Stop Telling Me I May Intimidate Men

Thursday, 05 January 2017 - 10:05:16 WIB
By : Nur Millah Mutsliah | Category: Gender & Sexuality - 5998 hits
I presume that we all already know and at least have heard a remark like this, “Don’t be too smart, especially if you are a woman.” Or this: “Don’t be too ambitious because you will have a hard time finding a husband.”

These are the typical perception in the Indonesian society: the assumption that a woman cannot be better or greater than her man.

Ever since I was a little girl and up to now in my early 20s, I have always imagined myself as an educator. I have big dreams and aspirations. I have always wanted to be someone important. My parents had pretty much supported this dream. Until recently. I have been planning on getting a master’s degree right after I graduate and become a lecturer after, and my father supports me even to this day. My mother, however, has a different view.

“Having a bachelor’s degree is enough especially for a woman like you,” my mother said. “Think about marriage and your own family. I understand that you want to have higher education, but men will be intimidated by your title and profession. It will be difficult then for you to find a spouse.”

Every time she or other people says something along this line, it always leaves me speechless.

A male friend of mine revealed the same line of thinking recently. He had had a crush on me probably for a long time and he was finally making his moves. But he revealed his own bias when he said during one of our chats: “Ah, Mila mah high class. To him, my ambition and drive means I only go for a boyfriend with “high” qualifications, which is not true at all.

He continued: “Jangan terlau sulit, nanti gak diminati.” vDon’t be too difficult (or fussy), or people will find you less attractive.

That he warned me of becoming less attractive (“diminati”) offended me. It is as if I am an object that needs to be liked, chased and sold. And he probably found me “difficult” because he found it hard to impress me, or to get me to date him. But the thing is, I am just not into him and I don’t feel connected to him.

My male friend was mistaken in thinking that I don’t want to date him because I am picky, or difficult, when it is simply because I don’t feel the same way about him. After that shocking chat, I had hoped that we would remain friends, but, nope, he started acting weird and showed that he no desire to keep in touch with me. So, yes, I think that ended it.

I am not entirely blaming him for his assumption since I have been presenting myself as an independent, young, smart woman. I show how passionate I am about something, I work my ass off, I have principles that I will not trade for anything. I am sassy and I am a feminist. Some men will find me attractive for my independence and persistence; others, however, will find me intimidating, and will fear being outsmarted by me. My command of English, and the thick books I read – these things are enough to make some men walk away.

And it’s not just guys. My dear friend also reminds me to think about marriage, to not be too ambitious and to not be too smart. She says that I am a perfectionist and – once again – picky when it comes to boyfriends. Like my mother, she warns me that men will be too intimidated to approach me.

This belief that women cannot be smarter and greater than men if they want a partner is unjust. The belief that in order to find a spouse and get married, women should be just ordinary, is plain cruel. It should be changed.

The Indonesian culture has long prioritized men on education and career, strengthening the belief that men are the ones who should be smarter, greater and dominating. Men equal power and women equal weakness – men are destined for greatness while women are destined for the ordinary

We need to change the way we think about women in relation to how they find their spouses. Let us not perpetuate the  belief that women are fine with low education or are destined with only one choice: being a housewife. Women can and may be more than that. Don’t discourage those who aim high for themselves and don’t judge those who are passionate and independent. Let’s support them instead and let’s tell people that men and women can be great together without the need to feel intimidated by each other.

And finally, for you who have a similar experience as I do, let’s just say that if a man really loves us, he shouldn’t feel like we are too much, he shouldn’t be intimidated or scared or discouraged by whatever it is in us. Instead, he should be supportive and proud of us.

Nur Millah Mutsliah, or preferably Mila, is a sensitive yet adventurous woman who is trying to figure her life out. She spends her time scrolling down her Instagram feed and typing the words her mind instructs to. Follow her on @milamutsliah and 

Got an opinion on this issue? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.

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Ruby - Astari | 05 January 2017 | 17:22:11 WIB
Bravo for you, girl! I despise how Indonesian society still treat women who pursue higher education and want to be better. Real men should be much braver and wiser than this!
Kei | 06 January 2017 | 16:00:07 WIB
Hi Millah, your story resonates so much to me. I liked a guy who liked me back but thought I was out of his league that he ended up with other person. My close friends said my standard is too high, that's why I am perpetually single. Mom told me I that high education degree (I am pursuing master's in Us right now) would intimidate men. However I won't settle for less. Why should change who we are, especially if we're passionate about something to be loved. I always think our personality is a somekind of filter. The right one, who love and respect us as we are will pass that filter. Hopefully.
Wika | 07 January 2017 | 06:07:08 WIB
This is exactly how I feel right now. I expressed my wish to take Ph.D this year and my parents basically rejected the idea. They told me to get married first because I'd be less attractive if I was too smart. It makes me feel so frustrated!
Astrini | 07 January 2017 | 14:08:28 WIB
I love your article, girl! Seems this kind of thing is still very common in Indonesia and a lot of us seem to have a bit (if not a lot) of trouble with it.
I have a similar story about this though it's a bit different in some aspects. (I have to divide it into 2 parts, sorry)
So I had this one guy friend who was single for a couple of years and was desperate for a new girlfriend. He was pursuing his master's degree at that time. Eventually he started making moves on all my single friends. He once tried to make moves on my best friend but then withdrew because he said he wanted "someone with a higher education" (My best friend dropped out of university in our 3rd year). In the end, he decided to start making moves on me, who was just completing her bachelor's degree. I tried going out with him, but pretty soon got annoyed with his behavior.
Astrini | 07 January 2017 | 14:09:11 WIB
(Part 2)
Every time it was revealed that I was better than him in certain aspects, his pride would be hurt and he would desperately try to outsmart me or state something that would boost his ego. What pissed me off the most was that he desired a girl with a "higher education" but expected them to behave like a dumb, weak, obedient girl that can't do much when with him. Double standards much?
This way of thinking, where women have to be less than men should really be changed as soon as possible. Indonesian society has to accept that their women are starting to become even smarter, stronger and independent than before and there's nothing they can do about it unless accept it. Having a smart and strong woman is not something a man should be afraid of, it should be something to be proud of.
tyas | 08 January 2017 | 16:43:37 WIB
There is a good quote from Michael Reid:
"Dear Woman,
Sometimes you’ll just be too much woman.
Too smart,
Too beautiful,
Too strong.
Too much of something that makes a man feel like less of a man,
Which will make you feel like you have to be less of a woman.
The biggest mistake you can make
Is removing jewels from your crown
To make it easier for a man to carry.
When this happens, I need you to understand
You do not need a smaller crown—
You need a man with bigger hands."

And don't worry, it's not only happen in Indonesia, but all over place even in what so called developed countries.
Ardia | 09 January 2017 | 17:04:44 WIB
A true gentleman would understand the different between being passionate and "too-ambitious-men-would-not-want-you". Don't worry with those who leave you for what you want to achieve in life. They don't deserve you.
Hana | 09 January 2017 | 17:39:24 WIB
Just a reminder for us boss ladies from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

"Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in."


Hang in there, sis, it IS possible. I found mine.

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