Seven months after Mamat and I got married, my father asked me if I could make some nice ‘sambal’ (hot chili paste). He said I was supposed to be able to do it then since I was a married woman and one thing that a man always wanted from a woman was someone who could cook and make him some delicious dinner. So, I looked at him, smiled, and said “he does it better than I do. In fact, he taught me to make some”.
He laughed and looked like he didn’t believe me.
You may have heard this classic-yet-typical-post-wedding story at least for one hundred times. If you’re Indonesian, you may even find it ‘normal’ because married women should be able to cook, shouldn’t they? Women should do the household chores and men go to work. If both of the men and wives work, women are the one who do the extra works, like taking care of the kids and the men and the house and basically everything else.
Well, in my case, I am lucky.
Mamat practically can do all the “women’s jobs” like cooking, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, playing with kids (though we don’t have children yet, he is good with children), doing the grocery shopping at the traditional market, making the bed, etc. And he does them all well. I do them all, as well. So, we decide that we take turns when we do these chores.
When we wake up in the morning, usually after our morning run, he sweeps the floor and I cook. When I don’t feel like cooking, I do the cleaning and he does the cooking. At the weekend when we’re not busy, we usually do a “massive” cleaning together. I never hear him say or act certain things like “you should do this because you’re THE woman” or “make me some coffee because I am the man and you should listen to what I tell you”. Whenever he needs my help, he asks me nicely. Whenever he has to make a decision, he asks first and listens to my opinion. We basically discuss almost everything.
This kind of conversation below often takes place in our home:
Mamat: What do we eat for today?
Me: No idea. It’s sometimes frustrating to think about what to cook everyday.
Mamat: (Going to the kitchen and starting to cook)
Me: (happy* :))
OR this one:
Me: I think I should handle the finance at home.
Mamat: Okay, you do it.
2 months later….
Me: I think you should do it.
Me: (happy* :))
OR this one:
Me: Hold this bag, please. Too heavy for me.
Mamat: (Teasing) I thought you said you wanted to be a stronger person in terms of lifting weights. You can’t be one if you keep giving me all the heavy grocery bags all the time.
Me: (Grinning :D) Okay, okay, I’ll keep this.
OR this one:
Me: If we have a child one day, will you promise me that we will always share all the baby-related tasks and spend the equal amount of time to take care of him?
Mamat: (Grinning) I’d even breastfeed him if I could.
Me: (Laughing) I really wish you could!
I do realize that “marriage equality” is still an alien concept for many Indonesians. Even when the couple is well-educated, how many are actually doing things together? How many men actually see their wives as equally important people in a marriage? A lot of men still think that they should rule the family, become the only breadwinner, and therefore deserve a lot of “respects” from their wives. Women are their property and should always listen to what the men say and some women are not even allowed to leave the house without the men’s “permission”.
I’ve seen many men who treat their wives like a trash. They yell at them and some even beat their wives. That’s a really sad fact. So, if you’re single and wish to have a happy married life, please make sure that your future husband will treat you nicely and see you as an equally-important person in the family. 🙂
“Marrying a person who cares about gender equality and feminism was important to me and now, seeing how my husband takes on the same roles in our relationship that I do (OK, he definitely does more heavy lifting, but most other things we share!), I’m thankful that I fell in love with someone who doesn’t treat marriage as a divvying up of “man stuff” and “woman stuff.” No matter how society might try to box us in–yes, even in 2014–we believe in a partnership where we seamlessly pitch in wherever needed.” -Linsey Silken-