“Every time I come home, my mum would bug me with questions about boys and marriage. I hate it!” said one of my closest friends during one of our daily texting session. Like me, she is in her early twenties and still struggling to obtain her bachelor’s degree.
Her declaration made me think of my parents. Thank God my mom never does that, I thought.
Then it hits me: it’s a privilege to have parents like mine, who never pressure me to marry early, and who, instead, push me to pursue higher and better education.
My parents got married later than most people their age; my dad was in his mid-thirties, my mom in her late twenties. Well-educated, they both have bachelor’s degrees. My mom, being the Minang lady that she is, valorizes her culture and instills in both my younger sister and me its feminist values. Our gender, she says, should never pose a barrier to us.
Sometimes there are still some internalized misogyny visible in her words and actions, but most of the times, she never stops us from doing whatever we want, as long as it is positive. My father does the same thing, being a son of a working mother and whose sister also works.
They encouraged both my sister and I to learn martial arts, and they were both super proud when I published my thriller novel – whereas some people seem to find it shocking that a teenage girl could write stories about murder, not love stories.
I remember another story. A friend in high school told me that she could never attend a university located farther than West Java. Her parents, who live in Serang, Banten, wouldn’t let her live too far away from them. Girls should live close to their parents, they said.
The 17-year-old me (and the 22-year-old me now) rolled my eyes upon hearing that. My parents, on the contrary, had been encouraging me to study abroad for years. They even rejected my idea to apply to some universities in Singapore, saying it’s “too close, not even further than West Sumatra, and it still has the same climate as Indonesia.”
If you want to be useful to others, you must go as far as you can and learn things there, they would tell me. Staying close to them would not get me further ahead.
Even my extended family are okay with with the way my parents raise me. They always ask me where I would continue my studies, encouraging me to continue to pursue a doctorate degree, instead of marrying early. Though they did fuss about my decision to remove my jilbab, they are a hundred percent supportive when it comes to achieving a better future in the professional world.
I realize now that in this patriarchal society, where women face a lot of restrictions, having parents who allow you to be who you are, who supports you to go far in life, and who encourage you to visit every corner of the world is a massive privilege. Yes, their views on LGBTQIAP+ community is still problematic, and they could be racist sometimes, but the feminist values they practice in raising me have allowed me to be where I am right now. I am super grateful for it and I wish there are more parents like them.
Puti Andiyani is a student currently struggling to finish her undergrad History studies in France. She spends most of her free time watching TV series & anime and watching & making makeup related videos on YouTube. Is available to talk to on Twitter and Instagram @andiyaniputi