August 14, 2019
I'm Sorry for Being a Creepy “Male Feminist”

A heartfelt confession from our longest male columnist.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Issues // Politics and Society
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In May 2019, I felt I was on the top of the world. My dream of being published by Gramedia has been fulfilled, being a part of The Feminist Minds book. I’ve made friends from around the world on Twitter, and the conveniences of train and share rides have made traveling around Jakarta and Bandung more comfortable. I had begun working for an English charity related to women’s football, and communicated with team members across Europe. I looked forward for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The sign of what’s wrong, in retrospective, could be seen that night. I felt that I couldn’t establish communication with anyone in my table, and overall, I spoke just to people I already knew that night. Unlike in previous Magdalene events, I failed to make new friends that night.

I had also developed addiction to Twitter. I spent days and nights there, to like, retweet, and reply. Followers of journalists and feminists worldwide liked my replies; sometimes the influencer retweeted my reply or quoted my tweet, and made me even more viral. While I couldn’t talk to anyone at the book launch, I had great times live tweeting the standup comedians, besides interacting with the Supergirl and Captain Marvel fandoms on Twitter.

In June, I wanted to get closer to a Twitter friend, and I replied to her tweets more often, and felt anxious when she spent less time on Twitter. The charity asked me to open an Instagram account so I could manage its Instagram account as well, and I added several Twitter contacts as well. When I remembered her surname, I added her on Facebook and Instagram as well.

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Then I felt something wrong and worried that we were drifting apart. Turned out I just made things worse with my awkward replies, and eventually she confirmed that she felt disturbed with my intense communication. She also disliked my attempts to add her on other social media, and asked me to step back.

I felt devastated the day after, for two reasons. First, I had repeated mistakes I made in the past, especially in college, where some female friends said they felt uncomfortable with how I interacted with them, even as we continued our friendships afterward.

Second, I have become the epitome of ‘male feminist’, a hypocritical man who preaches feminism and yet is still a creep. I should have asked for her consent before adding her on other social media. I should have been aware of her boundaries.

I went to the hospital where I usually get treated for toothache, heartburn, and dengue fever, this time to see a psychologist. Things are still not fine now. She has unfollowed me on Twitter and I have stayed away from social media altogether. I feel like a fraud, and so many things there remind me of her.

Earlier this year, my happiness was supported by my love for Scandinavia and for superheroines. Now I am forced to reexamine them. My mentor said my obsession for Scandinavia might have contributed to my trouble, making me overlook my current reality in Indonesia. My sister asked if it’s okay for a man in his late 30s to devote his time for superheroines, in fandoms populated by younger women.  I used to be proud to be a cishet male fan of superheroines, but it seems that I have learned nothing from my communities and my idols, in term of respecting boundaries and maintaining safe space.

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My therapist thinks I have Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD), which starts in young adulthood. I’ve depended my happiness on other people’s approval and attention, and I live with the constant worry that they will leave me. And I will break down when the relationship is over. Even if I had got a girlfriend, I would have been an insecure and immature partner, despite all my awareness on feminism.

At this time of writing, I still feel debilitated and still constantly blame myself for my foolishness. The therapist, on the other hand, believes as regrettable it is, it is good that I could treat my personality disorder now, rather than waiting for it to worsen in the future.

I have read the Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the past and begun practicing it again to control my anxiety and mood – if I can nurture positive and realistic thoughts, then I can develop positive and realistic feelings and behaviors as well.

I still plan to leave Bandung for good, but it is true that I do not breathe the fresh air of Scandinavia until I’ve got my working permit there, and I cannot be there until I sort out my mental health here. I won’t be happy anywhere in the world until I am happy with myself.

I apologize to the readers of Magdalene for letting you down, for not being a good new guy. This has been a harsh wake up call, and I hope I can recover in time.

Find out how our fascination with old pictures can mislead our understanding of history and follow @Mario Rustan 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.