperate we may be to stretch our hands to the outer world hoping them to reciprocate, we are–borrowing Sartre’s infamous quote a bit–condemned to be lonely.

*Title borrowed from Peters: Peters, J. D. (2012). Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication.

P.S.: Yes, I am extremely aware that I am making a post on how words are not effective… using words. No need to shove it up my face k.


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