January 08, 2019
2018 Year of Reparation, 2019 Time to Tie Loose Ends

After a less-than-dramatic year, will there be some pleasant changes in 2019? our columnist reflects.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Issues // Politics and Society
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For plenty of people, 2018 was a frustrating year. Patriarchy persisted worldwide, and hatred for women, queer folks, and minorities remained. Around the world, we saw that bigotry runs neck-in-neck with the rising awareness of feminism and progressive politics among the middle class and the working class. There were small victories, and also major losses.

For me, 2018 had been a less dramatic year than 2017. In 2017 my life turned around after a decade of frustration and anxiety, and I had found new purpose in life. But one year later, I had not developed into a fictional character with a happy epilogue, a fiancée, a startup, and a published novel. Well, I almost snatched a major glory, but it didn’t happen. In fact, you can be a successful person in Indonesia, and, yet, Donald Trump will still ruin your day and Ahok is still in jail for blasphemy.

Feminism is a growing social force in Asia, with Indonesians joining the global Women’s March demanding the ends of child marriage and violence against women, Koreans marching against digital peeping toms who illegally recorded women’s restrooms, and women in Iran and Saudi Arabia demanded changes to the old modesty codes.

On the other hand, few governments in the world actively support women’s rights. In Asia, Taiwan is the closest thing we have to a pro-feminist government (Audrey Tang, the Digital Minister, is a trans woman), but Taiwanese voters were not kind to President Tsai Ing-wen. For People’s Republic of China, Tsai is not only a non-friend of Beijing, but she’s the opposite of President Xi Jinping.

American writer Leta Hong Fincher believes that the Chinese Communist Party takes feminism as an existential danger, as feminists offer an alternative left-wing ideology (the government is still arresting Marxist students) and like many other conservatives, Xi believes that women should produce babies and make men feel important.



A popular article by Peter Beinart in the latest edition of The Atlantic reinforces Hong Fincher’s idea that misogyny empowers the supports for authoritarian governments worldwide. A curious coalition of left-wing and right-wing populists in Italy made sexual jokes and threats against female critics. Hungarian and Polish leaders demanded women to “breed like rabbit”.

Our fear is that Indonesia could follow the path of the Philippines, Brazil, and United States. There’s a chance that Indonesia could. This is why I belong to the camp that believes that we cannot afford abstention. Yes, President Joko Widodo has allowed homophobia, sexism, and religious bigotry to flourish. But I believe that the other candidate will actively promote patriarchy and fascism, not just for popularity, but because of true conviction.

As the saying goes, I cannot prove that he is a racist, but his voters believe he is. I know people who will vote for Prabowo believe in Suharto, I know these voters will detest Magdalene once they know its existence, and our rights to read and write for Magdalene will be in serious risk if Indonesia has a far-right government.

2018 was a fine year for some readers: They had a new career or graduated, some had found love and new families, and there were excellent books, movies, and TV series around. When the year started, I was nervous at first. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and I learned from Fresh Off the Boat that your Chinese zodiac year could be your bad year. Certainly 2006 was a very difficult year for me and it was the year when my dreams were dashed.

Fortunately, 2018 was not a bad year for me. Your support and friendship helped. Magdalene articles help us feel less alone, give us new insight, and inspire us to keep fighting and keep believing in a better possibility. In December 2018 I read the story of Magdalene in Remotivi and I was astonished by several facts, like how this magazine fought hard to keep alive (it is not a kind time for several online publications) and how Magdalene came out in September 2013, the same month when I started to think about toxic masculinity.

As 2018 was closing, I thought I was for a big turn in life: I would move to Jakarta in the first week of 2019, and I would get more topics to write, talks and events to attend, and people to meet. I had dreamed about being an affable new guy at the kost’s common room, and finding dates through Bumble, now that it’s available in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened and my “new guy in big city” story has to wait another year. The anxiety wrecked me throughout December, but now I can accept the outcome and made the best of Christmas holiday with my family and Twitter friends.

I’ve stayed in Bandung for too long because I felt I wasn’t ready. Maybe it’s true that I’m not all set yet. Maybe it’s better to spend the first quarter of 2019 to finish loose ends in Bandung, then moving to Jakarta even before I get any interview appointment?

In any case, I’ll keep focused on my goal to migrate to Scandinavia. That Jakarta prospect was actually related to that. Perhaps 2018 was the first step for that goal, as I’ve learned Swedish and Norwegian, I read more news from Sweden, and I’ve made friendships with Scandinavians through Twitter. To get closer to this goal, it means in 2019 I need more money, more skill, and more courage. These three are attainable.

Ten years ago I wished I knew what’s wrong with my life and how to fix them. Five years ago I’ve started to change my worldview, and now I’ve known the answers to both questions. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m so glad that now I love live. Hopefully in things work out well for us and for Indonesia this year.

Find out what happens inside China’s prison complex in Xin Jiang and follow @MarioRustan on Twitter.
Mario Rustan writes opinion pieces for The Jakarta Post and is working on some other online projects and was featured in Guardian Football and SBS Radio. His dream job is still teaching High School History by day and writing for feminism by night.