Reading all the fuss on the Internet recently has made me think that we should thank Awkarin, or Karin Novilda, the 18-year-old girl who has become the latest controversial Instagram celebrity-cum-vlogger, and who happens to be a #RelationshipGoals icon for her teenage fans.
No, it's not because her posts have gratified us the audience and commenters – the way a sexy band member throws his sweaty T-shirt for the screaming audience to grab. And it's not because her youth has made us feel young again.
Rather, it’s because her existence has managed to teach us adults a thing or two – if only we were willing to learn from them. These are the lessons to me:
1.We happily and shamelessly slut-shame a teenage girl.
Slut-shaming means you think of someone, usually a girl or woman, as a slut just because of what she wears or says or does. Slut-shaming, sadly, is common in daily life. A female celebrity who likes to wear a certain kind of clothes is judged as easy or immoral. A student who wears tight clothes to campus must have a “side job” as an ayam kampus (a prostitute). A woman who was wearing a mini skirt when she was sexually assault was asking for it.
Social media like Instagram, where people can post pictures as well as words, makes slut-shaming too easy to do because it’s easy to be anonymous, making mean comments under a picture of some girl you don’t know personally (but apparently care so much about). This is especially true the more people are doing it. Slut shaming even exists in that are supposedly written to guide teenagers through their lives. And if someone complains, you can always say, “Look what she did. What goes around comes around. She deserves it.”
After all, morality is a collective agreement, right? The more there are of you, the more self-righteous you can be. Respect only comes after.
2.We are a bunch of sexist and racist people.
In Wikipedia, sexism is defined as “prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender." I know a bunch of people, usually females, who are fans of certain foreign actors with amazing body shape. If the bule actor happens to have an Instagram account and uses it to post seminude photos showing his well-trained muscles, I’m pretty sure they follow him secretly so they can scroll his timeline as part of their guilty pleasure. And that’s okay, because beautiful bodies can be a form of art.
But imagine if the owner of the Instagram account is a local girl or a woman like Awkarin or Mulan Jameela. Those exact same people would easily sneer and say things like, “Why did she take this kind of pictures and share them to public? It’s a shame. It’s vulgar!”
I do not understand why people see a woman’s body as vulgar, but not a man’s. The body of a woman, especially that of an Indonesian woman, who is expected to be modest and good-mannered, is so often sexualized and seen as an object of immorality and therefore should be covered. But, of course, it doesn’t apply to men.
3.We forget what it's like to be young and we rarely try to be understanding.
Do you remember what it was like being a teenager? I do. Being a teenager can be a real mess. For me, the pressure to gain social acceptance is the root of it all. Social acceptance is very important when you are a teenager. To be like the cool kids means everything – and makes everything easier. To be adored by members of the opposite sex is the meaning of your life. It's like a competition.
I was always a social weirdo. When I was in junior and senior high school, I was bullied me because someone had spread a rumor that I was a lesbian. The boys looked as if they were disgusted when they had to ask me for a dance at our annual ball. But I found a way to survive. I met a guy through a chatting room. We formed a romantic relationship, first through texts before we met physically. It was my first serious relationship. It felt like he was the only person who was willing to accept me the way I was, and he easily became my safety rope, although he was very possessive and although he sexually assaulted me several times. One day, he dumped me and the day after I swallowed 20 pills, hoping to die. Thank God the suicide attempt failed. I was 17.
Life as a teenager can be stressful. It can even be a hell, especially when no one’s there to talk to, when all grownups do is lecturing you from A to Z, like you don’t have a mind of your own. But living as an adult for too long will easily make us forget it all.
4.We are superficial.
Some people say that Awkarin is a silly and shallow girl who only wants attention and instant fame by being sensational in social media. If that theory is true, then I should say, she learns from the best: our own society.
Who doesn’t want to be instantly famous in Indonesia? All those talent hunts who promise to make people famous – even if people will forget them just as easily. All the online media with their sensational headlines to gain more hits.
Who isn’t superficial in this country? Look at the last presidential election. Some people even talked about which hand a candidate used for his daily activities as if it mattered. Look at all the religious accessories people wear to make them look like a better person, and how people gossip furiously about a public figure who recently took off her hijab or converted to another religion. It's hard to describe all these as something other than “shallow” nonsense.
5.We are a double-standard society and proud of it.
Awkarin’s style of relationship, which everybody deems vulgar, doesn’t belong only to her generation. A friend of mine said that she’s already seen this style of relationship among her friends since elementary school, back before social media, which is why there was not much fuss about it. I used the mIRC chatting room in junior high – and if you happened to use it, too, you would know that having a user ID like ce_horny or ce_cari_co_sexy will get you a lot of "hai" in a very short time. The older generation didn’t have the Internet, but they had Enny Arrow.
Teenagers and sex are inseparable because teenagers have sexual drive, thanks to their raging hormones.And that’s why it is very important to give them a comprehensive sexual education. But our curriculum, of course, doesn’t believe in it. Sex education is typically about showing students the anatomy of the reproductive system and planting some scary pictures of STDs in their heads. There is no teaching about body authority, no power relation in romantic relationship, no contraception (campaigning for condom is seen as spreading immorality). Our teenagers remain clueless, while their hormones are still raging.
6. We like to sniff into a person’s private business, although we have no business in it, and we treat it like it’s okay.
No further explanation needed.
So that's the reason why Indonesians should thank Awkarin. She has reminded us of a proverb we all learned in elementary school: “buruk muka cermin dibelah." Because we often do break the mirror, when our face doesn't please us.
Putri Widi Saraswati is a feminism and writing enthusiast. She’s not a big fan of how people impose their concept of morality on others today. Unfortunately, she’s a doctor – the one profession that morality cannot let go.