In Indonesia female dentists are among a breed of women admired and desired for the wrong reasons. Female dentists are known for being pretty, smart and wife materials – the latter because we have the perfect occupation that allows us to work from home, which means we can still take care of the household.
I am not against women who choose to work from home, but marrying a woman because she can provide while also maintaining her household reinforces a double standard for women. Men are never expected to work while taking care of the household, all for the tired reasoning such as: the male partner provides more for the family, or it is a woman’s duty to take care of her family and children, or men don’t have much of a parenting skill.
Religious perspective also comes into play: while a man is free to spend his time outside of the house, a woman’s place is inside. So if you want to make money, make sure you do it from home.
Being a dentist is also highly respected because we are known for being highly paid. We allegedly charge our patients unreasonably high. But what society doesn’t realize is that we work hard to give the best treatments according to the set standards, and that our years of experience should also be taken into account.
Only a small population of people understands this. Sometimes it feels as if people think we dentists make a killing from ripping off our patients. And with the disposable income, a female dentist is able to take care of her appearance. The truth is treatment rates vary according to the clinic’s location and the dentists’ years of experience. If you go to a clinic at a mall or in an elite neighborhood, yes, they charge more, because other factors play a role.
Female dentists are objectified, stuff that elevates a person’s social status, like wearing branded items. There is a difference between choosing a partner because of their work or their social standing and choosing a partner because the two simply get on well and are able to feed each other’s intellectual mind.
When I was just starting my education in dentistry, I often met men who courted me for marriage after finding out that I was getting a degree in dentistry. During courtship, they tended to be aggressive and insecure. They checked on me all the time and gave me endless attention, but when I could not reply or respond to them the way they wanted, they became hostile. When I did not agree on their religious views, they called me an infidel and tortured me emotionally, which also led me to the belief that I was wrong and that I deserved to be treated like that.
These men visualized their lives with a dentist as a wife, in which they’d come home to find her preparing family dinner. Their idea of a perfect woman is a woman who can still do her job and also takes care of the household.
Men who demand their wives to stay at home and to stay pretty may as well marry a robot. Yes, there are expenses to stay pretty, there are expenses for clothing and make up, there are expenses to flaunt your social status. One is lucky to have a husband who is able to provide and fulfill those expenses, but what if her husband is not making enough to support these expenses, and still demands the unrealistic standards from the wives. And then they blame women for being materialistic as the cause of corruption.
On the other hand, there are also men who want to be with highly paid women and demand we take care of ourselves with our own money, who barely split the bill for the household expenses, and who neglect the household and parenting duties. After finding their perfect wives who help elevate their social statuses, they do anything they want. How is that any different from transferring mommy duties from his mother to his wife?
Women are not looking for appraisals, we just want you to know that your demands are unrealistic and even if we can fulfill your demands, it is still wrong.
Being a dental student has made me more cautious about the men I am dating. Does he want me because of my social status and the perks that come with having a wife who can provide without leaving home? Or is it because he is genuinely interested in me as a person?
I will not deny that I accept the perks of being a dentist. But it will be much better if I was given credit for my struggle to finish dentistry, not for being a perfect wife material.
Dea Safira Basori is a Javanese feminist beating all odds to find her true passion, life and love. Her Facebook account has been reactivated (at least for the moment).